Monthly Archives: January 2009

Moleskine Fever!

As a matter of full disclosure, I feel you should know that I have at one point in my life grabbed my mother’s arm on the way into a Staples store and said, “Oh mom. I feel like I’m home!” and skipped off merrily to find which fun office supply advancement would go home with me that day; would it be a new cube of post its, a refill for my favorite ball-point pen (the Zebra), a new day planner, or the latest design in mechanical pencils? In addition to a problem leaving books in bookstores, I have never a day in my life passed by an office supply store, a stationery store, or a copy of the Levenger catalog. No, this is another thing about which I have a Serious Problem.

I have, for about six years, used a Moleskine notebook for my every day note taking: to do lists, random musings, sketches, grocery lists, short notes to myself or others, and as a catch all for business cards or the ever-scarce printed photograph. I always thought I was a pretty avid user of the Moleskine – mine lives in my purse and is so well used that the ribbon fell out and that the leather along the spine is shredded. I even bought a 18 month planner a while back. My father gave me a particularly small notebook which I have adopted for everyday lists and retired my shredded large notebook for more creative endeavors. I thought I was a Moleskine devotee. Let the record state: I know now that I am merely a dabbler in all things Moleskine. I am not worthy of the title. There are others out there who are FAR, FAR, FAR more obsessed with their little black book than I. I found all this out today as I was researching the notebooks, attempting to find a wholesaler through whom we may be able to carry them in the library store.

I found Moleskinerie while trying every combination of Google search terms possible for “Moleskine wholesale distributor” and cannot believe that a. such a website exists b. that I did not KNOW about it, and c. that there are others who are worse off than I am. People have written on this website with issues ranging from what kind of pens and highlighters work best with Moleskines to my personal favorite – a woman who was trying very hard to come up with a short-hand in order to keep her workout journal pieces short enough to keep in her weekly planner (the same weekly planner that yours truly uses daily). The website is five years old and has recently been acquired by the fine people at the Moleskine company. Now, if they could only tell poor little me how to carry their fine products in our humble little shop.

Moleskinerie put together “The First Annual Moleskinerie Exhibit” in January 2008, which you should absolutely check out. I am so excited to see what comes out of the 2009 exhibit, which I can only imagine will be along shortly! Seriously. Check it out. The images brilliantly display the wide range of uses for a Moleskine, and the beautiful way they make you feel like what you’re writing is way better than it actually is. Your sketch seems to be featured on fine paper with rounded corners and the feint black border of the fine leather edge peeping around the pages – better than a piece scribbled on a balled up receipt with a pen on the fritz, for instance.

I also believe that spending a lot of time and money on selecting the most perfect office supplies, stationery, and writing utensils serves many purposes. First, it allows you to procrastinate. In college, if I had a paper due in two days and I was writing it in my notebook with my fountain pen – first I had to select the perfect color ink, fill my fountain pen, put the ink jar away, title the to do list, and add “write Judd paper” to the list, wait for the ink to dry, and then put a post-it flag on the page with the title of the to do list – I felt like I had done enough work and I might as well run to the bar downtown to celebrate my successes. Most of the parts of the process could not have been done without a fine collection of office supplies. An interest in office supplies is a healthy stand in for an interest in writing letters on minimalist sculptors, in my opinion.

I also believe that having fine office supplies makes anything you do better with very little work. Don’t get me wrong, I love letters of any variety, but if I receive a letter on fine, unlined stationery – perhaps even personalized! – and in an envelope designed to match addressed with a wide-nib fountain pen, I am swooning before I even open it. And as I said before, a mediocre sketch becomes a work of art in a Moleskine

Wishing you long to do lists, leisure time, and office supplies,



My name is Keely, and I have a problem.

