It’s A Sign!

It’s official: Malvern Books is all lit up. Thanks to the good people at Ion Art, we now have a spiffy new neon sign, and we couldn’t resist taking a few pics of its arrival and installation:

Sign 1

Sign 2

Sign 3

Sign 5

In other Malverny news, the adorably named Shelf Awareness kindly gave us a plug in a recent issue. (I am using the word plug figuratively, of course; it would have been rather strange of them to give us an actual plug, though lord knows plugs always come in handy.) Thanks to everyone who read the article and tweeted at/about us—prepositions are tricky in this social media age, no?—and/or stopped by this here blog. We’re delighted to make your virtual acquaintance, and we look forward to making your real-life, pants-’n’-all acquaintance when the store opens (which will be very, very soon).

And finally… what have we here? Two cheerful blokes larking about in the Small Press Distribution warehouse?

SPD Order

Yes, indeed. And those boxes they’re standing in front of? Why, it’s only the largest single indie bookstore order ever to leave their warehouse… and it’s on its way to yours truly! Get your hand-trucks ready, Malverinos, there’s some lugging to be done.

Into The Wild(ish)

Ahoy there, Malvernians! I trust your Labor Day was not the least bit laborious. I’d hoped to spend the weekend reclining on a chaise lounge with a good book, a plate of tropical fruit, and a basket of frolicking kittens, but alas the longed for book/mango/cat trifecta was not to be. Instead, I was dragged off to the wilds of Western Massachusetts to experience an alarming cabin/woods/salamanders combo in the Berkshire Hills. (My fear of the outdoors was slightly lessened by the place’s silly name: berk is affectionate colonial slang for an idiot, and thus I was able to spend the entire weekend imagining myself in a mountainous land of fools.) The Berkshires are popular for terrible activities like hiking to waterfalls and striking unsuspecting deer with your car. Fortunately for us indoorsy types, the region’s most impressive hill offers up a little literary distraction…

Mount Greylock

I’m talking about Mount Greylock, where Henry David Thoreau got his groove back. At 3,491 feet, Greylock is the highest point in Massachusetts, and on a clear day you can see five states from the top. It’s also part of the legendary Appalachian Trail—and a bloody tough part, it seems. In Bill Bryson’s A Walk in the Woods, his account of hiking the trail, Bryson describes his Greylock climb as “steep, hot, and seemingly endless.” And, to add to the thrill of the infinite uphill slog, there are also black bears, bobcats, and coyotes cavorting among the boreal bushes.

Fortunately, you don’t have to hike up there; you can drive the seven miles to the summit on a winding, mist-shrouded road. And once you’re at the top, you can celebrate your good sense with a beer from the bar at Bascom Lodge, a rustic ’30s hotel that seems to be run by a bunch of frazzled but friendly New Zealanders.

View from Mount GreylockAs for Thoreau, he left his Toyota at home and hiked to the summit in July 1844. He spent the night up there by himself and penned a few lines:

As the light increased
I discovered around me an ocean of mist,
which by chance reached up to exactly the base of the tower,
and shut out every vestige of the earth,
while I was left floating on this fragment
of the wreck of the world,
on my carved plank in cloudland;
a situation which required,
no aid from the imagination
to render it impressive.

Thoreau quoteAccording to scholars, this night alone on the mountain transformed Thoreau. You see, at the time of his Greylock adventure, Thoreau was still in mourning for his brother John, who’d contracted tetanus from a shaving cut (!) and had died in Thoreau’s arms in 1842. The two brothers had been very close and John had always accompanied Henry on his woodsy wanderings. Following his brother’s death, Thoreau suffered a crisis of confidence and began to question his abilities as an outdoorsman. However, climbing Greylock alone proved to Thoreau that he was capable of making pointless and difficult excursions all by himself, and this gave him the courage he needed to begin his great Walden experiment the following year.

And Thoreau wasn’t the only nineteenth-century literary bloke to be inspired by the mighty monadnock. Herman Melville had a lovely view of the Berkshires from his home in nearby Pittsfield—he even built a special deck for Greylock-gazing—and the snow-covered outline of the mountain reminded him of a great white whale emerging from the sea. You know how the rest of the story goes. Nathaniel Hawthorne also climbed to the top on a number of occasions and was moved to write the story “Ethan Brand” after he stumbled upon a burning lime kiln on a midnight Greylock stroll. None of that makes any sense to me—burning lime kiln? midnight stroll?—but it sounds terribly dramatic.

