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

Did You Hear The One About The Table?

Today is the day we take our shoes and socks off and run squealing around the bookstore: yes, we have carpet.


From this angle things are looking rather spiffy, no? Like we could just bung up a few shelves, slap some books on ’em, and fling open our doors to the public. Unfortunately, we have other angles, and from the one below it is apparent that we are… not quite there yet.


Meanwhile, we’ve been trying to find a nice table for the store. We pictured a giant 10-foot communal dealio, a place where people could sit and read, write in their journals, pass flirtatious-but-nonthreatening notes to charming strangers, and generally have a rollicking (spill-free) good time. Sort of like this, but with less sand and more prose poetry:


Our first thought: reclaimed railway car boards. What stories they could tell! And who wouldn’t want to prop open their Steinbeck on an old piece of railway lumber? Sadly, it turns out railway cars are made from 8-foot boards. Way to be not very multipurposeful, railway car manufacturers! Then we found a company selling old wood from the bottom of semi-trucks. The boards were the perfect size and the samples looked great, so we placed an order. Alas, the wood they sent us was filthy, scratched, filled with holes, and generally just sort of… gross. If this wood was telling a story, that story was: Help us! Help us, please! We are thirty-seven rabid raccoons trapped in the back of a semi-truck and we are going to claw, chew, bite, and basically destroy our way out of this hellhole! A dramatic story, to be sure, but not one we want told at our bookstore. So one of our less meek staff members threw the necessary tantrum and our money was promptly returned.

Naturally, our next thought was: bowling lanes! Yep, we found a guy on Craigslist selling 10-foot secondhand bowling lanes. Sounds ideal, right? We went to check them out, and the wood was lovely. Lovely, indeed. But the man selling the wood? Let’s just say he was… aggressively eccentric. We selected our piece o’ lane and asked him to give us a quote for fashioning it into a table: he gave us a quote and a bunch of dumb jokes. Now, we like a dumb joke as much as the next person (possibly even more than the next person, if it’s the one about the ferret, the onion, and the Swiss soccer team), but when the person telling the jokes is a stranger in possession of a dismantled bowling lane, and his chosen mirthful topics include the awfulness of Obama, the awfulness of our car, and speculations re. the romantic status of the two Malvernians present… well, it was all rather awkward. Thankfully, his quote was outrageously high, and although we are sad to be sans bowling lane, we are not sad to be sans jokes.

And so the hunt for a table continues. What next? Bunk-bed slats from a decommissioned submarine? The lid of a grand piano that was pulled by a Clydesdale from a mysterious Romanian bog? Watch this space…

Orders Away!

Yes indeed, our initial book order has been placed, and 4,000 lovely volumes will soon be making their way toward us in snugly packed cartons. Box-cutters (and Band-Aids) at the ready, Team Malvern! Other items crossed off the To Do list this week will include phone, internet, and an alarm system (so don’t be coming around Malvern looking to knock off a few pallets of Serbian poetry… not going to happen, my friend!)

Blue wall

Meanwhile, our poor perfectionist painter has been driven half bats in his attempt to recreate our glorious banner (as you see at the top of this page) on the store’s back wall (pictured above—and no, that’s not a Barnett Newman hanging on the green side wall; it’s actually a window looking into the blue storage room). He painted the wall once, was unhappy with the way the text looked, painted it again, announced himself satisfied, then warned us that we must never attempt to clean or even touch the wall. At all. Ever. This was a bit of a problem, for although we fully intend to give the evil eye to any customer in possession of a leaky beverage/child, we nonetheless anticipate the possibility of spills at Malvern Books. And, in the event of such a crushing disaster, we would like the option to go to town on our wall with a roll of Bounty and a bottle of Windex. Noticing our alarm—or perhaps noticing our general propensity for making disgusting messes—he decided to spray-paint some kind of durable blue something-or-other all over the wall. Alas, this created an odd checkerboard effect. “Ah well,” we said, sensing his distress, “who needs words anyway!” We assured him that the lettering had been but a foolish dream, the daft and pointless preoccupation of decorating rubes, and then we left him alone with his wall and his roller and his soul-searching gaze off into the distance. When we returned the next day, the wall was white. Completely white. We feared he’d gone mad, but he promised us it was merely a layer of primer upon which he would daub his final coat of blue. And so he did, and the blue looked splendid. “It’s washable,” he said. We breathed a sigh of relief and dribbled coffee down our shirts in celebration. And then he added, “I shall return in ten days to do the lettering.” It sounded rather like a threat…


From wall to floor: we couldn’t resist playing peekaboo with our marmoleum river! (If linoleum is abbreviated as lino, is this… marmo? I do hope so.) We hadn’t seen the stuff in so long, we were starting to doubt its existence. But it’s still there, all blue and squiggly, waiting patiently to be walked upon by the good people of Austin.