December 06, 2007

Bookstore souvenirs

I traveled to Cape Cod last night to see a dear friend and to sign books at a fundraiser for her daughter's school. The event was in Falmouth, one of my favorite Cape Cod towns, and was hosted by Inkwell Bookstore, a beautiful shop on Falmouth's Main Street. If your travels take you to the Cape, pop in and browse and say hello to owners Kathleen and Michelle.

Books make wonderful travel souvenirs. Forays into stacks and along shelves of booksellers around the world have netted me a collection of interesting and quirky titles. Among them:

From Jamaica: Mi Granny Seh Fi Tell Yu Seh: The A to Z of Jamaicanisms, with advice on topics like Grief, Family, Confidence, Patience and Aspiration. From the chapter on Opportunity: "Hog wash enna de fus wata 'im ketch." Translation: "A hog washes in the first water he sees/Take advantage of the first opportunity."

Also from Jamaica: A Code of Conduct For Police-Citizen Relations. The "Attitudes of Approach" section offers this advice for citizens approached by the police: "RUNNING AWAY: Whether you have committed an offence or not, irrespective of how frightened you may feel, DO NOT RUN AWAY! TO DO SO MAY MAKE YOU APPEAR GUILTY."

From China: A dutifully well-thumbed, pocket-sized copy of The Quotations of Mao Zedong, known in the West as the Little Red Book. I can't read the copyright date because it's in Chinese, but it's clearly Cultural Revolution-era, when carrying the book and studying it daily were compulsory. I bought it from a sidewalk bookseller and paid him his two dollar asking price without haggling. Pleased with the ease and profit of the transaction, he threw in a free antique porcelain teacup.

From a Bergen, Norway souvenir shop (photo) that stocked trolls and kiddy lit: colorful chapter books with blond, rosy-cheeked tots on their covers and Il-Vjaggi Ta' Gulliver. Gulliver's name's the same, but, being plurals, Lilliputians become Lilliputjani in Norwegian.

From an antique and used book shop in Eton, England, home of 15th century Eton College and a short footbridge walk over the Thames from Windsor Castle: How to Lay a Nest Egg: Financial Facts of Life for the Average Girl, copyright 1950. It begins: "Ladies, this book is about You. Some girls (that includes the author's wife) have long wished they could lay eggs instead of having children the cumbersome human way... But laying a nest egg is something else again; something quite within your power -- yours alone, no daddy required, not even a sugar daddy."

From Kenya: Wisdom of Maasai. The introduction tells us "these proverbs reveal the knowledge inherited by the speakers of Maa. It is good that the children read this wisdom so that they do not forget completely. Proverbs are an integral part of the Maasai language. A Maasai hardly speaks ten sentences without using at least one proverb." A sample from the "Conduct" chapter: "Menyanyuk enchikati enkutuk o eno siadi/ The odour from the mouth (words) is stronger than the odour from the arms."

In Perros-Guirec in Brittany, a region in northwest France that sits on the sea and has deep Celtic roots, I picked up a little green book of Breton proverbs, Krennlavariou Brezhonek. The book delivers its gems in Breton, French and English:

"A bep liv marc'h mat, A bep bro tud vat/ De toute couleur bon cheval, de tout pays gens de valeur."

Translation: "Good horses come in all colours, good people come from all countries."