And speaking of mountaintop fun, I recommend the Greylock drinking game, in which a sip of beer must be taken every time a wild-eyed man stumbles in off the trail sporting a colossal beard and sixty-seven gaudy bruises. You will all be sloshed very quickly.

Let There Be Light(s)

And at once there was light! Well, not at once. It took quite a while. Lights can be tricky sausages. Here are a few photos from our illuminating day, featuring (from top to bottom) the hive of industry; two determined blokes wrestling with a nineteenth-century French hanging light that weighs about as much as a St. Bernard; and a selection of our Swinging Sixties swingers (by which I mean pendant lights, obvs).

lights3 lights1a Lights

Bits of Tid

G’day, glorious Malvernians! Here’s your salt-free smörgåsbord of literary tidbits:

• Speaking of… in England they usually say titbit, but apparently the less bosomy tidbit is more common in the United States. And it seems the Americans have history on their side: the word tidbit has been around since the 1640s, when it was used to refer to tasty morsels of food, with “tid” meaning “tender” or “delicate.” Later, the word came to mean anything tiny or inconsequential, and some silly-billy decided to change the first syllable to “tit,” since “tit” denotes a small object or animal (as in “titmouse”). Of course, it’s also possible the silly-billy just liked saying tit.

Volunteer• Austinites, your city needs you! This year’s Texas Book Festival (featuring Lit Crawl Austin) will take place on October 26th-27th in and around the State Capitol, and they’re looking for volunteers. It’s a mammoth event, with over 250 authors in attendance and more than 40,000 visitors. (And Malvern Books will be there too, of course, with a well-stocked, charmingly staffed table of literary delights!) Helping out at the Festival sounds like fun, especially for those lucky volunteers who get to escort nervous, trembling writers to their doom book signings. So go do your bit for local lit…

• The lights are on and Malvern’s home! Yes indeed, today is the day the electrician installs our hanging lights. We have an eclectic mix of vintage Swinging Sixties pendants (the groovy, easygoing lights) and nineteenth-century French castle fixtures (the grandiose, disapproving lights). We hope they will illuminate nicely together. Tomorrow we give the whole store a dash good clean, and then nothing stands between us and opening day except, erm, entering 4,000+ titles into our Point of Sale system…

Fingersmith• And finally: Fingersmith (2002) is good. I mention it only because it doesn’t look good: it looks awful. That cover! I glanced at it in a bookstore and thought, “That looks like the sort of thing you might enjoy if you also enjoy renaissance faires, The Time Traveler’s Wife, and naughty dreams about goblins.” But a staff member insisted it was “wonderful,” so I took it home and… she was right. It’s definitely a melodrama, complete with baby-farming and a wretched lunatic asylum and multiple cases of mistaken identity. But it’s also utterly riveting and brilliantly written (Waters has a heap of fun with the 1860’s London dialect), and it offers an eviscerating critique of Victorian society. It also contains the immortal line, “PIGEON, MY ARSE!”


Why, hello there! What have we here? A delivery? Could it be a lifetime’s supply of loofahs? A big ol’ bunch of chutney we bought online whilst drunk? Or maybe it’s that giant self-assembly cat tree we’ve had on our Petco wishlist for-evah?

Delivery 1

Nah, don’t be daft. It’s just books. 1,700 POUNDS OF BOOKS! Malvern Books’ first ever shipment! Here they are in our storage room, waiting patiently to strut their literary stuff on our bookshelves…

Delivery 2

And speaking of shelves, they’re coming along nicely, thank you. Two of them are featured below (yes, they’re a work in progress). We plan on having some more, because although we are by no means spatial savants, we have estimated that these two shelves will not hold all of our books.


