Archive | opinion

Google is a cruel Santa

Cruel Santa gives you everything you ever wanted – problem is he gives it to everyone else too. Such is life. I was miserating with Forrest Proper and Judith Tingley the other day, that sure, the internet makes buying the book you want easier, but it hasn’t done that same with browsing. You can easily find what you want, but you still don’t know what you want, you know? Thus the function of old bookshops may have a hacking cough but it’s charm still prevails. Besides, it’s the only place you can get off on that ‘old book’ smell. (kinda like fresh baked cookies, if those cookies happned to be made of old cardboard and dust with a hint of mildew, you get the idea) The argument going round and round at present is whether Google’s Book Search feature is good or bad. Is it the death of circulating libraries and used bookstores? are copyright laws being violated like a drunken prom queen? who the hell knows? It won’t be stopped by silly little lititgations like Perfect 10 porn and publishers v. libraries. There’s too much money involved. Like the internet it just IS, everybody is just fighting over profit sharing.

As I always like a little naughty with my corn flakes I took Google’s Book Search for a test drive. I typed in “Richard Gehman”, a dead writer I particularly like, and I got 347 pages of results. The cloud of results include Gehman’s own books, anthologies where his work has been reprinted, books he is mentioned in personally, and books where his books are referenced. Some give you the entire page or more, some only show the text occurence, but for the most part you get the gist of the book in question. I did get to add a few books to my to-borrow-from-the-library list which is my precursor to the buy-when-I-have-the-money list. GBS did a better job of indexing book contents than the system my library uses. So it has made title browsing much more enjoyable for me, and is head and shoulders better than depending on Amazon’s title suggestion system. My personal opinion is enjoy it while it’s free….cause anything this popular and free won’t be for very long.

evil henchmen
– a peek at the machines that DO the scanning.

DIY – and if you want to build your OWN book scanner we have plans.

day in the life

“Violence can only be concealed by a lie, and the lie can only be maintained by violence. Any man who has once proclaimed violence as his method is inevitably forced to take the lie as his principle.” – Alexander Solzhenitsyn

one book, one world
Chicago will join with All-Russia State Library for Foreign Literature in Moscow to create an Internet book club, moderated by CPL librarians to discuss One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich which is the first selection of the “One Book, One Moscow” program in Chicago’s sister city. Patrons do not need a library card to join the discussion.

old world orders
market for foreign literature becoming more sophisticated in the Russian book market.

all at sea – the good book ship Doulos arrived in Doha Port in Qatar yesterday.

cookies – Doctorow’s The March Wins Pen/Faulkner Award

worth a listenNPR’s round table discussion of the past, present and future of black literature.

NPR interviews Ted Kooser who paid a call on the Hallmark folks while out touting his new book The Poetry Home Repair Manual.

a little research
interesting discussion on NPR’s Talk of the Nation on the rampant internet infection of Cut and Paste Plagiarism

fitted suitM.H. Clark is being sued by an obscure unproduced screenplay writer for having the same plot in one of her novels.

autogenesis – the literary precedents of Margart Atwood’s Long Pen.

illustrator bashingthe illustrator for Madonna’s English Roses was attacked outside of the Crobar.

plastic arts – China prints world’s first env-friendly plastic book.

bilateralism The Benjamin Franklin Library is an actual circulating library in Mexico City which is apparently highly unusual in a country where books are one step up from being a luxury item.

3-day eventing – New York Comic-Con Feb 24-26th

mixed media – TV’s Lost has caused a run on surrealist author Flann O’Brien books.

banktoasterThe Font Thing a free font management software, for those of us with a font fetish. I literally h
ave thousands and this is sweeettt.
No, not all installed at the same time but just in case I need them.

Bullpen Book Club vols 2 & 3

” The world is a book, and those who do not travel read only a page.” ~ St. Augustine

Literary Trips: Following in the Footsteps of Fame,,
ed. Victoria Brooks, 362 pages, 0968613705 –
Literary Trips 2: Following in the Footsteps of Fame ed. Victoria Brooks, 400 pages, 0968613713

True confession. I hardly ever go anywhere. I have elderly humans and a plethora of 4 legged dependents, so for the most part I am a huge armchair traveler. I adode those anthologies of misadventure tales, i’m a sucker for those. I found these two little goodies like everything else, while I was looking up other things. As far as straight travel books I guess they would be considered out of date as they were pubbed in 2000 & 2001, but hell it’s not like I’m gonna be making reservations from these things. Anyways, each chapter is devoted to a aparticular writer who is well known for a particular place: Steinbeck & Central California, Thoreau & Massachusetts, Kafka & Prague, Lowry & Vancouver, Bowles & Tangier, Hemingway & Cuba and so forth and so on…You get nice travel essays about the author and his homeground and some following in their footsteps directions for those that aren’t on the no-fly list. Fascinating stuff for a homebody like me. The travel webzine that published them has more indepth coverage, but don’t buy them from there. No offense to Miss Brooks, but they can be picked up off Marketplace for well under a buck, so with shipping they cost about 6 or 7 bucks for the pair…and we all know what cheapasses booksellers are. So pour a glass of white wine, dig out your flipflops and raybans and lets play anywhere-but-here shall we?

