Thursday, September 16, 2010

A Novel Bookstore and a Novel Bookstore. . .

I love a little bookish serendipity.

I've just been in Calgary selling the spring list and doing our first Dewey book talk of the fall season. At the end of one of  appointments, I was chatting to my buyer about books we'd recently read and I mentioned that I'd just finished A Novel Bookstore by Laurence Cossé, translated by Alison Anderson (a lovely story about two bibliophiles who decide to open The Good Novel, a bookstore in Paris that will only stock, well, good novels of course, and how they deal with the resulting backlash).  "Have you heard about the new literary bookstore that has just opened in Calgary?" my buyer asks me. Of course I go scurrying off to investigate.

Shelf Life Books is indeed a new downtown independent bookstore (at the corner of 4th Street SW and 13th Avenue) and while they are still putting the finishing touches to some of the fixtures and they aren't fully stocked yet, I was still pretty darn impressed with what I saw. In this interview, the owner JoAnn McCaig describes her store as, "a bookstore for the unusually bookish."  I love that phrase - the unusually bookish. Already they have a killer poetry section, shelves devoted to local writers and a strong focus on Canadian literature, the classics and small presses. There was Hans Fallada -  face out.  A shelf or two down, they had copies of Daniel Kehlmann's Fame (a very funny take on technology and the pitfalls of being famous;  it's just been published and is one of my fall Dewey picks). They are the first Canadian bookstore I've been in so far that is stocking Open Letter Books  (a wonderful press devoted to literature in translation - they used to be only available in Canada through subscription - I had one - but happily are now distributed by the Literary Press Group). I immediately bought two of their books - Bragi Ólafsson's The Ambassador, translated by Lytton Smith, which I started on the plane home, trying not to chortle too loudly, and Andreas Maier's Klausen, translated by Kenneth J. Northcott.

It's so wonderful to hear about an independent bookstore opening rather than closing and I wish Shelf Life Books the best of luck. If you are in Calgary, do stop by and give them your support. Chat with the friendly staff about books. I'll certainly be back in the spring.

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