Wednesday, December 18, 2013

The Stories of Christmas

I first heard one of my now favorite Christmas stories on NPR on Christmas Eve, ten years ago. I was driving home from work, and let's just say I was not in a receptive mood for any nonsense about sweetness and light. Don't get me wrong, working at the bookstore through the holiday is wonderful—you get to be Santa Claus hour after hour, day after day. But after a month of this, Santa can get tuckered out. 

By six o'clock this particular Christmas Eve I was dog tired and not at all looking forward to our usual holiday rituals of opening presents and a big family dinner. Like Ebeneezer Scrooge, all I wanted to do was crawl into bed, sleep and be left alone. Looking for some help in staying awake on my 20 minute drive, I turned on the radio.

The man on WUNC had a familiar Southern voice, but I couldn't quite place it. He was telling a story, in the first person, of a socially awkward loner named Verne who was managing a pet shop in a mall, somewhere along an interstate in North Carolina. A runaway pregnant teenage girl had taken to hanging out at the mall, and out of sympathy for a fellow outcast, Verne befriended her.

I soon figured out that the voice on the radio belonged to my friend Hillsborough writer Allan Gurganus. And
ten minutes later, as Allan brought his story, “A Fool for Christmas,” to a close, I was reaching for the kleenex. My Scrooge-like heart had been transformed, (thankfully without the intervention of any ghosts), and I was happy that it was Christmas Eve, and that I was coming home to be with my wonderful wife and the family that I loved.

Since that long-ago drive home in 2004, Allan has performed his marvelous tale at the bookshop at least four times. Every time he changes the story a bit, and every time I end up reaching for something to dab my eyes. Allan will reprise “A Fool for Christmas” at The Regulator this Friday evening at 7:00.  Simply put brothers and sisters, Allan Gurganus can flat out Tell a story. And he knocks this one out of the park.

The Christmas season is of course full of grand stories, starting with the one in the Bible. Then back in 1843 a Mr Charles Dickens penned a little story called “A Christmas Carol” that has easily stood the test of time. If you are like most people (and like me until about 5 years ago) and have never actually read “A Christmas Carol,” you should not deprive yourself of this treat much longer. As good as some of the movie versions are, the book is better.

If you have read the book, you will be intrigued by Les Standiford's “The Man Who Invented Christmas: How Charles Dickens's A Christmas Carol Rescued His Career and Revived Our Holiday Spirits.”  It seems that after initial fame—but not yet serious fortune—from books like “Oliver Twist” and “The Old Curiosity Shop,” Dickens in 1843 had fallen on hard times after the disappointing sales of his latest novels, “Barnaby Rudge” and “Martin Chuzzlewit.” Dispirited and deeply in debt, he walked the streets of London seeking inspiration. The Christmas ghost story that he came up with was initially turned down by his publisher (!) but Dickens found a willing printer, and the rest, as they say, is history.

The Grinch is still great, as is “The Polar Express.” Another of my recent favorites, Donald Hall's “Christmas at Eagle Pond “(2012) tells a charming, truly heartwarming story of a Christmas spent at his grandparent's farm in rural New Hampshire in 1940.

Christmas is a time of sharing. And the best holiday stories are all about sharing, so they are, to me, an essential part of what makes Christmas a special time. Share your favorites by reading them out out loud with family and friends.

Monday, December 9, 2013

Our 37th Anniversary!

Last week marked the Regulator's 37th anniversary. Here's a little piece about the store's beginning, written for our 30th anniversary back in 2006. Those who remember the bookstore's early days will meet for breakfast at Whitt's Grill, Friday morning at 9:00..

The Story Begins Like This...

A small and perhaps improbable bookstore opens its door for the first time on a cold Saturday morning. It is early in December, 1976. There's a vague memory of snow flurries in the air.

We set things up so that our first customer that morning was Agnes Birkhead, the grandmother of one of the store's founding lights. Agnes had been the court stenographer at the Scopes "monkey" trial and gone on to be Sinclair Lewis's personal assistant. Agnes Birkhead was a touchstone for us, a connection to a strong American tradition of truth-seeking and independent thinking. We hope that, 30 years on, our actions continue to honor her memory.

A few months before that December morning, Agnes's grandson David put down a month's rent on a small retail space at 720 Ninth Street and called a meeting of a group of friends, mostly recent Duke graduates. The idea had been kicking around of starting a bookstore in Durham. David had found a space we could do it in. Did anyone want to put some work into getting this going?

