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romancing the book


Romance is the fiction that owes no allegiance to the God of things as they are. In the novel the writer’s thought is tethered to probability, but in romance it ranges at will over the entire region of the imagination.” – Ambrose Bierce

The corpses of couples have always littered the literary landscape – where would we be without Scott and Zelda, Alice and Gertrude, Elizabeth and Robert, Lytton and Dora and Ralph to gossip about?

Here’s a recent little touchy feely piece about literary couple Paul Auster and Siri Hustvedt.

For the five people who haven’t heard, Nicholas Sparks has been shortlisted for the Romantic Novel of the Year Award. still doesn’t make his books worth reading IMHO.

. . .and for those who still can’t get enough of that sort of thing: eHarlequin (Mills & Boon to the rest of you) is still peddling mushy softcore smut in every conceivable (is that a double entré?) format, paperbound, audio, electronic, they go to great lengths to smear a little more love around the globe, including signing a licensing agreement with NASCAR for tie in novels. Love is at the Races! Who knew?

Today in History – 1989 Iranian Muslim leader Ayatollah Khomeini issued a fatwa against British author Salman Rushdie and his publishers over the book Satanic Verses

Today in History – 1974 The Soviet authorities have formally charged Russian writer Alexander Solzhenitsyn with treason one day after expelling him from the country.

Obits worth reading: Edna Lewis at 89; Chef, Author of Southern Cuisine Cookbooks.

ship of paper

HOW COME NO ONE TOLD ME THERE WAS A BOOKSHIP??

MV Doulos is owned by Gute Bücher für Alle e.V. (Good Books for All), a private, non-profit, charitable organisation registered in Germany, basically it’s a floating book fair.Over 18 million visitors have been welcomed on board for tours, programmes and visits to the floating book fair. With stops in over 500 ports of call, this unique ship has visited more than 100 countries in including Africa, the Americas, Asia, Australia, Europe, the Middle East and many island nations. Sounds like the Peace Corps for Books!… damnit i wish i was a twenty something with no responsibilities, i would be SOOOO all over this.

MV Doulos will be docking in Qatar next week. hmm…how much is a ticket to Qatar?


kid stuff: online books for rug rats, they may not be classics but they are indeed free and speaking of that the folks at University of Calgary have an index to children’s ebooks on the net.
This is super nifty for the underfoots, an alphabetizing game disguised as bookshelving!! Scholastic, inc. has some online games, as well as Nickleodeon.

true lives:
P. L. Travers, Walt Disney, and the making of a myth.

obits worth reading: Tana Hoban illustrated books for children.


bib-dating! Speed dating with books in Belgium

Cartoon war salvo: Danish Author Profiles from the Danish Literature index Of which I am particularly ignorant, I think I have only read Hans Christian Anderson and Karen Blixen. well I saw the movies…does that count?

I miss being naughty

“There is no such thing as a moral or immoral book. Books are well written, or badly written, that is all.” – Oscar Wilde

So, I was introducing a couple of friends of mine to the BBC-MYSTERY! Mrs Bradley Mysteries and it occured to me that I miss being naughty. Okay, that does need some explanation, as everyone knows I have demerit badges in naughty. The Mrs Bradley character is a ridiculously liberated middle-aged detective of the ’20s era, who has a habit of surprising with her friends with books that have been brought into the country at the bottom of her luggage wrapped in brown paper: Radclyffe Hall‘s Well of Loneliness
, D.H.Lawrence’s Lady Chatterly’s Lover, you get the idea…..long story short…our literary culture lost something when people stopped having to smuggle books into the country in order to enjoy them. (there still is some stuff that’s illegal to traffic in: kiddie porn, hitman howtos, harry potter knockoffs etc…but nothing really worth READING certainly) Surely it must have been deliciously tingly knowing you had a copy of Joyce‘s Ulysses wrapped inside your pajamas when you came back from your Parisian sojourn or even a ratty copy of Voltaire‘s Candide. Reading these books for the first time while they were still proscribed must have made them all the more satisfying, perhaps even appearing better than they were. It stands to reason that a book wrapped in brown paper is infinitely more enticing than one that isn’t. Personally I don’t know…the closest i ever came was stealing my brother’s dogeared Zebra copy of Steal this Book by Abby Hoffman, I don’t even think he missed it. Luckily even though we still have narrow-minded guardians of public morality expunging things from high school curriculums left and right and center, none can TRULY be called banned; since owning it and walking around with it and bringing in and out of the country doesn’t make you a target for prosecution. Granted that is nothing to be sneezed at. There are still countries on this planet where women have to wear burkas for chrissakes! and children are sold as slaves to harvest cocoa to make hershey’s kisses, I would get down on my knees and kiss the ground my public librarian walks on, IF I thought that getting up would easily follow. But damn it….I do miss being naughty.

oh in case you were wondering: Banned Books Week runs September 24th to October 1st. which I think is ridiculous, who the hell can finish all the Banned Books in ONE week a year?

Here’s a lovely article from the old AB Bookman’s Weekly about collecting banned books.

WTF? I didn’t even know they had archived all this stuff from the AB BW! check it out. You will probably see me blog more stuff from there..