Of course, the arrival of our first shipment was not without drama. It goes something like this: a few days prior to delivery, we meet with Pat, our taciturn but ever-so-efficient contractor, and he casually mentions that we need to install all our pendant lights before we can have an electrical inspection. Sure, makes sense. No big deal. I mean, we haven’t actually bought any pendant lights yet—we want to get a feel for the semi-finished place before we make our selections—but whatever, we’ll get around to it. Sensing our lack of urgency vis–à–vis hanging illumination, Pat sighs. Is it possible our charming bureaucratic naïveté is beginning to irk? Surely not! Pat calmly points out that without an electrical inspection, we can’t get a Certificate of Occupancy. Okay, fine. Again, what’s the rush? We’ll go pick out some lights, install ’em, get an electrician to sign a piece of paper stating that our lights are as harmless as a cotton ball on a cat’s nose, and then the C of O shall be ours. Chill, Patrick! But alas, there’s more. Because apparently one cannot accept inventory shipments without a Certificate of Occupancy. And we have 1,700 pounds of books arriving any day now. Oh, holy mother of poop.

Needless to say, a glorious panic attack was had by all. Some bleepy words may have been uttered. Arguments may have been had concerning whose living room would be most suitable for the temporary storage of four-thousand books. Thankfully, we learned of the existence of a Temporary Certificate of Occupancy, also known as the world’s most splendid piece of a paper, which can be obtained (for rather a hefty sum) in the absence of an electrical inspection. Hallelujah.

Of course, after paying a small fortune for this blessed piece of paper, it turned out we didn’t need it after all. A jolly (tipsy?) electrical inspector stopped by, was utterly unconcerned by the not-yet-pendantic pendant lights, and merrily gave us the thumbs up. This caused us to make the rare harumphyay sound, a combination of a harumph and a yay, which is only ever used to express the combination of relief and frustration one experiences upon learning that one has unnecessarily spent a small fortune in order to avoid filling one’s living room with books. Harumphyay, y’all, but with an emphasis on the yay, because we. have. books.

Malvern Books FAQ: Part I

I wonder who decided it was a FAQ? What’s wrong with a FLART (Folks Like Asking Repetitive Things)? Or maybe even an OPRAH (Often People Request Answers Habitually)? In any case… questions, we get asked ’em. Frequently. Here are some answers:

1. When do you open?

Because we have carpet, a phone, and a flushing toilet, the answer is: soon. Because we do not yet have shelves, the answer is also: not this week! At this stage, we’re going to say September. Check back soon for more information.

Malvern Books

2. You’re opening an independent bookstore in this financial climate? Are you insane?

We get this a lot. And it’s quite possible we are insane, but I don’t believe our crushing looniness is evident in our decision to open a bookstore (it’s much more evident in our passion for Coronation Street and Eggo Drizzlers). It’s actually, believe it or not, quite a good time to be opening a bookstore—the American Booksellers Association tells us indie bookstores experienced record sales in 2012, and articles like this and this suggest your local bookstore is making a comeback. We fully intend to be a part of this revival…

3. Doesn’t Austin already have an independent bookstore?

You’re probably thinking of BookPeople. Yes, BookPeople is an indie bookstore, and a very good one. We like BookPeople (and book people) very much indeed. However, we believe Austin can support another shop o’ books. For one thing, ATX is now the fastest growing city in the country. (Yikes.) And BookPeople often has a fully booked events calendar, which suggests there’s room for another community venue for your literary shenanigans. Also, we’ll be concentrating on small press literature, works in translation, and local authors, so our focus is a little different. If you want Let’s Explore Diabetes with Owls, you go to BookPeople; if you want Let’s Explore Owls with Diabetes, the intensely moving Latvian poetry collection, or Let’s Give Owls Exploratory Diabetes, the controversial novel by local anti-owl oddball Mike Fisherpants, you come to us. Capiche?

4. What on earth is Malvern? It’s a weird name!

Thanks for that question, Maurice McDungbeetle. You have a weird name too, but whatever. The long story: the name Malvern was chosen in honor of the great Medieval poet William Langland and his epic poem entitled The Vision of Piers Plowman. Alas, very few people read Langland anymore—the want of a firm grounding in medieval literature is clearly what is wrong with young people these days (that and sizzurp)—and we usually get a squinty, quizzical stare when we start banging on about the adventures of young Piers. For this reason, we have decided that the best answer to the question “What on earth is Malvern?” is this:


This is Malvern. You can call him Malvy if you want. He has taken up residence next to the public restroom, and we are teaching him to roar angrily whenever someone tries to steal a chapbook. If you rub his nose, it will bring you good luck. Or boils. (Currently too small a sample size to say.) Isn’t he handsome? He can’t wait to make your acquaintance.