I was just out of graduate school with no pressing plans, so I signed on for a couple of months to help get the store started. Luckily, so did Aden Field, who brought to the undertaking bookkeeping experience and insight into setting up systems to help us track all the details you have to keep on top of to run a bookstore. All of our special orders are still run through basically the same system that Aden set up in 1976.
The bookstore that opened that December 4th occupied the front third of the upstairs of our current space. We expanded into the rest of the upstairs in 1990, and into the downstairs in 1998. Aden left the store in 1978, and John Valentine came on to run the store with me. We added Helen Whiting to our team in 1982, and we'll never recover from Helen's far too early death in March 1999.

Thinking back on The Regulator's earliest days, it's clear that the bookstore was founded in a completely different universe, in a place you just can't get to anymore. The power's down, the roads are out, the trails are unmarked and overgrown. In this far away place there was a working textile mill across the street, and Ninth Street was populated by "mill village" shops-a couple of grills that only served breakfast and lunch, a hardware store, a post office, McDonald's drug store. Durham was still a tobacco and textile town, and though we didn't really know it at the time, the bookstore's opening was a harbinger of change to come. More change than we could ever have imagined at the time.

But one thing has remained constant through all these years-the amazing support that this town has given to our community-oriented bookstore. That an independent bookstore the size (and may we humbly say) status of The Regulator continues to succeed in a city the size of Durham is highly unusual. Durham certainly gets its share of bad press, and gets the cold shoulder from many of our haughtier Triangle neighbors. But here at the Regulator we've come to know that there's a lot more to this town than the conventional wisdom, and the media, give it credit for. We wouldn't want to run a bookstore anywhere else. Thank you, Durham, for thirty wonderful years.

Thanks also to all of our friends, customers, and supporters throughout the area, the state, and the country. Thanks to all the incredible people who have worked at the store over these many years. Thanks to the authors who have visited us, and to all our friends in the publishing industry. And thanks finally to you, our wonderful customers, who walk through our door every day and help keep our still improbable bookstore alive and well. In our best moments we realize that this place exists only as a partnership with our community and our customers. We hope you always feel free to contribute to our ongoing dialogue, and that you will want to participate in our partnership for many years to come.
Tom Campbell

Sunday, December 8, 2013

Goodbye Amazon, hello Ninth Street

Column: Goodbye Amazon, hello Ninth Street
By Melissa Rooney, Durham News, 8 December 2013

Last year I hoped Americans would boycott the holiday materialism that feeds the corporate monster and its wealthy share-holders.

In retrospect, I couldn’t even do this myself.
Given busy schedules and long Christmas lists, it’s hard to pass up the ease and free shipping offered of online ordering, not to mention all the corporate discounts thrown at us this time of year.
Last year, I gave Amazon far more business than I’d intended. This year, I am fully committed to two rules: 1) Quality not Quantity; and 2) Local Only.
I stuck to mantra No. 1 during Halloween, when my husband made fun of me for giving just one atomic fireball to each trick-or-treater. “They’re a specialty,” I defended, “and they aren’t cheap.” As for the ensuing holidays, my kids have been duly warned to expect only one Christmas gift from each parent and grandparent this year – even my mother, whose Christmas shopping could support the entire economy of China (according to my husband).
On to Mantra No. 2. Buying local is easy if you are looking for home furnishings and art, but what about more practical items?
I recently spent a couple mornings on Ninth Street, reminding myself how easy it is to shop local in Durham. The first was with my kids (9, 10 and 3 years old), and we spent the entire morning in the children’s section of the Regulator book store (the kids now want to purchase Regulator gift cards as birthday gifts, so their friends can have the same experience). The second time, I went by myself.
I always look for bohemian “gypsy” dresses when window-shopping, and Native Threads – my favorite place on Ninth – has beautiful and comfortable African and Indian clothing as well as a plethora of thought-provoking paraphernalia from Tibet, Africa and other magical locations. Vaguely Reminiscent sells natural-fiber clothing, shoes, socks, jewelry, hair accessories, and the ever-popular “Durham, It’s Not For Everyone” T-shirts. Picturesque Barnes Supply Company has lawn, garden, and pet supplies/gifts.
My second favorite Ninth Street venue is the little white house that is Barnes Pottery Shed – finding the entrance is an adventure in and of itself. The Duck Shop sells Duke apparel and gifts at lower prices than on-campus stores (if you like those sorts of things – I am a UNC fan), and The Playhouse has quality educational toys and a great selection of kids’ music and books. My third favorite spot is Hunky Dory, an old-school vinyl-records and tobacco shop; I particularly enjoy inspecting the funky T-shirts and local offerings (often at reduced prices) in the back corner.
Nearby Brightleaf Square houses Bull City Art and Frame Company; James Kennedy Antiques (jewelry, pottery, African art, and medical, nautical, and scientific items); Offbeat Music (it’s worth just sampling music on the listening stations and perusing the buttons, stickers and shirts); several independent clothing and jewelry stores and more. Rather than scouring the Internet, it is far more fun to look for that out-of-print book at Wentworth and Leggett Rare Books and Prints (surprisingly very affordable); W&L also appraises and buys books.
When looking for the “Big Store” experience, Morgan Imports and Parker and Otis (beside Brightleaf) sell backpacks, clothing, shoes, furnishings, kitchen wares, wine, you name it! 

