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|Download Kindle µ Al paese dei libri á Ma che idea, lasciare la California per un brumoso paesino della campagna gallese Se non fosse che il paesino Hay on Wye, la Mecca dei bibliofili , dove c una libreria antiquaria ogni quaranta abitanti, e dove si celebra ogni anno uno dei pi noti Festival della Letteratura e se non fosse che il pellegrino Paul Collins, instancabile e ardimentoso cacciatore di libri perduti e strampalati Ingaggiato nelda Richard Booth, il libraio che nelsi proclam Re del Principato Autonomo di Hay, Collins si potuto dedicare per sei mesi alla sua attivit preferita frugare tra cataste di libri effimeri che fin dall inizio non erano destinati a durare , e tramandarci le loro storie Ed ecco le ponderose raccolte di riviste obsolete La rivista delle meraviglie Composta interamente di materiale classificabile come MIRACOLOSO BIZZARRO STRANO STRAVAGANTE SOPRANNATURALE ECCENTRICO ASSURDO OSCURO e INDESCRIVIBILE , le memorie apocrife Sono stata la cameriera di Hitler o anonime Confessioni della moglie di uno scrittore , gli autori che scrivono dall aldil , e le prime edizioni grigie e pesanti come tombini Mentre cerca casa, fantasticando di stabilirsi definitivamente in un grande pub sconsacrato del Seicento, il Sixpence House, Collins riesce anche a far domanda per un seggio alla Camera dei Lord quella specie di governo fondato sulla copula Una spermocrazia, se preferite Oltre che una incantevole tranche de vie, Al paese dei libri una sorprendente meditazione sul valore dei libri nel tempo e sulla volubile incuranza del passato, l unico Paese dove ancora permesso dileggiare gli indigeni This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers To view it, click here When booksellers and bookmen get around to writing their book about books, I have come to find, they often fail to trust their materials books Rather than books, bookmen to use the old fashioned, sexist term feel compelled to tell us about famous people they ve met, engage in literary criticism, or persist in telling us about themselves at tedious length And Sixpence House is another example of the failure of the genre Sixpence House is not the worst book on books book I ve read, but When booksellers and bookmen get around to writing their book about books, I have come to find, they often fail to trust their materials books Rather than books, bookmen to use the old fashioned, sexist term feel compelled to tell us about famous people they ve met, engage in literary criticism, or persist in telling us about themselves at tedious length And Sixpence House is another example of the failure of the genre Sixpence House is not the worst book on books book I ve read, but it is a missed opportunity And I am sorry to say this because its author, Paul Collins is my kind of guy when it comes to books rather than being attracted to rare first editions and pristine dust jackets, he is drawn to the obscure, the forgotten, and the bargain He is straightforward in his interest in the dusty corners of book collecting, and he quotes from his finds wonderful lost bits of literary and quasi literary and just weird disjecta membra that can be found in ancient periodicals and utterly forgotten volumes But like I said, he doesn t trust his material Books co star at most in Sixpence House, sharing space several other things I care very little about, in descending order English food, English real estate transactions, the author s short story collection, the author s toddler son s endless toddling and funny noises, the author s wife s jigsaw puzzles and interior decorating ideas, the author s and his wife s lockstep political environmental views and snarky cultural social commentary The tale is this Collins, his wife and toddler, sell their place in San Francisco and move to Hay on Wye, a hamlet on the English Welsh border that has become a book townthan forty used book stores I thought the book would be an account of setting up shop there and their adventures in the book trade Not so They move there with vague plans to do exactly this, they look over some houses to buy a process described in a great deal of detail, which wasn t bad, but not really of interest to me , can t find one, and so move back to Oregon or someplace where it rains a lot The Sixpence House of the title is one of the properties they look at and don t purchase I m not entirely sure what they planned to do to make a living write seems to be the plan During their stay, the author visits some bookstores, pubs, and real estate offices, all of which we are told about This book is such a disappointment about half the time The author s toddler stories interested me about as much as cute baby stories told by people I don t know usually interest me, which is to say not at all so let me tell you about my cats The socio political commentary is not only NPR ideal market segment predictable, it is often by turns arrogant and nasty I cringed at the little at his high toned description about how he and his wife don t drive or own cars and how this demonstrates their overall goodness and virtue and how this is only possible in a few choice USA cities, while the rest of us bake the planet in our SUVs Back in America, I sometimes wondered whether my wife and I