Now, I’ve already shared with you the anxiety that hits me when I restock the library from the store-room. Now imagine this: I’m sitting behind the counter at the library talking about bookstores with my friend Ivy, who is now responsible for buying books at the Pheonix shop at Nepenthe, when in come the delivery women for BOTH UPS and FedEx. They BOTH have incoming book orders for me. Seven entire boxes of books walked into the store today. We are over run with beautiful new books. Some are perennial favorites (Your Brain on Music), some are new to the library (Penguin Great Ideas series copy of John Ruskin’s On Life and Art), and some were a much needed restock (we just can’t recommend The Colossus of Maroussi highly enough). I was again struck with the all-too-familiar feeling of “Oh god. I’ll never get all these books read.” I had to put my credit card away to keep from buying The Omnivore’s Dilemma; I’ll buy it when I don’t have the next four books I’m going to read planned out!

I’m not sharing this to entice you to buy these books (if you buy them, I’ll have to wait even longer to pick them up myself), but instead to hopefully find some common ground with the rest of the population of People With A Problem. My name is Keely and I can’t leave books in bookstores. I don’t think I’m alone.

I remember the first summer that I interned at the library, or maybe it was the second, but either way I was flying back to Massachusetts to get back to the work of getting an art history degree. To make it clear: I was leaving my life at a bookstore to go to study intensely for a semester, and I had been given a copy of Master and Margarita from Magnus for the plane ride home. I didn’t need any more books. Not for the plane ride, not for my overstuffed dorm room, and certainly not for the storage boxes at my parent’s houses (I think I had books in four states at that point).

I had a layover in Minneapolis/St. Paul, which is such a layover hub for cross-country flights that it has turned into a shopping mall complete with several different bookstores. I naturally made my way to the largest, probably a subset of Borders, and proceeded to buy WAY more books than fit in my carryon luggage. I am lucky they let me on the plane, to be quite honest. I am also lucky that I didn’t send myself immediately into the poor house – airports use the fact that they have a captive audience to mark books above their usual price. I immediately called my mother and exclaimed that “I HAVE A PROBLEM.” I guess it’s the first step. My mother, who knows me better than does anyone else, was not surprised and only mildly disappointed in my lack of self-control. To prove that I come by this problem honestly, her sentiments moved immediately from this mild distress to complete, unabashed curiosity about what books I had gotten. I’m surprised she didn’t ask me to describe the font type of each copy. This is how I know I am not alone. There’s at least one other person who shares my “problem.”

However, I am slowly learning the self-control that I need to not over stuff my shelves. I live in a rented trailer, there is certainly not enough room to develop a library. Each time I finish a book I consider whether or not it is going to be part of my permanent collection. Most of the time it is not – I’m generally only holding on to particularly beautiful older books and any title by John Steinbeck (go ahead and send me anything that falls in that category: to that I say self-control be damned!). I have to have high standards for books I’m going to be attached to forever – I’m fresh out of college and have to consider whether or not I’ll want to move these books from place to place for the rest of my life. As I finish each book I bring it into work and put it on the used bookshelf for the benefit of the guests to the library. So far I’ve contributed Fahrenheit 451, Julie and Julia (you can probably skip that one, frankly), Angels and Demons (Dan Brown is a fellow New Hampshireite), Marley and Me (Alright, I’ve been reading a lot of fluff lately), Woebegon Boy by Garrison Keilor, and Kitchen Confidential by Anthony Bourdain. If you’re interested in those, my beat-to-shit copies are ready for you to pick up for a bargain price. And you can feel free to ask me how I dis/liked them. (as for food stuff, pick up Kitchen Confidential, pass up Julie and Julia, if you like fluffy best sellers, Marley and Me will do as well as Angels and Demons, and if you like dry midwestern wit or the musings of someone who, like Miller, is always merry and bright, please please please read Woebegon Boy).

Is it any wonder I work in a place so teeming with books that we've hung them from the ceiling?!  (Photo by my wonderful friend Katherine Mackenzie)

Is it any wonder I work in a place so teeming with books that we've hung them from the ceiling?! (Photo by my wonderful friend Katherine Mackenzie)

books, books, and more books,


Ex Libris by Anne Fadiman

I’ve been reading a book lately by a woman who is the wife of the gentleman who taught my favorite class at Smith College (though I think I say that about a lot of classes I took there, this one was REALLY great). The instructor’s name is George Colt, his wife Anne Fadiman. She wrote a book which I believe hit the bestseller lists called The Spirit Catches You and You Fall Down. If I’m wrong and it was not ranked among the best selling books of 1997/1998, then there’s just a lot of people who missed it, or a lot of people who bought second hand copies. The book is a detailed account of the misunderstandings between the American doctors and a sick young girl, the daughter of Laotian refugees; misunderstandings as a result of a language and cultural barrier. Making more of an attempt as a journalist to understand the life of the Hmong family than the doctors caring for the girl for years, Anne Fadiman manages to write a heart-wrenching account of her life, with a structure striking a perfect balance between informational and emotional. Ms. Fadiman has won many awards from people and organizations who felt the same way.