These are my favorite stores in this area, and I can spend hours in both.
For more local shopping opportunities, I can drive down West Chapel Hill Street, Foster Street, Main Street, throughout downtown Durham in a matter of minutes.

But independent stores aren’t only located downtown. A South Durham favorite of mine is Bean Traders on Highway 54. In addition to great coffee and pastries and a sizeable indoor children’s play area (with regularly scheduled story and craft times), BT sells “Durham” and other locally made items like T-shirts, reusable bags, journals, pot-holders, soaps, it’s different every time. For Garden’s Sake (on 751, just beyond the Fayetteville Road intersection) has plants, gardening tools and supplies, and a marvelous gift shop with many locally manufactured items, not to mention live (and happy) ducks, goats, chickens, and a beautiful lake. Foster’s, Rare Earth Beads, and other fun independent stores are located along Durham-Chapel Hill Boulevard. And there are many more throughout Durham.
At the pinnacle of practical, the Triangle Pharmacy and Ace Hardware stores on Highway 54 and in Woodcroft Shopping Center are owned by Durham pharmacist Alice Dillard and her sister (and by their parents before). Ace is a co-op (not a franchise) which employs nearly 50 people, so the bulk of the money earned stays here in the community. The prices are affordable, and it’s a much more intimate shopping experience than any big-box store can provide. Plus, I can get my prescriptions filled while I shop. I love driving by the store on 54 just to see what new, original jingle is posted on their street sign.
I am lucky to live in a place where it is so easy to support the local economy, and I plan to take advantage of the opportunities this holiday season and beyond. I hope you’ll join me.
Melissa Rooney is a writer, scientist and mom.

Thursday, December 5, 2013

The Allure of the Print Book

Finally some folks in out-of-touch New York City have realized that print books are not going away, and that they are in many ways better than digital books.

From a New York Times technology blog post titled "The Allure of the Print Book," published on December 2nd by Nick Bilton:

"...when I touched that physical book again for the first time in years, it was like the moment you hear a nostalgic song on the radio and are instantly lost in it. The feeling of a print book, with its rough paper and thick spine, is an absorbing and pleasurable experience — sometimes more so than reading on a device.

Some recent reports have found that the tactile feeling of paper can also create a much more immersive learning experience for readers. Why? Several scientists believe it is neurological.

A research report published earlier this year in the International Journal of Education Research found that students in school who read text on printed paper scored significantly higher in reading comprehension tests than students who read the same text in digital forms.

Meanwhile, I’m not alone in my nostalgia for paper, as my colleague David Streitfeld reports. In addition, according to an October report by the Book Industry Study Group, which monitors the publishing industry, the sales of e-books have slowed over the past year and currently comprise about 30 percent of all books sold.
Believe it or not, it isn’t just grumpy old people and those of us with hyperactive puppies who are buying physical books. It’s teenagers, too..."

read the whole article here:

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Shop Local, y'all!

Shop Independent Durham Week, when we celebrate and support our town’s fabulous locally-owned, independent businesses, is coming up November 30th-December 8th. To make sure folks are ready for this momentous occasion, I've put together a little quiz. (Hint: all the questions have the same answer).

--What can you do to strengthen our local economy?
--What can you do to help create new jobs here in Durham?
--What can you do to make sure Durham isn't bland and boring but has real character?
--What can you do to make Durham a place where people vote, participate in community reform efforts, and pay attention to local affairs?

The answer to all these questions? Shop at locally-owned, independent businesses!

When you patronize a locally-owned independent business, 3 to 4 times more of your money stays in our local economy, compared to spending that money at a national chain. And when you shop on-line, you are in effect loading all of your money onto a plane at RDU, with a one-way ticket out of here.

The economic advantage of shopping local is so strong that studies of other cities show that if everyone in Durham shifted just 10% of their purchases to local independent businesses, it would create 800 to 1,000 new jobs in our home town. And as for character? Well we've all seen towns with pretty much just national chain shops and restaurants.  Enough said...about North Raleigh.

And cities that have more locally-owned businesses have higher levels of civic engagement., which just makes sense when you think about it. Local businesses help create a culture of real community.

