Books in Omaha: Four for Me, One for Him

Books I bought in Omaha.

We’d love to live in Omaha. It’s fun to visit a big city, and we like the understated Midwestern hipness. You can shop in the Old Market area, visit the Joslyn Art Museum, go to concerts, and, best of all, browse at Jackson Street Booksellers.

Will we drive three hours to a bookstore?  Yes, we will. We passed yellow soybean fields and  windmill farms and finally crossed the bridge from Council Bluffs to Omaha. We headed straight to the Old Market so we could browse at Jackson Street Booksellers, a great used bookstore.

Jackson Street Booksellers, Omaha

I picked up several books and carried them around the store because I couldn’t decide which to buy–a lot of Anita Brookner, an adorable Penguin omnibus of mysteries, and some nice editions of Trollope–but iI limited myself to four books. I am so disciplined!

So here’s what I bought!

1.  I’d never heard of the Brazilian writer Rachel de Queiroz, but was intrigued by the cover art on this 1975 paperback of Dora, Doralina,  translated by Dorothy Scott Loos.  De Queiroz (1910-2003) was a novelist, journalist, and translator who, in 1966, was a Brazilian delegate to the UN.  She won many awards, including the Camões Prize in 1993.

And she has a statue in Brazil!  I do want to go to Brazil.

Kate Braverman is a poet and fiction writer.  Her 1979 novel, Lithium for Medea, used to be in every bookstore. Somehow it never appealed to me.  Did I even know what Lithium was?

Anyway, I was drawn by this 1989 Penguin Contemporary American Fiction edition, because I was always fond of this “yuppieback” series.  And her prose is stunning!  I’m racing through it.

The Goodreads description says,

“Lithium for Medea is a tale of addiction: to drugs, physical love, and dysfunctional family chains. It is also a tale of mothers and daughters, their mutual rebellion and unconscious mimicry. Rose grew up with an emotionally crippled, narcissistic mother while her father, a veteran gambler, spent his waking hours in the garden cut off from his wife’s harangues. Now an adult, Rose works her way through a string of unhealthy love(less) affairs. After a brief, unhappy marriage, she slips more deeply and dangerously into the lair of a parasitic, cocaine-fed artist whose sensual and manipulative ways she grows addicted to in the bohemian squalor of Venice.”

It is depressing, but somehow I can take this now that I’ve Lived a While and Seen a Few Things I Would Rather Have Not.

3.  I missed Virago Month, but here’s the good news:  I found a Virago at the bookstore, Fanny Burney’s Cecilia.  I am fond of 18th-century novels, and enjoyed Burney’s Evelina, so look forward to this.

4.  We were  very excited to find an Everyman copy of John Updike’s The Complete Henry Bech, sans book jacket, for $6:   Bech: A Book (1970), Bech Is Back (1982), Bech at Bay (1998), and the short story His Oeuvre (2000).  My husband and I are both fans of Updike.

Here’s the Goodreads description:

“From his birth in 1923 to his belated paternity and public apotheosis as a spry septuagenarian in 1999, Bech plugs away, globetrotting in the company of foreign dignitaries one day and schlepping in tattered tweeds on the college lecture circuit the next. By turns cynical and naïve, wry and avuncular, and always amorous, he is Updike’s most endearing confection-a Lothario, a curmudgeon, and a winsome literary icon all in one. A perfect forum for Updike’s limber prose, The Complete Henry Bech is an arch portrait of the literary life in America from an incomparable American writer.”


1.  Uwe Johnson’s Speculations about Jakob.  My husband is mad about this award-winning German writer, and recommends Arrivals. Here is a link to an article about Johnson in The Millions.

Going to Omaha for the Books!

We live in a small, beautiful city on the prairie.  Nobody knows it’s here; nobody understands why we live here. It’s not glam, but it’s Paradise in the summer, and  has livable urban neighborhoods near shops, almost no traffic, and everything you need to be a well-adjusted 21st-century American.   A woman who moved here from California observed  in line at Starbucks,  “I can live anywhere there’s a Starbucks and Target!”

But we do lack bookstores, except for B&N, so today we headed to Omaha, the nearest big city, to browse at Jackson Street Booksellers, a huge used bookstore, and The Bookworm.

