Wednesday, February 13, 2008

this week: black cat books

At one reader’s prompting, another Sag Harbor independent bookstore gets its due today on auk wrecks & ark larks. Black Cat Books, located in the Main Street shopping cove, a double row of red-brick buildings just to the right of the landmark movie theatre, is exclusively used stock. If you’re expecting musty disarray, however, think again—owner Dawn Hedberg’s shelves are tidy & organized, & her offerings range from the inexpensive paperback to the vintage collectible. The warm red walls, tonally corresponding to an array of Oriental rugs, add a large measure of coziness that continues with the use of antique glass-fronted display cases containing some of the more expensive volumes.
The store seems to be about half the square footage of Canio’s, but it’s clear that Hedberg is also very selective about her merchandise; you won’t find the junk that gives many of the chains that cheap huckster appearance.

Again, an initial focus on the poetry section yielded some treasures.

Anne Sexton, The Awful Rowing Toward God (1st edition, Houghton Mifflin, 1975), with quote from Erica Jong on back of the dustjacket. In this, her eighth book, the poet’s subject matter is made clear by the title. Sexton died in 1974.

from “Riding the Elevator into the Sky”

As the fireman said:
Don’t book a room over the fifth floor
in any hotel in New York.
They have ladders that will reach further
but no one will climb them.
As the New York Times said:
The elevator always seeks out
the floor of the fire
and automatically opens
and won’t shut.
These are the warnings
that you must forget
if you’re climbing out of yourself.
If you’re going to smash into the sky.

Autumn Eros and Other Poems, by Mary Kinzie (1st edition, Knopf, 1991). As the book jacket posits, “the central subject” is the poet’s daughter.

From “Faith”

How should I let her go?
Her hair in fine
Sparse waves conforms to a small glowing head.
In all lights she looks thoughtful like a smith
Gathering up his blow.
Chirps issue from her high and spirited

When the shadows pass.
Hi, hi, she calls,
Looking from them to me if no reply
Cascades upon her watching, then we sing
The reasons why, alas,
Few of them hear. I love her till I die.

The curiously wonderful Letters, by Eric Rensberger, a chapbook signed by both poet & printer (Raintree, Bloomington, Indiana, 1981) & containing an envelope with enclosed epistolary poem—this before the successful Griffin & Sabine series. It’s worth reproducing some of the letterpress pages here:

Maybe the guy is at home now, shaking his head at the inventive things he did nearly thirty years ago & how few paid attention. But...

Dear Eric,
Someone noticed.

And in the nonfiction realm, the vintage My African Neighbors, Hans Goudenhove (1st edition—but no dust jacket—Little Brown, 1925). The author proclaims from the start that he has become “estranged from things European” since he came to Africa in 1896, & proudly states that he has “never seen an airplane, or a dirigible balloon, or a motor-bus, or a taxicab, or a motor-boat, or a wireless apparatus, or a cloud-picture, or the president of a republic, or a portrait of Einstein, or a Bolshevik.” He has not “seen any of the modern dances—‘jazz,’ I think they are called.” Even his fox terriers were terrified the first time they encountered a white lady. Despite these claims, Goudenhove does not profess to be an expert on African natives, but he does set out to dispel many of the myths of white superiority & tell a good tale in the process.

None of the above acquisitions was priced higher than $9.50.

Black Cat Books
Main Street Shopping Cove
Sag Harbor, NY


Anonymous Anonymous said...

What a great essay, with superb accompanying photos. Reading it has made this cold forbidding night much cheerier! I love the Eric thing--how odd it is--and the poem selections made me cry. Now 2 destinations in Sag Harbor.

February 13, 2008 at 11:03 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

so, when are we going? even more reasons to come and visit. enjoyed reading this. and how I feel sad for the guy who did the letter book--it is beautiful and he should be famous and rich.

February 16, 2008 at 3:52 PM  
Anonymous MIKE said...

Michael from Black Cat Books here...

It was so nice for me to stumble across this post, and see you really understand what we tried to create with the bookstore. When I was young I loved the sense of discovery, the mystery of not knowing what I might find while shopping in a used book shop. I'm glad you took the time to write the review, and I thank you very much.

September 7, 2008 at 11:21 AM  
Blogger kookaburra said...

You're welcome. I guess you sort of unearthed me as I did the books in your store. I'll be back soon, now that tourist season is over!

September 14, 2008 at 2:39 PM  

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