OK, now that everyone has passed the shop local quiz, its time to move on to the fun part—participating in Shop Independent Durham Week. Shop Independent Durham Week has been put together by Sustain-a-Bull, Durham's locally-owned, independent business organization. During this 8 day week that starts the Saturday after Thanksgiving, dozens of shops and restaurants around town will be having special sales, contests, raffles, and events. See for all the details. The idea is to make it easy and fun to shop local.

At The Regulator we'll be kicking things off on Saturday the 30th with the help of 10 local authors, who have volunteered to be “booksellers for a day.” Working two hour shifts, these local literary luminaries will be recommending books to our customers, for their own reading and for gift giving. See a complete schedule. All through the week we'll be having stacks of our best books on sale, and we'll be raffling off an incredibly beautiful new facsimile edition of John James Audubon’s Birds of America, which sells for $350.00.

To bring the local emphasis of this full circle, we'll also be featuring some of the great new books by local writers and new books about our local area. Marvelous new works of fiction by Wilton Barnhardt, Allan Gurganus and Lee Smith. Jennifer Farley’s fascinating new book on the “Duke Homestead and the American Tobacco Company.” William Ferris’ “The Storied South: Voices of Writers and Artists,” which includes a CD and a DVD of  interviews of folks like Eudora Welty and Pete Seeger. And Lawrence Earley’s “The Workboats of Core Sound: Stories and Photographs of a Changing World.”
To mention but a few.

So this holiday season give your old hometown a present too. Shop Independent Durham! We thank you.
Tom Campbell

(a version of this article appeared in the Durham News section of the News and Observer today)


"Take a Moment to Replenish with the Written Word"

"As we head into the upcoming, very busy holiday season, as booksellers we like to remind ourselves why we first stepped into a bookstore. We are lovers of stories. We are sharers of tales. We finish a good book and we are pressing it into the hands of a like-minded friend. The more we read, the more we discover new favorites to pass on to family to begin a new conversation with them. The shelves are brimming with opportunities to rekindle a spark, to refresh a tired spirit or to reconfigure a new phase in life. With all of the bustling, take a moment to replenish with the written word. 

"We look forward to making recommendations and helping you find just the right book to give this holiday season."
--From the e-newsletter sent yesterday by Books & Company, Oconomowoc, Wis.

Monday, November 25, 2013

Why Place Still Matters: A Localist Agenda

We couldn't have said it any better ourselves. The importance of places like Ninth Street, from our friend and customer Reyn Bowman.

Read all about it on Reyn's blog:

Sunday, November 10, 2013

Who Needs a Bookstore?

The internet, amazon, e-books. Who needs a bookstore these days?

At least once a week people walk into The Regulator and tell us how surprised (and usually how pleased) they are to see that a shop like ours is still in business. But as the long time co-owner of Durham's independent bookstore, I'm not all that surprised that bookstores like ours are still doing well. In part that's because I am privileged to see, on a daily basis, the many ways that people need and appreciate a good bookstore. Here’s a look at a few of the folks that still seem to need a bookstore:

--The two boys, ages about 5 and 7, who burst through our front door on the run the other day, calling out in excitement as they sprinted toward the children's section at the back of the store. They knew they were going to get to look through dozens of books and then pick one or two really special books to take home with them; books that would live with them, in their rooms, from that day on.

--All the grown-ups who enjoy a leisurely browse through our shelves, our displays, and our recommended books. Even with all the information available on-line, studies show that people mostly find out about the books they read from browsing in bookstores or talking with friends. And for many of us book-huggers,, there's nothing quite like the feeling of browsing through shelf after shelf of current and classic books, each one carefully chosen by someone working right in that store.

--People who like “real” books. E-books may be convenient (and we sell them, along with Kobo e-readers), but e-books are probably not the best choice for people who want to dive deeply into their reading. Studies have shown that most of the people who buy e-books also buy print books—and that they finish their print books far more often than they finish their e-books. A Scientific American article this spring titled “Do e-readers inhibit reading comprehension?” concluded that “Research suggests that the devices can prevent readers from wholly absorbing longer texts.” The article also indicated that long-term memory of what a person has read is less when it has been read on a screen. 

Who else needs a bookstore? People who enjoy being part of a community of readers. People who like spending time in a place where everyone is there because they love reading and books. People who want to support their local community, economically and culturally, through their purchases. People who feel it might be important to disconnect, slow down and concentrate for a while in the midst of our distracted digital days.
To quote from a marvelous new book, “Slow Reading in a Hurried Age” by David Mikics: “Slowness and concentration are needed to learn to do anything well that is worth doing well, from fly-fishing to electrical engineering to playing the violin.”

