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Posts Tagged ‘new jersey’

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Photo: Bryan Anselm for the New York Times
Co-managers Maureen Disimile and John D. Ynsua at the employee-owned Montclair Book Center in New Jersey innovate to keep the magic going.

Who doesn’t find a bookstore magical — especially an independent bookstore? It takes a certain amount of flexibility and creativity to keep one going and not get plowed under by a certain online billionaire. If we all look for books first at our local indy, we can help keep the magic alive.

In New Jersey, Montclair Book Center has found that employee ownership, ability to improvise, and independent-minded customers are critical.

Dana Jennings writes at the New York Times, “Montclair Book Center is 35 years old, going on eternity. A ramshackle throwback to a funkier, more literary time, the store has shelves handmade from raw lumber. And its customers and clerks are often just as eccentric as the shelves.

“I’ve been shopping and snooping there since 1995 and still haven’t exhausted all of this biblioscape’s labyrinths and warrens — some of which, I suspect, lead to C.S. Lewis’s Narnia or Mervyn Peake’s Gormenghast. …

“I’ve stumbled across Italo Calvino limited editions, a hardcover of William Burroughs’s ‘Naked Lunch,’ and a stash of musty, black-and-white comics magazines from the 1960s and ’70s that included ‘Eerie, Creepy and Savage Tales.’ …

“The place is suffused with the sweet reek of ink, decaying pulp and vintage book dust — seductive scents that are like pheromones to book lovers.

“ ‘Unless you work at a bakery, you don’t get many customers talking about how good your store smells,’ said Pete Ryby, who has worked there since it opened in 1984 and is now the store’s primary owner. (Other employees own smaller stakes.)

“The pre-World War I building itself is so cockeyed that it looks set to pratfall down the street, as in some silent Buster Keaton two-reeler. … Still, the store is orderly if not antiseptic. Signs are hand-lettered; there are plenty of chairs for contemplation and ladders for climbing; and, whether by accident or puckish design, the crime section stops short at a fittingly dead end. …

“When I tell people about Montclair Book Center, I almost always mention Ynsua, a friendly 56-year-old filigreed with tattoos and earrings who started there in 1999 and who embodies its eclectic vibe. He owns five kilts and hundreds of vintage T-shirts — Count Chocula, the Emma Peel and John Steed ‘Avengers’ — and his passions as a bibliophile include comics, science fiction and pre-Renaissance European history. He’s also the store’s resident carpenter and a talented cartoonist who once studied at Joe Kubert’s cartooning school in Dover, N.J.

‘I’ve tried not to work for corporations,’ Ynsua said. ‘I like bosses who own their businesses. I like jobs where I can improvise.’

“There’s plenty of that at the Book Center. Indeed, improvisation has helped the store stay in business. Since it started selling used vinyl in 2014, for example, the records ‘have brought in a lot of new customers and increased foot traffic,’ said the co-owner Maureen Disimile, who manages the music side of the business. …

“A quick look at the records revealed a healthy infestation of Beatles; ‘Together,’ by Marvin Gaye and Mary Wells; the musical ‘Hair,’ in the ‘version originale française”’; and even the 1960s British blues rockers Blodwyn Pig. There was also a strong dose of 45s.

“Still, the store comes down to what employees call ‘book people.’ ‘I like being around literature, art and music, and the people who like that stuff,’ said Ynsua, who doesn’t own a computer or subscribe to cable TV. ‘My brain isn’t calcifying here.’

“Lucas McGuffie, a clerk since 2014, added:

‘The attraction is the books, and the book people. They aren’t stupid. They’re more open-minded. They’re smart enough to know that they don’t know all there is to know.’ “

More at the New York Times, here. By the way, if you love vintage vinyl records like the ones at the Montclair Book Center, check out a great R&B collection on my nephew’s site, here. For listening only.

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Photo: NJ Advance Media
Rodin sculpture of Napoleon turns up in a New Jersey town hall. Drew University grad student Mallory Mortillaro did the legwork to authenticate it. She is pictured here with Rodin expert Jérôme Le Blay.

