Hooray for good old fashioned book stores. I’m thinking specifically in this case of Green Apple Books, for 25 years my neighborhood bookstore (my son grew up on the floor in the children’s section) and even now that I’m across the bridge, my go-to whenever I need a book fix. As my little cottage has limited space, I dutifully schlep in books to sell back to Green Apple every couple of weeks, only to buy back more than I sold. (Calculation of the used/new formula by which they buy back and sell is one of life’s great mysteries.)
A disclaimer: I’m helping my Green Apple friends put together their 50th anniversary weekend celebration. Be sure to stop by the Clement St. flagship the weekend of September 8 and 9th for apples from Bi-Rite, a serenade by Lou the accordion princess, micro-brews, a prize wheel, and other surprises. Plus, of course, you get to buy more books!
I spend lots of time cruising the stacks at Green Apple. My favorite section is to the right of the bestsellers/new books stand. That’s where I find my treasures, books I haven’t necessarily heard of (and I’m a voracious reader of book reviews, lit sites, etc … my new fave is lithub.com) that invariably find their way into my impossible-to-limit “keep” pile. Thoughtful curation is the sign of a great bookstore and the Green Apple guys are masters.
That’s how I found Based on a True Story, a memoir/fiction hybrid by Delphine de Vigan, translated from the French. This book was a multiple prize-winning sensation in France and it’s no wonder. A suspenseful psychological thriller, it brings to mind the best of Stephen King (Misery) and Patricia Highsmith (The Talented Mr. Ripley). It’s a story about identity and writing and obsessive female friendship. The premise involves a writer, who we assume is de Vigan, on the edge of emotional collapse following the publication of an intensely personal book. She meets a woman who works as a ghostwriter as a party and things get very weird fairly quickly.
The personal book referred to as a plot point is presumably de Vigan’s Nothing Holds Back the Night, another work that blurs the line between memoir and fiction and deals with her mother’s suicide. I haven’t yet read it but intend to do so, once I recover from Based on a True Story. Perhaps a little Donna Leon is in order, or maybe a touch of Barbara Pym.
I’m almost done listening to Sherman Alexie’s You Don’t Have to Say You Love Me on Audible. This is a stunning example of why it can be so moving to hear a writer read his/her own book. A memoir and elegy to his cruel and loving mother, Alexie’s book recounts vivid and often painful memories of life growing up on the Spokane Reservation and describes the mixed blessing of being a “success story” in the white world. It’s filled with poetry that’s ever more affecting when heard in Alexie’s voice. I’m thinking especially of a quiet poem written for his late father, who takes a back seat to his explosive larger-than-life mother in this book. Also, you’ll never look at salmon the same way again after hearing what that fish means to the Spokane.
I was so pleased so see Andrew Sean Greer’s new novel Less get a front page rave in the New York Times book review. I’m a big Greer (The Path of Minor Planets, The Confessions of Max Tivoli, The Story of a Marriage) fan and always look forward to his latest. So much to read!