In other words, if you really want to get down to it with most anything, you need to slow down and pay attention. That's what reading a book is all about, and bookstores remain wonderful portals to that experience.
"Who Needs a Bookstore" was initially published in The Durham News section of the News and Observer on October  16th
--Tom Campbell 

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Support Free Parking on Ninth Street!

Please send the mayor and city council a brief email (to asking them to keep free parking on Ninth Street and in the Ninth Street lot. City staff is recommending to the council that the city begin charging for parking on Ninth Street, to pay for expenses associated with the new development on the west side of the street. But the new development is bringing the city plenty of new revenue to pay for these expenses—and to keep the parking free.

Paid parking will discourage people from shopping on Ninth Street, it will create the need for guards to be posted on the sea of free parking just about to open between the new Harris Teeter and Ninth Street, and it will discriminate against people who shop during the daytime, since parking will be free after 6:00 p.m. So you will be able to park for free to come to Ninth Street to drink late at night, but you will have to pay to park if you want to buy books at The Regulator during the day.

If none of this makes much sense to you, please send an email telling the city council that you support keeping parking on Ninth Street free.

Thank you!
From The Regulator and the other independent locally owned businesses on Ninth Street.

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Franzen on Bezos: 'One of the Four Horseman'

"In my own little corner of the world, which is to say American fiction, Jeff Bezos of Amazon may not be the antichrist, but he surely looks like one of the four horsemen. Amazon wants a world in which books are either self-published or published by Amazon itself, with readers dependent on Amazon reviews in choosing books, and with authors responsible for their own promotion. The work of yakkers and tweeters and braggers, and of people with the money to pay somebody to churn out hundreds of five-star reviews for them, will flourish in that world. But what happens to the people who became writers because yakking and tweeting and bragging felt to them like intolerably shallow forms of social engagement? What happens to the people who want to communicate in depth, individual to individual, in the quiet and permanence of the printed word, and who were shaped by their love of writers who wrote when publication still assured some kind of quality control and literary reputations were more than a matter of self-promotional decibel levels?"

--Jonathan Franzen in a Guardian essay called "What's Wrong with the Modern World"
(We recommend printing out the full article if you want to really get down into it--its 15 pages long!) 

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Bruce! The Winning Story

We had a fine time last Friday, hearing from  Christopher Phillips, editor of the new book Talk About a Dream: The Essential Interviews of Bruce Springsteen. Also in attendance that evening was Michele Lynn, who penned the winning story in our "Tell Us Your Favorite Springsteen Story" contest. As you can see from her story, Michele qualifies as a hard core Springsteen fan, having attended almost 50 of his live concerts. (But hey, there were people here Friday night who have been to over 100!). 

Here's Michele's story, which centers around the first concert she went to:

Growing up in a suburb of New York City, spending summer days at the Jersey Shore, I was a prime candidate to become a Springsteen fan.  I am happy to say that I fulfilled that destiny. 

During my senior year of high school, I had a crush on a boy who worshiped Bruce. So off I went to Korvette’s, a lower-rent cousin of Macy’s and Gimbel’s, to buy a Springsteen album.  I planned to play it nonstop so that when the aforementioned boy called on the phone, the background soundtrack could happen to be Springsteen. 

“Darkness on the Edge of Town” had recently been released so that record, featuring a tough-looking Bruce on its cover, was the one that accompanied me home.  And a funny thing happened – after playing the record a time or two, I was no longer keeping it on my turntable to impress a boy. I was listening to it because Bruce’s passion, music, and lyrics and the band’s musicianship touched something deep inside of me. 

A few years later, during my junior year of college in New York City, Springsteen brought “The River” tour to the Big Apple.  I knew that I had to go to the show with my best friends—identical twins with whom I had spent many hours listening to Bruce, deciding which one of us would marry him, and visiting the holy shrines of Madam Marie’s and the Stone Pony in Asbury Park.

But tickets sold quickly and we were shut out. Not to be deterred, on the opening night of the stand, we took the number 1 train down to Penn Station and walked over to the venue. Students with limited incomes, we found that the scalpers’ prices were out of our league. 

But we were determined. So we flashed our cutest college coed smiles at a hulking ticket taker and asked if we couldn’t just go in and stand for the show.  Our smiles weren’t enough but the $10 we each palmed to him did the trick.  A few minutes later, we found ourselves climbing  to the top of Madison Square Garden and waiting what seemed like an eternity until Bruce and the band came out on stage and ripped into “Born to Run.”

Nearly 33 years later, I still get chills when I remember the power and passion and unlimited promise that song heralded for me, Maddy, and Stephanie.  We stood and sang and danced together for the four hours of that concert and throughout many more Bruce concerts over the years. And every time I hear “Born to Run” in concert—and I have probably heard it live close to 50 times—I am still 19 years old, ready to take on life with all of its joys and adventures.

