Faulkner House on the front page!

Although we wish it were for other reasons, our little bookstore was on the front page of today’s Times Picayune / New Orleans Advocate, in an article about the challenges of re-opening during the pandemic.

In the photograph by David Grunfeld, store co-owner Devereaux Bell “looks for a certain book” which we’re quite sure must be for one of our many happy subscription customers.

Quoting the article “Faulkner House Books, a mainstay for rare editions and fine literature in the French Quarter, opened May 18 and by the afternoon had sold five books to four customers, one of whom “was desperate for some Milton,” said manager Joanne Sealy. Sealy said her “tiny” store can only take three customers at a time now, and all sign in and need to wear masks and gloves. Hand sanitizer is trickier because of its potential to damage the books, and she trusts that her customers will know how to acquit themselves indoors during the first, tentative steps toward reopening.” But by far the best part of the article is Joanne casually inserting the word “maunder” into things:

“I don’t want people maundering over the books, but you do have to browse”

I’d never even heard of it before, but especially in these days of masks and droplets, “to talk in a rambling manner” is not something up with which one can put; and so it is wonderful to have such a succint word with which to protect oneself. Speaking of pandemic precautions, last week we were picked up in the paper for our old-fashioned contact tracing system:

And Steven Melendez of Very Local included our store in a smart piece about how New Orleans bookstores are coping with the crisis. There’s a nice mention of our growing Instagram page, with nearly 1,000 followers and counting, as well as some nice quotes from the store’s other co-owner, Garner Robinson:

“What makes a bookstore great in a community is it’s a gathering place, and now with the pandemic we can’t gather”

Also in the piece is a brief description of our subscription service, which although no longer in its infancy, we are still very excited to promote: “The bookstore has rolled out monthly subscription packs catered to individual tastes, based on a “dossier” built from a questionnaire submitted by interested customers and conversations with Faulkner House. “It’s been actually really nice now that we’re into our second month of it to see the repeat business,” said Robinson, explaining customers can also call to order individual selections if they prefer.”

New Orleans Magazine runs story on Faulkner subscription service

Kelly Massicot writes in the current edition of New Orleans Magazine about our new subscription service! Check out the full article here.

NEW ORLEANS – Faulkner House Books has announced the launch of a new book subscription service for local bibliophiles.

“If you’ve been to the store, Joanne has likely recommended a book or two that are now among your favorites,” said a press release about the new offer. “She’s been part of the store here in Pirate’s Alley for 25 years and gives the best reading advice around. Now you can get the same every month, delivered to your home.”

The service is a three-step process that includes picking a subscription option, answering a few questions to complete your dossier and then each month Joanne will select three to five books personally for your subscription each month.

The subscription packages range from $100 a month to $1,100 for a 12-month subscription.

Faulkner House: Percy editions

Dear friends,

As many of you know, last year my friend Devereaux and I partnered up to buy the historic Faulkner House bookstore here in New Orleans. We had a great first few months, thanks to our incredible staff, Joanne and Peter, and to the stream of visitors to the French Quarter, so many of whom venture down Pirate’s Alley to see us. We’re fortunate to have some longstanding customers who call in their orders, or trust us to choose books for them. But over 95% of our revenue comes from walk-ins, to whom our doors are closed during this quarantine.

Much of the store’s charm is the place itself, an 1837 townhouse where Faulkner himself lived while writing his first novel, Soldier’s Pay. Rosemary and Joe, who founded the bookstore, renovated and furnished the building exquisitely. We’ve never sold online, and don’t have so much as a cash register (although we do accept credit cards!). Like so many of you out there, we’re not quite sure what the future holds. But we’ve got more time than ever to read, and so far the deliveryman comes every day, dropping off new books coming in from our publishers and rare book “scouts,” and leaving with packages bound for our loyal customers.

We don’t have an online inventory to browse, but we’re known for our Southern and great classics, literature and poetry, and especially our rare and first editions. As an experiment, we’re going to start emailing selections to friends. If anything catches your eye, or if you’d like us to suggest something, call or email and we’ll drop it in the mail to you. We also offer gift certificates!

