Softly, Softly Opening Bookstore

OpenA glorious and shining day here at Malvern HQ: the standards are on their way, our final book order has arrived, and… we have an opening date for you! That date—mark it in your calendars now, my dears—is Tuesday, October 8th. (We are naturally delighted to be sharing a birthday with Zog I of Albania, “the strangest monarch of the twentieth century.”)

Now, before you start rummaging through your closet for your tutu and top hat, please note that October 8th is not the Grand Opening. We will not be serving wine in paper cups and THERE WILL BE NO FREE CHEESE. Nope, this is the soft opening (lower case, see, for lack of emphasis), the splendid but low-key day on which we quietly open our doors and then stand nonchalantly behind the cash register, hoping no one has any complicated transactions for us. We want to get fully into the swing of bookstore life (selling books; evicting pigeons; shushing benevolently) before we stage an elaborate grandest-of-the-grand opening shindig. So on October 8th at 11am, we welcome you to stop by Malvern Books, say hello, and pick up a few wonderful books and journals (like this and this and this). We might get a little teary as we hand you your purchases; that’s just all the, um, new-book fumes.

Bad ToiletAlso worth noting: now that our handsome stage is all spick-and-span and this errant loo is no longer lounging in the middle of the store, we’re ready to start filling our Events Calendar with all manner of exciting literary festivities (we already have a couple of great readings lined up, and we’ll fill you in on all the details soon). If you’d like to give a reading, or if there’s a local writer you’d love to hear strut their poetic stuff, please send us an email. And do tell all your writerly friends about us… the more Malvernians, the merrier!

Dangerous Birds

Merry midweek, my magnificent Malverinos! Yes, it’s Alliteration Week in my brain and it’s Banned Books Week… everywhere. According to the American Library Association, grumpy curmudgeons have attempted to restrict our access to over 11,000 titles since 1982. And these knee-jerking jerks often object to the sweetest things, like kiddie wizards and Maya Angelou.

Banned Books Week

If you’re wondering if the land of the free really needs to devote a week to “the freedom to read,” please be sadly assured that our great nation is chock-full of feisty loons who want to restrict our access to books about gay penguins and bathing cowboys. If you want to say a hearty yah-boo-sucks to these would-be censors—and celebrate your right to read about homosexual avian hijinks—then check out these ten ways to take part in Banned Books Week.

And here’s an unlikely segue: much like the aforementioned heartless nutbars concerned conservatives, we are utterly, irrationally obsessed with standards. Yep, our blasted standards are still missing, and thus our bookshelves are still sans shelves. Several kind readers sent us emails suggesting places we might get hold of some suitably bracket-like items, but our carpenter eschews bog-standard standards and has his heart set on a particular kind (the brown kind, apparently), and so we continue to wait patiently for the arrival of all that is upright and dun-colored…

The Importance of Standards

G’day there, Malvernites! It’s Pop Quiz Wednesday! Do you notice anything strange about the handsome bespoke bookcases lurking in the background of this photograph?


If you observed that there appear to be bookcases and also shelves, but that the two seem sadly torn asunder, you are quite cheeky and also absolutely right. We are having shelf issues here at Malvern Books. (Poor shelf-esteem? Bad shelf-image? Bah!) The problem is not that the shelves are the wrong size, or riddled with angry termites. Nope, the problem is that our shameless shelves have no standards. These are standards:


Gorgeous, aren’t they? All gleaming and full of holes and ready to support some literature-laden shelves. Alas, as anyone who wrote an angry letter to the ether after Miley’s VMA art piece can tell you, standards are lacking. You’d think a quick trip to the nearest Home Depot would soon see us right, but you’d be mistaken. We need special standards—we’re ever so proper—and these special standards have been back-ordered for six weeks. Can you say gaaaaaaaaaaaaaaah? If a weird and inquisitive genie had appeared before me a few months ago and asked me to make a list of seventy-five reasons why the opening of the bookstore might be slightly delayed, I can guarantee you I would’ve listed a zombie invasion, a really big earthquake, the accidental destruction of all books everywhere, and seventy-one other calamities before it would’ve occurred to me to write “maybe the shelves won’t have any little metal thingamabobs to rest on.” But they don’t, the poor shelves, and so they remain propped up against the wall, gathering dust and looking foolish. I suspect a solution will be found very quickly—we’re certainly not waiting six weeks to acquire standards—but until then: standards, people! Do watch out for them.

Data Entry Doldrums

It’s POS madness down at Malvern this week, as we go about the cumbersome business of entering more than four-thousand titles into our Point of Sale system. (BTW, if you find inventory management sexy—and what sane person doesn’t?—you really should be reading the Point of Sale Blog, where you can keep up with all the latest industry gossip vis-à-vis thermal paper sensitivity.) Naturally, our POS system looks exactly like the one below, except the pizza is a picture of Solzhenitsyn and the avocado is Anne Carson:

pos6In other colorful photographic news, pictured below we have: evidence of our hard work; a custom-built display stand showcasing a few copies of one of our favorite journals; and Malvern by night, with Mr. Pirate keeping a watchful eye on our brand new counter.