Jackson Street Booksellers, Omaha

Jackson Street Booksellers, Omaha

First up:  I found an  irresistible Library of America volume with three of William Dean Howells’ novels, The Minister’s Charge, April Hopes, and Annie Kilburn.  Have you heard of these?  We have not, but I love Howells!

Ilka chase new york 22 bought in omahaAnd now for ’50s pop!  I could not resist this cover.  According to Kirkus, Ilka Chase’s 1951 novel New York 22 is “a chaise longue coverage of marital friction, feminine calculation and upper bracket racketing, this should have good rentals on the distaff side; and substantial sales to the gilded glamor fringe.”

There is very little about Chase online.   The daughter of Edna Woolman Chase, the editor of Vogue from 1914-1952, Ilka was a member of the Smart Set and an actress who starred in many Broadway plays, including the original Broadway version of The Women.  Ilka adapted her novel In Bed We Cry, the story of a self-made career woman in the cosmetics business.  And she had  her own  TV show called Fashion Magic!

I’ll be happy if this novel is readable in the style of a trashy pageturner like Faith Baldwin’s Skyscraper or Susann’s  Valley of the Dolls (a truly great trash classic!).  There’s hope:  The characters are drinking cocktails, and the heroine, Georgiana, leaves her husband and daughter  to chase a writer who is 12 years younger than she.

Here’s a quote chosen at random:

Georgiana sat in her office at Tang, her desk spread with manuscripts and correspondence waiting her attention, but she ignored them.  She was engrossed in reading the first review of Reams’s book, The Shadowed Path.  Reams had sailed according to schedule, but Barnstable had published it that week and Georgiana read the clippings with a sense of triumph and a sinking heart.  As she had expected, Reams was accepted into high company.  Thomas Wolfe,Hemingway, Faulkner, in reference and comparison–the great names dotted the columns.

I may save this for Thanksgiving:  I like to read old pop novels while the turkey is roasting.

C by Maurice Baring omahaNext up:  Maurice Baring’s C (1924).  I’ve never heard of it, but I do love a good novel about Edwardian house parties.  Goodreads says, “Baring’s homage to a decadent and carefree Edwardian age depicts a society as yet untainted by the traumas and complexities of twentieth-century living. With wit and subtlety a happy picture is drawn of family life, house parties in the country and a leisured existence clouded only by the rumblings of the Boer War. Against this spectacle Caryl Bramsley (the C of the title) is presented – a young man of terrific promise but scant achievement, whose tragic-comic tale offsets the privileged milieu.”

Last but not least,  Tama Janowitz’s A Certain Age.  I loved Janowitz’s new memoir, Scream (which I wrote about here), and look forward to reading this  modern retelling of Edith Wharton’s The Age of Innocence.

janowitz a certain age 1769009474

I bought nothing at the Bookworm today, because I had exceeded my limit at Jackson Street Booksellers.

And, by the way, here’s the sky  snapped from the car as we tooled down the highway:

Western Iowa off the highway

Why Is It So Hot? Books vs. Lawn Ornaments in Omaha

Old Market District, Omaha, in summer.

                                             Old Market District, Omaha

Omaha is a  hip Midwestern city (by our standards), with a splendid art museum and trendy shopping in the Old Market District.

It was, however, 91 today.

“It feels like 100,” I said.  It really did in the sun.

My husband says he doesn’t feel the heat till it’s 95. “It might be 92.”

The warehouses in the Old Market District in Omaha are now shops, restaurants, and lofts. You can browse at antique stores, glass stores, art galleries, and junk shops.  We drink coffee or iced tea on “dog-friendly” terraces:  a small bulldog had stepped out of Colette; surely it was Fossette from The Vagabond!.

But the question was whether to shop at a bookstore or an iron lawn ornament store.

We love to pop in at Jackson Street Booksellers, one of the best used bookstores in the U.S.

My husband says I buy too many books.  And the shelves at home do seem to be full.  Time to donate to the Planned Parenthood Book Sale again.