were the only people in the country without cars, without licenses even she s never had one, and I neglected to renew mine years ago When People would tell us that something was nearby, Jennifer and I would look at each other and silently think, yes, it s nearby, for car people A little of this goes a long way with me The problem with this coming from this sort of guy is the remarkable fact that the car less often seem to need to hitch rides in other people s cars and, even worse in a carbon footprint sort of way, it seems they are criss crossing the globe in jets all the time Collins mentions he has been to England a multitude of times Even their little oops changed my mind trip to Hay was, finally, just a rather extravagant waste of resources by a couple of Westerners trying, vaguely, to find themselves Other moments of cultural commentary both English and mericun too often veer from the sharply observed to the supercilious and even nasty By the end of the book I was making my own nasty observation just where exactly do the Collins family get their money Nobody seems to work except the author, for a couple weeks at one of the local bookstores They sold their place in San Francisco, which no doubt brought in a lot, but where did that place come from SF has about the highest real estate prices in the country I know one person who lives there and she has a trust fund Collins mentions an advance for his short story collection, but I find it impossible to believe a first time short story collection advance amounts to very much I suspected a trust fund, which doesn t matter at all, except when the trust fund kid keeps poking fun at the peasants toiling in the fields and closing their shops and pubs at hours inconvenient to him around him However, despite myself, I did mildly enjoy Collins observations on English people and ways of life The bizarre food I laughed out loud when he reports spotted someone purchasing a tin of Mr Brain s Pork Faggots in a Rich West Country Sauce p.192 the absurd utilities, the medieval real estate transactions all add up to a young man abroad kind of travelogue of a fairly predictable sort Collins tends towards the merciless when describing other people, and although this keeps him from finding Mr Chips on every pub stool, it comes off rather harsh and unsympathetic finally Perhaps the most compelling character in the story, the eccentric, energetic, competitive, anarchic, disorganized and stroke ravaged Richard Booth, who created the Hay on Wye used book phenomenon and lives in a disintegrating, fire ravaged castle looming over the town Booth hires Collins as his American expert for his bookstore and although Collins gives a dispassionate, unsentimental portrait of this strange man, Booth comes offof a crank and bad businessman than fascinating eccentric But back to the books As with hisgeneral cultural observations, when it comes to books Collins reveals a snobbishness that can be quite harsh he describes contemporary dust jackets and how they are designed to appeal to certain types of readers This goes from pages 111 113 and it is meant to be funny, I think, but it comes off just mean The terms uneducated readers and crap are used But he generally handles booksdelicately than this In fact Collins is, like I say, my kind of bookman I mean this as a compliment, I think While he loves the old, weird, neglected stuff, he does not wallow in Love of Books rhetoric that so often ruins books about books no rhapsodies on glorious smells and the crinkly ivory pages and whatnot And no bragging about pristine F Scott Fitzgerald dust jackets, thank God In fact he does a great job with the grubbiness and even filth that attends any pile of books, whether in a neglected shop or your own shelves or floor His selections from his reading are witty and interesting, but too few and far between His ruminations on the fact most authors wind up utterly forgotten, persisting only in used book shops and the bottom of boxes in estate sales is well done, melancholy, and true His asides are promising Look at all these dead shelves For every book you recognize there are twenty that you don t Usually this heartens me what an adventure to read those twenty But no I just feel kind of blue about it Even writing and publishing a bad book, a boring and stupid book, takes gargantuan effort And for what p 123 In a couple of places Collins describes dispassionately the fact that the booksellers of Hay will burn books lots of them, in bonfires The charred pages will even drift across town sometimes to his credit, Collins does not make a Holocaust comparison One dealer even tried to figure out a way to sell old books as fuel for wood burning stoves the packing and rendering was too expensive to be practicable Collins lack of sentimentality on this point was bracing and admirable I so, so, so wanted to like this bookthan I did The typical booklover s book would make knee jerk Nazi comparisons and generally weep and wail about these books consigned to the flames But the fact is, a lot of books are simply unsellable in fact you cannot give them away The books come into Hay from the USA by the shipping container load, and as ramshackle, unprofitable, and chaotic as they often are, used book dealers are in business There is simply nowhere