Wednesday, December 29, 2004

more on Susan

"We live in a culture in which intelligence is denied relevance altogether, in a search for radical innocence, or is defended as an instrument of authority and repression. In my view, the only intelligence worth defending is critical, dialectical, skeptical, desimplifying." quoted by Steve Wasserman in his obituary.

Quotes, interviews and excerpts are available at wood s lot.

Tuesday, December 28, 2004

"be serious, be passionate, wake up!"

Susan Sontag - novelist, critic, public intellectual and watchdog for the oppressed - passed this morning, after a long, second bout with cancer.

In the summer of 2000, I had an opportunity to meet and spend some time in the orbit of Sontag, as I was cataloguing for the company performing an appraisal of her personal archive and library, (which was eventually purchased by UCLA). For nearly six weeks, I spent my days in Sontag's office or home, quietly cataloguing, while around me her life whirled. Alfred Brendel would like to have dinner; Chinese writer Gao Xingjian was arriving from Boston on the Chinatown bus; new books piled up by the dozens (many were immediately donated to her assistants or others); Nadine Gordimer was on the phone... And all this time she was sick with cancer. She was a gracious host, inviting me to join her for lunch which she often shared with them in the kitchen. She was also disarmingly human for someone I had come to think of as an intellectual superhero (especially given that most of the other superheros seemed to be missing). My life at the time was not an easy one. I was entering the divorce process at the time, and I remember Susan giving me a grandmotherly hug the day she found out why I was uncharacteristically sullen.

My time spent with her archive and library, which documented her intellectual pursuits from a very young age, and the living example she lived in front of me was enough for me to recommit to the life of the mind, even as a simple bookseller.
sidewalk Socrates

The NYTimes Magazine includes Sidney Morgenbesser in it round up of year-end obits.

"Not since Socrates has a philosopher gained such a reputation for greatness while publishing so little of note. Certainly no one else shaped so many seminal thinkers while leaving behind almost nothing in the way of major doctrines or ideas. ''Moses published one book,'' Morgenbesser pleaded in his own defense. ''What did he do after that?'' "

shredded reputation, worst sex, scrupulous blurb...

Thanks to Jessa at Bookslut for the link to the John Dugdale's Literary Awards of the Year at the London Times. Anthony Powell wins the "Most shredded reputation" award:

Most thoroughly shredded reputation"As a novelist, Anthony Powell had to contend with obvious disadvantages. He had no ideas. He was incapable of conveying deep feeling. He knew about only a tiny upper stratum of English society. He was Waugh minus the wit, the poison, the torment and the genius . . . Powell was a colossal snob and not very bright. The fact that his snobbishness was a cry for help did not make its manifestations any more winning." John Carey reviews Michael Barber's Anthony Powell: A Life, The Sunday Times

Sunday, December 19, 2004

a thank you

It's about time I thanked some of the bloggers out there who have been sources of information, and more often, inspiration to keep on doing this. My first expereince with a blog was The Morning News - I know, not technically a blog, but it provided a portal to many of the those which became my daily reading. My daily reading consists, on and off, of The Elegant Variation, Blog of a Bookslut, Language Hat, and Pepys Diary. Other frequent dips were made into The Millions, Anthem Book Blog, Eternal Recurrence,

My favorite gardening blog is Horticultural, where you can find a link to the timely Mistletoe Blog. My vote for food blog must go to my wife Samantha's Slouching Toward Ganache which records her travails as a career changer entering the world of pastry. I'm also partial to SauteWednesday, Megnut, Chocolate & Zuchini and The Daily Olive.

a home universal library

In today's NYTimes' Week in Review, Alberto Manguel places new efforts of Google in the context of the quest for 'universal knowledge'. People who know me through my bookselling, think of the avant-gardes as the core of my collecting (or selling) interests, but a few friends know my own library, which lives in an apartment carved out of an old post-and-beam barn in Maine, is really my humble attempt to establish a Library of Alexandria for myself. It's the antithesis of my avant-garde inventory; scholarly editions of the works of thinkers from cave painting to modern Portuguese poetry, with major sections of classical philosophy, medieval history, early technology and odd books on small facets of human activity like bee keeping, automatons, or monks and viniculture. For years this library has grown in fits and starts, usually dependent upon my proximity to a great general shop. Powell's in Chicago (Hyde Park), The Brattle in Boston and the Strand have contributed to it greatly at various times. I have yet to assemble the whole library in one location, and look forward to doing so one day, perhaps after we move to the Hudson Valley this coming year. The library remains beyond my ability to read in the time remaining on my life clock, and there are numerous books in languages I have no plan to learn, so why have it at all?

