Wednesday, August 23, 2006

It's all in the tilt of the head

It' s the small things about a place that remind you that you're a foreigner.

So many things are the same no matter where you go. We all laugh and cry and eat and sleep and drink and love and learn. But.

Heads don't tilt the same no matter where you go.

I have always liked books. My book budget is ridiculous given my ridiculously low earnings. I reread 3 of Jane Austin's books for the millionth time this summer. And I enjoyed them as much as the first time. But going to book stores isn't as fun here as it is at home.

No caf├ęs inside book stores, no couches, no magazines, no lounging. But most of all, it's the way you have to tilt your head here. Think about how you tilt your head to look at book titles on the spine of a book. You have to tilt it to the right. Titles read from top to bottom. Wouldn't you think that kind of thing would be universal? Well, it's not. In France, titles read from bottom to top, so you have to tilt your head to the left. Go ahead, give it a try. Not just a quick tilt. Stand up, imagine you're looking at a big shelf of books and you have to stand that way for a while. Head tilted to the left. Not very comfortable is it? Or perhaps my discomfort in this position has more to do with my inflexibility when it comes to books and the selling of than my neck.

This is a very literary country. Books are a big deal here. Prices are set and book stores are not allowed to sell them at any other price. Unless they're in the clearance bin and that can only happen after a fixed amount of time after the publishing date. A HUGE deal is made about the literary prizes, Prix Goncourt and the like, and every Monsieur Untel knows who the winners are every year. There are used book stores, but not as widely developed as at home and frankly, they buy books for silly sums. 10 cents a book kind of thing.

Then there's the whole book cover thing. As I mentioned in yesterday's comments in response to Eric, the French are crap when it comes to marketing. And their books are perfect evidence of that. Millions of books are sold here with NOTHING on the front or back cover other than the name of the author, title of the book, and publisher. They make sure you can't judge a book by its cover.

I should be able to see the merit of all these differences. But I can't.

See, I told you I was inflexible.

15 comments:

zeb said...

Is this your way of saying I need to send you some books?

charlie said...

I now have a crick in my neck. Something to be said for reading on screen then?

Nicole said...

Zeb - Yes.

Charlie - No.

Lorraine said...

Well, that's very annoying. Except for the bit where they take books and writing so seriously. I like that a lot.

I reread "Pride & Prejudice" this summer.

Nicole said...

Lorraine - I know you did. When you mentioned it in your blog I got my copy out to bring on vacation. You're always inspiring me.

beth said...

I never realized how much I value our cute little small town book store! I almost want to stop by today, sit on the couch and drink a coffee just for you. I will send you some books right away!!

Eric said...

I am truely supprised, given the cultural bent for long slow relaxing meals and such that it would not be evident in a book store.

Nicole said...

Beth - Please do go sit on that couch and have a coffee for me!

Eric - I don't know what it is exactly. Maybe because they take the book thing so seriously they just figure it should be done without distractions. HOnestly, the people who work in book stores here are really serious about their jobs (and helpful and smart). Or maybe they just think I'll spill coffee all over the books.

beth said...

For you I will - and I don't even like coffee!

christi said...

beth! you dont like coffee either?! i dont either, and nicole gives me so much crap! (right my awesome aunt?)

Grish said...

I order all of my books on-line now-a-days. Mostly from Amazon but then again we really don't have "local bookstores" around here like we used too...

beth said...

Christi - You say that dear Nicole gives you crap - I have a hard time believing that sweet Nicole is capable of giving someone crap (HA!) I am so glad to hear that someone else on this planet also does not like coffee - I don't feel so alone anymore!
ps - I heard all about your Cub game and train ride - what a blast that must have been!

christi said...

beth-ah, yes the cubs game and such was insanity. definitly culturing for my grandmother and 2 cousins haha. and i do feel better knowing that despite you and nicole's long friendship, she has not pressured you into becoming a coffee drinker! :) luv you nicole!

Nicole said...

Grish - Me too. But I still like to browse. In Laval there are three small town book stores within walking distance of my house.

Beth and Christi - My work with you both is clearly not yet finished.

beth said...

Nicole, I need way too much work. . .give it up before you get too tired!