“I travel not to go anywhere, but to go. I travel for travel’s sake. The great affair is to move.” ~ Robert Louis Stevenson


A 120 year old poetry book, containing one poem containing the ‘N’ word…has managed to freak out some folks who think the a rare book section of a high school library should be completely sterile and inoffensive…just like the rest of their world. I just keep extrapolating this concept and it wraps itself around my head like a mobius strip. Are we to retroactively scour clean all traces of our history as if it never happened? If so that’s a hell of a lot of books to be burned …this whole rewriting history thing makes my brain bleed.

academic hysteria rears its head in David Horowitz’s the 101 Most Dangerous Academics in America.

event calendar item 11th annual Bay Area Anarchist Book Fair will be held March 18 – wouldn’t organizing for a book fair be anti-anarchy?

Eleanor Atkinson, the author of Greyfriars Bobby will now have a website of her very own.

BTW Kinky Friedman is running for governor of Texas.

the Baltimore sun has a nice interview with Richard Price who’s Freedomland is now up on the big screen.

Our own Ed Smith sent me a copy of Bibliomania: the Documentary, produced by the ABAA about the 2003 California International Antiquarian Book Fair. ..I am not sure if I am supposed to actually write a proper review...i will if someone wants to pay me – who am i kidding? i will do most anything if someone paid me. You will have to be happy with just this: Fer cryin’ out loud, go buy a copy. If you are an exhibitor you may find it redundant but it’s cool to see your friends on film, if you are NOT – you WILL learn something, if ONLY what goes into putting on a fair. I enjoyed it, it was well put togethered, covered many aspects, interviewed many familiar faces – well worth ten bucks…. aren’t WAITING for me to send you ten bucks are you?

obit worth reading: Robert W Peterson author of Only the Ball was White, history of the Negro Leagues.

Bullpen Book Club vol 1

“Work is the curse of the drinking classes.” Oscar Wilde

The Guinness Drinking Companion by Leslie Dunkling. New York: Lyons & Burford, 1992, 224 pages 1585746177.

Everything you ever wanted to know about booze but where afraid to ask. Clever and entertaining little reference book that provides a general introduction to the history and range of alcoholic beverages. HOWEVER, that’s not why I picked it….the damn thing is riddled with literary references. Nearly every paragraph traces the love affair between literature and alcohol, both pro and con, Dickens, Dos Passos, Garrison Keillor..etc. I finally found out what Malmsey is, I have always wondered that since I read that the Duke of Clarence got drowned in some. It’s a lovely little volume, which is both OOP and remaindered, you can find it disgustingly cheap.

Hmm…this reminds me to dig out my copy of Compton Mackenzie‘s Whiskey Galore.

The 1st of what I hope will be a long list of titles chosen to entertain the drunken masses that flock to this waterhole to drown their boobseller sorrows. Feel free to suggest titles for the Bullpen Bookclub, preferably nothing new, popular or that Oprah® has ever heard of.

report from the front – england/silverman

Something happened recently that gave me a nervous breakdown. Some say it was a panic attack, but maybe it was months of built up tension and stress finally exploding.

A dealer we know wanted to buy a whole bunch of our books. We needed the money because we were in tight financial spot. Of course we said yes to the deal as it was good deal for both parties. He bought walls of books and we didn’t have to get into a serious legal fight to pay off a big debt. Everyone was happy.

I started breathing hard when my partner and I went upstairs to discuss it. He said, “Honey; you’ve got to stop breathing like that.” I tried but I felt like I’d been hit by a bus. I kept telling myself, we have to do it, if I want to keep doing this, I have to let these books go. I had a complete meltdown. I sank into the cushy chair on the second floor and cried, and then I cried again, and after that I cried some more. I cried for about three or four hours, I’m not even sure, I lost track of time.

I couldn’t move out the chair. I had used up a whole box of tissues. The bookseller’s wife came up and held my hand. Richard came up and gave me several hugs. I called my boyfriend on the phone and he was no help, he’s too damn practical. David, one of my best friends, who’s been acting as our clerk, came up and tried to crack jokes with me. David called another one of our friends, Paul, a mortician, adept at a handling the grief-stricken (as I certainly was) in his job. He came upstairs after he got off work and made me take some Tylenol. I had cried so hard and so much that I had given myself a stress headache.

Eventually, The bookseller and his wife left, and David had to go home, and Paul and Richard took me up the street to the local pub for dinner. I knew I was supposed to be happy, but I was heartbroken and very sad and frustrated about selling these books.