There's been an awful lot of handwringing going on at the booksellers' newsgroups lately about Google's plans to place online books from the collections of major research libraries. Some think this is the last straw for reading culture as we know it, and expect their trade to dry up as well, which is ridiculous. Art is not what it used to be, and yet the trade in art from previous centuries is more brisk than ever. And as we saw the daily use of low-brow booze and tobacco products wane in the last two decades, the demand for quality wine, liquor and cigars has grown exponentially.

Sunday, December 12, 2004

Mann's Magic Mountain shuts its doors

The Valbella clinic is closing its doors, the last of the once numerous clinics in the Swiss Alpine resort town of Davos, built to treat the victims of Tuberculosis. Thomas Mann's Hans Castorp found refuge here, deciding to stay although he had only come as a visitor.

Saturday, December 11, 2004

Jackson Mac Low dies at 82

Fluxus founder, poet, performance artist and composer Jackson MacLow has passed at 82. With LaMonte Young, MacLow was the editor of the wonderful Fluxus Anthology (1963).

AS Byatt discusses Goethe in the Guardian. The bit that really got me was this one:

"The Wanderjahre, or (literally) journeyman years, follow the fate of Wilhelm, who in Goethe's earlier narratives, Wilhelm Meister's Theatrical Mission and the revised Wilhelm Meister's Apprentice Years, was concerned with self-discovery through the theatre, and also with the theatre as a means of moral and social cultivation. The theatre, in the world of the young hero, is the place where the bourgeois, who is normally only concerned with getting and spending, can acquire the aristocratic possibilities of "being" and "appearing". "

Do we have a mechanism today which serves that same purpose? Which can at least momentarily raise the bourgeois above the concerns of "getting" and "spending"? What could that be?

Byatt also draws the connection between Goethe and Sebald's masterwork, The Emigrants.

Wednesday, December 08, 2004

French winemakers protest

French wine consumption is less than half of what it was in the 1960's, and coupled with falling exports levels, competition from Latin America and Australia, and high levels of production, the situation is dire. Protesters are blaming the government (a French pastime), and targeting the national anti-drinking and driving campaign.

Thursday, December 02, 2004

a year-end miscellany

I'm currently offering a catalogue of year-end miscellany. The list includes art, literature, ideas and photography. Over 150 items, offered at 25% off the price listed. Download the entire catalogue here. Thanks for looking.

Saturday, November 27, 2004

"... a continuous parallel between contemporaneity and antiquity"

Hilton Kramer reviews the Adolph Gottlieb show at Pace Wildenstein, and reminds us of the indebtedness of the Abstract Expressionists to the literary modernists who came before them. These modernists, Joyce and Eliot particularly, had themselves turned to the ancient Greeks, and it was this interest in the mythical which shows itself in the work of Gottlieb.

textbook warning labels

While I'm normally repulsed by any use of stickers on/in books, this one ain't half bad. Colin Purrington, Assoc. Professor at Swarthmore, has created a handy, printable set of warning stickers to be placed on scientific textbooks. Collect 'em all! Protect your neighbors!

Wednesday, November 24, 2004

yhe view from up North

Thanks to the ArtsJournal for the link to Vinay Menon's excellent screed in the Toronto Star. Menon attacks the prudishness which is enveloping our country, and the mighty corporations we thought invincible which are now folding under the pressure of a crackpot minority.

Elaine Showalter on Wolfe

"true to form, Wolfe's latest novel is bitchy, status-seeking, and dissecting -- and this time, unfortunately, numbingly juvenile."

Elaine Showalter, in the Chronicle of Higher Education, taking to task Tom Wolfe's I am Charlotte Simmons. Showalter includes some interesting comparative criticism of various forms of the "campus" novel.

