Well, we’re just before Christmas, and frankly, if you are in need of a gift for someone (or even a book for yourself), we have a lot of choices. We’ve been carefully cultivating some sweet stacks over the last six months, and as we look back over the books that have been released this fall, we think we’ve highlighted a lot of fascinating and fun books. You don’t have to read back through all of the newsletters. Really. Just come on down and have a chat with us and peruse the tables. Maybe something will jump out at you.
Hopefully, it won’t be an otter or a marmot.
Make sure you get a bookmark for your purchases, though. Why, yes, there are lots of bookmarks to chose from, and, at the very least, get a store bookmark. It’s one of a series, as you might have noticed. No? Oh, well, each bookmark has a bit of trivia about the sort of books that animals in the wild read when no one is looking. Given that we have a marmot on staff, he’s been very helpful in this regard. Here are a few examples.
Grouch Marx once said: “Outside of a dog, a book is man’s best friend. Inside of a dog, it’s too dark to read.”
Dogs laugh at that joke, even though they don’t get it. Dogs laugh because they know getting the joke isn’t as important as appearing to care about the joke teller. Since cats can’t be bothered to acknowledge man’s attempts at humor, you needed someone to laugh at all your jokes. Especially the unfunny ones.
A lot of writers are neurotic about whether or not anyone cares about anything they’ve ever written, and having a dog around keeps them from wallowing in the darkest depths of despair, slowing drowning in the sour waters of existential ennui.
Here’s another funny saying about dogs. It goes like this: “Squirrel!”
Dog’s don’t get that one either. Mostly because they’re too busy looking for the squirrel.
Dogs are also impervious to hyperbole because they have two modes: off, and OH MY GOD! THAT’S THE BESTEST THING EVERY! I’m not sure how they do it, really. Where’s the awareness of nuance? How can they be unaware of the delicate subtlety of a deep emotional narrative? Do they not understand the pathos of tragedy? Have they never experienced the angst of unrequited love?
Oh, look! Squirrel!
Fish are really into audio books, because they spend a lot of time swimming. Upstream, mostly. Plus they don’t have hands. What? You thought I was going to talk about how you can’t read a book while in water. You can. People read in the bathtub all the time. I don’t know why people always try to pretend that humans invented everything. Fish were reading a long time before humans invented bath bombs and boudoir decadence.
Look at dolphins, for example. They are way smarter than any of us. In fact, their brains are so much more complex and advanced than the human brain, that they’ve already conceived of every sentence humanity is every going to compose. They exist in a post-reading state of perpetual enlightenment.
Salmon, on the other hand, are like the long-haul truckers of the fish world. They have places to go, and things to do. Which is why they like audio books. Preferably ones with sound effects and multiple actors.
It’s almost like watching TV, but in your mind.
Plus you can’t watch TV underwater. Electrical current doesn’t work all that well in water. For technical reasons. I don’t get it. Fish don’t either. But they just know it doesn’t work . . .
Wolves are big fans of gothic romances. In fact, many disputes between wolf clans are settled by staged recitations of Ann Radcliffe’s The Mysteries of Udolpho. When you hear wolf howls at night, more often than not they are practicing the trickier portions of Chapter Three and Four from Volume Two.
In recent decades, wolves have been a big part of paranormal romance novels, which shouldn’t be that much of a surprise when you consider what big fans wolves are of the gothic. The “Mysterious Stranger” archetype probably has a room in the dungeon of Udolpho.
Wolves eat marmots, so we don’t hang out much. Plus, marmots tend to like techno-thrillers and international noir more than gothic novels, and so—even without the eating part—we don’t have a whole lot to talk about with the wolves.
Plus they’re really full of themselves. It’s terribly embarrassing to watch, actually.
Once upon a time, William Shakespeare wrote a very simple stage direction that has perplexed and amused audiences, actors, and directors ever since. “Exit, pursued by a bear.” Now, it’s hard to say whether people ran from bears before this time (circa 1610, in fact), or whether small children, wanting to emulate the common tropes of the era, took this line to heart, and thereby baked into the instinctual lizard lexicon of successive generations the idea that all exits must be accomplished as if pursued by a bear.
No one, of course, bothered to ask the bears if they wanted to be so maligned. Some—black bears, mostly—thought that since they were going to be typecast that way, they would certainly not bother setting the record straight, and for many, many years black bears terrorized villagers who were foolish enough to wade through the blackberries on the way home from the pub. But other bears—sun bears, brown bears—were more generous in spirit, and they understood that Shakespeare’s bear was a metaphor, and that was okay, because man had—for generations prior to Shakespeare—used metaphors to describe many things they did not understand.
And bears are mysterious creatures, really. Mysterious and unexplorable, as Thoreau once said. They also like big fat fantasy novels, too. And, since they sleep all winter, they don’t mind waiting a year or two for the next book in the series.
Otters spend a lot of time in water, which means they like pulpy things. Stiff-backed books? Useful to keep the rain off their heads, or you can build a sliding ramp with a dozen or so. But for reading? Not so much. You know this. It’s difficult to prop a heavy hardback on your stomach when you’re paddling about in the tub.
There’s a lot of different types of wood pulp. There’s dusty pulp. There’s hard-boiled pulp. There’s soft-around-the-edges pulp (in Hollywood, this softness is achieved by smearing Vaseline on the lens). There’s Italian pulp, curated from the finest forests of beech and larch. And occasionally, there will be Norwegian spruce pulp. Otters like it all. They aren’t that discriminating. Just as long as it is chewy.
