Word on the Street

This week, Philadelphia had another visit by the LA-based street artist known as WRDSMTH. His wheatpaste artwork is as always heartwarming and a welcome surprise.

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Bookstore Tourism : Spain

Tuuu Librería is a secondhand bookstore chain in Spain with a special twist. Operated by a non-profit foundation dedicated to literacy and reading, the bookshops collect and recycle donated books from individuals, businesses, and institutions. But what is really unusual is that customers only pay what they wish for the books they choose. In fact, the transactions are anonymous, with payments slipped into a box.


There are currently Tuuu bookstores in Madrid, Salamanca, and Barcelona, each is staffed by volunteers. The organization also distributes books to schools, hospitals, senior centers, and jails. While the foundation has used the “profits” from bookstore sales to build libraries in South America.

So, if you are traveling in Spain, you may want to drop off your books after reading instead of just abandoning them in your hotel or Airbnb.


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Philly: Come for the history, stay for the food

For decades, many of us in the Philadelphia area have been baffled by the inability of anyone to make good use of the old Bourse building in the heart of the historic district. The beautiful 19th century Beaux Arts landmark on the famed Independence Mall has been used as an office building and a shabby shopping mall for years. After an impressive $50 million renovation that revealed many original architectural features, the former stock exchange is set to reopen as an exciting artisanal foodhall.

The new Bourse Marketplace will be home to at least 35 food stalls and restaurants, as well as craft brewers and distillers. The wide-ranging options will include home-style Filipino fare, Korean-Latin fusion, gourmet grilled cheese, Mexican food, Belgian chocolate, Indian street snacks, ice cream, and of course Philly pretzels

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When You Walk Through A Storm

“And you really will have to make it through that violent, metaphysical, symbolic storm. No matter how metaphysical or symbolic it might be, make no mistake about it: it will cut through flesh like a thousand razor blades. People will bleed there, and you will bleed too. Hot, red blood. You’ll catch that blood in your hands, your own blood and the blood of others.

And once the storm is over you won’t remember how you made it through, how you managed to survive. You won’t even be sure, in fact, whether the storm is really over. But one thing is certain. When you come out of the storm you won’t be the same person who walked in. That’s what the storm is all about.”

Haruki Murakami, Kafka on the Shore


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Leviathan In Bruges

The New York City-based architecture and design group STUDIOKCA transformed more than four tons of plastic waste recovered from the Pacific Ocean near Hawaii into a four-story sculpture of a whale. The recycled leviathan was then installed in a picturesque canal in Bruges, Belgium.

The Skyscraper (Bruges Whale) project was created for the 2018 Bruges Triennale to raise awareness about marine pollution around the world. The whale, along with the rest of the Triennale “Liquid City” ,installations will be on view until September 16, 2018.


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Books are…

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Bookstore Tourism: Charleston S.C. (update)

Back in January, I posted a story about a funky, traveling bookstore in Charleston, South Carolina called The Itinerant Literate. Now the bookmobile launched in 2016 by Christen Thompson and Julia Turner will have a permanent home in a bricks and mortar bookstore.

The proprietors have announced that, “For the past two weeks, we have been spending an unseemly number of hours at 4824 Chateau Ave. to turn it into a bookstore,” Thompson and Turner wrote in Itinerant Literate’s July e-newsletter, which chronicled the mobile bookstore’s genesis and noted: “Now, after 1,932 hours, 322 events, 1,493 customers, countless new friends, hundreds of bottles of Gatorade, more than a couple of bottles of wine and beer, 100 instances of seeing the other person at their worst, 100 times forgiving them for it, now, at last, we are opening the storefront we planned three years ago.

“We only have this opportunity because of readers and shoppers like you. So we want this to be a space to share and a space for you to meet new people as well as discover new stories. Though the space is still small, we have an awesome backyard and can’t wait to host collaborative events and outfit it with comfy spots for you to settle in with a book and take some time for yourself. We can’t wait to share this new space with you. Starting this month, come to the Bookshop at 4824 Chateau for daily story time at 10 a.m.Tuesday beer/wine pairings with book releases, live storytelling events, writing workshops, BYOB reading parties, author signings and readings, Scrabble meetups and of course, even more books!”

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Diary of a Bookseller

On Saturday, TBTP featured bookseller Shaun Bythell’s tech help tips for coping with a malfunctioning Kindle. It seems that the proprietor of Scotland’s largest secondhand bookstore is also an author. His book, The Diary of a Bookseller, has been available in the U.K. for a few months, but the U.S. edition won’t be released until September 4, 2018. It promises to be an interesting read for booklovers and booksellers alike. Here’s a sample of the forthcoming colonial edition:

Thursday, 13 February

Online orders: 4
Books found: 4


Eliot left for London at 2 p.m.

A young woman and her mother spent most of the afternoon in the shop. The mother seemed well prepared for the temperature, but the daughter appeared to be oblivious to the near-freezing conditions. She chatted breezily away as she was paying, and told me that her name was Lauren McQuistin, and she was training to be an opera singer. She seemed vaguely familiar; must have been in before. She bought an impressive pile of fairly highbrow material and suggested that I read Any Human Heart. Possibly the most recommended book I have been advised to read is William Boyd’s Any Human Heart. I tend to avoid anything that is recommended to me, preferring naively to imagine that I will dig my own literary goldmine, but so compelling was her enthusiasm that after supper I lit the wood-burning stove and began to read it. By bedtime I was completely hooked.

