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Small Wonders: The fragrance that lasts forever

December 02, 2011

Editor's note: While Patrick Caneday takes some time off, we’re running some of his choices for re-publication. This column was first published Jan. 9, 2010.

I caught the wife in bed with another man last week. I can't really blame her, though. It was Ernest Hemingway. I mean, who wouldn't? What did freak me out was Steinbeck, Maugham and Fitzgerald stacked up at the foot of the bed waiting for their turn.

It might be time to box up some of these old used books I've collected over the years.

There's just something about a used book store that I can't resist; the musty, dry fragrance of aging tomes. I imagine the hands that have touched them, absorbed them and passed them on. There's life in a used book store, rooted and time-honoring, that can't be found elsewhere. And for the last 20 years, my sanctuary of the scroll has been Brand Bookshop.

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When I tell this to Jerome Joseph, the 81-year-old, boyishly energetic owner, he's pointed in his smiling reply: “We've been here for 24 years. Where were you the first four?”

There are local characters who add texture and color to their little corner of our world, none more so than Jerome. A conversation with this bookmonger is a bumper-car ride; you can't really figure out which way the cars are going or how to steer, but you sure enjoy the ride.

Ask him about the store or his childhood and you get back a staccato stream of consciousness en route to his final answer. And almost always the answer has something to do with politics, baseball or his favorite topic, Japan.

From his shop on Brand Boulevard, a former jewelry store, the gems he peddles are used and out-of-print books. And opinions. Opinions on just about everything.

On movies: “I'm tired of American movies. Lot of blood squirting, exploding automobiles and using the F-word every sentence for no purpose.”

But he highly recommends “Departures,” the Japanese film that won the Academy Award for best foreign language film in 2008. “If you don't like it, I'll refund your rental fee. I'll call you when you can rent it at Video Journeys. As long as I can call you collect.”

On Cuba: “The government, I think, is going to end the embargo before too long. Both parties were afraid to lose the vote in Florida, controlled by the anti-Castro Cubans. We talk about not trading with Cuba, but yet we sell them $700 million worth of agricultural goods over the last two years. How hypocritical can you be?”

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