Book Shop: Book Now, Bendigo.

So this review was originally going to be about Bendigo’s Book Mark, which still remains the best secondhand book store I’ve ever had the pleasure of visiting.

Such gems I’ve managed to find there are Mick Foley’s rare first novel, Tietam Brown, and a $7 copy of Michael Jackson’s Moonwalk. I scoured the shelves for over an hour looking for that one. When I took it to the counter, the man who served me marveled at it being left on the shelves; he’d put all Jackson-related literature on their website to be sold at an elevated price after his sudden death.

But perhaps my friend Hannah and I left it too late on a Saturday afternoon to visit the shop: they close at 4pm and we got there at 4:05!

So we decided instead to venture over to Book Now, located at 1 Farmers Lane, opposite Rosiland Park. There’s no denying I’ve gotten some good titles there before—a first edition of The Hotel New Hampshire by John Irving springs to mind—but I find it a bit stuffy and overpriced for a secondhand book store.

However, this weekend’s trip yielded some fantastic finds for both me and Hannah. Hannah is studying to be a doctor in Russian history and social sciences, so she took home a book on Nicholas II of Russia, and his wife Alexandra Fyodorovna, parents of Anastasia of Russia, and Atonement by Ian McEwan.

I knew Book Now has a large collection of Joyce Carol Oates books, so I rummaged through them in the vain hope of finding My Sister, My Love, a recent novel based on the JonBenet Ramsey murder. And low and behold, I did find it resting on a shelf right up the back of the shop.

My Book Now trip was pretty much complete after that, however I did spot some Armistead Maupin titles, and picked up a few of those. (To be honest, I own so many of his books I wasn’t 100% sure that I don’t already own The Night Listener and Maybe the Moon. But at $6 a pop, who am I to complain if I do?!) Finally, I stumbled across Naomi Wolf’s The Beauty Myth and decided to add that to my ever-growing pile.

So what began as a somewhat disappointing afternoon when Book Mark wasn’t open, ended as a surprisingly great one, with four new additions to my bookshelf.

Bendigo only has a few really good bookstores, so if you’re ever up in Central Victoria, visiting the Bendigo Art Gallery (stay tuned for more this afternoon) or the Golden Dragon Chinese Museum, pop on over to Book Now or Book Mark.

I know I will on my next visit.

Related: Evolution of the Bookshop at the Wheeler Centre.

In Appreciation of Mick Foley.

The Hotel New Hampshire by John Irving Review.

Is There Really a Beauty Myth?

Armistead Maupin in Conversation with Noni Hazlehurst.

Elsewhere: [Book Now] Homepage.

[Bendigo Book Mark] Homepage.

Image via Book Now.

In Appreciation of Mick Foley.

 

For long-time readers of this blog (does six months qualify as a long-term blog-reading relationship?), you will be familiar with my fondness for professional wrestler turned author, Mick Foley.

When I first started watching World Wrestling Entertainment (then still WWF) in 2001, Foley had a sporadic recurring role, after resigning as fictional “commissioner” of the company. Little did I know just how affecting he had been to the hardcore wrestling scene.

In a nutshell, Foley started out in the independent wrestling scene, then gradually made his way through the ranks, beginning in squash matches (where a bigger star beats a newcomer or unknown in very little time and with very little effort) in WWE, then World Championship Wrestling (WCW) and finally Extreme Championship Wrestling (ECW), where he made a namewell, technically, three namesfor himself.

As an unorthodox professional wrestler, with an out of shape body and not a lot technical mat moves, Foley needed that extra something, which he came up with in the form of his three alter egos: Mankind, Dude Love and Cactus Jack.

Mankind is the one many wrestling fans would be most familiar with, with Foley wearing a Hannibal Lector-esque mask and brandishing a personified sock on his hand, affectionately known as Mr. Socko, which would be used in his Mandible Claw move. Mankind teamed up with The Rock in The Rock n’ Sock Connection in the late ’90s.

Dude Love favours tie-die and espouses the 1960’s hippie frame of mind, and is probably the least well-known of the three.