Till total £13
2 customers


Friday, 14 February

Online orders: 4
Books found: 4

If anyone can be said to be a Wigtown institution, it is Vincent. He has been here as long as anyone can remember, although he spent his childhood on the Clyde. He is universally liked, and is interesting and mischievous. There is a rumour that he was educated at Cambridge, but as far as I am aware, nobody has been able to substantiate this. He must be in his eighties, but he still works long hours — longer than any of his mechanics. Vincent’s garage was once a Renault dealership, from which he sold new cars. Indeed, the old showroom is still there, with all the faded and cracked Renault branding on it, but now, instead of shiny new cars, his fleet consists of vehicles that, to put it politely, have seen better days. Once, when a botanist friend was visiting, we went there to fill the van with diesel. My friend leapt excitedly out of the van and headed towards one of Vincent’s fleet, which had been parked outside the showroom with four flat tyres since I have been back in Wigtown. He pointed at a fern that was growing inside the wheel arch and identified it as something quite rare.

After lunch I drove to a farm near Stranraer to give a probate valuation on some books. I was met by a damp, taciturn farmer in a tweed cap who instructed me to follow him on his quad bike, complete with a miserable collie perched precariously on the back, barking at the van all the way. We soon arrived at a desolate-looking farmhouse in the hollow of a muddy hillside, made all the more awful by the incessant, horizontal rain.

Inside, he explained that the house had belonged to his uncle and aunt. She had died five years previously and the uncle two years ago. It was clear that nothing had been touched since then, or in fact probably in the five years since his aunt had died. A lonely looking cat lay on a blanket on a radiator by the window and stared out across the flooded fields. The farmer went up every day to empty the litter tray and feed it. Everything was covered in dust and cat hair. There were about two thousand books, crammed into every nook and cranny, including a pile on every step of the stairs. The aunt was the reader. L. M. Montgomery, Star Trek, Agatha Christie, Folio Society and a lot of children’s books, including many complete runs. Most were paperbacks and not in particularly good condition, thanks in part to the cat. I valued the lot at £300, and he asked if I would consider buying them once he had discussed it with his family. I told him that I would, but that a lot of it was rubbish. He replied that if he decided to sell them to me, it would be conditional on the entire lot being taken away.

When I returned to the shop at 3 p.m., I was immediately accosted by a customer who marched up to the counter without the slightest of pleasantries and barked, ‘Gold markings.’ I sighed inside and explained where the jewellery section was.

Till total £307.50
4 customers


Saturday, 15 February

Online orders: 6
Books found: 6

Yet another miserable day, which did not improve at 9.10 a.m., when the telephone rang: ‘It’s a bloody disgrace. I don’t know how you have the nerve to call yourself a bookseller, sending out this sort of rubbish,’ etc. He continued in this vein for several minutes. On further questioning, it transpired that he had ordered a book from a shop with a similar name (not unusual, as Tom Jones so wisely said), and he was not happy with the condition it was in. When it became clear that he’d telephoned the wrong bookshop and that the whole affair was nothing to do with us, he told me that he would be ‘taking the matter further,’ then hung up.

A woman wearing what appeared to be a sleeping bag with a hole cut in the top for her head and the bottom for her feet complained about the icy temperature in the shop. The shop is old, cold and rambling. It is a large, granite-fronted building on the broad main street of Wigtown. In the early nineteenth century it was the home of a man called George McHaffie. He was the town’s provost, and he rebuilt the property in the Georgian style, which it retains to this day. The entire ground floor is now devoted to books, and at the last count there were about 100,000 of them. In the past fifteen years we have replaced every shelf and done considerable work, both structural and cosmetic. Customers often refer to it as ‘an Aladdin’s cave’ or ‘a ‘labyrinth.’ I removed the internal doors in the shop to encourage customers to explore more, but this, and the fact that it is a huge, old house with inadequate heating, often lead to unflattering comments about the temperature from customers.

Till total £336.01
8 customers


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Reading Rx

Since I’m laid-up this week due to a very dumb injury, I thought that a reading prescription was in order. This mix of novels and nonfiction should keep me out of trouble for a few days. So, what are you reading this summer?

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A Book Is An Altar

The Portable Mayan Altar  was created by Taller Leñateros (The Woodlander’s Workshop), an indigenous publishing house in Chiapas, Mexico founded by poet Ámbar Past in 1975. This book features a cardboard case in the form a traditional Mayan house that opens up to an altar with two side panels. It also includes a clay pot-shaped incense burner, tiny colored candles, two clay candle holders in the form of animals, and three small pocket books illustrated by Mayan artists: Mayan Love Charms (Petra Hernández), Magic for a Long Life (Manwela Kokoroch), and Hex to Kill the Unfaithful Man (Tonik Nibak).

The workshop has published some of the first books to be written, illustrated, printed, and bound by Mayan people in four centuries. The collective rescues Mesoamerican techniques, while documenting and preserving indigenous languages and cultures.

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