to store six copies of Frommer s Guide to Italy, 1982 Two hundred years from now they will be rare, but now who would want them and even if one person does, the other five copies will go a begging, taking up shelf space for the rest of the proprietor s natural life span, unless he does something about them I completely agree with Collins take on the best managed, best organized bookstore in Hay I ran a few paragraphs together here Collins s has a weakness for single sentence paragraphs that are meant to be dramatic The Cinema Bookshop is better run than Booths s the hundreds of thousands of books here are priced and categorized, and related subjects are in proximity to each other A proper modern cash register is at the front of the store, and a magneto whatever exit gate will shriek if you try to steal their stuff Yet I have never bought a book in the Cinema Bookshop Not one The titles themselves are curiously inert Booth s, in its wide armed embrace of everything that avalanches upon it, has become a de facto library of the forgotten, with both everything you could want and everything that nobody could ever want But the Cinema Bookshop is a used book store run as if it were a new book store all the books are correctly priced, and there are no shocking bargains here There is no surer way than that to suck the fun out of book hunting pp 106 107 As good as this is, I do wish he had described Booth s in a contrastingly positive way He prefers Booth s squalor, but it seems to be a grudging preference Mostly, when describing Booths he complains about the squalor and filth, or the way the employees fail to appreciate his efforts to tidy up when he is employed there But dammit, there is good stuff in this book Compellingly, Collins fleetingly addresses the loathing and even self loathing even that comes from an immersion in old books, a topic that keenly interests me Yes, I love books but I also hate them as well Why is this My own dusty piles sometimes bring me great satisfaction, and yet I hate them sometimes too, or they fill me with melancholy Sometimes nothing isconflicting for an aspiring, probably already failed, versifier than to contemplate a folio volume of Abraham Cowley s poems, sixth edition, published in 1684 As a book person, I love the antiquity of it, the crooked type and long s s and the archaic spelling and the fact I lucked into it on eBay and only paid 40 But there is something desolate and futile about all those lines of Cowley s execrable verse For about a hundred years it was a given that Cowley was better than Milton thus the availability of Cowley s folio works Then came the long, slow slide Such reputations Such oblivion As for the death of reading culture, Collins says early in the book You see, literary culture is perpetually dead and dying and when some respected writer discovers and loudly proclaims the finality of this fact, it is a forensic marker of their own decomposition It means that they have artistically expired within the last ten years, and that they will corporeally expire within the next twenty p 3 Yes And yet throughout Sixpence House we are treated to Collins worrying and fretting about the final stages of getting his collection of short stories published, which he describes in worried, fretting young author ways There s nary a whisper about the likely endurance of any first story collection, or his own slim volume s chances of winding up on a remainder table, or being chucked into the flames of some desperate used bookseller s inventory reducing bonfire forty years from now if used bookstores still exist then Collins obtuseness about his own literary activities gives the book a blinkered, even selfish cast His fresh out of the workshop writing advice he shares doesn t help the situation real writers like Collins don t wait for inspiration but instead work really, really hard, you know.As compelling as parts of the book can be, Collins doesn t really develop them often returning to cute baby stories instead This gives the book an air of superficiality and sketchiness, a feeling of lost opportunity Perhaps in thirty years he can re write the book and give it some heft The kid will be grown up by then, Collins will own a house and he can stick to the books Why do I read these books It is like a sickness Paul Collins says Are me my wife the only Americans who don t own or drive cars YES PAUL YOU ARE JUST THAT SPECIAL AND DIFFERENT ALSO YOU ARE THE ONLY AMERICAN NAMED PAUL TRUE FACT Paul Collins says 890 square feet would barely accommodate a 1 bedroom apt in the USA Paul Collins says American grocery stores are never ever ever out of anything ever Paul Collins says EVERY AMERICAN HAS DIAMONDS FOR TEETH AND BATHES IN PEARLS DISSOL Why do I read these books It is like a sickness Paul Collins says Are me my wife the only Americans who don t own or drive cars YES PAUL YOU ARE JUST THAT SPECIAL AND DIFFERENT ALSO YOU ARE THE ONLY AMERICAN NAMED PAUL TRUE FACT Paul Collins says 890 square feet would barely accommodate a 1 bedroom apt in the USA Paul Collins says American grocery stores are never ever ever out of anything ever Paul Collins says EVERY AMERICAN HAS DIAMONDS FOR TEETH AND BATHES IN PEARLS DISSOLVED IN WINE, ALSO CIGARILLOS GROW ON TREES AND OUR KITTENS ARE MADE OF CANDY, BUT