Archive for the 'Books we love' Category



Steinbeck Spirit in Sag Harbor

An afternoon of spring cleaning on a day that actually feels like the season, yielded a surprise. A charming copy of John Steinbeck’s The Red Pony surfaced like a fragile  crocus finally breaking ground. This limited edition volume, published in 1937 by Covici Friede Publishers , shows signs of age and wear, but also bears the tiny sticker from New York’s famed Holliday Bookshop. A beloved shop that specialized in British and American literary works, Holliday became an institution over its 30-plus years in business.

Later this month we welcome Steinbeck scholar Susan Shillinglaw back to Sag Harbor. She’ll speak on Saturday, April 26 at 5 p.m. as we celebrate the 75th anniversary of the publication of The Grapes of Wrath. Our copy of The Red Pony  is signed by Steinbeck and dedicated to his first wife Carol, (see also Shillinglaw’s Carol and John Steinbeck: Portrait of a Marriage).

The osprey are back now reminding us of Steinbeck’s love/hate relationship with these mighty raptors. Mostly love.  See his humorous essay “My War With the Osprey” reprinted in our Sag Harbor Is: a Literary Celebration.  His “war” turns out to be a jousting match between two clever species, one human, one avian. Guess who wins?

I field a call from a friend considering entering the book business. What advice do I have? Well, considering it’s the first of the month,  April Fool’s Day in fact, and our  rent’s due, I advise extreme caution.  Yet the appearance of The Red Pony feels hopeful. Our copy’s for sale. It’s number 535 of 699, signed and printed on handmade paper. What’s it worth to you?

Who is that woman upstairs?

When a new boy enters her third grade class, Nora’s staid life as a quiet, dependable elementary school teacher simmers to scintillating as she falls headlong into an intense friendship with the boy’s mother, Sirena, an artist and the boy’s father, Skandar an intellectual, as well as with the boy himself. Nora’s long suppressed desires to lead her own creative life are tested against the example of Sirena with whom she comes to share a studio. In Claire Messud’s mesmerizing new novel, The Woman Upstairs, she portrays the inner world of Nora with such psychological precision and subtlety, we find we’re falling headlong too, before we even notice. Is it a cautionary tale? A wake-up call for women still struggling to name themselves artists before all others? Read it, and tell us what you think….

A Stone for Nina

One of the truly remarkable experiences we’ve had here recently was a reading by Paul Genega of his short prose piece, A Stone For Nina. An elegy really, the story describes a fascinating and unusual older woman who befriends a group of naive but intelligent college boys. It’s the late ’60s Washington, D.C. Nina has a long tale to tell about her life, full of strange twists and turns and possible fabrications. She captures the heart and imagination of our narrator, a sensitive and perceptive soul. Author and poet Paul Genega’s reading of this piece joined voice, cadence, word, and physical gesture all in subtle and expressive alignment. It was as if all the many disparate elements of a life harmonized in the work of this artist, writer Paul Genega.

In fact, Stone for Nina is such an impressive work, I’ve decided to devote an entire writing workshop to the piece. We will read and closely examine the piece, and use it as inspiration for our own long loving look at character, memory and storytelling. Contact the shop for details about this summer workshop, “Character, Memory and the Long Short Story”.

We were delighted that Paul’s proud father, in his nineties, was able to attend the event and share in the accomplishment of his son.
Editor, publisher and poet Antje Katcher also read from her new poetry collection, For Bananafish, a  collection of recent work, sestinas and haikus that demonstrate strict adherence to form combined with surprising flights of  imagination. Both works are published by Three Mile Harbor Press. Signed copies are available at Canio’s.

Mark Doty on Best American Poetry

No one could possibly read all the poetry published in America in one year. You couldn’t find it all!  Mark Doty said recently at Canio’s.  But through a very efficient and fair process established by series editor David Lehman, Doty, this year’s guest editor of Best American Poetry 2012  read thousands of poems and selected 75, every one of which, he claimed, he loved.

