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.

If winning isn't everything, why keep score?

No harm’s done to history by making it something someone would want to read” – David McCullough.

Whitbread awarded to Hilary Spurling for Matisse the Master : A Life of Henri Matisse: The Conquest of Colour: 1909-1954. £30,000 that’s a nice chunk of change. And while we are at it:

2006 Caldecott, Newbery, King Winners and the winner of 2006 Kingsolver’s ‘Bellwether Prize

BTW Turkey apparently decided it wanted to be part of the EU more than it wanted to lop the head of some poor novelist ( Orhan Pamuk) for exercising the freedom of speech he didn’t have.

Things you find when looking for other things:
University College London found a nifty little volume in their stacks: “The Pleasures of Memory” (1910) by Samuel Rogers inscribed to Byron, and containing some Byron scribbles. COOL.

On the other hand- new PEW studies have found that college graduates are leaving the halls of learning with little more than damaged livers and eardrums.

condemned to history

“Anyone who believes you can’t change history has never tried to write his memoirs.” – David Ben Gurion.

Thanks to gentleman bookseller Samuel W. Coulbourn for the heads up about today’s tale of an intrepid Boston bookseller:

“On this day…in 1776, Colonel Henry Knox reached the headquarters of the Continental Army in Cambridge. The young Boston bookseller had pulled off a daring plan. He had led a small group of men on a 300-mile journey from Boston to Fort Ticonderoga in New York State. Once there, the party disassembled cannon taken when the British surrendered the fort and retreated to Canada in May 1775. In less than two months time, Knox and his men moved 60 tons of artillery across lakes and rivers, through ice and snow to Boston. On March 7th, 2,000 Continental soldiers maneuvered the guns to a hill overlooking the city. The British had no choice but to evacuate Boston.” Listen to this story on audio at Mass Moments.

Reportedly the US Army has taken an interest in poetry – On Jan 10th we stormed a Mosque and walked off with a High School Student slash Poet – Sayed Ahmad Qaneh, he and some of his kinfolk are at present incommunicado. We can only hope that in a few months they will be dumped on some hillside somewhere in Macedonia.

what a piece of work . . .

The Holy Blood and The Holy Grail authors are making life difficult for DaVinci Code Inc. but it’s basically Bambi v. Godzilla.

Handy autograph image sites Jill Morgan & P. Scott Brown, if you can’t find what you want, try the Google Images search.

Florida, of all places, is trying to protect it’s citizenry from Nabokov’s tale of Humbert Humbert’s self destructive obsession. I dunno, I just find that ironic as all get out.

Filed under things you find while looking up other things: Amazon has 1532 results for books under Iraq War, 2003- given that a certain percentage are duplicate listings, another percentage will be fiction and a small percentage, mistakenly indexed….that’s STILL a hell of a lot of books. Maybe I am just old, but any war with that many books in print about it has gone on way too long.

we are in the middle of some posting experimentation……

We blog, because we can.

“Today’s public figures can no longer write their own speeches or books, and there is some evidence that they can’t read them either.” Gore Vidal

From what I can gather about the several hundred blogs I have examined in the last few weeks….is that most of them are shite. Which is about right since 90% of everything is crap. If 90% of the net is crap then 95% of blogs is more accurate. Blogs are a communication tool. And blogging software is fairly simple, a true mass medium. The only reason to visit them is for information or entertainment, if you aren’t getting either – move on. The most popular blogs are those that have their pulse on some exclusive vein. Political gossip/news is a popular topic as well as entertainment, music, cars, chess etc… and then there are personal blogs shared with small circles of friends.

Blogging from the latin ‘Weblog’ actually refers to the frequency of content update, what you and I would call “journaling.” A lot of static websites have started adding blogs to keep the content appearing fresh and to coax a steady clientele to visit their site more often. The London Review of Books looks just like a blog. In pre-Internet days, one would subscribe to a popular journal to keep current on changes in your trade, now you visit a site, an online magazine or a blog. If you wait for actual printed reportage – you would be 2 to 4 weeks behind everyone else in your business. (shades of Toffler’s Future Shock) The draw back to reading blogs is that they are found by word of mouth or by simply clicking on links from other blogs. So unless you have time to kill…yeah right….. you don’t troll around looking for stuff to read. I can do that.

for further reading:
Blog : Understanding the Information Reformation That’s Changing Your World by Hugh Hewitt
Blog!: How the Newest Media Revolution is Changing Politics, Business, and Culture by Kline & Burstein et al.

