Mon Petit Monde
I am the lucky Generalist at Powell's City of Books that each week gets to receive used french books and maintain the French Aisle. It is an AMAZING world of new and used books there in french in the Red Room, aisles 817 and 818.
The best part of my job is receiving, pricing and displaying the vast array of used and new french books. I handle everything from the latest graphic novels, to totally cool 1970's paperbacks, to ancient leather-bound tomes of Proust, Flaubert, and Gide. It gives me no end of satisfaction to display them for the enjoyment of MOI, and YOU, the customer.
Allow me to take you for une petite promenade down aisles 817 and 818. Allez-y!
Literature is one of the largest sections in the aisle. The mix of books is totally delightful. Slim 1950's and 60's George Simenon books, a tiny volume from the 1800's about Madame de Pompadour, a 60's pocket paperback of Lolita. I love the oldest books the best --they are so BEAUTIFUL with their
shabbily elegant bindings and slightly dusty, foxed pages.
It's fun to make shelf-talkers to point out some of these excellent details. My shelf-talker of Camus keeps disappearing, probably because he looks so hot in it, with his turned up collar and cigarette.
There are lots of cigarettes in the french aisle...Camus, de Beauvoir, and Malraux here, looking so beat.
Now onto a magical subsection: Genre! We have some of the greatest science fiction and mystery books in french.
Here is my Agatha Christie display. These late 1960's pocket paperbacks look great together this way. Imagine how great your bookshelves would look with them on it!
This book looks rather alarming -- "Objectif: Sadam!" We have two of them, so come on down and get your copy.
Now for the Young Adult section. Here you'll find everything from good old "le Petit Prince" to Jules Verne to "Paranoid Park" with a photo on the
cover from the movie by Gus Van Sant. From the Harry Potter series you'll learn some very charming, though not very useful vocabulary. For example, did you know "wand" in french is "baguette magique"? It makes sense to me!
Our "Miscellaneous non-fiction" section is a treasury of unexpected gems. I love this AMAZING book of huge black and white photos of french theater luminaries. There are some really weird pictures in there, like this one --
my imaginary friend!
And this one, "Boeing, le Geant" (Boeing, The Giant) has an intriguing sort of mid-century future-istic cover graphic... and shows an alarming tilt to the jet's assent. Perhaps symbolic in its rather phallic overtones?
"Chi-Chi le ravissant Panda" has a special hold on my heart. I put mylar on the cover to show it to its best advantage, but for some reason no one has adopted it yet. Chi chi needs you!!!
I fell in love with these treasures immediately-- Lleather-bound accounts of the king of France's finances from the 1600 and 1700's. They do make
rather dull reading, but the idea that these beautiful, slightly shabby volumes with their parchmenty paper and gilded spines were printed in the 1700's!!! Perhaps the king held them! At least a duke! It's like holding history in your hands.
The children's section never ceases to amaze me. Here we have the classics like "L'Arbre Genereux" (The Giving Tree, or literally, The Generous Tree), Le Ballon Rouge, and my favorite "Horten Entend un Zou" (Horton Hears a Who). This "Tou Tou" book from the 1930's is charming.
One of my
favorite new children's series are "Ernest and Celestine" books about a baby mouse who's father happens to be a bear. I have six of them, myself!
Here are some other languages you'll find in the Red Room -- Italian, Russian, German, Urdu, Hindi, Taglog, Hebrew, Yiddish, Arab, Greek. Also Thai, Korean, Vietnamese, Chinese, and Japanese. Also Swedish, Dutch, Norwegian, Hungarian. AND MORE.
There is also a very large selection of Deaf Sign language books.
I love my quiet time in this aisle and with these books. The second floor of Powell's looks out onto the beautiful streets of downtown, there are enormous street lanterns outside that look like something from Europe, and the tops of the trees wave around them.It's really beautiful to stand there, sorting literature, poetry, science fiction and art books.
I also get to meet amazing people in this aisle. People from all over the world. I recently met and spoke at great length in french with a fantastic young man from Canada named Vincent. A couple of weeks ago I met a very sweet and serious man from Africa. His french was so beautiful with its african accent. Another time I met a delightful woman named Jane, from Switzerland. She gives presentations on the "salons" of days gone by, led by the women that helped spark the age of enlightenment throughout western europe.
Bienvenue (Welcome) to all of you to the french aisle. Come down to see for yourselves the amazing selection of new and old friends for your bookshelves.
"Every little girl knows about love. It is only her capacity to suffer for it that increases." -- Francoise Sagan
Oh, mais c'est si francais!