Iron Decor and More, Omaha

Iron Decor and More, Omaha

“You want to go to the lawn ornament store?” I have a hankering for a tacky ornament for the backyard.  They have an iron cow on a bicycle and colorful cats with springy necks.  I must admit the chicken in the picture at right is too much.


So we went to Jackson Street Booksellers.

Jackson Street Booksellers interior

Jackson Street Booksellers

You know the kind of bookstore. It’s huge, and they recently expanded, and they need to expand again.  The shelves are so tall you can’t possibly see what’s on top. The store is deep and dark, with occasional spotlights.  There are also piles of books on the floor.  You can’t find the Wyndham Lewis books unless you move a tall stack of books.  (Too much trouble.)  The owner and employees sit up front and read the paper.  They don’t chat to us.  My husband thinks it’s because we’re from out of town.  I explain that the staff at used bookstores never talk to customers.

J.C. at the TLS has confirmed this.  He said of Skoob in Bloomsbury:

Here are the overflowing shelves, the arcane subject headings, the musty smell, the foreign languages on the floor, the grumpy staff…

Very like Jackson Street Booksellers..

It is crammed with literature, genre books, Americana, biographies, memoirs, art books, history, theater books, women’s books, foreign language, politics, travel, vintage books, and several shelves devoted to the coveted Folio Society editions and Heritage Press editions (books that come in a box!).

And then we went to The Bookworm, an indie bookstore in the suburbs.

Did I buy books?


At The Bookworm:  Modern Latin American Literature: A Very Short Introduction (Oxford).  This beautifully designed book is one of a very clever “A Short Introduction” series of tiny paperbacks.  I almost bought one on Nothing.  (“Cheeky Brits,” said my husband.  Sorry, Brits!!)

Modern Latin American Literature- A Very Short Introduction 51sKoOlFsVL._SY344_BO1,204,203,200_At Jackson Street Booksellers:  Jorge Amado’s Gabriela, Clove and Cinnamon (a Brazilian classic).

Jorge Amado gabriela 51D10CF6CSLKay Boyle’s Three Short Novels:  The Crazy Hunter, The Bridegroom’s Body, and Decision.  (Boyle is an excellent American writer, and I was introduced to her books  by Virago.)

Kay Boyle Three_Short_NovelsPhyllis McGinley’s A Pocketful of Wry.  This remarkable poet won the Pulitzer for her light verse.  I posted her “Ode to the End of Summer” here.

Phyllis McGinley A Pocketful of Wry 152d32243f93b68a33c74f2e4b49c4543 More Novels by Ronald Firbank:  Caprice, Vainglory, and Illuminations  (I may have read these long ago, but my Firbank is missing!.)

3 More Novels Firbank 51xUbgGKjzL._SX323_BO1,204,203,200_Robert Grave’s Good-Bye to All That (I love his historical fiction, but not his autobiography)

IMG_3278(My cat is considering what to read next.)

Prudent Shopping at a Bookstore in Omaha!

Old Market District, Omaha, in summer.

Old Market District, Omaha

As I’ve often said, going to Omaha is like going to Rome for us.  Located on the Missouri River, it is the biggest city in a tri-state area. (But no there aren’t seven hills.)  Today was a beautiful spring day,  so we headed west on the interstate,  R.E.M. blaring “Daysleeper.”

“Yeah, ‘Odyssey,”” we said as we crossed the bridge from Council Bluffs to Omaha.  I sort of like this spiky metal bridge sculpture, called “Odyssey”:  many do not. It looks Western, doesn’t it?  I always think of Nebraska as the beginning of the West.

piecesthanksgiving$$##**)),./nhginfirmityline.. And then we bumped over potholes in a run-down city neighborhood and shortly arrived at the Old Market District, with its charming cobblestone streets, old warehouses, art galleries, antique stores, lawn ornament stores, bars, restaurants, and al fresco dining…

Jackson Street Booksellers, Omaha

Jackson Street Booksellers, Omaha

Naturally our favorite place is Jackson Street Booksellers, a huge used bookstore.


Jackson Street Booksellets, Omaha

It has floor-to-ceiling bookshelves, two big rooms and many nooks and crannies, a few comfortable chairs, and stacks on the floor.   Even though it has expanded, there is not enough room on the shelves for all the books. Lots of books by Trollope, Angela Thirkell, Edna O’Brien, Norman Collins, Nicholas Mosley, collectible editions of classics in a box, Black Sparrow Press books, and a beautiful tempting illustrated hardcover of The Yearling.  I love this book:  it won the Pulitzer in 1939.