The book that I’m reading by this talented author right now, though, is called Ex Libris. Aside from the delight I take in having met Ms. Fadiman, and having been mentored in the craft of writing by her likewise-talented husband (who is responsible for my understanding of hyphenated adjectives such as ‘likewise-talented’ among more serious and style-related skills), this book tickles me at every possible opportunity as a “common reader” as the subtitle indicates. I’m no more or less likely to love this book than any other can’t-get-enough-written-material-type, despite my experience with the writer and her family. (I don’t think I’m the only one who reads cereal boxes over and over again during breakfast day after day because they’re perfectly designed to sit right in front of your face as you eat.)

The book is broken down into essays – 18, written over a 4 year period – and perfectly fits my reading schedule (a chapter or two before breakfast, a small bit while the potatoes are boiling, anything I can before sleep, and so on). I read one this morning that struck close to home. It is called “Insert a Carrot” and is the account of the author’s inability to pass up a typographical error or problem in grammar. Now, this may be a damning thing to say as we all make mistakes, but I find myself firmly rooted in her camp here. She admits that she takes it to a new level – and that she comes by that honestly as her parents are both perhaps more extreme than she is – and acts to look for mistakes actively, rather than identifying them as they come into her life.

When I make a typo (and those of you who are postal patrons in Big Sur have been privy to several glaring mistakes) I generally don’t see it. When someone else makes a typo, it’s almost as if that person has written it in neon pink ink to my eye. I feel a certain pride about pointing them out. Grammar issues are less of an annoyance to me and more of a puzzle. One of my hobbies is figuring out how I would re-write a sentence or paragraph if the author asked me to. Then again, I didn’t really have friends as a child.

Ex Libris is a delight. I’m sorry to say you can’t stroll into the Henry Miller Library and walk out with your own copy, but as long as you don’t mind books whose spine is broken in several places and pages dog-eared and marked up, you can absolutely borrow my copy.


Of all the books in the world

This morning when I got to work I spent a good long time stocking the bookstore back up from it’s not-too-picked-through-but-less-than-full state. Nothing had sold out, but it always makes me feel better to know that the shelves are as stuffed as possible, and to move things around to feature them more appropriately. I like an empty stock-room, a feeling which must be credited to the 8 years I worked at Six Gun City, a wild-west-themed amusement park in Northern New Hampshire. During my time there, which constitutes the bulk of my retail experience, it was deeply engrained in me to stock, stock, stock, and that an empty shelf is a wasted opportunity to give the customer exactly what they’re looking for – especially if it’s sitting in the back room. At the time, it didn’t make sense to me because if we had seven different kinds of cap guns in the gift shop, what use was the eighth? Don’t get me wrong, when I was asked to stock, I stocked. A time even came when I was the one telling people to stock. But it never made sense.

It makes inherent sense to me here, though. If someone’s looking for a Russian account of patricide, he does not want to be faced with several copies of Crime and Punishment, he’s looking for The Brothers Karamozov (which you can find nestled among the other Dostoevsky we carry: The Idiot, Crime and Punishment, The Gambler, Bobok and A Nasty Story, House of the Dead, The Devils, Poor Folk and Other Stories, The Village of Stepanchikovo), and no other book will do. I suppose my bosses at Six Gun City had the same feelings about the nuanced differences between eight and twelve shot ring cap guns, I think it’s a matter of priorities (to think: I almost stayed at the wild western haven nestled among the White Mountains just long enough to share my previous bosses’ feelings about toy guns.)