Data Entry

Display Stand

Malvern at Night

Thursday Three #10

In honor of Mr. Pirate, the newest member of the Malvern team, let’s dedicate today’s Thursday Three to a trio of nautical-but-nice books with a seafaring theme.

Pirate Books

1. Pitcairn’s Island by Charles Nordhoff and James Norman Hall. How awesomely terrible is that cover? First published in 1934 (and reprinted many times, with better covers), Pitcairn’s Island is a novelized account of the true adventures of Fletcher Christian and his fellow Bounty mutineers, who in 1790 took refuge on lonely Pitcairn Island in the South Pacific. They lived there undiscovered for eighteen years; their descendants still live there today (current population: 48). I’m obsessed with the strange and sinister history of Pitcairn—violence, incest, Seventh-day Adventists!—and this is the best account I’ve read of the island’s sordid past. (If you can’t track down the book, this Vanity Fair article also offers an intriguing introduction to the Bounty shenanigans and the island’s current woes.)

2. A High Wind in Jamaica by Richard Hughes (first published in 1928). After their home in Jamaica is destroyed by a typhoon, the Bas-Thornton family decides it’s about time they moved on, and the five children are placed aboard a merchant ship bound for Blighty (the parents stay behind to tie up a few loose ends). Alas, the ship is almost immediately seized by a gang of bumbling pirates, and what follows is macabre, hilarious, and disquieting—and also an utterly riveting read. Adopting the jolly-hockey-sticks tone of a madcap Enid Blyton novel, Hughes delights in recounting the chillingly blasé and precocious thoughts of his creepy cast of posh kiddies, who prove to be every bit as amoral as their swashbuckling captors. And if all this children-are-awful stuff reminds you of Lord of the Flies, you should know that Richard Hughes’ take is much less heavy-handed, equally disturbing, and fearlessly odd. It’s also a lot of fun:

Much the best way of escaping from an embarrassing rencontre, when to walk away would be an impossible strain on the nerves, is to retire in a series of somersaults. Emily immediately started turning head over heels up the deck.

3. Swallows and Amazons by Arthur Ransome (first published in 1930). An adventure story set amidst the Lake District, Swallows and Amazons recounts the outdoorsy escapades of the holidaying Walker children (who sail a dinghy named Swallow) and the Blackett children (yep, their wee boat is called Amazon). The children team up to defeat a common enemy: the Blackett’s grumpy uncle, whom they decide must be a former pirate. (He’s actually quite a nice chap, but he’s retired to a cabin to write his memoirs, and no longer has time to entertain the kids.) This was my mum’s favorite book when she was a child, and so of course I refused to show any interest in it when I was young, which is a shame as it’s a wonderful tale full of charming capers and stroppy female characters. Swallows and Amazons lovingly portrays a time before twerking, when children were allowed to run amok after lunch, using their imaginations to shape the mundane world around them into something magical. If ever I’m forced to read aloud to a child—heaven forbid!—Swallows and Amazons will be my first choice.

Shiver Me Timbers

Ahoy there, Malverns! I hope this day of Wōden finds you well. (That is the nerdiest sentence I have ever written. Ever.) Our householdy week got off to a thrilling start when Cat #3 made the unusual choice to turn on a faucet while we were out, thus flooding half the apartment and causing the living room floorboards to adopt a rather jaunty, pyramid-like appearance. Needless to say, Cat #3 has been ordered to get a part-time retail position to help pay for the clean up. Cat #3 is not very happy about this. (I’d avoid the Forever 21 at Esperanza Crossing for the next few months.)

And from buckling to swashbuckling… allow me to introduce you to the newest, saltiest member of the Malvern team:


Yes, we have a pirate! And a very handsome fellow he is. Our beautiful buccaneer has yet to be named (suggestions, anyone?), but I’m sure we’ll have a suitable moniker in time for next week’s International Talk Like A Pirate Day.

The eagle-eyed among you may have noticed the blue sign to the left of our rogue and wondered if Malvern Books had made the sensible decision to serve rum with its poetry. Alas, we have not: wassailing R not us. The grog license application belongs to our new neighbors, Vapor Joe’s, an “E-Cigarette and Custom Beer Lounge.” Yes folks, if your To Do list requires you to purchase some pirate-approved poetry, do some bong comparison shopping, rent a DVD, and light up an electronic cigarette, well, you will soon be able to tackle all your chores at once down on ol’ West 29th Street. We can’t wait to see you!