Finally, Cactus Jack is quintessential “Hardcore Legend”, using thumbtacks and Barbie (a baseball bat encased in barbed wire, oftentimes set on fire), wearing leopard print leggings and a flanny, and is often invoked in matches such as Hell in a Cell and especially his Last Man Standing matches in his feud with Triple H, again in the late ’90s.

After some time in Japan, where a lot of professional wrestlers believe you need to spend time if you wish to be taken seriously as an athlete, Foley debuted in the WWE, where he had some of his most memorable matches, mentioned above.

While my forbidden love for wrestling introduced me to many sub-categories (like my favourite band, Our Lady Peace, American geography, and my obsession an subsequent research articles and blog posts on the Chris Benoit double murder-suicide), none is more dear to my heart than discovering Mick Foley as a memoirist, children’s storybook writer, and novelist.

I own all three of his memoirs, Have a Nice Day: A Tale of Blood & Sweatsocks, Foley is Good: And the Real World is Faker Than Wrestling, and The Hardcore Diaries, as well as his first novel, Tietam Brown (watch this space to see if I can muscle a review out of a friend who’s had my copy on loan for months), which I serendipitously found in a second-hand book store and could barely contain my excitement. Yes, I love rare and obscure authors, okay?!

Foley has recently published his fourth memoir, Countdown to Lockdown: A Hardcore Journal, which I can’t wait to get my grubby little mitts on. In addition, Foley’s much publicised computer illiteracy has been conquered, with the advent of his blog, Countdown to Lockdown, and Jezebel has cottoned on to the awesomeness that is Mick Foley”, with two feature articles on the Hardcore Legend in the past week.

Foley paved the way for wrestlers with brains to parlay into other areas they could be useful in, with Chris Jericho (memoirist, musician, actor/host, commentator) and Edge (memoirist) springing to mind. And now he is speaking out for sexual assault victims in a category that has traditionally been termed “women’s issues”.

Foley is a truly smart, talented, funny, inspiring and admirable man, and if you like what you’ve read here, I urge you to pick up one of his books (or if reading’s not your thing, YouTube a match of his; but reading probably is your thing if you’re looking at this here blog) and prepare to have your lifeor at the very least, your perception of professional wrestlingchanged.

Elsewhere: [Countdown to Lockdown] Homepage.

[Jezebel] Wrestling Star Mick Foley Blows Our Collective Mind.

[Jezebel] The Day I Beat Down Mick Foley.

[Slate] The Wrestler & the Cornflake Girl.

Taking a Leaf Out of Amazon’s Book: Bad Customer Reviews

Jeanette Demain recently wrote for Salon.com an article on “amateur critics” bemoaning the plotlines of her favourite books, most of them canonical.

At the end of her Amazon search-related compilation of readers’ negative comments on classics from “The Grapes of Wrath to 1984”, she urges readers to peruse Amazon’s customer reviews of their favourite books.

So, I thought I might take a stab at this, and compiled my very own list of attacks on the books that “changed my life forever”.

To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee.

One of the finest pieces of modern American literature, I was hard pressed to find bad reviews on this one. The harshest was from three-star-rater Jane A. Marshall, who said To Kill a Mockingbird was “a good book but not as good as the movie. The exact ending as to how the attacker was killed left too much doubt as to who actually was the killer—I don’t think this was a good way to end the book.” Mmm, good, good, good. And more good.

Seriously, though, for my money Harper Lee crafted one of the best endings of all time. So much so that I defaced my copy by highlighting the passage for easy retrieval when I want to marvel at the beauty and power a good writer can wield.

The Catcher in the Rye by J.D. Salinger.

One Amazon discussion thread was titled “Catcher in the Rye should be banned”, and continued with “not because it’s obscene or perverse”—ever read Bret Easton Ellis, my friend?—“but…because it’s a lousy book.” Eloquently put.

The general consensus in response to that thread was a) who are you to judge whether a book should be banned based on it’s lousy-ness, and b) we are not in favour of censorship. My sentiments exactly.