Isn’t always what we booksellers joke about when we’re at fairs? That we’d be glad to sell the whole set up and not have anything to take home but the books that we’ve purchased at the fair? If that really happened (I only know one dealer who actually really did this at the Akron Bookfair) We’re supposed to be happy that we now have ‘a pocket full of money’ – as someone said to me when I told them about this experience. Another friend, a retailer who owns the ladies clothing shop up the street said “isn’t that what you have the books for? to sell?” “Well, yes,” I said “but somehow it’s easier when they go in small stacks and not complete walls all at once.” how would we react?

from Aimee England @ Volume I Books

Collectors have anxiety attacks, too.

Aimee, I feel your pain. And I’d have added this as a comment to your post except that my circumstance is sorta’ different and has its own unique considerations.

For those who haven’t been paying attention, I collect oriental rug books (and magazines and auction catalogs and the occasional tasty bit of ephemera) – probably about 1,000 of them. I’ve had special bookcases with glass door and extra-sturdy shelves to bear the weight of these big, dense things – five, so far. I’ve even used the e-mail address “” for the past decade to remind people of my collecting obsession. This is all by way of testifying to how seriously I’ve taken my collecting.

That said, a couple months ago I stumbled on a newspaper story about a very successful local rug dealer who just bought an old mansion in the Prairie Avenue historic district here in Chicago. Prairie Avenue was where the rich people (Armours, McCormicks, and the like) lived in Victorian times before the migration to the near north side/Gold Coast neighborhood. Apparently he really did a great job at restoring it and was now living in it.

I know the guy pretty well, having done some advertising and p.r. for him in the past. One of the things I know about him is that he has made tentative efforts toward accumulating a library of rug books. I’ve even helped him find a thing or two. But he still doesn’t have anywhere near what he (or any of the people he’d hope to impress with them) might consider a “library”.

That’s when the thought occurred to me to offer to sell my collection to him. I mean, he’s got the interest and the space and the money. And I’m semi-retired and could use a big influx of cash to put in the retirement portfolio…not that it’s really necessary.

And that’s when the hyperventilating started. What would I do with all the vacant space? Where would I go to look up stuff? The books are in my office where I spend about 10 hours a day surrounded by them: what would I look at when I stared off? Oh, yeah, and there’s that issue of what would be left to define myself if “rug book collector” were suddenly subtracted from my resume?

{{pause until I resume normal breathing}}

See? Even the rhetorical questions get me panicky.

So I decided I’d put off making the offer for a while. I’ll let his relatively empty library weigh on him for a year or two, let his desperation build, wait until he’s frantic. Then, maybe, just maybe, I’ll be ready.



Jerry Silverman, Chicago, IL

next stop, dystopialand

“Get a good night’s sleep and don’t bug anybody without asking me.” – Richard M. Nixon

Dystopia used to be the special needs child of literary topics appearing in public now and again only to recieve head shakes and polite aversion.

We Yvgeny Zemyatin
1984 George Orwell
Brave New World Aldous Huxley
A Clockwork Orange Anthony Burgess
Fahrenheit 451 Ray Bradbury
Anthem Ayn Rand
This Perfect Day Ira Levin
The Trial Franz Kafka
The Handmaid’s Tale Margaret Atwood

The banner of dystopian fatalism was quietly taken up by literary fringe-junkies: Running Man Steven King, Logan’s Run William F. Nolan, Make Room!, Make Room!,Harry Harrison, Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? Philip K. Dick, Neuromancer William Gibson. Only to have the topic seep into mainstream media under the guise of mindless entertainment: Terminator James Cameron, Battle Royale Koushun Takami, 12 Monkeys by Terry Gilliam, V for Vendetta Alan Moore, Equilibrium Kurt Wimmer, Gattaca Andrew Niccol, Aeon Flux Peter Chung.

These days the trappings of dystopia greet us with the morning paper and tuck us in with the nightly newstream. Nothing has been foretold that has not come to pass in some small way: paranoia is common sense, self-medication is laudative act, xenophobia is a defense strategy, and the righteous fear nothing

“Let us be thankful we have commerce. Buy more. Buy more now. Buy more and be happy.” – THX 1138

the revision thing: Civil rights historian Taylor Branch has been lecturing on. Whereas the popular political pastime of trimming off untidy bits of truth has reached a new velocity with the Washingtonian Wikipedia Wars. (i love a little alliteration in the morning)

Up the Amazon: in increasingly hysterical frequency Amazon is laying on more virtual intimacy. Upon logging into Amazon’s homepage you will be greated by a newly minted ‘plog (a twisted misuse of the word PLUG.) Which is a blog like post generated from parts unknown and like all things Amazon dictatated by your previous and potential purchases.

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