Oh, and the Springsteen fan who was the original reason I started to listen to Bruce?  He and I dated for some months and even attended our senior prom together. But while my romantic relationship with him is ancient history, my love affair with Bruce continues to this day.
--Michele Lynn

Monday, July 29, 2013

Why I like Colum McCann’s writing

I’ve admired Colum McCann’s writing since I first read “This Side of Brightness” more than 15 years ago, and my admiration has grown enormously with the publication of his last two novels, “Let The Great World Spin” in 2009 and “Transatlantic” which came out just last month. McCann’s storytelling is masterful, and his books are deep and realistic without being at all depressing.

I found a clue as to why I like McCann’s writing so much in an article about him that appeared in the New York Times Magazine in early June. McCann was invited to talk to high school students at Newton High School, just up the road from Sandy Hook Elementary School, the site of the horrible shootings last December. Many of the Newton High students had ties to the 20 children and 6 adults who were killed at Sandy Hook, and a Newton High teacher had asked his classes to read “Let The Great World Spin” to help them deal with what they had gone through.

Here are the last two paragraphs of the Times Magazine’s story:

“In each of the classes in Newton, the conversation eventually drifted to the question of loss, and to the way McCann’s book takes on grief and despair and then offers the possibility for something else. It was impossible to look at those kids and not wonder what their own histories were, and how those histories would shape their lives. Occasionally, their experiences on the day of the shootings or in the months since would puncture the discussion. One girl remembered the younger children on the day of the shootings being gathered together outdoors. ‘I looked around at my peers,’ she said, ‘and they were playing with the kids.’ She thinks of that sometimes, she said, when she’s trying to find ‘a little spot of light.’ In another class, a boy who spent nearly the entire discussion staring down at his desk suddenly raised his head and said that he used to believe the truth that pain makes you stronger, but he didn’t know anymore. ‘For some people pain is what you get,’ he said.

“McCann thanked him for saying that. He was no psychologist, he said, but he believed it was necessary to acknowledge how powerful despair can be. The question was how to get to a place beyond that. ‘You have to beat the cynics at their own game,’ he said.... There was nothing the least bit preachy in his tone. ‘I’m not interested in blind optimism, but I’m very interested in optimism that is hard-won, that takes on darkness and then says “This is not enough.” But it takes time, more time than we can sometimes imagine, to get there. And sometimes we don’t.’ He couldn’t fathom what they were going through, he said, but he knew that the struggle against cynicism would be the challenge for them, as it is for anyone, for the rest of their lives.’

Reading this, I realized why I feel so deeply about Colum McCann’s books. Not only is he a great storyteller, he is an inspiring storyteller as well. You don’t find that combination very often.
--Tom Campbell

Sunday, July 14, 2013

"A book can be where one finds oneself"

"Reading is sometimes thought of as a form of escapism, and it's a common turn of phrase to speak of getting lost in a book. But a book can also be where one finds oneself; and when a reader is grasped and held by a book, reading does not feel like an escape from life so much as it feels like an urgent, crucial dimension of life itself. There are books that seem to comprehend us just as much as we understand them, or even more. There are books that grow with the reader as the reader grows, like a graft to a tree.

"That kind of book becomes part of our own experience, and part of our own endurance."

From Rebecca Mead's My Life in MiddleMarch, which will be published by Crown in January. I have been reading an advance copy of the book, which is about the impact of George Elliot's novel on Mead's life. I have never read Middlemarch, but I am becoming completely engrossed in Rebecca Mead's book.

Tom Campbell

Sunday, June 30, 2013

Be Patriotic. Shop Local!

We've all heard the story of how a new British tax on tea incited the famous Boston Tea Party, where colonists dumped more than 90,000 pounds of tea into Boston Harbor. But what you probably haven't heard is that the Tea Party—we're talking here about the one on Boston in the 1700's, not the current group of misguided pretenders—was really all about shopping local.

You see the tax on tea wasn't a tax on all tea—only on the tea sold by local merchants. Tea sold by the East India Company, a 1700's version of a powerful multinational corporation, wasn't subject to the tax. The idea was to enable the East India Company to undercut its small local competitors and drive them out of business. (Gee, this sounds a lot like today—where you have to pay sales tax if you buy a book from us, but you don't pay sales tax if you buy the book from amazon..).

The British government and the East India Company were counting on the lure of cheap tea to overpower the colonist's sense of community and principle, but they misjudged. The colonists continued to support their local, independent merchants and boycott East India tea. Their actions in the Boston harbor and the British retaliation that followed ultimately led to an organized boycott of all British goods. Homegrown and local became the fashion of the day. The Declaration of Independence soon followed, and the rest, as they say, is history.