IMG_3099I was looking for and found Hermione Lee’s biography of Virginia Woolf:   $20.  I’m a prudent shopper this spring.  Maybe next time.

I did buy a lovely first edition of Virginia Woolf’s Flush:  $6.

Here are the charming endpages:

IMG_3101There were two copies in the store:  this one s a 1933 first Harcourt Brace edition, and the other a nearly identical Book of the Month edition. A Book of the Month Club pamphlet with an essay by Heywood Broun was tucked (mistakenly) inside the book.

But I love it!


There were two stacks of Miss Read books.  Any fans?  I must admit I’ve never read any of them.

I didn’t make it out of the literature section today.  Too bad!  They have a good Western history section.

A great day in Omaha!

Art & Books in Omaha: “In Living Color” at the Joslyn Art Museum & The Bookworm

Andy Warhol's "Camouflage"

Andy Warhol’s “Camouflage” at the Joslyn Art Museum in Omaha.

A friend’s abstract painting of a lake, the water and sky tousled by blues,  yellows,  greens, and purple, has changed the way I look at art. It calms me in the winter.  It helps me focus on the colors that will return in spring.  I don’t pay much attention to the prints I bought at museum shops.  All you need is one painting.

I have always enjoyed museums, but in recent years I have developed a more intense need to look at art. Sometimes I skim the art criticism in The New Yorker, though I don’t read it too closely, or it will make me unhappy, because I won’t have an opportunity to see the exhibits.

“Wouldn’t you like to go to New York to see the Matisse Cut-Outs show at MOMA?” I idly asked my husband.

Nothing will compel him to go to New York, but he will go on jaunts to museums in nearby cities.  Over the weekend we went to the Joslyn Art Museum in Omaha to see the superb exhibition, “In Living Color:  Andy Warhol and Contemporary Printmaking.”

If you’re not a Warhol fan, you will be after you see this stunning exhibition. The show consists of more than 110 works by Warhol and other twentieth-century artists, among them Louise Bourgeois, John Baldessari, Helen Frankenthaler, Keith Haring, and Richard Diebenkorn.  Karin Campbell, the curator of contemporary art at the Joslyn Art Museum, selected these works from the Collections of Jordan D. Schnitzer and his Family Foundation for a show centered on the theme of how Warhol’s “use of color impacts both subject and viewer, creating a dialogue between Warhol and nineteen contemporary artists who all use color to shape how we understand images.”

Seeing the screen prints “live,” so to speak,  gave me the thrill of the experience of Warhol’s powerful art.  I shivered looking at “Camouflage,” a series of prints based on cloth Warhol bought at a military supply store.  In the sixties, anti-war protesters had, and this is from the placard, “appropriated camouflage, turning it into a symbol of the unbridled power of the military industrial complex and the hubris of the American government.”  Warhol applied inorganic colors to the camouflage designs “to nullify its power of deception.”  The Joslyn displays seven of the camouflage prints, whose colors range from psychodelic to muted.  The camouflage becomes something altogether different when the colors are changed.

Warhol reacts to contemporary culture in his art, and nowhere is it more apparent than in his flamboyant portraits of pop icons.  The show displays nine of the Marilyn Monroe portrait screen prints, identical except for the color scheme.  I got a sense of the diminution  of character caused by celebrity.  The colors can make her look sad, vapid, depressed, worried, cruel, or ugly.   I have never been a Marilyn fan, but thesmudging out of her personality is painful, particularly in the green screen print at the bottom right.

Andy Warhol's portraits of Marilyn Monroe

Andy Warhol’s portraits of Marilyn Monroe

We also saw  the Mao portraits, a portrait of Edward Kennedy commissioned for a campaign fundraiser, a lovely portrait of Liza Minelli, and the chilling Electric Chair series.

Yes, the flowers were there, too, and I want a bedspread with that beautiful print.

We were fascinated by three in the Cowboy and Indian series, Annie Oakley, Geronimo, and John Wayne.