Richard Adams once wrote a book about rabbits. He also wrote a book about a horse (General Lee’s) and a bear. The bear showed up again in Stephen King’s Gunslinger books. Many of you were traumatized as a child about rabbits because you saw the animated film as kids. Your parents probably thought they were dropping you off at a Disney movie, like The Fox and the Hound.
As readers, rabbits are voracious. They’ll read anything, and some fringe academics suspect that entire sub-genres are supported by the reading habits of rabbits versus actual human readers. They’re also very quixotic in their tastes, which leads to certain awkward spasms in the publishing industry when rabbits everywhere suddenly switch genres overnight.
What other way do you have to describe the sudden uptick of certain categories of fiction? All the data analysis in the world isn’t going to encompass the rapidity with which rabbits devour fiction. Of all the nature readers, rabbits are the only species who read more widely than marmots. But that’s only because marmots are more discerning in our reading. And we like to lie about on warm rocks too.
Life is more than a good book, you know.
Ah, you’ll have to come into the store to get this bookmark. We’re not going to give it away here.
Overheard At The Therapist's Office »»
DR. LAVANDULA: How is the rest of your work environment? Other than the otters.
COLBY: Oh, it’s okay. People come in; they buy books; they leave, happy. It’s fulfilling, for the most part.
DR. LAVANDULA: And your co-workers?
COLBY: Ferdie is fine. She’s a little bit nervous, but what can you expect with her dislike of short-haired yappie dogs and sudden explosive noises in the night.
DR. LAVANDULA: I am not going to ask how you know these things about your co-worker—what is her name?
DR. LAVANDULA: Yes, Ferdie. I fear that will be a lengthy digression, and that might not be how you want to spend your session today.
COLBY: You’d be right about that.
DR. LAVANDULA: Is there anyone else who works at the store? It sounds like you are quite busy, and that in itself may be the source of your persistent stress, but I’m not sure how that is different from any successful independent business. Unless you’d like to discuss whether or not marmots should be working retail.
COLBY: That gets into theory pretty quick, and I’m not here to provide for your peer publications.
DR. LAVANDULA: Even shrinks have dreams, you know.
COLBY: I’m not a mere device.
DR. LAVANDULA: Ah, the particular persistence of being unique. I understand. Are there any seasonal workers, perhaps?
COLBY: We have a few . . . hangers-on, I guess. They come in a lot. They seem to think they run the place.
DR. LAVANDULA: Perhaps they do.
COLBY: No, they’re . . . look, I don’t want to name names, and in fact, I’m just going to reverse anthropomorphize them. Just to keep things, you know, discrete.
DR. LAVANDULA: Of course.
COLBY: So, one of them is like that bear in that Disney film? You know . . . ? Actually, more like Little John than Baloo, but you know, Disney Bear-esque. Genial. Happy to help. I mean, if we were to fall in a well together, he’d totally let me climb on his shoulders to get out, without giving a thought in the world as to how he’d get out.
DR. LAVANDULA: Maybe he thinks you’re going to get a rope?
COLBY: And where would I get this rope? It's not like I have a magic bag that holds a hundred feet of rope or something. What do you think this is? Some sort of role-playing experiment? Besides, he’s a bear. Are you aware of the weight differential between bears and marmots?
DR. LAVANDULA: You don’t have super marmot strength? To go along with your increased cranial capacity?
COLBY: Now you are making fun of me.
DR. LAVANDULA: I’m sorry. Forgive me.
COLBY: But speaking of super powers and the like, there’s this other “seasonal helper.” He likes to think he has super powers. Like he can see what’s on the shelf from the other room. Like he’s got every book memorized in his head like a super catalog or something. If you ask me—and you are—he’s actually a super villain. Why else would he keep a collection of the shrunken heads of his vanquished foes? It’s creepy.
DR. LAVANDULA: I’m sure there’s a rational explanation for this . . . collection.
COLBY: Oh, and then there’s the staring one. Big eyes. Might be an owl. Super quiet too. Keeps sneaking up on me. I don’t trust that one.
DR. LAVANDULA: Perhaps it is merely a lack of familiarity.
COLBY: I’m familiar with owls.
DR. LAVANDULA: I meant . . . never mind. Anyone else?
COLBY: There’s the mama sheep. She’s always rushing around, making sure everyone’s got what they need. Everything is in the right place. Are there enough books over here? How about over there? Are there too many books down low? Up high? I like to move things around at night, just to watch her fuss in the morning. Oh, but then she has this sheep dog. Oh my god. That sheep dog. I never know when he is going to show up. But, bam! There he is. Rushing around. Trying to help mama sheep. Can I carry this? Can I tote that? Can I run around the block with this box? And he’s always underfoot. She’s trying to get something done, and he comes rushing out and runs round and round and round her feet. Then that bear is trying to pluck some berries, and sheep dog is like Can I help? Do you need someone to jump up and down for you? Super villain is actually trying to sell a customer a book on soap making or something, and sheep dog is over there, getting his paws all over the keyboard and making the barcode scanner flash that laser light everywhere. Meanwhile, Big Eye is parked on a stool, staring at me. It’s crazy, I tell you.
DR. LAVANDULA: It does sound quite . . . chaotic.
COLBY: They’re all book nerds, though, so I can’t dislike them entirely.
DR. LAVANDULA: Pity.
COLBY: I know. <sigh> I guess I’ll have to get them something nice for the holidays.
DR. LAVANDULA: That would be the reasonable thing to do.
COLBY: Well, that’s a genius breakthrough. I can’t believe I have to pay for these sessions.
DR. LAVANDULA: Charity and empathy only go so far. Even professionals like myself have to eat.
COLBY: I could bring you a fruit log?
DR. LAVANDULA: Cash is fine.