Nota Bene: Skip Prime Day?

Next Monday and Tuesday, Amazon is having its annual Prime Day sale (shouldn’t that be Prime Days?).

For many, this provides an opportunity to load up on all the consumer goods they want and don’t need (100″ TV, voice-operated device that records everything you say and sends it back to Amazon’s server farms for future use by…?). For others it’s an understandably good time to save a few well-needed dollars buying essentials they actually need (diapers, clothes for the kids, food).

But of course, it’s not so simple as a great deal. John Oliver recently broke down what it’s like to work at an Amazon warehouse, where things get particularly Dickensian during the run-up to Prime Day(s):

And now some workers at Amazon’s facility in Shakopee, Minnesota are planning a strike to protest working conditions.

Over at Moby Lives, Ryan Harrington—who noted that some white-collar Amazon workers are flying to Shakopee to join the strike—used the situation to make a helpful suggestion for what to do come Prime Day: Maybe shop somewhere else that day(s).

That applies particularly to books. The American Booksellers Association noted a number of things that your local indie store provides that Amazon, whatever your feelings about them, simply cannot (union labor, drag queen storytime, a cute place to get engaged).

One thing not on their list that absolutely should be: Bookstore cats.

Nota Bene: The Cat Who Knew When People Would Die

From Siddhartha Mukherjee’s “This Cat Sensed Death. What if Computers Could, Too?”:

Of the many small humiliations heaped on a young oncologist in his final year of fellowship, perhaps this one carried the oddest bite: A 2-year-old black-and-white cat named Oscar was apparently better than most doctors at predicting when a terminally ill patient was about to die … Adopted as a kitten by the medical staff, Oscar reigned over one floor of the Steere House nursing home in Rhode Island. When the cat would sniff the air, crane his neck and curl up next to a man or woman, it was a sure sign of impending demise. The doctors would call the families to come in for their last visit. Over the course of several years, the cat had curled up next to 50 patients. Every one of them died shortly thereafter.

Writer’s Desk: Write About Cats

This one should speak for itself. Per the Times:

The author of the short story “Cat Person,” which became a viral phenomenon after appearing in The New Yorker this month, has received a seven-figure book deal, according to a person with knowledge of the deal.

A collection from Kristen Roupenian, whose debut story in The New Yorker became the magazine’s second most-read article of 2017 despite being published in the Dec. 11 issue, will be published by Scout Press in 2019.

Roupenian’s story hit just about every meme-worthy topic of the age: Cats, dating, creepy guys, social media, intellectual insecurity masked by blithe confidence. It’s all there.

This is what they call a teaching moment.

New in Theaters: ‘Inside Llewyn Davis’

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Oscar Isaac and his not-so-faithful cat in ‘Inside Llewyn Davis’

insidellewyndavis-posterA not-so-faithful take on the Greenwich Village folk scene of the early-1960s, the Coens brothers’ Inside Llewyn Davis is part sour Barton Fink satire on creative arrogance and part O Brother, Where Art Thou? roots-music extravaganza. It’s either a haunting odyssey of failure or who-cares? kind of thing, depending on one’s mood. Either way, stupendous music.

Inside Llewyn Davis opens this week. My full review is at PopMatters:

There’s little reason to think that the titular guitar strummer in the Coen brothers’ Inside Llewyn Davis will ever come to much of anything. When first spotted in this chilly film, Davis (Oscar Isaac) is determinedly hunched over a microphone and lavishing bleak care on the traditional number, “Hang Me, Oh Hang Me,” whose chorus notes, “I’ll be dead and gone.” After a polite response from the crowd, he steps into the alley behind the dark coffeehouse and gets socked in the nose by a man who keeps grumbling about “What you did.” Things don’t pick up much after that…

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You can see the trailer here, using the number “Fare Thee Well,” which could be to this film what “Man of Constant Sorrow” was to O Brother.

Bookseller’s Corner: Lonesome Pine Used Books

 

Care to run a bookstore for a couple months? That’s the question being asked right now by Wendy Welch and Jack Beck, co-owners of Tales of the Lonesome Pine Used Books, located in Big Stone Gap, Virginia. Welch has written a book, The Little Bookstore of Big Stone Gap: A Memoir of Friendship, Community, and the Uncommon Pleasure of a Good Book, and the two of them are going to be away on a promotional tour.

Welch told Fresh Eyes Now:

It’s ironic that it’s a book about independent bookstores that’s got me in this position, but I cannot close our community bookstore to gallivant off and have fun with other bookstores…. Our shop is in a small rural community of 5,400 and it doesn’t do enough trade to hire someone in at a living wage. Plus we have two dogs and three cats on staff. So what we’re offering is complete room and board for a person or couple (from laundry soap to the occasional pizza delivery) in return for him/her/them watching the shop for October and November, when most of the ‘road trip’ activities for the book take place.

Think of it: Worse employment offers are made every minute of every day, and they never involve dogs, cats, or books, much all three together. (h/t Jacket Copy)