Tuesday, November 23, 2004

Holderlin once again revised

Should the world listen more to the great Romantic poets? Michael Hoffman, in his Guardian review of the new 4th edition of Michael Hamburger's translation of Friedrich Holderlin's poetry seems to think so. At least the themes seem necessary today:

"youth, love, friendship, generation conflict, sibling relationships, world- and self-intoxication (to coin a couple of rather Germanic-sounding notions), a revitalised appreciation of the classics, idealist philosophy, revolution, spirituality and the death of religion, a volatile interest in the inner and outer world (all sorts of fads and "isms"), a proclivity for associations, amalgamations, movements, new magazines, publishing ventures and experiments in social living."

Holderlin has been a favorite of mine since the early 1980's, when I discovered one of Hamburger's previous editions of Poems and Fragments. As a college student, I was drawn, of course, to the tragic life of the poet; a sad youth, failed loves, mental illness, and finally 36 years of solitude spent writing in the tower of a supporter. While my friends read Rilke, I read Holderlin, only later finding Rilke for myself. Many years hence, following a divorce and a move to relative solitude in Maine, I stumbled across a first edition of Hamburger's translation, and began rereading. Poems and Fragments, alongside Pessoa's Book of Disquiet, became a clear stream I could dip into when necessary, and has remained so since.

Sunday, November 21, 2004

more delays

More than a month has passed since my last post; an inexcusable length of time in the blogosphere, so I apologize for the delay to anyone who might care. I spent six weeks fighting an unnamed (until late in the game) ailment which was eventually diagnosed as Lyme. Now Lyme had never been something I took very seriously, having grown up around dogs and horses and the ever present threat of ticks. I also know scores of people who have contracted Lyme and only exhibited minor symptoms. Not me. The symptoms were many and disabling, at least temporarily. So I now return, a bit lost as to where I should start.

First, a thank you to Jay at Anthem Book Blog for posting a link to his book blog. I'm still struggling with the html with creating a links bar on casa malaprop, and promise to reciprocate as soon as I figure it out.

I should at least offer a small bit of thanks to the internet, which allowed me to continue to do some business while laid up in bed or on the couch for so long. I managed to sell a handful of titles, including some signed firsts of Jacques Derrida (after his passing), my inscribed copy of Hans Helm's Fa : m' Ahniesgwow, an experimental music and text piece from 1959 based in part on Joyce's Finnegan's Wake. Some lesser sales rounded off a month of just barely getting by.

My first foray back into the bookselling world was a day at Sotheby's, attending the second part part of the Maury Neville sale of Modern Literature (I skipped the late afternoon session of Modern Detective Fiction - not my thing). The highlights, in terms of money, were predictably Hemingway items, including the For Whom the Bell Tolls, inscribed by H. to his wife, and a large group of letters, both fetching over $300k each including the buyer's premiums. Not surprisingly, most of the aggressively priced Kerouacs failed to sell, and some authors saw their stars dim further, notably James Jones. Friends of mine picked up some quality sleepers, including an inscribed, limited first of Del Miño al Bidasoa by Nobelist Jose Camillo Cela, and an inscribed copy of Sartre's Huis Clos, both purchased for reasonable prices.

Unfortunately, a death in my extended family is keeping me from the Boston Book Fair, which I had intended to visit, hoping to do a bit of business on the side and perhaps to find some unusual items for purchase. Oh well.

Thursday, October 14, 2004

pardon the delay

There's nothing like a book fair to take the vinegar out of me. The Autumn New York Antiquarian Fair was this past weekend, and between preparations, the fair itself and a required time to deal with the necessarily ensuing depression, I've missed opportunities to post on the Nobel Prize, Jacques Derrida's passing, the National Book Awards nominees and the fair itself. Also missed John Banville's review of Jose Saramago's 'The Double' in the NYTBR, which itself should have been cause for at least two posts, being that they are two of my favorite living writers. Methinks it better to move on and not look back.