“Art is dangerous. It is one of the attractions: when it ceases to be dangerous you don’t want it.” – Anthony Burgess

bits n'pieces

“There are books of which the backs and covers are by far the best parts.” Charles Dickens

I was cruising around for something, I can’t remember what now….and found the UT-Austin conservation department’s site…which is surprisingly well put together.
They usually ain’t this nice.

P. Scott Brown and the fine folks at Fine Books and Collections have created Collegiate Book-Collecting Championship. Where the hell were things like this when I was in college?

technical tease: nice little heads up think piece about the Sony Reader. I REALLY want one..but i’m not sure what i would DO with it.

Bank toastersPowells.com has got some exclusive content going on their site: Confessions of an American Bookstore Junkie by . Worth an eyeball. BTW I downloaded and listened to that little Don Winslow story from the BMW site..it was VERY entertaining.

Role call of the gutless wonders in the US who won’t publish a few dumb cartoons. My guess is that if we would do it in a heartbeat, IF we didn’t have 30,000 men and women wondering aimlessly in the middle east.

Is it Finnished? The guardian’s Culture Vulture started a world tour of Literature and there’s a lenghthy list of Finnish books worth reading…who knew? Finland one of those norse places right?

Unshelved is a nice little book related comic – even offering an RSS feed.
what’s an RSS feed?


change lobsters and dance

Good news everyone! Someone (besides Oprah) is selling something to someone in this crazy business! Time Warner is selling its book group to Lagardère for $537.5 million. What does this mean to the average bookseller on the street? absofreakinglutelynothing. Decisions made at the megaconglomerate level don’t usually trickle down to us. But it does indicate that booksales are up across the board. If they weren’t even the French wouldn’t buy publishing interests. So what does that leave us with the big three? Viacom, Bertelsmann and Lagardère. In case you were wondering, Columbia Journalism Review has a lovely little Who Owns What thingy. (my that must keep them on their toes.)

Power shopping: Lagardére is still in the mood to do more shopping and may take Simon and Schuster off Viacom’s hands. I’m not sure if i like the fact that what? 75% of the US publishing will be owned by European companies?…oh who the hell am I kidding? The big corps haven’t published anything worth reading for years.


Free stuffBMW is giving free audiobooks! granted they will feature BMWs in the text, but if the quality of the previous downloadable film series was any example they should be worth a listen. BMW AUDIOBOOKS

Who gives a damn? the finger pointing has started in the JT Leroy debacle.

Dead horse beating: Slate bats around the idea of Reality Fiction.

Obits worth reading: Anyda Marchant, author & publisher at 94.

Who’s buying what? Paradox Entertainment has picked up the rights to Robert E Howard’s complete library…which means we are gonna be seeing a lot more REH stuff showing up on dvd. I almost didn’t post this…I am not sure if i care.

sunday in the park

The world may be full of fourth-rate writers but it’s also full of fourth-rate readers. – Stan Barstow. (who is stan barstow?)

Okay the Bullpen is finding it’s format footing… Monday thru Friday will be tidbits in the news or on the net that may be of general interest to old bookies. Saturday will obviously be nonsense and whatever makes me smile and Sunday will be reviews, essays and stuff worth reading.

Book reviews:
(you may need to register with NYT to access some of them, but it’s free.)

Arthur and George Julian Barnes reviewed by Maureen Corrigan
The Explorer King: Adventure, Science, and the Great Diamond Hoax–Clarence King in the Old West By Robert Wilson
Ringside Seat to a Revolution, An Underground Cultural History of El Paso and Juarez: 1893-1923 – David Dorado Romo.
The Western Limit of the World David Masiel
The Sinking of the Lancastria: The Twentieth Century’s Deadliest Naval Disaster and Churchill’s Plot To Make It Disappear – Jonathan Fenby
The Colony (the story of Molokai) – John Tayman.
American Vertigo Traveling America in the Footsteps of Tocqueville
Bernard-Henri Lévy
Christopher Marlowe: Poet and Spy – Park Honan

Elsewhere in the news : NYT In 200 Years of Family Letters, a Nation’s Story we used to call people like that packrats.

one small step . . .

“It is difficult to say what is impossible, for the dream of yesterday is the hope of today and reality of tomorrow. “ – Robert Goddard

Today in history
Virgil “Gus” Grissom, Edward H. White II, and Roger B. Chafee died in a launch pad fire. I remember reading about it in Mailer’s Of a Fire on the Moon and weeping. I was a sucker for real hero stuff when I was a youngster, I blew thru Wolfe’s Right Stuff, We Seven, Michael Collins’ Carrying the Fire etc…- I was young and unjaded. I still thought the world was full of noble stuff like that. Now I know better behind every well spun shining lie is a lot of burned out detritis. One of the most poignant places I have ever stood aside from the Vietnam ‘Wall’ and Ground Zero, is Launch Pad 34 Cape Canaveral. It’s just a burned out hulk of a spot, with a tiny bronze plaque Ad Astra Per Aspera” well worth the trip.