Valley of the Dolls by Jacqueline Susann.

While I will agree that this book is somewhat fluffy compared to the others on this list, I wouldn’t say that it was “a huge disappointment,” according to A Customer. They go on to say that, “I have loved the movie version of Valley of the Dolls for a long time. Admittedly, it is a BAD movie, but its camp sensibility and generally over-the-top style make it a classic of the ‘bad movie’ genre.”

Put a different way, Wayne M. Malin calls it a “silly soap opera that follows three women… [through] death, suicide, lesbianism, cancer, marriages, tons of drug abuse, institutionalisation, etc…” Yes, but isn’t that the appeal of the thing?!

I will agree on one of the most common allegations, that protagonist Anne Welles “ is perhaps the dullest character ever created,” said QueensGirl.

The Historian by Elizabeth Kostova.

The author of this book, whose “plot unfolds through three points of view—a 16-year-old girl in search of her father who disappeared into vampire land in 1972 and reveals himself through letters to her, the father who was searching sixteen years earlier for his abducted thesis advisor who secondarily reveals himself through a trail of letters, and the thesis advisor who was searching for Dracula through historical research,” has apparently “committed an act of such brutality that it rivals any atrocity that Vlad Tepes [aka Dracula] ever committed,” reviewer Carlos asserts. (Thanks for the plot summation, William J. Meggs!)

Meggs goes on to say that “if you would enjoy the tedium of being an historian digging through old libraries, you might enjoy the tedium of reading this book.” I would, and I did, thankyou very much!

Tietam Brown by Mick Foley.

It was difficult to find a bad review for this novel, “because only wrestling fans read it.” Which is probably 90% true, but even non-wrestling fan reviewers found it a struggle to comment negatively on it.

But lo and behold, I found the diamond in the rough in A Customer’s (again—take credit for your opinions, people!) response: “The dialogue is painfully bad, I’d rather be stuck in the ring with Mick for ten minutes than be subjected to reading another ten minutes of this book.” With Foley’s trademark barbed wire-encased baseball bat and thumbtacks? That is a fate worse than death.

Harsh.

Watership Down by Richard Adams.

Mostly light-hearted fun-poking to be found in the Customer Reviews section for this book. Caraculiambro says, “I suppose my threshold for silliness for books with talking animals (particularly bunnies) is The Wind in the Willows. Anything more sophisticated than that is preposterous, I think… on the whole, it’s hard to take it seriously unless you’re a pre-teen girl. But if you are, good luck with the language.” Touché.

Much in the same vein, Lucy the Bargain Hunter says, “this book is really boring, but since there was no bad language or sex, I didn’t have any excuse for not trying to get through it.” She then goes on to ask, as I have many a time after ploughing through a Jane Austen or Stephenie Meyer, “everyone else loves this book. Maybe there is something wrong with me[?].” To borrow a phrase from the late Brittany Murphey’s Tai in Clueless, “everyone’s entitled to their own opinion, a’ight?”

A Lion’s Tale by Chris Jericho.

Again, another WWE alumnus’ tome, so it is geared towards a very niche audience with mostly glowing reviews. The most damning assessment comes from Sean M. Hurley, who says the autobiography doesn’t live up to that of Mick Foley’s debut, Have a Nice Day, or even “The Heartbreak Kid” Shawn Michaels’ ghost-written memoir. “My main gripe with the book is that Chris doesn’t get as personal with the reader as one would have enjoyed. Mick really exposes himself and allows himself to be vulnerable, while Chris still seemed to be holding back…” he says. Funny, as I found A Lion’s Tale to be on par, if not better, than Have a Nice Day

Another City, Not My Own by Dominick Dunne.

Dredging through page after page after page of one star reviews hurt, as this is my absolute favourite of all the books on this list.

To dig the knife in even further, A Customer says “I had to rate the book at least one star for the review to be kept. Actually, it’s worth zero.” Show your face, nameless hater!

Next week, the positive reviews! Yay!

Elsewhere: [Salon] Amazon Reviewers Think This Masterpiece Sucks.