We’re starting with Walker Percy, a favorite Louisiana writer who was dear friends with the store’s former owners; unfortunately he passed away the very year Faulkner House opened. We have hardcover and paperback editions of all of his novels, as well as one of the best collections of rare and first editions around, including signed volumes. We also have a private collection of his photographs, letters, and other memorabilia, such as this 1978 letter to Professor Jay Martin at UC Irvine, alongside a 1950 photograph of Percy and wife Bunt vacationing in Cuba.

percycuba

Especially these days with so much online and on-demand, owning a book is not just about the reading, it’s about the physical book itself: it’s history and patina. One of my favorite things about our collection is that we have such a range of editions. For example today I pulled out three first edition, first printing Percy novels.

threebooks

This Moviegoer, with a signed book plate, is priced at $2700. We also have a gorgeous signed first/first Lost in the Cosmos for $100. While not as well known as Percy’s debut novel, his “Last Self Help Book” is a gorgeous edition to any library. And we have an unsigned first/first Second Coming for just $32. It almost makes you wonder why anyone would buy a new one!

But of course there are many reasons to buy new books, and we stock many, including these nice Picador editions of his novels, all priced in the $20 range.

If you’d like to order any of these, or any other books, or if you just want to chat about literature, please call or email us. And follow us on Instagram, where we’re starting to post some of our more interesting editions.

Stay safe out there!

Garner

44 Books To Read If Your Travel Plans Are Canceled

If you’re searching for the silver lining of your “self isolation” you could do worse than finding it in a good book. We have plenty here at the store, so put on your hazmat suit and come visit! Or better yet, give us a call and we’ll drop something in the mail.

For inspiration, check out Buzzfeed’s list of 44 Books To Read Over Spring Break If Your Travel Plans Are Canceled on which #18 is Faulkner’s Soldiers’ Pay, written right here in 624 Pirate’s Alley. Here’s what our Proprietor Devereaux Bell has to say about it:

sub-buzz-109-1583519973-1

“This novel was Faulkner’s first. It was the book that introduced us to one of America’s greatest novelists, while happily subverting the writer’s dream of becoming a poet. It was written in 1920s New Orleans, in the bohemian French Quarter, in the very room that is now our bookshop. Like so many other stories at the time, it’s about a soldier coming home, about the world he comes home to — which makes it deeply relevant even today, nearly a century after its publication. We are, like Faulkner, quietly aware of a far-off war and the soldiers it sends home, often broken and lost. Faulkner’s soldier is Donald Mahon, who returns to his small Georgia town after World War I, to a place where ‘time and space had stood still.’ He is scarred — both figuratively and literally (his face mangled by machine-gun fire). The town’s characters — all vividly drawn, with that exquisite independence of voice and perspective and voice that became Faulkner’s trademark — are jolted by Donald’s return. They had mourned him as dead, and moved on — even his own father. We see them in the midst of their wants and needs and hopes and dreams, a menagerie of paths consistently misaligned. Like all of Faulkner’s great novels of the postbellum South, Soldier’s Pay is at heart a story about bitterness and disappointment in the wake of war and change, told through the stale intimacies of ordinary lives.”

Faulkner Fete in the news

A few days ago the New Orleans Advocate / Times Picayune published a social roundup that included some great photos from the recent Happy Birthday, Mr Faulkner! event, an annual fundraiser for the Pirate’s Alley Faulkner Society. Here are some of our favorite photos from the event, at the Hotel Peter & Paul. Take a look!

Jana Napoli and Laura Lane McNealJana Napoli and Laura Lane McNeal

Tom Hill & Andrea DubeTom Hill & Andrea Dube

Jay Parini, Anne Simms Pincus, Permele Doyle, & Garner RobinsonJay Parini, Anne Simms Pincus, Permele Doyle, & Garner Robinson

Michael Harold, Rosary O'Neill, & Dr. Quinn Peeper Michael Harold, Rosary O’Neill, & Dr. Quinn Peeper

Remembering Derek Walcott

The death on March 17, 2017 of Derek Walcott surfaced memories of his visit to New Orleans in the spring of 2002 with his wife, Fay. Major Jackson, a young poet friend then teaching at Xavier University, now at the University of Vermont and poetry editor of the Harvard Review, asked if Faulkner House Books would, with Xavier, cosponsor Walcott’s visit to New Orleans. We did and on April 15, with a large gathering of readers and admirers we celebrated the life and work of the Nobel Laureate from Castries, St. Lucia, West Indies.

