Yesterday, I got my butt out of Leominster and headed down to Needham, MA. to visit a former work colleague. It was lovely chit-chatting over tea but the real adventure happened about 8 miles away when we visited the New England Mobile Book Fair in neighboring Newton.
The name is a head scratcher. Yes, it’s in New England. No, it’s firmly planted in the ground (just like “mobile” homes never go anywhere) and there isn’t much of a Fair-like atmosphere (no balloons or cotton candy). I’m sure there’s a legit reason for the name but I’m too lazy to find out.
On the outside the one-story place is very non-descript: gray (or is it light blue?) wood siding with large windows that are covered up from the inside. The entrance is not very well marked but at least it faces the parking lot. The building reminds me of the Tardis. It doesn’t look very big from the outside, but once you step through the non-descript entrance, you realize this place is GINORMOUS.
The space is divided into three areas: remainders, hardcovers, and paperbacks. The remainders are organized by subject. I hit the biography, history and religion sections but didn’t find anything that suited my fancy. The hardcover and paperback sections are arranged by publisher. So forget about finding The Story of Edgar Sawtelle in the Oprah Book Club section. Who’s the publisher? (Ecco, BTW) Taped at the end of each aisle is the list of publishers (alas, no Ignatius Press) the Book Fair carries and which aisle they can be found.
I headed over to the paperback section. In my nifty EMS satchel/purse/whatever I always carry a small, leatherbound journal in case Calliope wishes to grace me with inspiration at the off-beat time. That hasn’t happened but in my daily perusings I do scribble book titles that sound interesting. With this list I did my best to find them on the bewildering shelves. And failed miserably.
I always hate asking for help because I’m usually met with distain. The overeducated, underemployed help at record and book stores have this preset “cool & hip” and “uncool & unhip” lists in their head. (These lists are usually formed from reading The New Yorker and any publication with the word “alternative” in it.) Usually, I’m lumped in the latter category. But this time, this nice, librarian-type woman helped me find the following books:
Willa Cather, Death Comes for the Archbishop
G.K. Chesterton, Orthodoxy (Yup, Joel, I finally got it.)
Graham Greene, The End of the Affair
In any other bookstore, one could go to the “classics” or “literature” section. Without blinking, this nice librarian woman just knew the publishers of each book (Vintage, Image, and Penguin respectively). Phew!
So I left with my loot (at 20% off), thinking better of bookstore clerks (though the dude at the register seemed better suited to a poetry slam than calculating change) and scheduling my next trip to the regional, non-mobile, publication bazaar.