On Meeting Idols

May 13th, 2013

I met Ursula Le Guin the other day. It was a short meeting, at which I asked her to sign my copy of The Left Hand of Darkness. It’s the copy of the book that belonged to my father, which I nicked when I went off to college, carrying away the few classic science/speculative fiction novels he had in his personal library. I try to keep these author encounters short these days. I want to meet them, and Le Guin is possibly my favorite living author. I hope you’ll forgive me, but favorite author is a difficult choice to make.

Le Guin was appearing in support of an adaptation of The Left Hand of Darkness. I will be seeing that adaptation in a few days. She was interviewed by an OPB radio host who did a fair job of asking questions. Le Guin is, of course, an old hand at this. It is understandable if a few of the questions seemed rote or trite to her. She handled them with grace and just the amount of elderstateswomanly harumph that she has earned (as much as she wants).

After the appearance, I went over and asked her to sign my book. A young woman of 8-12 in costume had just done so, and I felt a little silly. Le Guin asked me if I wanted my name in the book. I always feel a little odd about that, so I said no. She immediately said she understood, but I suspected she figured my copy (an old Ace softcover) would soon be on Ebay. I considered explicitly telling her I would never do that, but it seemed like I would sound like I was protesting too much.

Triumphant, signed book in the back of my cycling jacket, I returned home, confident I had managed for once to encounter a beloved author without making an ass of myself. (I often joke that embarrassing myself in front of authors is my superpower.) As I rode, I became more convinced that she figured me for reselling the book, which blunted my feelings of triumph. When I got home I discovered that the ancient copy, now with author signature, had broken in half in my pocket. The Ace spine, a cheap production not meant for many rereads, had broken in the middle of one of my favorite scenes, with Genly and Estraven crossing the ice. I was left with two halves of a book, thinking about why we try to get author signatures in the first place. The stuff the author considered meaningful is already on the page.

Dreamhaven is Closing

October 27th, 2011

One of my favorite book stores will be closing in January. When I lived in Minneapolis I was just two blocks north of their old location. I would walk down to Dreamhaven and marvel at all the old science fiction paperbacks. I got all my Delany and Lovecraft there. Beautiful old paperbacks with that scent that comes off the cheap paper when you unseal the plastic protector. I sometimes found myself contemplating how much better my childhood would have been had I grown up near Dreamhaven. I would have read a lot less of that TSR crap that got shoved out by the bucket, and a lot more of the grand masters of imagination.

I moved to Portland, and Dreamhaven moved south to a different storefront at the same time. The sale was fantastic, and I stocked up on Lieber, Dick, Heinlein, Sturgeon and so many others. The nice paperbacks cost a bit more, but if you weren’t worried about the pages falling out from time to time, you could practically get books by the pound.

Neil Gaiman once said that you had to love the place because it stocked a category called “vintage smut.” I respect that kind of cheeky, but the staff (and the books, as discussed above) were what brought me back. They were always some of the nicest people I’d see all day. That mattered when they were in the dense pack of used bookstores that you find in Uptown Minneapolis.

Apparently moving to the new smaller storefront went well for a while, but Greg, who runs this blessed place, says that foot traffic has gone down over the last year. I’d be tempted to blame the location change, but that would be getting my timing wrong. I’ve been gone over three years, and he says the walk-ins slowed just last year. Still, when I go back to Minneapolis I try to always make it down there, and it is harder in the new location, but that may be because I’ve always been sort of bound to Uptown.

I won’t be back in the Cities before January, so, sadly, I’ve been to Dreamhaven for my last time, and I didn’t even know it. The website will still sell, and Greg is apparently keeping the location, but just to use as a storehouse. It’s good to know it’s not the complete end of Dreamhaven, but you can’t get that Ace Double smell off a website. I’ll miss you Dreamhaven.

On Textbooks

September 21st, 2008

Now that I am in law school, I find that most of my textbooks come from one of two publishers, Aspen and Thompson West (of the infamous Westlaw). You would think that as makers of textbooks, these two publishers would be largely the same. Not so. The key difference? Page thickness. When highlighting in an Aspen book, there is noticeably more page warping and color bleed through than with the Thompson West books. Ah the little things you find yourself noticing.

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