I
n much more trivial but more disturbing news – Oprah wasn’t polling well in the heartlands as long as she stuck by Frey’s pound of paper; (not to mention that along with the publisher she might get sued.) so in a not so rare but excrutiatingly public and nasty reversal, she bitch slapped James Frey up one side and down the other. A good time was had by all.

“I’m SHOCKED, Shocked to find that gambling is going on here!”
Slate want’s to know if editor Nan Talese knew Frey was fibbing before she published the book.

Spread of the infection: A white man from Lansing has been posing as a Navajo to write books. News and persecution at eleven. Gets MORE interesting…Ballantine has stopped shipping his books and is accepting returns.

slow news day

“Are you really sure that a floor can’t also be a ceiling?” – M. C. Escher

Our friend Wm. Blum “I can’t go to Cuba because my country is run by idjits”. Is back in the news. Apparently Osama has time on his hands to do a little reading.

French Philosopher Bernard-Henri Levy retraces Tocqueville’s steps to see if America is really as bad as his countrymen say it is.

Duke of Gloucester needs some ching to pay the taxman so he is selling some family bling : a 1595 copy of ‘The Gentlemans Academie’ or ‘The Booke of St Albans’ by the prioress of Sopwell Nunnery.

sotto voce: am i the ONLY one who things a book about christ by Anne Rice is a hell of a lot more unsettling than a tv show about a guy who TALKS to the christ in his head?

another tidbit worth reading: Frank Rich’s NYT OP-Ed piece about “Truthiness in fact and fiction being a a toboggan into chaos.” Yummy.

Paul Beatty’s NYT essay on Black Humor is also worth spending some time with.

Bookseller Porn

“I keep to old books, for they teach me something; from the new I learn very little.” – Voltaire

If I had a nickel for every time someone said to me “have you READ all these books?” I wouldn’t need to sell books for a living. Contrary to popular belief booksellers don’t have time to READ actual whole books. We read the BACKS of books a lot.

Reading ABOUT books isn’t as much fun as actually SELLING them, it does tide us over until the next influx of cash takes place. In the days P.I. (read: Pre-internet) when the AB Bookman’s Weekly would come in the mail, I would tear into it like a Somali child with an MRE. I would send for catalogs of books I couldn’t possibly afford just to read the listings. With practice I could decipher the strange Little Orphan Annie secret code, and thus gain entry into this secret club. This was my idea of smut. I even ACTUALLY tried to find all the books people advertised to buy.

Gone is the exclusivity of our little lodge, anyone with a PC and waterlogged paperback can put on decoder ring and join our ranks, but we still enjoy our own special brand of SMUT.

If you look around you can still find copies of the classics: The Colophon, the Bookman, even Sotherby‘s catalogs can suffice in a pinch. But for the finest in Antiquarian Bookseller Porn, we still have Fine Books & Collections, Rare Book Review, Firsts Magazine – all well worth stocking your lavatory with for when the real thing just isn’t at hand.

In this age glutted with new books produced by the cargo container, I see independently published books with their shorter runs, made of better materials still holding some post retail value. Badly made books mass produced by the BIG three or is it TWO conglomerates tend to devaluate faster than a US dollar at an EU trade show. So I also mention of Forward Magazine which reviews new independent titles. BTW they give booksellers free subs, check it out.

It's still spinach

“Better pass boldly into that other world, in the full glory of some passion, than fade and wither dismally with age.” – James Joyce

Yes this is it. This is the Holy Grail all booksellers look for. James Joyce’s Ulysses. Unlike the stock market the value never goes down, it only goes up. Signed firsts are now kicking around for £100K We all dream of glimpsing the familiar blue paper cover peeking out from the bottom of a box of shite. But we almost never do. The only time we see it, is in the hands of another seller.

Before my present job, I’d only seen it in glass cases, in the last few years I have handled four copies. And you know what? I still can’t read it. but hey that’s just me. I have met people who have read it multiple times. I’ve met people who think it’s the best book ever written. And that’s probably true. I dunno, I haven’t read all the books yet.

The internet has managed to amplify the cult of Ulysses. Everyone who likes it WANTS you to read it, hell they WANT you to love it. There’s a whole Jehovah’s Witness-like vibe from those conversations. Cause if you don’t agree that it’s the best book ever, then you must suck and you obviously know NOTHING about books.

You can have Leopold Bloom’s day dissected in minute detail for those who didn’t get that from reading the book. You can read a page a day. You can have the parallels to Ulysses spelled out for you. HELP IS at hand! there is Ulysses for Dummies. I carry around enough inherited guilt without piling on more from all the books I have not read. I say it’s spinach and I say the hell with it.


One of these days, Norton…

Stephen Greenblatt of Will in the World fame is taking up the daunting mantle of editor of the Norton Anthology of English Literature. He and M. H. Abrams guested on Public Radio’s On Point with Tom Ashbrook today. Well worth the listen. The Norton we all carried around in college was this fat green book filled with prerty words by dead white men, is almost unrecognizable from today’s 2 volume trade paperback, bursting with multiculturalism. To that end, on their themselves have squirrled away all the bits excised to make way for new and improved literature.

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