Monday Mailbox #1

Monday Mailbox is a weekly segment wherein I cover my most recent acquisitions, whether via purchase, library, early reviewers, Librarything.com Member Givaway Program or gift. 

With heavy hearts New Yorkers said good-bye last month to the Barnes & Noble that stood just north of Lincoln Center. Like Tower Records before it, which formerly stood directly across the street, the increasing rent could no longer be afforded with the dropping demand for a physical product. iTunes and music sharing programs made CDs unnecessary, and e-readers have done the same for books in many cases (though I, personally, am trying to ignore the easy, soft, digital glow that seems to lure everyone away from actual books).

And now another domino has fallen. This month, Borders announced that it is filing for bankruptcy and closing 30% of its stores - 3 in Manhattan (though, fortunately, not the one I usually frequent - located in the Time Warner Center). So what does this mean? Well, for now it means tons of discounts. If there's a Borders store closing near you, GO BUY BOOKS! Most of them are currently offering discounts between 20% and 40% off, but in the next 2 weeks the prices will drop even further.

So go buy books. I did, which is why this first Monday Mailbox is going to be so long - I have more new books! So to start, I'll cover the books I bought at a closing Borders in Ocoee, Florida.

The Innocent, by Ian McEwan

I really truly enjoy Ian McEwan's work. Depressing as it can be sometimes, his style is just so beautiful. And I love the Trade Paperback editions style (as this edition is). The cover format is just so pretty and poignant. There were 3 McEwans on the shelves at Borders that I didn't yet own: this one, Black Dogs and Saturday. But this one called to me. And so I add it to my growing McEwan collection. I plan on reading it in the spring. 

Jane and the Damned, by Janet Mullany

Go ahead and laugh. That was the point, anyway. I figured I needed to keep up my historical fiction quota and also keep up with my trashy Jane Austenesque books with their alternate universe plot lines and annoying characterizations of the novelista herself. And who *doesn't* want to read another vampire book, am I right?!?!?! Anyway, I actually like the cover which is why I picked it up. Whether it's good or not is insignificant at this point. I plan on picking up this one sooner rather than later to give me a good laugh. I hope. 

A Novel Bookstore, by Laurence Cossé

My mother bought this one for me, but it's one that's been on my list since its publication last August. It's the follow-up to Cossé's novel The Corner of the Veil but from what I understand you needn't read the latter to understand the former. It's about creating the perfect bookstore, filled with only the best works of fiction. Any book geek or bibliophile (i.e. me) should love it. 

I'll Mature When I'm Dead, by Dave Barry

My mother and I both love Dave Barry, which is why she passed this book on to me once she finished it. If you don't know who Dave Barry is, he's got a syndicated column that appears regularly in the Orlando Sentinel and the Miami Herald, and he's also written a number of humorous books, and he co-wrote the Peter and the Starcatchers tetralogy with Ridley Pearson. He's flippin hilarious, or at least my mother and I think so. My father and my sister could take him or leave him. I've already managed to read part of the book, but I was pretty tired and so I didn't find much of it funny. I'm hoping that the rest of it makes up for that!

Expiration Date, by Sherril Jaffe

 And finally we have my most recent Early Reviewers book. The cover is cute (baby with a barcode on its butt? sign me up!) the author image, however, is a little scary. According to the information sent to me by the publisher (The Permanent Press), this is the author's sixth novel and it's a mother-daughter story about life, death, relationships, old age and aging. The book is due out in April, so I've got to get a move on and read it!


Abbreviated Mourning

Dear Blog & Blog Readers,

I'm sorry that I've been neglecting you. Usually, a book of 278 pages (omitting the glossary and notes in the back) wouldn't take me so long to read, and subsequently churn out a review. But the book I'm reading is dense. Not bad in any way, just dense. And we've been kind of busy at work, meaning I've had less time to read at work. And by the time I get on the train after work, I've been too tired to commit to reading. I've been playing Tetris on my iPod instead. Sorry. I promise to have a review posted sometime this week, before I go on vacation.


P.S. I just found out this afternoon that one of my favorite English professors has passed away. It happened back in October, after being ill for some time. He was barely 50 years old. Neither Fordham nor Harvard (he taught at both, and had attended the latter) had posted anything about his passing. I only came across the information when I was looking at the stats for this blog and noticed that one of my entries had popped up in a search using the keywords "andrew furer obit."

I immediately felt a flutter of panic and searched for it, myself, thinking that maybe it was Andrew Furer, another Harvard professor, who was a kind of pioneer in Economics. It wasn't. It was Andrew J. Furer: Professor, Jack London scholar, Paul Robeson aficionado. The New York Times obituary was the only source of information I could find, and even that was cut short because it was more than 2 months old. Linked to the obit was a guestbook page, care of Legacy.com (which also does not stay posted in full after x number of days) where a dear friend of Prof. Furer's had posted a eulogy of sorts. I managed to access the cached page through Google (thank you, google) and though the page is technically off-line, I was able to see it in full now.

click photo to see full screenshot

I know that not everyone loved Professor Furer. There is at least one person (on ratemyprofessors.com) who claims that this one professor was the reason they dropped out of college. But that's because passion makes both friends and enemies. If one is so frenetically passionate about what one teaches, there will be those that follow and those that give up. I followed. It certainly helped that Prof. Furer was also so dedicated to helping his students. He would provide snacks for every class (it was a 3 hour class) and even provided the text book. Instead of assigning 14 different books where we would concentrate on 10 pages from each book over the entire semester, Professor Furer made a course packet. He used books and random-ass sources you can only get on JSTOR and poems and short stories pulled from every kind of place, and put together this giant stack of copies that he sold each student for, like, $70. If he hadn't done that, we'd each have spent closer to $150 or $200 just for that one course.

He was unique. Just yesterday I was cleaning out a bunch of old file folders and I ran across both my midterm and my rough draft of the final paper from the class I took with him. He had his own way of doing things, and that's reflected in the notes on my paper. He would make the usual marginal notes like any professor, but would then type them up with additional notes and staple it to the back of the paper, with the grade (if Philosophy professor Josh Rayman had ever done that, maybe I would know what his grades meant...if there was someone with worse handwriting than Furer, it was Rayman. sheesh.) The notes are all very specific and very constructive. I've never had any other professor be that diligent in the way they graded a term paper.

My paper did have a lot of notes (mostly build x part up, explain z, be more clear on t, v and y, etc.) but on the back of his notes, Pro. Furer wrote "Do not be discouraged by this result--it is clear from the subpoints here, as well as your always-incisive in-class comments, that you already possess a sophisticated critical intelligence, and are capable of excellent work." I don't know if that was a form-note...you know, if he just added that onto everyone's paper where they'd gotten a B or better, but it made me feel damn good. And it still makes me feel good.

I wish other proessors had been/were more like him. Sure, he was crazy passionate, and sure he was a really really tough grader. But that's because he expected you to have the same commitment to the class that he had. I got a B+ on my rough draft and a 94 (A-) on the midterm, which was the highest grade anyone got that day, and it was the most accomplished I ever felt on the academic side of my college career. I consider myself very lucky to have known Andrew J. Furer, and to have had the benefit of his passionate way of teaching.