The book fair itself was a rather grey affair, which has been all to frequently the case of late. The customers are pretty much the same faces we always see, the flurry of dealer buying and selling which used to precede the shows (and which, for some dealers, made up the bulk of their sales) has given way as a dearth of sales leads to a lack of desire for new stock. There are many, many reasons for the decline in the market for most rare books, and sometime soon I'll tackle that question here, but for the time being let's just blame the internet, a declining level of literacy, price inflation in some segments of the market, a treasure hunt mentality of the general populace fed by eBay and the Antiques Roadshow, and once again, the internet.

Tuesday, October 05, 2004

Nobel speculation

The Times' Alan Riding mulls over some possible contenders for this years Nobel Prize in literature. Some names include Philip Roth, Milan Kundera, Margaret Atwood and Mario Vargas Llosa, who have been on the short list for a while, as well as Doris Lessing, Joyce Carol Oates and Assia Djebar, who are possible contenders because of a perceived interest in more representation for women.

In contrast to the expectation and excitement which can be found in the British media surrounding the Booker Prize, the Times wonders if the Nobel really means anything as many winners (especially recent ones) remain in obscurity. Shouldn't the blame be laid at the feet of the American publishers, who do a less than miserable job of bringing us the works of foreign authors?

Friday, October 01, 2004

is nothing sacred?

Madonna will be taking a degree in literature at Oxford?
Thanks to bookslut for the link.

Wednesday, September 29, 2004

Indian author Muk Raj Anand dies

Muk Raj Anand, one of the first Indian authors to master the novel in English, and a fierce critic of the caste system, has passed in Pune at age 99.

Tuesday, September 28, 2004

Raymond Danowski poetry collection goes to Emory

Emory University has become a significant center for the study of modern English language poetry, with the donation of the collection of Raymond Danowski. More on this soon...

happy idiots burn books Posted by Hello
suit over restrictions on editing

The NYTimes report on a suit against the Treasury Department for restrictions on editing works from a varieties of countries.
where do these remainders come from anyway?

I was recently asked about remainders and the court decision which created them. The facts around the tax decision which created the remainder market, (and also created the "cut-out" record market, if you remember back that far) are pretty dry, but their effect has been profound. The case (IRS vs. Thor Power Tools) was essentially about widgets, and in many ways the application of the the Supreme Courts decision made sense for widgets (which were expected to become obsolete someday, and therefore companies were depreciating them), but not for books (or records) where publishers wanted to keep a backlist in the warehouse to meet demand without having to reprint in small, expensive batches. The decision made it more expensive for companies to keep inventories of all types, and felt the need to a) print smaller runs, and b) dump the inventory which doesn't sell quickly. It also lead to publishers speeding up the cloth/trade paper/massmarket cycle to the point where we see it today, with cloth editions going out of print ridiculously fast.

I had the pleasure of working for Powell's Books Chicago for a few years beginning in the early-nineteen eighties, and witnessed first hand some of the small publisher's warehouses which were emptied as a result of the decision. Sometimes Powell's stepped in to buy the inventory, occasionally unearthing treasures in the process. Two of my favorite examples of this were the small esoteric publisher Open Court and the University of Chicago's Oriental Institute. Open Court had a large warehouse filled with titles which stretched back to the 1910's, many still in warehouse paper wrappers, with prices of 80 cents or $1.15 printed on them. Titles included the first English translation of a work by Kant, works on origami, philosophical and scientific work by Ernst Mach, and the eccentric works of the press' editor, Paul Carus .

The Oriental Institute held yearly sales of slightly bruised books, including many stunning folios of various archaeological projects in the Near East. But a few years after the Thor decision, the Institute held a much larger sale, clearing the shelves of many huge, expensive volumes. Everyone I knew at the time bought armloads of the books, and years later I sold mine for a very good profit. Now most of the works sold at the sale are either no longer in print, or only available as expensive reprints or in microfiche.

While the idea of "remainders" had existed prior to the legal decision, every publisher was driven to deal with them (or chose to pulp unwanted inventory, and write off the production costs. The ramifications extended to publisher's relationships with authors, which is its own story. A number of companies like Daedalus, Scholar's Bookshelf, Texas Bookman and Powell's have done a very good job of using the remaindered materials. Some even create books especially for the remainder market, with the annual remainder trade show in Chicago, CIROBE, turning into a major event on its own terms.

