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Saturday, April 01, 2006

Corey Mesler Gets Eschatological

Update below!

Solar rainbows are spinning around the Palace playroom, but this morning the local substation collapsed under the weight of all the unexpected sunshine. After no juice for four hours, I whipped out for a little weightlifting and a nice hot shower. And now I find the power on again--and squeezed into my mailbox with his black hat and glasses is Corey Mesler, writer and bookseller.


VerbSap: You’ve said that supporting independent bookstores keeps money in local communities rather than allowing it to “line the pockets of the wolves.” I’m all for supporting my community, but I’m also for lower-cost books. Is there a special circle of hell for people like me who buy their blockbusters at Costco but go to their local independent bookstore to find literary diversity?

Mesler: Yes. This is not a grey area. For every book you buy at Costco you will endure untold tortures of the damned. Sorry. It was, as they will tell you in hell, your own decision.

* * *
Mesler: Authors are rarely difficult. They are gentle, harmless creatures not unlike the sloth or the capybara. I love having them in my store though they bring in next to no business.

* * *
Mesler: ...Interest in books waning? Yes, definitely. We are in the endtimes as evidenced by our lack of interest in reading. Start storing water. Teach your children how to duck and cover. It’s almost all over.

***For more about Corey the poet, novelist, and co-owner of Burke's Books in Memphis, toddle over to Photo credit: This royalty free self-portrait is by Hans Widmer of Thalwill, Switzerland and was obtained at Evidently he is a shadowy figure. Like Corey, he wears a hat.


Corey and I have been having one of our intermittent bouts of correspondence, begun some time after he reviewed The Wolf Pit in 2002. I wrote him a thank you note, and poof! we were penpals.

He relished the love note in comments, and he had this to say about the remarks about book-reading:

A scrap! I love it that some folks think literacy, or more plainly, bookishness, is not in decline. I assume these are the same folks who answer those emails from Nigeria.

Another good Corey-line: Contests--I still enter because I still believe a fairy is gonna save the bookstore. It's the same kind of faith.

The rest of our exchanges are too funny and disillusioned to post!


  1. I would love Corey Mesler. I do love Corey Mesler, except I haven't met him, and am unsure about astral love.
    I tell all my customers that there is a special circle in Hell for those who buy books from places like Borders.
    My poor partner glances yearningly at the very large, well lit, well stocked Borders up north, just next to the mall where our youngest loves to play video games.
    "you'd probably end things with me if I went in there..."

  2. Hmm. I'll have to drop him a note! Kindred booksellers...

  3. Hi Marly,

    The part about this post that I find most interesting is the part about interest in books waning. I think that isn't really true. My kids here at school continually bug me to go the school library. I do have a few souls, mostly male interestingly enough, that don't want to/don't like to read.

    But I have a number of male readers who storm through books, as do their female counterparts. I think they have found out the secret, that books take you to another world. And often, the world my students live in physically is not a pleasant place to be. They would rather be in another created world with an excellent author.

    By the way, thanks for the comments about the poem. I will work on it some more. You may laugh at this but I had to look up conversational tone on the internet. Part of the reason for this is that I am somewhat of an archaic formal speaker. Of course not as archaic as my poem was, but I have had people come up to me and say "Huh? Can't you just speak plain English?" My son, taught by his mother, is the same. When he started writing he had to learn to write contractions, because we rarely use contractions when speaking to one another. I got this tendency from my mother who was a stickler for speaking "proper English." All this to say writing conversationally is a stretch for me, but a good one.

    Thanks again.

  4. Scrap of suggestion: see if you can inter-library loan Charles Causley's poems (hard to find.) Take a look at his ballads. He has an old-fashioned outlook, but he combines that with a "speaking" syntax--normal conversational word order. Of course, the end result is not normal speech! Something better...

    Yes, I find that boys are less interested than girls, men less than women (at least in fiction and poetry.) My daughter is the obsessed reader, not my sons--although one reads a good deal of nonfiction. The Orange Prize has a study about these things on their website.

    But I also know a lot of young, rabid readers. And that is hopeful.

    Corey and his wife own a bookstore--a notable bookstore--and I imagine that his comments reflect the fact that it's harder and harder every second to make an independent bookstore work.