This process of stocking always gives me a slight anxiety, however. Each time I am struck with the realization that I will never get to read all of these books. I liken it to when you’re browsing your record (CD/tape/mp3) collection and find that you want to listen to all of the records at once. I hold all of these beautiful books in my hand and want to read them all immediately. I want to go home, forget work, pick up a book and not put it down until I am done, and then I want to pick up another one, and another and another until my shelves are bare. Then I want to fill them all up again and start over. But then life intervenes and instead of ripping through a shelf of books each day I master a chapter or two before I get up and make breakfast, I catch a page or two while I’m making dinner, and I sometimes get a paragraph read before my eyes close entirely at the end of the day. Some days I get to read for hours, some days I just look longingly at my books and just don’t have the time. Either way, I know I will never be able to read all the books out there. I’m content to try, though.

So here I sit in the full-to-the-brim Henry Miller Library nearing the end of a very busy day – we started sales for the Animal Collective concert on May 27th and sold out in the first 20 minutes the tickets went on sale, hundreds of disappointed people (if only we could fit thousands of people into our intimate little grove and have it still be an intimate little grove!), 300 very happy fans, and what promises to be a very exciting concert on that Wednesday evening. Speaking of our bookstore stock, I will leave you with a look at our most recent staff picks:

Eric has selected Homer’s The Odyssey and The Iliad, and Plato’s Republic with the following to say about them: “These are three of the greatest and most enduring accomplishments of western civilization. The Iliad is a war story that shows, through its main character Achilles, the all too human struggles of humanity and barbarism, humility and pride, wrath and reason, and shame and glory. The Odyssey, on the other hand, tells the of fantastic adventures of Odysseus, the quick-witted and iron-willed soldier, who endures peril at every turn on his 20 year long journey home. Finally, Plato’s Republic shows through dialogues with Socrates — arguably one of the wisest people to ever live — that an individual must first live a virtuous life to then contribute to and improve the State, and ultimately the lives of others.”

Magnus has selected There’s a Riot Going On by Peter Doggett, and had the following to say: “Good book. The sixties is often a romantic illusion among people, especially around these parts. This book scales off some of the hype and nostalgia and is peppered with original and thoughtful observations. If you are curious about the sixties this is the best compendium of the era that shook the western world that I have read.”

He also selected The Big Switch by Nicholas Carr and said: “Good book. Talks about what a lot of people are talking about intelligently and with a great historical parallel drawn between the current ‘cloud’ computing and the electric utility system.”
I have selected East of Eden by John Steinbeck and think this book is a complete masterpiece. If I were to string together a bunch of adjectives that describe this tale that follows entire generations on their struggles, they would include: epic, unsentimental, heartbreaking, timeless, powerful, and beautiful.

I also chose Some of the Dharma by Jack Kerouac and think this book is best left by your bed, in your bathroom, on your kitchen table, or wherever it is you find yourself reading material in drips and drabs. Start your day with a haiku, read a life lesson for lunch, and end it with a stream of consciousness completely devoid of punctuation but not lacking in take-your-breath-away-profundity. Kerouac at his most disjointed and beautiful!

If we’ve convinced you via the internet (as we convince people in our store), please go ahead and call us up for a copy (or come on down if you live locally). We’d be happy to ship to you, and it’s better to buy from us than from some faceless corporation with a massive website. We’re not faceless – we’re the three little bookworms at the top of the page! 831 667-2574 is our number, and you can just give us the title and we’ll get the book out to you as soon as possible. You can also email me: and request a copy and I will get one out to you.

I hope y’all get to read all the books in the world,


The Man Behind the Counter

I walked down to the beach this morning and as I was leaving the parking lot area after having soaked up some morning sunlight and breathed in the salty air, I saw a jogging figure approaching me. Despite my hideous eyesight and severe need for a new prescription in my eyeglasses, it didn’t take long to recognize the man in sweats as my friend Eric. I was walking back in the direction in which we both live, and so Eric turned around and walked back with me. We chatted the whole way about our evenings – he had gone to do some grocery shopping (which when you live in Big Sur is an event that takes up an entire evening), while I had gone home to read. Small morning chitchat that any onlooker would immediately realize was shared between who people who see each other very frequently. There is no human being in the world that I see more than Eric Perley. He’s the man behind the counter at the Henry Miller Library; in the winter he’s constantly there plugging away at an overwhelming amount of work on the Big Sur International Short Film Screening Series, and in the summer he’s bopping about the place plugging in wires, pushing buttons, and generally running the show from the wings. It’s time you had some more insight into the life of the man behind the counter, and the guy who will most likely answer the phone if you call.