Today, we know that cities with more locally owned, independent businesses have higher rates of community involvement at all levels (including voter turnout) and lower rates of crime and poverty than cities that have few locally owned businesses. Which just makes sense. Its easier to feel part of a community where you know the folks that own and run the businesses. That sense of belonging is hard to come by in a place where all the stores are owned by multinational corporations. And it is even harder to come by where everyone sits at home with their computers and orders everything from a distant warehouse with terrible working conditions.

So...Be patriotic! Make your community a better place! Keep your money here where you live! Shop Local!

And a Happy Fourth of July to all.

(Thanks to the pamphlet "A Declaration of Independents" by Stacy Mitchell for the information about the Boston Tea Party)

Saturday, June 15, 2013

Once a bookseller, now deputy director of the CIA

Maybe I should update my resume and apply for a job at the CIA?

Or should I stay at The Regulator and start an erotica night?

Not sure what to make of all this, but then the CIA has always been a bit of a cipher...

--Tom Campbell

Thursday, June 6, 2013

Odd and Unusual!

We've created a new, highly selective little section in the bookshop called Odd and Unusual. (You can find it under the sign of the yellow and blue eyed cat...). If you're an odd and unusual person yourself, or have aspirations in that direction, you might have some fun with the books we're adding to these shelves!
Gracing our Odd and Unusual shelves at the moment are books like A Cabinet of Greek Curiosities: Strange Tales and Surprising Facts from the Cradle of Western Civilization by J.C. McKeown and Weird Life: The Search for Life that is Very, Very Different from Our Own by David Toomey.

And I've just added one of my favorite odd and unusually good novels to this section. The book is titled The Raw Shark Texts, by a young British writer named Steven Hall, published back in 2007. To tell you about the book, I can't do any better than to crib from a review of the book from the Washington Post by Tyler Knox, who clearly enjoyed the shark as much as I did:

"The star of Steven Hall's rousingly inventive The Raw Shark Texts is its villain -- always a good sign in a thriller. Raymond Chandler famously said, "When in doubt, have a man come through a door with a gun in his hand." Hall one-ups Chandler by sending in a shark. But not just any shark, a conceptual shark called a Ludovician, which swims in a current of words and ideas and feeds on memory and sense of self. Every time the Ludovician makes an appearance, Hall's novel jolts to life.

Eric Sanderson gasps awake one day to find his memory missing. As Eric struggles to forge a bland and static life, a series of letters, apparently from his self before the memory loss, the so-called First Eric, warns him of the conceptual shark that, with a vengeance as unmotivated as Iago's, is determined to eat Eric's memory over and over....Second Eric doesn't buy it until he spies the figure of a shark within the white noise of his television...

It isn't long before Eric is on the run, dodging the memory eater and searching for the strange Dr. Fidorous, who might just be able to get the damn shark off his tail. At this point the novel takes on the cloak of your typical thriller: a man on the run, aided by a great-looking waif with a killer smile and a bomb in her pocket. Oh, yeah, and there's a cat....More compelling are the journals written by First Eric, the raw texts of the title, that give glimpses of Eric's romance with Clio, the love of his life, who was killed in a tragic accident off the coast of Greece.

...Even as Hall takes great delight in showing off the details of his world with all kinds of loopy names and textual tricks -- including one terrific visual sequence where the terrifying nature of the shark is made real -- his methods almost always serve the purpose of the story. And for a first novelist, Hall has a nice way of hiding telling details until the end of a sentence or a scene, like the stinger at the end of a scorpion's tail.

It's all a lot of fun, yet there is also a surprising emotional resonance in seeing Second Eric, like Beckett's Krapp with his tapes, reading and rereading First Eric's journals as he obsesses over the experiences that the Ludovician has chomped out of his head. And to hear Second Eric's voice take on the snap of his predecessor's is especially satisfying.

Best of all, there is the shark itself, wily and relentless, with its chilling eye and gaping maw, hungry for memory.."

--Tom Campbell

Monday, May 27, 2013

Does Reading Have a Future? A noted Canadian Philosopher Gazes into the Future

This little essay is indeed written by a philosopher, so be advised there are references to folks like Heidegger, Habermas, and Eagleton. But the author, Mark Kingwell, ends up in the right place--the right place given where I live and work--so I found this to be an entertaining read:

--Tom Campbell

Thursday, May 9, 2013

One reason to shop local

Support the businesses that support your community

3 TIMES more of your money stays here when you shop at a locally owned, independent business, so 

Shop Local!