You will see that I have written only about Warhol, but he has star power that few other artists do, and who knows when I’ll get a chance to see his work again?

THE BOOKWORM.   When we arrived at the site of The Bookworm in Omaha and found an empty store, we panicked. We love The Bookworm, one of our favorite indepdendent bookstores. Had it gone out of business?  Fortunately, no.  It has moved about a mile away to Loveland Centre, a new shopping center at 90th Street and West Center Road.

I love the new space, the light wood and the high ceilings.  It reminds me a bit of the old Borders stores.  I limited myself to one book this time,  Nicola Griffith’s Hild, finally in paperback.   I’ll be back.

Bookstores in Omaha & a Ride on the T-Bone Trail

Old Market, Omaha

Old Market, Omaha

Omaha is our favorite city in the Midwest.

It’s not Chicago or Minneapolis.  It doesn’t try to be.

It is a good place to visit on the fifth of July.  After being kept awake by fireworks in our small city in Iowa on the Fourth–could there have been any more firecrackers?–we woke up bleary-eyed and decided to travel to Omaha for relaxation.

Sometimes you have to go to a big city to find quiet.

We  love the Old Market area, a lovely, hip downtown Omaha neighborhood with a world-class used bookstore,  an artists’ co-op, antique shops, many restaurants with attractive verandas, and a lawn ornament shop that sells iron sculptures of pigs.

We do have a sense we’re in a real city here.  We always feel rather unhip:  It’s a little more bustly than we’re used to.  When we first went to Omaha, I informed my husband I wanted to live there.  It might have been a bit of a commute, though.

Jackson Street Booksellers, Omaha

Jackson Street Booksellers, Omaha

Naturally we spent a lot of time at Jackson Street Booksellers, the used bookstore.  I recently promised myself I would buy no more books this summer, but darn it!  What you do when you intend to break your Bibliophiles Anonymous pledge  is park your husband in an easy chair and then spend 40 minutes in the literature section.  AND THEN YOU BUY FOUR BOOKS AND PAY FOR THEM YOURSELF.   In retrospect, I wish I’d bought five books.  There was a novel by the Southern poet Alan Tate. Where will I ever see that again?

Then we went to the Bookworm, an independent bookstore in a strip mall way out on Pacific St.   I love this store.  Every summer they have attractive displays. A couple of years ago, intrigued by a flapper dress next to  piles of an appealing book with a cool blue cover, I discovered Laura Moriarty’s  engaging novel, The Chaperone, the story of a demure 36-year-old Wichita housewife who is coerced into chaperoning 15-year-old Louise Brooks (soon to be a film star) one summer in New York.  Last summer they displayed Dante’s Inferno with Dan Brown’s Inferno. (I went for the Dante.) Now they’re revving up for Erika Johansen’s The Queen of the Tearling (to be published July 8), the Number One pick on the IndieNext list this month (an organization of independent bookstores).  I quite like fantasy, and might very well like this novel, but it is a bit odd to have a display without any books.

And then we rode our bikes.  Not in Omaha, however.  We drove to Atlantic in Western Iowa (it’s on our way home, anyway) and rode the T-Bone Trail.

The T-bone Trail, Atlantic to Audubon, Iowa

The T-Bone Trail, Atlantic to Audubon, Iowa

The last time I rode the T-Bone, Nov. 13, 2011, I had a ghastly time.  As I wrote at my old blog:

The temp dropped five degrees in 15 minutes, according to the bank clock, and then we rode into the wind. It was very difficult to make any progress at all. I put my bike in low gear and leaned over the handlebars, but it was very, very cold. After an hour’s riding like that into the wind, I sat down on the trail and rubbed my legs.

But today it was warm and we only rode for two hours. It is absolutely flat, an extremely easy ride unless it is too hot or windy.  Cornfields, woods, prairie, small towns, and finally we rested in a gazebo in Ira, Iowa.   To be honest, I was glad to turn around, because one of my sandals was rubbing against my foot.  Sandals are not good biking shoes.  What was I thinking?

So I’m home, surrounded by lovely books, and I’ll chime in with what I’ve been reading soon.

Happy Long Weekend!