books unbound

“Language is the means of getting an idea from my brain into yours without surgery.” Mark Amidon. (nope don’t know who he is either)

So I was listening to WBUR’s On Point last night and philosopher Daniel Dennett guested. Seems Dennett is a scientist who studies ideas as if they were living, breathing, self-replicating organisms…which apparently they are. This isn’t exactly news to old booksellers but apparently it is to the rest of the world.

Hitler, Stalin, Pol Pot, would have just loathed the internet (well…during the down time when they weren’t loathing everything else) You can’t kill an idea on the net…hell, you can’t even kill its author. Sometimes you can’t even find them. Once an idea or a book is given free range on the net it escapes and grows like topsy.

There is no shortage of books living on the net. Google Book Search devours entire libraries like a blue whale sucking in krill, that may not bode well for those who deal in dirty old books, but it’s manna to johnny appleseeding idea mongers.

Project Gutenberg began in 1971 now there are 17,000 free books on it. will email you a chapter a day to feed your head. With POD publishing every Tom, Dick and Harriet, can spew out their memoirs ad infinitum.
Even will let you post your book.

NPR says podcasting (n. audio on demand) has caught on with the amateur audio book freaks: Escapepod, Librivox, Dead White Males. Podcasting softwares.
[you don’t ACTUALLY have to own an Ipod]

Helpful Hint: Don’t piss off your life partner, they may sell off your books.

Take your grave to the books: the Crimson talks about the skin covered books in Harvard’s collection.

ok, ok ..too much about Frey is much too much..but Freezerbox’s blog on the Oprah-icity of truth is a MUST READ.

faking sincerity

To be persuasive we must be believable; to be believable we must be credible; credible we must be truthful. Edward R. Murrow

big head morning:
As a rule I avoid state of the union addresses. Personally, I think political speechwriters are no more capable of non-fiction than James Frey. And when speaking ‘Himself’ seems to get the glazed over look of a true believer, which I find utterly disturbing. I will stick to the relatively honest Hollywood method of predigesting fact and fiction and feeding it to us as pretty pictures and pinup boys.

Many movies up for endowment from AMPAS are based on books (well, sometimes they just wave a book over the screenplay and chant some magic words, but what the hell.)
Brokeback Mountain Annie Proulx
(Close Range: Wyoming Stories)
Memoirs of a Geisha Arthur Golden
Capote by Gerald Clarke
Munich George Jonas ( Vengeance: The True Story of an Israeli Counter-Terrorist Team)
Walk the LineJohnny Cash (Cash: An Autobiography)
Pride and Prejudice Jane Austen
The Constant Gardener John le Carré
SyrianaRobert Baer (See No Evil: The True Story of a Ground Soldier in the CIA’s War on Terrorism)

Speaking of the Frey-man it seems it’s cold and lonely outside of Oprah’s kingdom.

Posthumous publishing: Ché Guevarra has a couple of new books coming out. You really gotta hand it to people who don’t let a little thing like death get them down.

In the catagory of ‘was this book really necessary?’ we have a British civil servant cooking up Squirrel Nutkin and Benjamin Bunny after they have been squash-you-all-flat by a Mini-Cooper. I swear I do NOT make this shit up.

make em read cake

“I used to teach in a comprehensive school and I know from experience that many children are not capable of reading the books I wanted them to read.” -Nick Hornby

. J.K. Rowling the co-arbiter of what’s important in life, gave us this list: which is probably the only time you will ever see Beatrix Potter cheek to jowl with Joseph Heller.

Charlie and the Chocolate FactoryRoald Dahl
Robinson CrusoeDaniel Defoe
David CopperfieldCharles Dickens
HamletWilliam Shakespeare
To Kill a MockingbirdHarper Lee
Animal FarmGeorge Orwell
The Tale of Two Bad MiceBeatrix Potter
The Catcher in the RyeJD Salinger
Catch-22Joseph Heller

In 1969, two librarians and a publisher happened to notice that no African-American had ever been awarded a Newbery and Caldecott Award, so in an exercise of the separate by equal doctrine they invented The Coretta Scott King Award. Past winners have included Mildred Taylor, Virginia Hamilton and Julius Lester.

On the flip sideFiddy Cent is keepin’ it real by writin’ us some chillin’s books.

Big surprise: Continuing its effort to build the world’s largest library, Google has expanded its Book Search program to the European theater. Scanning hundreds of thousands of non-English language books into its gaping maw.

one book wonderment

” I love being a writer. What I can’t stand is the paperwork.” – Peter De Vries

Literary wonks have always had a soft spot for one book wonders, perhaps it is a touch of schradenfreude (I never get to use that word enough) or more likely a large dollop of there but for the grace of God go I. Early fame, never repeated, now that’s simply tragic. This fascination has given us Michael Chabon’s Wonder boys and Gus Van Sant’s Finding Forrester. Even a sort of literary Groundhog Day where Harper Lee emerges to view her very long shadow (NYT).

just a few on the short list:
John Kennedy Toole Confederacy Of Dunces
Margaret Mitchell Gone With The Wind
Stella Gibbons Cold Comfort Farm
Arundhati Roy The God Of Small Things
Emily Bronte Wuthering Heights
Frederick Exley A Fan’s Notes: A Fictional Memoir
Harper Lee To Kill A Mockingbird
Dow Mossman Stones of Summer
J.D. Salinger Catcher in the Rye though I suppose technically Salinger isn’t a 1 book wonder…perhaps more of a 2 books & 9 story wonder.