Some additional links:

. the actual decision
.. a pretty good technical description of the tax aspects
... a librarian's take on all this
.... effects on small press poetry

Friday, September 24, 2004

a retraction from the ethicist

I couldn't have been the only book dealer horrified by Randy Cohen (the NYTimes' Ethicist)'s column a few months back rationalizing the destruction of Medieval books of hours and the like. The expert opinion supporting book destruction was given by Glenn Horowitz, a dealer I know well enough to think it likely that his response was taken out of context. This past week Cohen retracted his original green flag to book breakers, and it was interesting to note that he mentions no book dealers (but a number of librarians and medievalists) among those who wrote in to correct his stance. I've been fortunate enough to know dealers most of my life who recoil at this common practice of map and print dealers, and who see book breaking as a method of the stupid and greedy. There are, of course notable exceptions, and I recall a recent auction at Christies, where one could feel a sigh of disappointment in the room as an established dealer noted for breaking (and not much else), took home a lovely copy of Redoute's Roses. Unfortunately, a significant part of the buying public remains driven by the whims of decorators, for whom a bird on the wall is worth more than two on the shelf.
a seventh first folio in private hands

The Scotsman reports that a housewife from Bramhall, Stockport has inherited a first folio of Shakespeare from a close relative, the widow of a tailor from North London. This will be only the seventh known copy currently in private hands. The book will be auctioned at Bloomsbury, October 7th. We all like to believe that items like this are out there, in the most unlikely of places, waiting to be discovered, and it's one of the wonderful things about books that they are not only found in the hands of the very wealthy.

Thursday, September 23, 2004

oh for a few grand and more shelf space

There are some types of scholarship which are just slow plods, but which in the end yield magnificent results likely to help us all for years to come. The new Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, to be published November 1st, is just that. On what must be a strange publicity tour, both the Guardian and the NYTimes have covered the release. The editor Brian Harrison, in a piece of deserved admiration for his own creation (with the help of over 1000 scholars), describes it as, "a great Victorian monument revamped for the 21st century. It is an important cultural event, and a commercial one, and it has been published on time." One of Harrison's favorite entries is Sir Charles Isham, thought to have invented the British garden gnome. Purchase the DNB now and save 1000 pounds off the post-publication price of 7500 pounds.

Thursday, September 16, 2004

a long interview with Naipul

The Guardian has a long interview with Nobel Laureate V.S. Naipul. It includes this remark on the current state of affairs:

'Well, clearly Iraq is not the place to have gone. But religious war is so threatening to the rest of us that it cannot be avoided. It will have to be fought... there are certain countries which foment it, and they probably should be destroyed, actually.'
new Garcia-Marquez novel on its way

Word on the street is that we will need to wait longer for the two additional volumes of Garcia-Marquez' memoirs. But the good news is that a new novel is due out in a matter of weeks. Titled Memorias de Mis Putas Tristes (Memories of My Sad Whores) it's being described as "a history of love narrated in little more than 100 pages". No word yet on a date for an English language edition.

Friday, September 10, 2004

a 'timeline of timelines'

Sasha Archibald & Daniel Rosenberg's 'Timeline of Timelines' is available online at Cabinet Magazine. The timeline is a visual history of man's attempt to use the timeline itself to explain a myriad of human issues. The relevant efforts of Eusebius, Macrobius, Maimonides, Da Vinci, Spinoza, Newton, Bayle, and many others are charted through to the present. An example is below.