Sometimes lost treasures actually get found. In this story, a bust by famed sculptor Auguste Rodin turned up in a New Jersey town hall, thanks to a determined grad student.

Justin Zaremba wrote about the discovery at NJ Advance Media.

“The art world lost track of acclaimed sculptor Auguste Rodin’s bust of Napoleon in the 1930s, but it’s apparently been on display for the past 85 years in the most unlikely of places — the council chambers in Madison [New Jersey] Borough Hall. …

” ‘Napoléon Enveloppé Dans Son Rêve’ (‘Napoleon Wrapped in his Dream’) was ‘long rumored’ to be Rodin’s work but the borough and the Hartley Dodge Foundation, which owns the sculpture, didn’t know for certain until about two years ago … [when] Drew University graduate student Mallory Mortillaro was hired by the foundation to go through the various art pieces at the Hartley Dodge Memorial Building.

“The bust was able to hide for so long, he said, because it weighs 700 pounds and requires about five people to move it and its attached pedestal. Rodin’s signature had been hidden from view for decades because that side of the sculpture was pushed against the wall. …

“The building and the artworks inside it were deeded over to Madison by Ethel Geraldine Rockefeller Dodge in the 1930s as a memorial to her son, Marcellus Hartley Dodge Jr., who died in a car accident at the age of 22. The foundation’s sole focus is on preserving the art and architecture of the building. …

“Mortillaro began her detective work by researching every book on Rodin she could find, doing online searches, visiting the Rockefeller archives and contacting officials in the art world.

“Mortillaro, now a teacher at Lawton C. Johnson Middle School in Summit, pursued the case despite receiving the brush off from various art experts.

” ‘No one was being very receptive,’ she said.

Nevertheless, she persisted.

“Mortillaro got in touch with the world’s leading Rodin expert, Jérôme Le Blay, formerly of the Rodin Museum in Paris. …

“According to Mortillaro, when Le Blay walked into the council chambers he turned and said ‘Hello my friend, so is this where you have been hiding?’ …

“The bust had originally been conceived and begun in 1904 at the behest of New York collector John W. Simpson in 1904, but the commission wasn’t completed. Four years later, Thomas Fortune Ryan saw the unfinished piece in Rodin’s studio and acquired it. Rodin completed the piece in 1910. …

“[Hartley Dodge Foundation trustee Nicholas] Platt said the borough and the foundation kept the bust’s identity hidden until now because the insurance company wouldn’t insure the piece for its value and allow them to have the bust open to the public. That’s why for a limited time, it’ll be open to the public — though protected by security — before it leaves the Garden State.

“Platt estimated the piece was worth anywhere from ‘the mid-millions to the 10 million’ range depending on the market.”

The bust will go out on loan to the Philadelphia Museum of Art for a year.

More here.

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Someone who used to know her well alerted me to the story of the Mystery Grammy Nominee. At 51 and without a record label, she has managed to get a remarkable burst of attention for her music.

Writes Christopher Morris at Variety, “Linda Chorney used the Recording Academy’s Grammy 365 website to connect with voters.

“Armed only with a computer and some chutzpah, a longshot snuck through the back door and into the Grammy Awards competition this year.
The resourceful Linda Chorney secured a Grammy nomination in the category of Americana album for her self-produced, self-released ‘Emotional Jukebox’ by taking her mission directly to voters, employing the peer-to-peer function of the Recording Academy’s own site for members, Grammy 365.

“Many in the tight-knit Americana community have reacted quizzically, and sometimes vehemently, to Chorney’s nomination, which trumped several well-known artists in the genre. The virtually unknown Sea Bright, N.J.-based musician will face off on Feb. 12 against a field of nominees that has collectively garnered a total of 23 Grammys. And while some question her methods, her online campaign falls completely within the academy’s parameters for acceptable self-promotion.” Read more.

There are several videos on YouTube. What do you think? Leave a comment.

Follow us on twitter @LunaStellaBlog1.

Update: Chorney didn’t win a Grammy, but she has been invited to sing the national anthem at Fenway Park before an April 2012 Red Sox game, another item on her “bucket list.”

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