Simple Book Pleasures and the Glint of Gold.

I admit that it’s a bookish pleasure, but I love the fact that the books in the stack over there on the counter were in the hands of their authors: Gore Vidal, Joyce Carol Oates, and Joseph Heller. (I should point out that the fourth book in the stack – Great Expectations, by Charles Dickens – was NOT in his hands, as he was about a century gone by the time this fine-binding edition was published.)

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I remember seeing Gore Vidal debating/arguing with William F. Buckley, another intellectual with an aristocratic demeanor that was reminiscent of colonial-era gentry. (Incidentally, Gore wasn’t his real name: he was born Eugene Louis Vidal, but adopted the moniker of his grandfather. Thomas Pryor Gore was a US senator from Oklahoma at statehood and was reelected in 1931.)

I don’t remember Joseph Heller, but I remember well his book CATCH-22, which was popular enough that its title entered the English lexicon to describe an impossible situation. In the book – which followed a group of wartime pilots – anyone who was legitimately crazy was excused from flying a mission. The conundrum (the CATCH-22, if you will) was that if someone applied for a mental deferral they were considered sane enough to be worrying about their safety, and therefore would be required to fly the mission.

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Joyce Carol Oates was a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize several times, and her novel THEM won the National Book Award back in the sixties. It wasn’t too much later that Franklin Library published the fine-binding book that I now have a copy of, which she signed with an unfashionable ballpoint pen.

For those of us – mere booksellers and readers – who will never bump into these famous literary figures, holding a book they personally signed is a particularly nerdish thrill.

These beautiful volumes are part of a Deep-South estate brought to Oklahoma and now residing on the shelves here in the shop. There are a good many signed books, beautiful fine binding copies that certainly must have been purchased as investment copies. They appear never to have been read – in truth, they appear never to have had their front covers opened. The edges are perfect, the 22K gold embossing is impressive.

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Some – like Jane Austen’s works and THE WIZARD OF OZ will not likely stay around long. People know that I’m not a collector anymore (Oh, I have a book or two in the office!) and I price these to sell by finding the lowest offered price on the internet, and beating it. The point being: if you know someone who appreciates leather-bound, fine binding books, this might be the time to take a look. I know it is plenty warm outside, but – believe me – cooler weather is inevitable, and the selection for gift-giving may not last until then.

There are dozens and dozens of books from the estate that are already shelved. Come take a look, and maybe sit down and have some lunch with us – serving a full menu daily from 11am to 2pm.

Come visit!

McHuston

Booksellers & Irish Bistro
Rose District
122 South Main St., Broken Arrow OK!

Turning the page on 2016.

A decade of books is just about in the books.

During that span of time, Broken Arrow’s Main Street has undergone significant changes, and – while they are less dramatic – the Rose District (as it is now called) is still evolving.

Some of the modifications are long-term, like the planters currently being constructed in the block between Dallas and El Paso. Others are designed to be short-term, like the installation of an ice skating rink at the Farmer’s Market Pavilion. Judging from the number of skaters I saw the other evening, it has been well received. Who’d have imagined ice skating in Broken Arrow, Oklahoma?

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Ten years ago, I would not have imagined serving lunches in the bookstore. It was a plan that grew out of the location change, and the popular acceptance of digital reading. Didn’t know what might become of the book business when people began reading on their tablets, but I believed soups and sandwiches might have a continuing appeal.

It’s been a journey getting from 2006 to 2016, and some of our shop-owning neighbors have moved on to other things while new folks have refurbished vacated spots and hung out their own shingle. (An old expression, dating back from when a lettered roof-tile indicated the business being conducted inside – I’m compelled to try to keep vintage sayings around.)

As we wrap up the year and anticipate the beginning of 2017, I’d like to thank each of you who might have popped in and bought a book in those first five years. You kept the shop going long enough to reach the second five years and the opening of the bistro kitchen.

Another heartfelt thanks goes out to those of you who stopped in and bought a book, or a soup and sandwich during these past five years, and particularly those of you who remember when I was serving soup solo.

We’re headed toward three years together – Dustin and I – serving up plates of food at lunchtime. Some of our guests remember times – early on – when they might have been at the only occupied table in the house.

We’ve lasted ten years on Main Street only because people have helped us pay the rent and utilities by buying something, whether it’s a book or a meal. Dustin and I know there are many – many – places to eat lunch in Broken Arrow, and we are grateful when you allow us prepare lunch for you.

We genuinely appreciate your business, and your friendship. From our family to yours – may the New Year be filled with happiness, discovered dreams, and lasting good fortune!

McHuston

Booksellers & Irish Bistro
Rose District
122 South Main Street, Broken Arrow OK!

When You Share a Famous Name…

Sometimes, it doesn’t pay to be honest. In this case, the unpaid amount of my truthfulness was $6.95 – a reasonable figure for a 103-year-old first edition. Just before mentioning the sales total to the lady on the other side of the counter, I gave the book a second look.

“You weren’t buying this as a work of Winston Churchill,” I asked. “The English politician?”

She replied that she was, and in short order I was canceling the transaction.

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We shouldn’t feel too bad – as a reading public – not knowing that there were two famous gentlemen named Winston Churchill. In fact, they knew each other. One was rich and famous; the other was prime minister of England. They were born within a few years of each other.

One in England.

The other in St. Louis, Missouri, USA.

While the future English PM was resigning his commission with the British Army, the American Winston Churchill authored his second novel. The book – entitled Richard Carvel – was published in 1898 – and sold two million copies. At the time, there were only 70 million or so living in the US, which would equate to 10-11 million copies sold in this day and age.

Not Harry Potter numbers, to be sure, but not far from The Girl On the Train or The Fault in Our Stars – current books popular enough that they were recently produced as movies.

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There were plenty of similarities between our Winston and theirs. Brit-Winston began writing as a correspondent after leaving the army. US-Winston attended the Naval Academy and began writing after resigning from the Navy. Winston-UK wrote as a war reporter; Winston-US edited The Army and Navy Journal. While his counterpart across the water was being elected to Parliament, Winston US Churchill was serving in the New Hampshire state legislature.

In 1919, after authoring a dozen books, the American Winston decided to retire from the public eye, quit his writing, and took up painting and private life. And there is the place at which the future British Prime Minister Winston Churchill claimed the fame of the name.

Without appearances to promote his books or painting exhibitions, the American novelist Winston Churchill was gradually forgotten, and the increasing fame of his British counterpart sealed the fate of the US writer’s obscurity.

Just as it was at the sales counter and the century-old hardback book, the name has become attached to the WWII statesman rather than the American author of fiction.

It wasn’t the first time The Inside of the Cup has been returned to the shelf, the victim of mistaken identity and an honest bookseller.

One of these days… someone will come along and appreciate the nice old book for what it is and allow me bag it up for the $7 price. Until then, I’m doing my part to publicize our own (once) famous Winston Churchill.

The (literal) Inside of the Cup held coffee this chilly day, and we’ll be pouring it again tomorrow, serving up hot soup, stew, and sandwiches at lunchtime – come visit!

McHuston

Booksellers & Irish Bistro
Rose District
122 South Main Street, Broken Arrow, OK!