My monthly musings will continue, but will migrate to the website of my new bookstore, Gramercy Books. Find it here: www.gramercybooksbexley.com

The Gift of Books: A Writer Turns Bookseller

The Gift of Books: A Writer Turns Bookseller

img_0653I’ve been in love with books as long as I can remember. A trip to the library or bookstore continues to be a deep-seeded pleasure. After all, books are filled with answers to every question every person has ever considered. Standing inside a “house of books” feels like an adventure. No wonder I became a writer.

And, now, I am also a bookseller.

There is no better place than within the walls of a bookstore to foster communication and engage our communities. Gramercy Books seeks to be that kind of community builder. Located in the heart of Bexley, Ohio, just minutes from downtown Columbus, Gramercy Books aims to connect readers and writers with books they love, and we plan to host special events and ongoing visits by authors, poets and songwriters that provoke conversation.

We are grateful to be in the bookselling business. Our name, Gramercy, says so. From the French words “grand merci,” which translates to “many thanks” or “big thanks,” we are grateful every moment. For books. For our customers. And for the opportunity to bring readers a place that offers authenticity and connection.

Books count more than ever. It’s not just about the way books transport readers into another place and time. It’s also about the way books offer solace, inspiration and humor. It’s about the way books reveal life outside the headlines, how they illuminate and help to make sense of the world around us. Books give us perspective and insight and hope that we can be better. That we can do better.

Some years ago, I came across an essay in The Chronicle Review, a publication read by the higher education industry, called “Why I Read.” The essay focused on what the author, a writing teacher, does and doesn’t tell his students. I zeroed in on all that he doesn’t tell them (he knew his students would roll their eyes and tune him out). He doesn’t share directly with his students those comments that suggest reading will sensitize them to the human condition because, as he notes, they haven’t lived long enough to know what is meant by the human condition. He says he doesn’t tell his students about the way novels will put them into a world they can feel, how it can startle their senses by enlarging their world when it might grow tight and stale; how reading can seem like a hand on their shoulder when they are sad. He doesn’t tell them that reading can help them see themselves more clearly, that it can help them find themselves when they are lost. He doesn’t tell them that being a human is a very lonely business and that only a few things can ease that loneliness. Loving someone is the best remedy, he does not tell his students. Making music is another form of healing. And so is reading, which he calls “another form of love—an act of faith and trust and desire, an act of reaching out and of coming together.”

Growing up on Columbus’s eastside in the sixties, my life was small and insular. I rode my bicycle around the neighborhood, passing one-story, ranch-style homes on half-acre lots. My elementary school just one block away, I gathered with friends on its playground during what seemed then to be endless afternoons. In the summer of 1964 as I was soon to enter sixth grade, I was more aware of the Beatles latest hit, “A Hard Day’s Night,” than I was about race riots spreading across the country or the bombing of a little country called North Vietnam. Even before I gained a wider freedom with a driver’s license, I spent countless hours in the Bexley Public Library and, later, in Bexley’s recently opened Little Professor Book Center, to escape into the world of books. My universe expanded as I became lost in adventure, discoveries, and new possibilities. I’ve always retained that sense of place and belonging that I felt when entering a store or library filled with books.

img_0662While Little Professor Book Center left Bexley in the late 70s, I’m grateful to have partnered with the son of the founders of that store, John Gaylord, in bringing a bookshop back to Bexley. And the fact that Gramercy Books now sits alongside hundreds of other bookstores in our country that continue to thrive brings me an overwhelming feeling of hope.

 

About the author: I began my career as a magazine writer and correspondent for regional and national publications. My debut novel, Tasa’s Song, was inspired by my mother’s early life in eastern Poland during the Second World War, and won a Bronze Medal for Historical Fiction from the Independent Publisher Award Program. I am now the proud owner of Gramercy Books, central Ohio’s newest indie bookstore! www.gramercybooksbexley.com

The Holocaust on Trial: A Legal Battle for Historical Truth

The Holocaust on Trial: A Legal Battle for Historical Truth

In the film “Denial,” based on a true story, college history professor and author Deborah Lipstadt (Rachel Weisz) is sued for libel by notorious British Holocaust historian David Irving (Timothy Spall) for accusing him of being a Holocaust denier in her 1993 book, Denying The Holocaust. But the case turns into a battle for historical… Continue Reading

A Book Club Feast with Billy Collins and William Maxwell

A Book Club Feast with Billy Collins and William Maxwell

Five years ago I talked my book club into bringing two masters of language to our ritual readers’ gathering. We were in our early years then as a reading group of 12, democratically selecting the novels we’d discuss each month. The suggestions my fellow bookies offered for that first year covered a wide range of styles, from Emma Donoghue’s… Continue Reading

Wandering and wondering through ‘Diane Arbus: In the Beginning’ at the Met

Wandering and wondering through ‘Diane Arbus: In the Beginning’ at the Met

The late photographer Diane Arbus, whose work and life have been the subject of multiple biographies (the most recent being Arthur Lubow’s Diane Arbus: Portrait of a Photographer), is now being featured in an exhibit at the Met Breuer, the contemporary arm of The Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City. There, some eighty… Continue Reading

‘A Book in Concert’: Carpe Diem String Quartet’s Music To My Words

‘A Book in Concert’: Carpe Diem String Quartet’s Music To My Words

Not many authors have a musical event integrated into their book debuts. I count myself incredibly fortunate to have created one art form that inspired another: “A Book in Concert.” On May 20, 21 and 22, I had the unique opportunity to join an internationally acclaimed string quartet at the world premiere of “A Book… Continue Reading

Composing a Novel in Song: An Interview with Violinist Charles Wetherbee

Note from the author: Charles Wetherbee and the entire Carpe Diem String Quartet joined me May 20-22, 2016 for a “Book In Concert” at the McConnell Arts Center of Worthington, Ohio.  Violinist Charles Wetherbee recently composed “Tasa’s Song,” based on my novel of the same name. “I am thinking of the violin line as Tasa’s voice as she… Continue Reading

National Poetry Month: Mickiewicz, Akhmatova, Pushkin featured in TASA’S SONG

April’s arrival of National Poetry Month got me thinking about the role poetry plays in my upcoming novel, Tasa’s Song, a story about an aspiring Jewish violinist living in eastern Poland during World War II. Woven into the narrative are the melodies of Tchaikovsky, Paganini, Sarasate, Smetana, Mozart, Chopin, Strauss Jr. and others. Music transports… Continue Reading

Why I Love Beethoven’s Fifth

Note: March is a key month in the life of Ludwig van Beethoven. In March of 1778, at the age of eight, Beethoven had his very first public performance. In March of 1783, at age thirteen, he wrote his first composition; and in March of 1795, at twenty-five, he gave his first public performance in… Continue Reading