WE WEEP BECAUSE WE ARE MERE SUBLITERATE BABOONS IN COMPARISON TO THE ENGLISH, TO OUR GREAT AND EVERLASTING SORROW.I say PAUL COLLINS YOU ARE AN ENORMOUS TOOL I know, I am aware, this is an longstanding centuries old literary pose where you go WELL GOSH, I am an American and I am ten feet tall and annoying, isn t it funny, and wow look at the British with their tea and literature, and it has no connection to reality and is not supposed to, it is just supposed to make you chuckle indulgently at various national foibles or whatever the fuck, but FOR FUCK S SAKE.Apparently he is some kind of editor for something to do with McSweeney s Isn t self awareness supposed to be some kind of hallmark of those people Plus, he is the kind of prick who, at a bookstore, takes a book he wants to buy later and,instead of putting it on hold like a civilized human, he wedges it way the fuck behind other books in the wrong section, so nobody else can find it later AND HE ADMITS IT For this alone he must die The shortest version I can possibly give you is that Sixpence House is the latest and last bust in the long line of books I read because Nancy Pearl recommended them with great enthusiasm I reject her as a competent adviser on what to read next, and vow never again to pick up any book just on her say so I have spent the last two years dutifully listing books to read based on her wildly popular Book Lust series, but noIt is time to realize that when, out of the 150 or so books I ve The shortest version I can possibly give you is that Sixpence House is the latest and last bust in the long line of books I read because Nancy Pearl recommended them with great enthusiasm I reject her as a competent adviser on what to read next, and vow never again to pick up any book just on her say so I have spent the last two years dutifully listing books to read based on her wildly popular Book Lust series, but noIt is time to realize that when, out of the 150 or so books I ve let her coax me into, I ve only loved 2 and 48 were all right or not half bad, it is time to throw out the recommender with the dish water If you have had the opposite experience with Nancy Pearl, by all means, read this book, because you ll probably really like it I personally found it intolerable.There seem to be two sorts of people in the world who write books about books the sort who love books for their own sake, and or who love reading, who have been brought closer to people in their lives by reading, and who are compelled to write about the experience from the sheer exuberance in their beings for this activity The sort who have written books like A Gentle Madness and Howards End is On the Landing, The Lifetime Reading Plan or Tolstoy and the Purple Chair.The other sort are a bunch of pretentious snobs, the kind Rifftrax would mock with nasal Hmm yesss es and haughty sighing giggles They seem to write books about books only to demonstrate to the world their facility for trivia, to look down their almost certainly pointed noses at the rest of the world, to jump up and down and point and say, Look I ve read this obscure book that I bet you ve never even heard of Huh You know, I guess they would really bethe bookish equivalent of the hipster People like the inexplicable Murray Browne The Book Shopper or Tom Raabe Biblioholism People like the arrogant twerp who wrote this book.Hang on, I have reasons for calling him an arrogant twerp Maybe he s not this way in real life Maybe he just comes off this way in his incoherent, rambling, nonsensical book in which he can barely get through a chapter without informing you that at the time he wrote this book, he was waiting on another book to go through publishing, and by the way, he wrote a book and did you know, he also wrote a book He writes books, you know Yep That s what he does, all right Sixpence House is a convoluted blog in book form from back before there were blogs at all, a kind of rambling journey about a fellow and his wife and toddler picking up and moving their lives into the Old Country, their search for a home in the town of books Hay on Wye, a village in Wales in much the same way Cincinnati is in Ohio as half the town is actually in England boasting 40 antiquarian bookshops as its claim to fame Rambling journeys can be fun I m not here to bash those I enjoy a good ramble, a good stroll along a twisting stream with pretty trees and wildlife and whatnot But some rambles are bad for you Take, for example, the gently rambling Bolton Strid, a harmless looking river that in fact is immeasurably deep Every single person who has fallen into the Strid has disappeared forever via I feel that comparing Sixpence House to this stream makes an accurate comparison it looks like an easy jump to get on the other side and some harmless nature scenery along the way What it actually is, well, is much worse.When a British person makes condescending and snide comments about the US, I accept it with the gentle tolerance of a teased sibling who knows we ve both got our share of faults On the other hand, a San Franciscan with a superiority complex, who is too good to drive a car and whose wife still breast feeds their walking, toothed toddler, well, when he starts making condescending and snide comments about his own country, dedicating an entire