It’s always a coin toss. 202 or 206 home from New Jersey. Driving to clients in South Jersey is easier than my other standard options….trains and planes. I’m especially inclined to want my car and my unimpeded ride home when my meetings are over. Nothing worse than finishing a meeting and then sitting around Newark airport…drinking swill awaiting a delayed flight when the flight time is only 45 minutes—once they decide to actually fly.
So when I’m in the Bernardsville area my choices for accessing I-95 South are Routes 202 or 206. 206 takes me through Princeton and when I’ve a moment to spare, it’s fun to traipse around Nassau Street and the campus. But not as fun as it used to be…for it seems that every time I stop in Princeton, another quaint little shop or bookstore has gone the way of Starbucks or whatever.
Route 202 takes me down to the Delaware River and either New Hope on the Pennsylvania side of the river or Lambertville on the New Jersey side. My choice the other week was 202. So with a couple of hours to kill I decided to hang out in Lambertville and reconnoiter a bit.
Look at this shop window. Do ya think they knew I was coming? It's as if they said..."Hey! ADG's gonna be blowin' through here tomorrow. Let's assemble a few of his food groups and throw 'em in the window."
There’s no shortage of art galleries and junky antique shops but I took a pass on them. But Phoenix Books is a superb way to burn an hour or two. Surprise, I stayed till the owner threw me out.
I could have stayed another hour…or three.
I can’t imagine a life without books. So for the balance of the ride home, my passengers accompanying me courtesy of Phoenix Books included Peter Duchin, JMW Turner, Sir Richard Frances Burton and that little imp,Truman.
So after a hard fought no-score soccer game three Saturdays ago, LFG and I scurried over to the National Book Festival on the Mall. But before I update you on the book festival, let me just say that it isn’t too enjoyable seeing these kids really bust it on the field and conclude with a no-score game. Even though it’s fun watching my daughter play, no-score games kind of have me feeling like I’ve watched two mules fight over a turnip.
But what a difference a year makes. The National Book Festival last year was chilly and wet. I was ill prepared for the elements so LFG got the Barbour and I got…wet. This year celebrated books and almost ninety degree heat and sun but my faith in literacy is slightly restored.
I declared a few posts ago that “people don’t read and write anymore.” I know that the Book Festival is a small sample and I know that it attracts a precise subset of constituents but still…it’s nice to see people excited about books and authors.
And my little LFG was willing to stand for almost an hour to meet Norton Juster and Jules Pfeiffer…author and illustrator, respectively, of The Phantom Tollbooth. Talk about staying power…Phantom Tollbooth was published in 1961.
We were so far in the back of the queue that I had to keep pep-talking LFG and assuring her that we’d make it to the author/illustrator before the signing session ended.
I’ve never seen an author at the National Book Festival not stay until every book is signed. The Juster-Pfeiffer table limited the signing to names only—no personalization and very little small talk since each book received double scrivening.
But Pfeiffer warmed up to LFG, and this was after he’d already signed a gazillion books. If he'd raised his Village Voice to LFG in an unkind way I'd a been on him like a rat on a ....well you know.
Grumpy old men and deservedly so. When you’ve collaborated on a book that’s been around since 1961, you’re gonna get fans of all ages, shapes and colors seeking you out. Here's Juster and LFG.
What’s more entertaining to me is to listen to children ask authors questions about books. LFG and I made it over to the Judith Viorst talk and found her amazing.
She’s almost eighty years old and is as crisp and lucid and funny and animated and stylish as ever. I respect her for Necessary Losses which is a book I recommend for anyone in transition. But her kids stuff is great and she read from her upcoming children’s book. Here's a line from it that LFG and I won't soon forget...“I wanna-I wanna-I wanna wanna get-a bronta-bronta-bronta-brontasaurus for a pet.” Shut up.
It doesn’t end there. Toad sent me an email about John Julius Norwich memoirs being published so of course LFG and I tracked it down. Duff Cooper was his daddy and what a daddy he was. Read the Duff Copper diaries if you wanna really get a complete definition of bon vivant.
Then I kid you not, LFG and I are in yet another book store and I get an email from Toad while we are in the store, cluing me in on an MI-6 tome. Of course we bought it on the spot. I love when Toad spends my money. And he spent about fifty bucks worth of it the other weekend.
So of course my literary man “Hilton” commented on one of my posts and reminded me of the reissued A Moveable Feast so I checked it out.
Christopher Hitchens' review of Feast suggested it best be re-read accompanied by Hemingway’s Paris. So of course I had to track down that companion piece—now out of print. And now at my house. Anyone wanna come over, sit in my lap and read? Not you Hilton, one of the chickees.
I dropped LFG off yesterday afternoon and as usual, tried to delay my re-entry to CasaMinimus. The post LFG Sunday come-down and mostly the silence is still after all these years, a bit of a gut-punch. So why go home right? Instead, let’s go to Second Story Books on P-Street near DuPont Circle. Easy way to burn an hour or two.
Joseph Mitchell…what most amazes me about his words is that they come from a fella who spent the first nineteen years of his life in Fairmont North Carolina. Tobacco country similar to my father's upbringing. I lent my copy years ago so at ten bucks, we pounced and restocked.
So fifteen bucks gets us Mitchell and a great little illustrated-annotated flurry of fun facts Bloomsbury.
Onward, reading and writing.