He strove to create an anthology that includes poems from different regions around the country, from both large and smaller literary publications, diverse in  gender, ethnicity, and poetic styles.An exciting, engaging and sometimes challenging collection has emerged from this patient, attentive editorial effort.   Mark  presented a few of his faves to an appreciative audience. We heard wonderful poems by Alicia Ostriker,  Honor Moore, Kerrin McCadden, Richard Howard, Carol Muske- Dukes and Lucia Perillo among others.

Poetry is a report on the senses, what we see and hear, what we think, and it arrives at some emotion, Doty explained. He hopes to be swept up, compelled by a poem.  And while reading vast numbers of poems, he endeavored to keep an open mind, to ask of the poem, “where does this take me?”

The best poetry takes us to unexpected places, places at once strange, yet somehow recognizable.

Rilke Through the Storm

A string of very dark nights, post-Superstorm Sandy were lighted by a new collection of Rilke poems, Prayers of a Young Poet translated by Mark S. Burrows and just out from Paraclete Press. These are supple renderings of poems some of which we’ve never seen before in English.  Without electricity for a week, I lit the hurricane lamp and read “I love the dark hours of my being,/ for they deepen my senses…”and followed the voice of the monk traipsing through the dark forest of his soul.

A bit more than a month later, we were inundated with another wave of bleaker darkness as the tragedy at Sandy Hook Elementary School left unspeakable grief in its wake. Poetry is not a  cure nor can it protect us from evil, but  in it we hear the human voice of anguish:  “You are the forest of contradictions./ I could rock You like a child,/ and yet Your curses reach their goal/ and wreak havoc among the people.”

It’s really too much to burden these poem-prayers with our contemporary events but through them we plumb the depths to arrive at constants.  We hear the strivings of one seeking wholeness: “This is my daily work over which/ my shadow lies like  a shell./ And even if I’m like leaves and loam,/ whenever I pray or paint/ it becomes Sunday once again, and in the valley/ I’m the voice of a praising Jerusalem.”  These earnest “prayers” of the young poet Rilke, cry out not from the mountaintop, but from deep within that dark valley, a troubling night when searching is all.

In his Afterword, Mark Burrows comments on his translations: ” My hope is that these renditions enable Rilke’s poems to gesture beyond what they say, thereby conveying a sense that is as free and dynamic in English as in the original German. When they do this, they call us to ‘widen [our] solitudes/ from one new beginning to the next’ , glimpsing with the poet what he calls ‘the radiance of a new page/ on which everything could still come to be.’

This New Year, this 2013, let it be so.

Green thumbs up for American Grown

It could be because we’re grandchildren of immigrants and fondly remember our grandparents’ bountiful backyard vegetable gardens. It could be because we support and advocate for community gardens. This year we’ve created our own front yard raised-bed garden following Mel Bartholomew’s Square Foot Gardening methods.  Or it could be because First Lady Michelle Obama’s first book, American Grown: The Story of the White House Kitchen Garden and Gardens Across America is bursting with beautifully photographed fresh produce just plucked from the South Lawn. But American Grown is our  current favorite summer read for more reasons than this. It’s about kids and families enjoying healthy food; it’s about the pleasures of planting and caring for the Earth. It includes interesting history, and hope-filled stories about community gardens across the country.  Not since Eleanor Roosevelt’s WWII victory garden has food been grown on the White House lawn. Two Thomas Jefferson beds have been planted with seeds collected from his gardens at Monticello.   An office building in Texas agreed to create container gardens out on the hot concrete of Houston. Workers on each floor assume responsibility for one container. They’ve got squash and okra and sweet potatoes and tomatoes thriving. Mostly, American Grown shows us how one  supremely intelligent and insightful First Lady can share her enthusiasm about vegetables and change a nation one backyard at a time.


Canio’s Books is located at 290 Main Street, Sag Harbor, NY 11963, 631.725.4926. Call or email us, caniosbooks@verizon.net. While we love you to SEE you, you can also order new titles at our online storefront or some of our second hand inventory HERE. Thanks for visiting!