Archive for the 'Writing' Category

Remembering Barbara Wersba

Remembering Writer, Teacher, Publisher Barbara Wersba

We remember fondly and with great admiration Barbara Wersba a longtime customer and friend of Canio’s Books.  Barbara’s keen intelligence, sharp wit and literary insight were a few of her qualities that distinguished her in a community of literary types.   Barbara Wersba wrote  Walter, The Story of a Rat, a charming story set in Safe Harbor about a friendship between a lonely writer, Miss Amanda Pomeroy and a rat with literary aspirations.  Other titles include Penny Parade: A Christmas Story; Let Me Fall Before I Fly among other titles. Her Bookman Press produced a series of chapbooks, designed by Jerry Kelly, noted for their physical beauty as well as their literary quality. Bookman Press published stories, essays and poems by such authors as George Sand, Kennedy Fraser,  Simon Van Booy, and Joe Pintauro among many others.

Barbara lived for many years in North Haven where she opened her home to writing students with whom she shared her exacting literary standards as well as her encouragement.

A graveside service will be held Friday, February 23 at 11 a.m. at Oakland Cemetery, Jermain Avenue, Sag Harbor.

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Put the kettle on, and savor the good life!

We love good books; we love an excellent cup of tea. We thought we’d combine the pleasures of both and offer a selection of “Literary Teas” to accompany your next novel or poetry purchase. We’re featuring black and green tea blends  inspired by Jane Austen, Walt Whitman, James Joyce and Emily Dickinson. Each is a distinctive blend that captures elements of the writers’ works whether it’s the jasmine scent of Emily’s rose inflected blend, or the bold golden malty cup of the James Joyce variety, these high quality teas (certified Kosher) from Simpson & Vail known for their superior teas since 1929, make a lovely Mother’s Day or host gift. Or just treat yourself to an experience that reminds us, life is beautiful, one cup at a time.

What’s So Funny About Appositives?

Ask Mary Norris, author of the most hilarious book on grammar I’ve ever read: Between You & Me: Confessions of a Comma Queen. Among a relatively small group of otherwise mild-mannered professionals who (or is it whom?) dedicate their working lives to upholding the standards of a civilized, literate society (do we need that comma?), Mary Norris does her profession proud and earns extra jewels in her crown for this new book just out from W.W. Norton & Company (should we abbreviate to Co. which wouldn’t look as elegant but would save space, or simply drop the ampersand and following?). For those of us who’ve struggled with the fine points of punctuation, who’ve wondered what really goes on behind the scenes at The New Yorker, this book is your next must-read (to hyphenate, or not?). I’ve switched points-of-view. Is that allowed? It gets complicated. That’s why we need people like Mary Norris holding the line for us. But copy-editing the likes of James Slater, John McPhee and Philip Roth, though, is enough to leave a girl in a sweat. Luckily, reason seems to rule the day, except when one’s inner “word sense” holds sway. For these reasons and more, don’t miss Mary Norris’s appearance at Canio’s Books this summer: Saturday, July 11 at 5 p.m. Meanwhile, keep your pencils sharp and mind your Ps & Qs. (do we need apostrophes?)

Literature Amid the Cypress and Eucalyptus

Some twenty of us carpooled down to Point Reyes National Seashore early one chilly fog-thick afternoon. We walked down (and then slowly up) some 300 steps to the lighthouse following our intrepid guide, marine biologist Sarah Allen, author of Marine Mammals of the Pacific Coast.She trained her scope on a flock of shore birds invisible to the naked eye. Soon , someone spotted a whale blow, the foamy exhalation of this giant majestic creature. We gasped and rushed to the best vantage point. Why does a group of otherwise fairly serious adults seem to melt at the sight of whales? Is some basic creaturely connection at work?

Are the boundaries between humans, “animals,” “nature” really boundaries at all? What are our  responsibilities to our fellow creatures, to our island home? These and other questions were discussed during a lively, colorful, musical, literary and delicious conference we attended: Geography of Hope 2015. Some of our all-time favorite writers on women and the environment gave presentations: Susan Griffin, author of the groundbreaking work: Woman and Nature: The Roaring Inside Her which birthed the eco-feminist movement; Rebecca Solnit whose recent bestseller The Faraway Nearby gained much critical acclaim; Kathleen Dean Moore, co-chair of the conference, whose Moral Ground: Ethical Action for the Planet is a must read; and Gretel Ehrlich whose stunning Solace of Open Spaces is just one of some 14 powerful works. Award-winning poet/activists Brenda Hillman and Robert Hass read from their moving, engaged and lyrical works.

We were introduced to writers we want to read: Ann Pancake, whose novel Strange As This Weather Has Been describes a West Virginia family devastated by mountain-top removal. Her new collection of stories, Me and My Daddy Listen to Bob Marley is on our spring must-read list. Also Camille Dungy, poet of Smith Blue; and Robin Wall Kimmerer, environmental biologist, author of Braiding Sweetgrass: Indigenous Wisdom, Scientific Knowledge, and the Teachings of Plants. (Order any of these from Canio’s and get 10% off).

Session questions asked: “What is the work of a writer in a wounded world? What are women’s gifts and responsibilities in the work against carbon catastrophe? What are the metaphors we need for a new world?” We met enormously talented, committed, friendly, hospitable, concerned people. We ate well, sang (slightly off key), laughed, shed a tear or two, worried about the drought, recycled. We thought about what could be, and committed to do our part toward a more sustainable future.

Kudos to Kate Levinson and Steve Costa owners of Point Reyes Books, an exceptional independent bookshop in the heart of town. These two courageous souls are the energy and inspiration behind this extraordinary conference. Since 2008, Kate and Steve have presented outstanding literary festivals that celebrate what’s best about the creative human spirit. Live well & love Earth!

See more about the conference at this Orion magazine blog post: https://orionmagazine.org/2015/04/postcard-from-california-re-storying-the-world/?utm_source=Fresh+April+1%2C+2015&utm_campaign=FRESH+4%2F01%2F15&utm_medium=email

Ferrante Fever

Ferrante small

Just finished book three, reluctantly. Those Who Leave and Those Who Stay, the third of Elena Ferrante’s Neopolitan Novels, ends with a bang. The books have a way of accelerating as they conclude, still I wanted to savor its last few sections. It’ll be a long wait til September when the forth and final book comes out. But just in time, an extremely rare interview with the reclusive Ferrante appears in the current issue of The Paris Review, #212 (available here at Canio’s). Check it out; it feels a lot like reading Elena, the narrator…

Once you start with My Brilliant Friend, you catch a sort of fever. “I don’t usually read like this,” said a customer recently. She spoke for many who read Ferrante rapaciously, ravenously. We’re caught in the fiery friendship, hateship, loveship between Lila and Elena, or Lenu as we’ve come to know her, in dialect. And it’s not just an “Italian” thing. Readers worldwide are captivated. “I told my friend, I’ve finished book one and she could borrow it,” a customer in for book two said. “I wondered why she wasn’t at my door first thing to get it.”  Which book are you reading? And if you haven’t started on them, what are you waiting for?

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….


Canio's Books is located at 290 Main Street, Sag Harbor, NY 11963. You can drop an email to info@caniosbooks.com, or even check out some of our stock online. Thanks for visiting our blog!

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