Born and raised in Southern California, Eric has two older brothers and two very awesome parents in the medical field. A child of public schooling (despite a couple of years in private schools where having to wear a uniform almost sent Eric to the madhouse), Eric attended Cal State Long Beach and eventually transferred to UC Berkeley, where he received a BA in Political Science. The fact that Eric at one point in his life studied for and I’m not certain, but would imagine, did quite well on the LSATs is a truth which becomes quite apparent when one is trying to win an argument with him – trust me, when he’s in it to win it, it’s almost not even worth it (unless he’s talking about matters of opinion, in which case I declare he is most frequently wrong, but there’s no accounting for taste).

He did not move on to law school from UC Berkeley, but instead transitioned into a MFA program at the University of Southern California. He began studying professional writing, which Eric tells me is a program focused more on the craft and the possibility of publishing than it is focused on learning how to teach writing (an interesting choice, considering Eric’s self-declared disinterest in classes regarding publishing – Eric’s never been one for practical things).  You should all be sure to ask Eric how his novel is coming along in the style of this video:

Displaying his lack of interest in practical pursuits, Eric gathered up his savings, jumped in his 1969 VW bus and bummed around the San Francisco bay area for 4 months, during which time he took up the time-tested hobby of having a stroll. (Much like I was doing when I encountered Eric this morning). His stint as a bum came to an end when he drove south to Big Sur, though. Staying in a nearby campground he sauntered into the Henry Miller Library, sat around for a day drinking coffee, smoking cigarettes (a nasty habit which I am amazed and proud to say he has broken), and reading. Within the next few days as the price of his campsite began to be a bit much, he asked Magnus if there was a possibility of putting in some work for the price of a parking spot here at the library. The rest is history. The volunteer-for-a-parking-spot became a full time job, and from a full time job it turned into a life-consuming position at the busiest cultural center in Big Sur.

So that’s how he came to be here, but what is he like, you want to know. Well, I could start off with his 11am ritual, but I’ll spare you. I could tell you about the apparent obsession that he has with crosswords, the Odyssey, lectures on his iPod by the Teaching Company, or really good films. I could tell you that his favorite author is Milan Kundera, but that’s a pretty generic question. All these things give you an pretty bland idea of the not so bland Eric Perley. Perhaps the best way to convey how cool Eric is would be to give you some visuals:

Eric hard at work

Eric hard at work

Eric attacking a daily crossword

Eric attacking a daily crossword

Eric. as a goat.

Eric. as a goat.

Eric on a stroll, taking a break on bended knee

Eric on a stroll, taking a break on bended knee

See? He’s pretty cool. Stop by and play a game of Ping Pong with Eric. And ask him about his novel.

The Henry Miller Library: Where Nothing Happens?

So here it is: The Henry Miller Library blog. We have been talking among ourselves about what makes this page different from our website.

We decided that it was necessary because it allows us to spontaneously let the world know things like the fact that the book that we read a chapter of before work this morning is REALLY bad, or that the concert that we’re having on Sunday is going to be REALLY good (stay tuned for more information about our newest addition – Second Sundays at the Miller – a series joining the ranks of its brothers: Wednesday Open Mics and the Big Sur International Short Film Screening Series). We want to give you insight into what it’s like to be at the Henry Miller Library – jokes we share at lunch, answers to questions we are asked regularly, or a particularly interesting sailing story that Magnus wows us with over coffee before we get into our daily tasks (they’re all interesting!). We want to give you an idea of what life is like here; to show you what it’s like when nothing’s happening, and to show you what it is to be us in, say, the middle of July when it’s difficult to imagine what life is like when nothing’s happening at the library. We want you to be a bigger part of our life here, because it’s for you we are here in the first place!

Please leave your comments, read often, follow links, and share this with others.