In other news 78 year old Gabriel Garcia Marquez says he has stopped writing, with some authors 18 books isn’t enough.

Playwright Wendy Wasserstein the has died of cancer at 55. Wasserstein was the author of the Sisters Rosesweig and the Heidi Chronicles.

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.

time marches on

“Laziness is nothing more than the habit of resting before you get tired” -Mortimer Caplan

Things you can do while you should be doing other things.
There are dishes in the sink, orders to be filled, boxes to be shipped and you really don’t give two shits. What to do, what to do? It needs to be something that is half-way cerebral so that you can stifle that nagging voice in the back of your head that tells you when you are being naughty.

There is the ever popular Popcap Bookworm Word Game. which is kinda like zen scrabble. I found a lovely game called Past Master on the History Channel’s website, it’s a bit more fun then the trivia quizzes on the Turner Classic Movies site, but NOT as much fun as Mini Pool , Mini Golf and the Falling Sand Game. Here’s a couple of webpages sure to eat up a half an hour or two: Common Errors in English, Vitamin Q, Found Magazine. And if you just want a shot of schadenfreude to start your day, Reuters News has an entire classification called Oddly Enough.

Mohammed can’t come to the mountain. . . .apparently Gabriel Garcia Marquez wouldn’t travel to Wales just to be part of the Hay on Wye book festival, so Peter Florence brought a little Hay on Wye to Colombia. Hmmmmm I really can’t think of anything funnier than that, sorry.

Follow up news. Our pal the Duke of Gloucester made a tidy sum auctioning his family’s handmedowns, his inscribed Alice first went for £4,800.

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.

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.

the best words in the best order

“How wretched is the person who hangs on by the favors of the powerful.” – Robert Burns

We so totally missed Robbie Burns Birthday. (Jan 25th) I can’t believe I didn’t have this marked on my calendar. Burns of the “ode to the haggis” and “luv is like a red red rose”…oh …who am I kidding?..poetry really doesn’t figure into American life, especially that of drunken Scotsmen. The fact that I even remember who is – is only due to a close proximity to old folks who tend to quote long sections of 18th and 19th century poetry verbatim. I have a friend coming up on 94 who was educated back when the word wasn’t followed by a snicker. Granted it wasn’t ‘multi-gendered & multi-cultural’ But you didn’t graduate anything without knowing how to write and read and do your own taxes.

My buddy Norm Starr asked me to print up some bound copies of his father’s (eminently late Boston bookseller Ernest Starr) favorite poems. And wouldn’t you know it…all 19th century, all long, all with familiar passages that have been pilfered for movie and book titles. Granted they are common as dirt in books and on the net. But when’s the last time you saw someone stand in a room and recite them from memory? Yeah I am drawing a blank too.

But not to fret!! you can dust off your haggis and get blind on single malt all over again on April 6th’s Tartan Day in America!

BTW A manuscript of a Robert Burns poem separated more than a century ago has been put back together.

and Ayrshire, Scotland will hold their fifth annual “Burns an’ a’ that” Festival 25-29 May, 2006.

and in late breaking silliness...readers are suing Random House over Jame’s Freys fibs. hmm…wait i think this has some merit…..

Alone together

“Nothing defines humans better than their willingness to do irrational things in the pursuit of phenomenally unlikely payoffs” – Scott Adams.

Hazzah! – Astronomers have found an earth like planet outside of our solar system (take THAT intelligent design fans) between that and all the bits of junk we have flying around the galaxy – one of these days we are sure to piss off our neighbors enough for them to wanna come over for brunch – unless of course they are dining here already.

Why look? Cause we’re human, we like to huddle, that’s what we do. Grouping keeps us from getting eaten by the meaner nastier things on the planet. OOPS, we are the meaner nastier things these days aren’t we? We still like cluster, we like to stand around and kick mud off our boots and talk about the weather and Angelina’s twins.

Even if you discount the non-joiners in the crowd like me, I’m not a joiner, I’m only on the biblio list cause I lost the directions to unsubscribe and I’m too lazy to ask for help – Booksellers love to congregate. We will do it at the drop of a hat: two bookseller meet up in a bookstore aisle and poof just like that 3 hours go by and the store closed around you.

Back in the P.I. (read pre internet) days, we joined trade groups to keep in touch, to promote a sense of togetherness but basically it was good for business. Networking was the only way you could get access to stock that wasn’t your own. Trade groups don’t perform the same function anymore, but they still give off a warm and fuzzy smell. Some offer group benefits, shows, discounts, some just send you a Christmas card. Joining something like IOBA, MARIAB, WABA, GLBA etc… can help assuage that feeling that you are the only one trying to make a living in this increasingly frustrating business.

The preceding touchy feely passage was brought to you because I have once again sworn off buying books from booksellers I DO NOT KNOW! – I ordered ten books by and about a certain author and eight of them came either packaged badly or not as described. Join a group if you don’t know how to do what you are doing. Like most customers I’d rather pay more to be pissed off less.

-thank you – the Management.

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