The Regulator will donate 10% of our sales on Saturday, May 11 to Durham's non-profit independent business alliance:

Wednesday, May 8, 2013

Clyde (PapaDaddy) Edgerton on the Bassinet and Crib

From PapaDaddy's Book for New Fathers:

For the first few months, before using the crib, you'll be using a bassinet. I'm suggesting you keep this in your and your wife's bedroom, assuming you use the same bedroom. Some experts declare that the baby should sleep with you, some say in another room. If you go with the bassinet idea, most people buy expensive white wicker ones with little handles and a satin pillow and all that, or they inherit one. Caleb and Cindy realized that a little baby can't half see and couldn't care less, so why not use an ice cooler--with the top thrown away. Not the Styrofoam kind. The hard kind--like a Coleman.

When the baby is about three months old and you need a crib to replace the cooler (a crib is much bigger than a bassinet), you will be so sleep deprived you will not recognize your baby and will be falling down a lot.

**! Assemble the crib before the baby is born.

The crib comes in a big cardboard box with staples so deep you will need pliers and a flashlight to get these staples out. Most of the instructions for crib assembly come from foreign countries and say things like "Assemble Part B into upper part of Part B with plier." I assembled our crib in our living room over a number of days, and when at 4 a.m. on the last day of assembly--having just heard the morning paper slap onto the driveway--I started rolling the thing to the child's room, I found it would not fit through the hall door. Put the crib together in the room where the baby will sleep.

Clyde will read from his new book, PapaDaddy's Book for New Fathers: Advice to Dads of All Ages, Thursday night (May 9) at 7:00. A good time is guaranteed for everyone who is or ever was a dad, a mom, or a child...

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Working in an amazon warehouse

Sounds like its a little different from working at The Regulator..

“The feedback we’re getting is it’s like being in a slave camp."

From Britain's Financial Times:

Amazon Unpacked

Friday, February 8, 2013

Julian Barnes on the future of books

This from the wonderful preface, "A Life with Books," which fronts Julian Barnes' recent book of essays: Through the Window :
"John Updike, towards the end of his life, became pessimistic about the future of the printed book:

            For who, in that unthinkable future
            When I am dead, will read?  The printed page
            Was just a half-millennium’s brief wonder...

            I am more optimistic, both about reading and about books.  There will always be non-readers, bad readers, lazy readers – there always were.  Reading is a majority skill but a minority art.  Yet nothing can replace the exact, complicated, subtle communion between absent author and entranced, present reader.  Nor do I think the e-reader will ever completely supplant the physical book – even if it does so numerically.  Every book feels and looks different in your hands; every Kindle download feels and looks exactly the same... Books will have to earn their keep---and so will bookshops.  Books will have to become more desirable:  not luxury goods, but well-designed, attractive, making us want to pick them up, buy them, give them as presents, keep them, think about re-reading them, and remember in later years that this was the edition in which we first encountered what lay inside.  I have no Luddite prejudice against new technology; it’s just that books look as if they contain knowledge, while e-readers look as if they contain information.  My father’s school (book) prizes are nowadays on my shelves, ninety years after he first won them.  I’d rather read Goldsmith’s poems in this form than online."

"Reading is a majority skill but a minority art." Boy, does that sum up a lot in just nine words. And as a fan of physical books, I think that "books look as if they contain knowledge, while e-readers look as if they contain information" says a whole lot as well.

Julian Barnes is a wonderful writer--elegant yet to the point, and intensely humane. I'm just finishing his last novel, The Sense of an Ending, which won the Man Booker Prize in 2011, and I'm wondering why I've never read any of his work until a week ago. But I intend to rapidly make up for lost time.

Tom Campbell

Monday, January 14, 2013

Looks like we struck a nerve with that last post

But it is sad but true that physical bookstores are very often used as "showrooms" by people wanting to browse books before ordering them on-line. This phenomenon is so important to amazon's sales that the books they have begun to publish themselves have not done well--because they are not on display in physical bookstores.

We did not, however, want to make everyone using a smart phone in our store feel unwelcome. Hey, we use the things ourselves! But given how widespread "showrooming" has become, we felt a need to point out that browsing local but ordering on-line is not a development we are thrilled with.

As for buying books for your kindle: we sell e-books that can be read on pretty much every device but a kindle. And that is because of amazon's policies, not ours. Amazon locks the kindle down to their site and their e-books. Of course there is a way you can hack your kindle and side-load e-books from non-amazon sources onto it. But you didn't hear that from us...

Memo to the guy scanning books with his cell phone in our science section

You can now browse books before you buy them from amazon at one of amazon's new retail showrooms! There's one in the 1300 block of Ninth Street...