chapter of his book subtitled Lost in a Town of Books, by the way to criticizing American TV and IQs by way of praising their British counterparts, well, I kind of feel the need to invite him up to Bolton for a little picnic on the Strid there and maybe let him get too close to theno, I m teasing, of course I m too petrified of drowning myself to even make the joke.The point is, this book barely seemed to have a purpose, except maybe as a vehicle for the other guy s other book, whatever it is He devotes enormous swaths of chapters to the detailed description of unrelated conversations, in depth quotations of random books even complete plot summaries of these random books These would not be amiss, really, in a book about being lost among books, but when combined with his flitting memories, House Hunters International esque experiences, a detailed account of his toddler s first Welsh experiences, and, wellI call it a pre blog blog All of that stuff would ve been appropriate in some other medium, but honestly, by chapter 12, I couldn t take it any.This review via Hundredaire Socialite Hundredaire Socialite Sixpence House is ostensibly Collins story of attempting to move his family from San Francisco to Hay on Wye, a small Welsh village with 1,500 inhabitants and 40 bookstores Hay on Wye is an interesting place, and in the right hands, that story could be enough Luckily for us, Paul Collins is an inveterate reader and collector of obscure tidbits The story of the move and his time in Wales thus becomes a framework from which to hang some of the most fascinating asides it has ever been my pleasu Sixpence House is ostensibly Collins story of attempting to move his family from San Francisco to Hay on Wye, a small Welsh village with 1,500 inhabitants and 40 bookstores Hay on Wye is an interesting place, and in the right hands, that story could be enough Luckily for us, Paul Collins is an inveterate reader and collector of obscure tidbits The story of the move and his time in Wales thus becomes a framework from which to hang some of the most fascinating asides it has ever been my pleasure to run across This sounds somewhat disjointed, and in lesser hands it could easily be so But Collins has a knack for making these asides tie in to the story he s telling at the time, even if the connection is tenuous at best Plus, the asides are so much fun, you forgive the author for reaching just a bit here and thereThe framework of the book details Collins and his family s attempt to buy a house in Hay on Wye, and if you ve ever harbored a dream of owning a 200 year old stone cottage in a sleepy British village, you should pay special attention Collins describes the process in hilarious detail, from the ins and outs of British real estate laws to all of the problems inherent in dealing with a moldering stone building in its dotage The family looks at so many houses that they tend to run together in the reader s mind, except for the eponymous Sixpence House, a former pub with water in the basement and canting floors that they pin their hopes on.By necessity, the story of their house search is also the story of the Collins family getting to know the inhabitants of Hay on Wye As you might expect in such a small town with such a large number of bookstores, the good folks of Hay on Wye are a tad eccentric The main character, Richard Booth, considers bookselling an anarchistic profession, which is obvious by the cavalier attitude towards sectioning and shelving in his stores Booth, the self styled King of Hay, looms large over this small town, but there are plenty of other characters in town, like Martin Beale, the solicitor who wrote a book about a murder that happened to one of his predecessors, or Violet, the elderly proprietor of the Hogshead which serves what is apparently the most godawful cider known to man These are characters in the southern sense of the word and might strike some as too much, but Collins fondness for them is palpable and mitigates the preciousness.Collins is a writer with an attraction to the eccentric and the oddball He picks up antique books on every subject imaginable, and somehow manages to glean something unique from every one I can think of no greater compliment for a writer than for readers to be so fascinated with the topic at hand that they seek out information not covered in the book on their own Darned if Collins hasn t gotten me jonesing to read books like Dr William Hammond s 1883 A Treatise on Insanity in Its Medical Relations or Riccardo Nobili s 1922 The Gentle Art of Faking Collins really brings home the idea that any book, no matter how old or shopworn or unappealing sounding, has treasures buried within for the careful excavator.It is this idea that is the heart and soul of the book Collins has a companionable voice and he sounds reasonable enough as the story unfolds But that reasonableness is a facade a seductive trap for the unwary bibliophile Without your realizing it, Collins pulls you further and further off the path It s just a small detour a quick side trip to see something really special, and before you know it, you re somewhere far away from where you thought you were going Collins gift is that you don t care that you end up someplace different from where you wanted to go The journey is enough