Following his comments on how pleased he was to be in our city, Walcott read a few of his poems, answered several questions, signed books, and mingled comfortably and cheerfully with the awed crowd. Rosemary and I hosted a dinner at a French Quarter restaurant for the Walcotts, Major Jackson, and a few local poets and writers. We were an animated group until Derek asked, “Who here has read James Joyce’s Ulysses?” Our responses were either unintelligible mumblings or complete silence. He smiled and in consolation allowed that our replies were typical of what he heard from other groups.

We should have anticipated the question. Walcott was a classicist. He certainly admired Homer. His book-long poem, Omeros, is a contemporary re-telling of the Odyssey. He also wrote a play entitled Ulysses.

To commemorate the evening the bookstore published 100 letterpress broadsides of a Derek Walcott poem from his book The Bounty. Carolyn Schleh, a local artist, designed, printed, numbered and signed each one. My apprehension about whether Derek would also sign them was quickly dispelled. He was quite pleased with the broadside; he immediately sat at my desk and neatly signed each one as I handed it to him. When we finished, he gave me one of his cards, which I still have, and asked that I send the first ten broadsides to him at his Greenwich address in New York City. Most of the remaining broadsides were sold that evening. Number 64 is framed and hangs prominently next to the poetry cases in the bookstore. Very few are left.

Another Walcott connection occurred a few years later. His publisher, Robert Giroux, donated most of his books and papers to Loyola University in New Orleans. I was asked to appraise the gift; a tedious but pleasurable task. Included were first editions of Derek Walcott’s books, all warmly inscribed to Bob Giroux. More exciting were the letters – real letters – they wrote to each other. To see, to hold, and to read their correspondence was a most exhilarating treat. One of the special joys of a hopeless bibliophile.

-Joe DeSalvo, Owner, Faulkner House Books

Stewart O’Nan’s 16th Novel: An Underground Jerusalem Thriller

City of Secrets, Stewart O’Nan (Viking, 2016, 194 pages)

Militant Zionists bombed the King David Hotel in 1946 and killed 91 people. This terrorist attack occurs again in the lives of Stewart O’Nan’s characters, all Holocaust survivors and underground rebels operating in the British Crown’s Palestine. City of Secrets is a literary thriller, a fast but thoughtful read about survivor guilt, post-World War II Jerusalem, and the intoxication of violence.

O’Nan, a skilled storyteller with fifteen previous novels, won the Pirate’s Alley Faulkner Society’s first novel prize in 1992. Rosemary James (publisher of The Double Dealer) introduced me to O’Nan’s City of Secrets, and I’m compelled to share her recommendation. O’Nan builds suspense from the first page and carefully weaves the reader from past to present and back again.

fullsizerender-1

Memories of the dead live on affecting the present. Ghosts of Brand’s wife and family members lurk in his mind as silently and destructively as the Haganah and Irgun rebels work in the shadows of the ancient city. Brand “wanted the revolution—like the world—to be innocent, when it had never been.” He lived through internment as a prisoner mechanic, spared by both the Nazis and the Russians, because they said “he can fix anything.” He “knows the truth,” but decides suicide cannot fix his pain.

Brand saw his wife murdered and speaks to her still. She watches him sleep with Eva, a compatriot and prostitute. As he drives sandy streets and feels the Mediterranean breeze, Brand considers this new life: “It was a kind of cowardice he would never understand, though he was guilty of it himself. How did you kill and still call yourself righteous? How did you live when you let the people you loved die?”

With the war over, survival now depends on trusting the mixed messages and clandestine codes of an insurgency network that supplied Brand an alias (“Jossi”) and a taxi. Jossi drives his taxi, steering the reader and tourists around the city, introducing foreigners to Jerusalem, “a puzzle box built of symbols, a confusion of old and new, armored cars and donkeys in the streets, Bedouins and bankers.”

Like a low-level insurgent, the reader never knows more than what’s necessary to keep reading, to keep driving, keep trusting in the hope of learning how to survive. Such trust requires Brand to accept lethal orders from the unknown, courier weapons and spies through checkpoint searches. Leaders speak in propaganda, be they leading insurgents or occupying forces. He becomes a hero of a train stickup, not from action but from agreed-upon perception, by “barking” commands with the “familiar intonation” learned from years in killing camps.

City of Secrets reads with the speed of an action flick that matters. Brand must decide who to trust as he grapples with life after the Holocaust. Feeling expendable to the secret cause, he learns that only he can live up to his memories of lost loved ones and that true survival requires an open faith.

–Alex B. Johnson, Faulkner House Books