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.

au contraire M. Voltaire

“Only your friends steal your books” Voltaire

The first book I ever stole and the only one I will admit to pilfering was my brothers’s zebra paperback copy of Steal this Book. I think it was the first piece of subversive literature I ever read. I couldn’t believe there were books out there that actually expounded non-conformity. It was very exciting, I think I read everything I could find by Hoffman, Rubin, Cleaver, and their contemporaries…I was eleven.

Stealing books is one of the oldest recreational past times. It’s done by the poor and the wealthy, the educated and the stupid. Aside from Hoffman’s book, polls of commonly stolen titles included the Bible, the Koran, the Guinness Book, Howl, On the Road, the South Beach Diet Book and ironicaly study guides for police and military entrance exams. The net has both increased the market for stolen books as well as facilitated stolen book announcements. Every institution that has anything worth stealing has had a problem with theft. Grad students, professors, researchers, anyone with free access to cultural rarities is considered a security risk. Severed plates are more likely to be found on eBay than in their rightful bindings. The net is replete with reports. The ABAA has a stolen book database – somewhere, I couldn’t find it net accessible.

The profit margin in stolen books has crept up slowly until it rivals other hot commodities, London recently busted its very own Book theft Fagin who ran a ring of book theives and openly sold their swag in a bookstall. A Kentucky Judge is allowing. Unless there is a great deal of money involved people just don’t see book theft as a big deal. We all possess a few books that aren’t exactly our own. But as long as we return them to their rightful owner before they pass away, we are still in the clear…aren’t we? Even Russia’s Duma is returning a collection of books to library in Hungary that were checked out in 1945 by some soldiers – what’s 60 years of overdue fines between friends?

Fictional book thefts seem to more popular than real ones: The stolen blue by Judith Van Gieson, the Cliff Janeway novels by John Dunning, Death in Dublin by Bartholomew Gill. As for published non-fiction accounts I found very little, perhaps there’s not enough sex and violence in book thievery to hold public interest. Biblio-Clouseau Ken Sanders still deams about finding time to write up his exploits beyond condensed pieces about the John Gilkey affair: see Feb’s San Francisco Magazine.

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.

Books for the Childish

“There are perhaps no days of our childhood we lived so fully as those we spent with a favorite book.” – Marcel Proust

Bullpen Day three. Still here. Despite wrestling futilely for two days with the blogging template. Apparently the thing LOOKS differently to different people. Well too bad. this is what we are living with until I get my strength back. So suck it up.

Victoria Beckham is writing a childrens book! oh goody! sign me up please! Remind me again…she’s famous for what? being married to a soccer player..oh yeah that’s right. And L@@KY! Ted Kennedy is gonna write one too!! and he’s what? like 73 and been a functioning alcoholic what since forever.

Well, why the hell not? it’s like getting a star on Hollywood boulevard – anyone who IS anyone isn’t really anyone until they have written a children’s book right? I mean like Jamie Lee Curtis, Julie Andrews, Madonna, John Lithgow, Jerry Sienfeld – even Ed Koch has written a book for the little tykes.

What I want to know is DO they REALLY truly think it’s the kids who are reading their books? Perhaps by writing for children they are disguising the fact that they ..shall we say….can’t write? I mean lots of people known for being actual WRITERS have written for the rugrat market. Ian Fleming and E.B. White actually had a flair for it.

The best series EVER, is Random House’s Landmark series, where they coerce, bribed and cajoled people with much more important things to do, to pick up a pen and scribble something for the next generation. And for their time they were just the ticket – Quentin Reynolds, C.S. Forester, Mackinley Kantor, and Robert Penn Warren ALL must had day jobs. But somehow I just don’t see Victoria Beckham’s book being read 30 years from now – maybe it’s because Im just not into soccer groupies.

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