Saying goodbye to a bookshop

One of my favourite bookstores is closing. If you live in the Toronto area, particularly if you’re interested in books (and you probably are, if you’re reading my blog), you might have heard that Nicholas Hoare is retiring and will be closing his flagship store on April 1.

I can’t remember how old I was when I first visited Nicholas Hoare, but I do remember the impression it made on me. The warm lighting and the beautiful displays of books against the wooden shelves mesmerized me. Now, whenever I open that door and walk up those few steps, when I hear the creak of the floorboards, the classical music, when I walk by the fireplace–it all feels so welcoming and comfortable. And it might help that the store specializes in British books, as I admit to being a bit of an anglophile.

The quietness of the store has its appeal, too. I’ve always loved listening to other people discuss books. With these kinds of conversations, it somehow seems okay to eavesdrop or to jump in with a comment.

When I think of some of the books I’ve purchased from the store in the past year, I can’t think of one that was disappointing. I’m not sure if this is due to fine selection by the staff, or just some magical luck, but the books that immediately come to mind were all enjoyable: David Sedaris’ Me Talk Pretty One Day, Jeremy Mercer’s Time Was Soft There, Tom Rachman’s The Imperfectionists, Alix Ohlin’s Inside, Mary Horlock’s The Book of Lies, Ernest Hemingway’s A Moveable Feast.

It was at Nicholas Hoare where I found a beautiful copy of Philip Larkin’s The Whitsun Weddings that I gave to my father for his birthday one year. I’ve shopped for books for my cousin’s daughter in the children’s section at the back of the shop, and I’ve purchased various Christmas presents for friends and family here. And, of course, there have been those occasions when I’ve come in just to browse.

Near the end of 2012, I attended an in-store event where Nicholas Hoare presented some of his favourite books of the season. I feel fortunate to have had the chance to hear Mr. Hoare speak in person, as his passion for books was certainly evident.

I wish Mr. Hoare a happy retirement, and I thank him and his wonderful staff for all of their hard work. I’ll miss this store quite a bit, more than I thought I could miss a bricks-and-mortar shop, probably because it’s been much more than merely bricks and mortar.


Poetry NOW…and in the flesh

I like poetry, but I’m not familiar with as much contemporary work as I’d like to be. So I was glad to come across the event listing for Poetry NOW: 4th Annual Battle of the Bards, a competition featuring 20 Canadian poets.

The event was held at Harbourfront Centre last week. Each poet read for about five minutes, all hoping to win a spot at the 33rd annual International Festival of Authors and to have his or her book advertised in NOW magazine.

But it wasn’t just the exposure to some new writers that interested me. I was equally looking forward to hearing poetry out loud. Sometimes it’s nice to read poems in solitude, but other times it seems the words are meant to be listened to. And it’s certainly a treat to hear how the poet reads his or her own work.

I enjoyed the majority of the readings, but a few of the poets really made an impression on me: Linda Besner, Mark Callanan and Daniel Scott Tysdal. (Sandra Ridley ended up winning.) For your viewing (and listening) pleasure, here’s Tysdal reading “An Experiment in Form,” which is the same poem he read that night.