  5. Yes, although, as I have said, I would love Corey (and his wife) I do also disagree with his sense of declining literacy.
    My little rural area is not really a well off or terribly well educated one, but people hunger for books.
    Of course that may partly be due to our freebox, which is cleverly addicting people.
    Might also be due to the rain, the endless rain, and the number of people without electricity who depend upon words read by candlelight to amuse, distract, and inspire them.
    But yeah, the independent new bookseller has it unbelieveably rough in these times. I tell folks who say they want to go into the business that it is a wonderful one if you love books, and people who love books, many times more than you love money.

  6. What a great photo! Our substation collapses under the weight of one snowflake. Luckily, this year, we've had none. Actually, it is the overhead power lines that collapse (neighborhood built in the 1930's), but that fact messed up the parallel, so I ditched it.
    PS Have you heard Pat Metheny's version of Ferry Cross the Mersey?

  7. Laura,

    That's a good homesick song... Why in particular? (Because I'm homesick? Today I'm rightasrain with sunbeams all day and flowers.)

    I loved your latest tree picture. It's wallpaper now!

    Not even one snowflake? I remember one year in Chapel Hill (well, Carrboro--Cheswick) we had a decent snow, and the children went sledding in laundry baskets. And then the robins came back in immense numbers on February 9th.

    So the free box works. I've always thought more books should be given away by publishers.

    Corey was pleased to have what he styled a "mash note," by the by...

  8. My local bookstore has a free box, and lets people read their advance copies to give them input on whether they liked the books or not. I have read some excellent and not so excellent books that way.

    I have thought of opening bookstore/coffee shop myself at times. I would go broke though, because I would probably overstock. I agree with the theologian who said "Sell all you have and buy books." Which is why my house has magazines, and books all over the place, and not many other worldy riches.

  9. When in Northern California (you'll have to guess at the bookstore--look for excessive flowers and comfy chairs) or Memphis (Burke's Books), you'll have to drop in on Jarvenpa or Corey's stores.

    Many people have a secret bookstore fantasy. And a book-writing fantasy as well, though both are risky in the thing we call real life.

  10. Ah, a mash note. A term I delight to hear.
    Though please assure Mr. Mesler I don't answer those worthy emails from Nigeria that offer me millions if only I will in charity and kindness help the Grand King of the River to his rightful inheritance.
    Only, of course, because I have limited writing time, and must spend it in more worthy places, such as the comments section of the Palace.

    The free box functions well in a used bookstore (and would probably do well in a new one too). For us it is an opportunity to keep our saleable stock very spiffy, while honestly telling the community to send us their tattered volumes yearning to be read once again.
    I even put aside Readers Digest Condensed volumes for a 9 year old who wants to read all of them.
    My partner likes to say "the book stops here" but I remind him (being of more pragmatic nature, though it is hard to believe that) that the book must also go onward if we are to pay rent and buy treats for the dogs.
    I seed the free box, however, with extra treasures, depending upon the person I see approaching down the street--Spanish language kids books for the beautiful children who live in the trailer court, metaphysics for the ex professor who lives under an oak tree near the highway.
    The trick, and one of my delights, is to get people to recognize the secret treasures that are between bookcovers. Then, when they do have cash on hand, they trot in with it and buy wonderful books.
    Of course, I give heavy discounts to the kids who bring me fistfuls of pennies and bright smiles.

  11. Yes, I like "mash note" as well. Actually I like the offer to help the "Grand King of the River to his rightful inheritance," too. I like the thought that there is such a king, and that someone will come along to go on quest to win that reward.

    But it shouldn't be via email!

    And thanks for doing me the honor of making the Palace "a worthy place." I'm quite sure that your bookstore is--I like those peeks at your readers.

  12. Oh goodness! Now I have an image wedged permanently in my brain and glued down with excessive amounts of sticky, icky craft glue. Authors are like capybaras. So now all authors have shrunk and grown fur and toddle around when not furiously typing up new works. Oh dear!

  13. If a little scurrying creature, you are certainly one that scoots all about the Palace. I see you here, there--perhaps the mice were playing while I was away. But I'm back now...

  14. If a capybara, then a strange capybara am I; I don't dine on roots, but rather biscuits and fried chicken, mashed potatoes and apple pie, all homeade of course. (although meals like this only appear infrequently) And you are a scurrying little creature too, although one in command of a grand Palace.


Alas, I must once again remind large numbers of Chinese salesmen and other worldwide peddlers that if they fall into the Gulf of Spam, they will be eaten by roaming Balrogs. The rest of you, lovers of grace, poetry, and horses (nod to Yeats--you do not have to be fond of horses), feel free to leave fascinating missives and curious arguments.