I don’t know if I’m going soft in my old age or what, but I didn’t hate the holidays at all this year. From the morning I ran outside barefoot in my bathrobe to give the garbage men a twenty-dollar bill, it was just one sweet moment after another. Since my children don’t live here anymore, it was lovely to have a couple of them return. Jane helped me get the Christmas tree and Vince found Chanukah candles for 89 cents a box. Then I cooked their favorite dishes as they sat side by side on the couch joyously playing Mario Kart on the Nintendo Switch. Hayes and Maria were in Ecuador with her family but showed up on Facetime at key moments.
It’s hard to do much better in describing Malka Older’s unusual new collection, “…and Other Disasters,” published by Baltimore-based Mason Jar Press, than sci-fi king Bruce Sterling, who commented that Older is like “a psychoanalyst in a planetary refugee camp.”
My neighbor Pam has three wild boys, and all have begged for years to get a dog. Particularly Rocco, the middle one, a born animal lover. But who will take care of this dog? asked Pam, knowing perfectly well who it would be. Sorry boys, no dog. It’s already too much around here.
In February 2019, about six months into my empty nest lifestyle, I realized how many more hours there are in a day when you live alone. I thought I might need a hobby. Since I already speak a little Spanish and have been wanting to improve, I signed up for online lessons at Berlitz.com.
The Baltimore Book Festival returns two months later than usual, now merged with Light City into a 10-day event called Brilliant Baltimore. Most of the book festival events take place over the first weekend, Friday, Nov. 1 to Sunday, Nov. 3, with a few evening events through Wednesday.
The location has changed–take a look at the map on the website before heading over. Almost all of the staged events and the book sales are in the Columbus Center, the big glass building on Pier 5. The CityLit stage is in the Pier 5 Hotel, and the exhibitors are still at tables encircling the harbor. The Children’s stage and the Comic Pavilion are over there too, in their traditional spots.
I was having a fine, if ordinary, summer day until two things happened, both right outside my front door. The first time I left the house, I discovered a hit-and-run driver had lopped off my rearview mirror. That afternoon, I briefly left my iPhone in the car, and by the time I went out to get it, it was gone. That iPhone was one of the only working parts of my brain, and it was not even halfway paid for.
I picture them like evil dots on a GPS map, miscreants on the move, turning on my street, stopping at my house, dropping off a random to-go order of misery. Small and medium for me this time. But just as I was ruminating on the terrible power of bad people, the universe gave me an opportunity to notice just the opposite, a couple helpings of positive vibes I had done nothing to deserve.
The Ivy Bookshop
When The Ivy Bookshop moves a quarter-mile down Falls Road this spring, Baltimore City will become the home of what might be the most beautiful and bucolic bookstore in the United States. Set on 2.7 lush green acres beside the Jones Falls, in a light-filled 19th century house remodeled by Ziger/Snead architects, the bookstore will be a surprise to those who associate the city with rough neighborhoods and presidential insults.
The 18-year-old Ivy opened its Lake Falls Village doors in dark days for bookstores, a time when the rise of big-box retail, Amazon and e-books combined to sound a death knell for concerns like Baltimore's Bibelot.
Now, thanks to the idealism and grit of three consecutive owners—founder Darielle Linehan, Ed and Ann Berlin, now Emma Snyder—it has survived to be a part of what could become a golden age for small business. Linehan conceived of and crafted a lively North Baltimore neighborhood bookstore; the Berlins expanded its reach through the city by partnering with key organizations like the Pratt and the Baltimore Book Festival; and since Snyder joined them in 2017--also the year a second location, Bird in Hand, opened near the Hopkins campus--the store's demographic has steadily broadened. As Snyder sees it, with every aspect of our lives awash in technology, "local businesses feel human. They create a space for community in people's lives."
The new Ivy will embrace that role, taking a building that used to be a sanctuary of the Divine Life Church and creating a sanctuary for books—plus a coffee bar, a workroom for classes and meetings, and a studio apartment for visiting writers or perhaps Airbnb types. Outside, on the lawn, in the meditation garden, on the wide porch and patios, one can easily envision weddings, literary salons, an al fresco summer reading series.
"Fundamentally, a bookstore is a collaboration between the owners and staff and the community," says Snyder, who plans to invite visual artists and urban gardeners to be part of the new Ivy.
"What can happen here is limited only by the imagination," she says. "Which is kind of perfect, since books are all about imagination."
“Savage Appetites” is a book about women who love crime, or at least stories about crime, and author Rachel Monroe is one of them. “I was a teenager storming with hormones when I pulled Helter Skelter off my parents’ shelf,” she writes. “When I learned that the Columbine killers’ journals were online, I read those, too.”
Monroe’s debut work of narrative nonfiction opens at Opryland in Nashville, where she’s attending CrimeCon, a fan gathering hosted by the “all crime, all the time” cable network, Oxygen. The conference is attended almost exclusively by women, the main consumers of the true-crime genre. She stands in front of a Wall of Motives, where attendees have stuck post-its with their reasons for being there–“justice and rage,” “morbid curiosity and sisterhood,” “cupcakes and patriarchy battling,” “fear and revenge”–and thinks about her own.
Judith Krummeck’s new book, “Old New Worlds” (Green Writers Press, 360 pp., $24.95), occupies a unique spot on the spectrum of creative non-fiction. Half the book is actually historical fiction about her great-great-grandmother, Sarah Barker, who immigrated with her missionary husband, George, from England to the wilds of South Africa in the early nineteenth century. The other half is a memoir about the author’s own immigration from South Africa to the U.S., and her quest for the facts of Sarah’s life on which she based her imaginative story.