"10th CENTURY - An anomalous graph appears in an edition of Macrobius's commentary on Cicero's In Somnium Scipionis, an analysis of physics and astronomy. The drawing, probably added to the text by a transcriber, plots planetary and solar movement as a function of time. Although the graph does not seem to convey accurate information, it is nonetheless the first known example of changing values measured against a time axis. "
Seamus Heaney on Milosz

Today's Guardian has yet another beautiful tribute to Czeslaw Milosz, this one by Seamus Heaney. It's full of wonderful quotes, as might only be selected by the ear of another fine poet. A new favorite line particularly fresh to me is about the poet who constantly heard "the immense call of the Particular, despite the earthly law that sentences memory to extinction" ("Capri").
site of the week - Weed's London Oz Magazine

My recommendation of the week is for Weed's London Oz Magazine (1967-1973) Index. A complete collection of cover art and tables of contents of the British experimental counterculture mag. Similar to the London Oz Rough Guide, but with better images.
sort of a break

More than a week has passed since my last post, and the interim has included a trip to Maine. We've reclaimed my old apartment, as my friend Bud has moved out to begin yet another chapter in his peripatetic life. Much of our time was spent relaxing at home, enjoying the cool temperatures, low humidity and some meals at home. My one book related activity consited of buying a library of 5000 French books. The books, packed in more than 100 banana boxes are being delivered to my sister's barn in Maine, where I'll sort them and hopefully whittle the collection down to a manageable size. I through a few boxes in the back of the vehicle before I left Maine, and I've already found firsts of Sartre, Maritain and Chekhov, and many interesting oddball printings. The good stuff is still to come, with signed and inscribed literature, as well as large paper copies and other books in their etat definitiv.

Monday, August 30, 2004

Latin for hot pants?

In an effort to get with the times, the Vatican "has helpfully produced a new lexicon of modern words in Latin, providing translations for such non-classical terms as playboy, hot pants, nightclub and Merlot. The lexicon, which has just been launched, is intended to provide updated vocabulary for theologians writing in Latin about current issues." - from today's Telegraph.
a Booker blog

Just can't get enough info about the Booker Prize? Here's a daily blog with more than you'll care to read.

Saturday, August 28, 2004

The NYTimes reviews Mitchell's Cloud Atlas.
Booker long list is out

The puff of smoke has emerged from the locked room and the long list of Booker Prize contenders is out. Happily, both of my own choices for the prize are present, David Mitchell's Cloud Atlas and Alan Hollinghurst's The Line of Beauty. Neither of these is a big surprise, and the Guardian seems to be behind them as well. My unfamiliarity with most of the entries each year makes this a contest I watch not for the horserace itself, but for the pleasure of watching such passion exhibited over a choice of novels. I can only long for a situation here in the states where the press and at least part of the public picks up the flag for their favorite and shows such enthusiasm or digust over a simple literature award.

Saturday, August 21, 2004

bookseller Bernard Breslauer dies

Breslauer, 86, was a collector and dealer of manuscript illumination and early European bookbindings. Read more in the NYTimes obit.

Friday, August 20, 2004

a grand mismeasure of the reading life

The new University of Wisconsin-Whitewater study of the most literate cities with the highest level of "book-ish behavior" (people acting like books?) is now out. It is a serious load of crap, which tries to measure how cities "cultivate literate, bookish behavior in its citizenry." While the leading cities are indeed worthy of some commendation for effort, the survey manages to rank America's most literary city, New York, 49th.

Thursday, August 19, 2004

site of the week - Invisible Library

Invisible Library is the work of one Brian Quinette, who has been compiling a list of books which do not exist, except in the pages of other books. It's an ongoing project, so suggestions and corrections are welcomed. The site also includes a description of the Fortsas Auction, a 19th century bibliohoax, itself composed of an 'invisible library'.

Nest issue no. 1 Posted by Hello
Nest magazine calls it quits

Nest founder Joseph Holtzman explains his decision to end publication of his singularly individualistic design mag Nest. Nest has been the one truly exciting periodical devoted to architecture and interior design in an aisle full of magazines nothing more than glorified Sears catalogues. Holtzman's contention that an igloo, an outhouse, a prison room or a fashionable Parisian apartment have equal relevance as shelter inspirations. A personal favorite - a retirement cottage for designed for the punk band Crass from issue no. 21.

Tuesday, August 17, 2004

Voynich manuscript a hoax?

A British scientists claims the undeciphered text may be unsolvable after all, and points to a known fraudster as its potential author.

Monday, August 16, 2004

the odorous origins of the Olympics

In his Guardian review of Nigel Spivey's The Ancient Olympics: War Minus the Shooting, Oliver Taplin remembers the mythical roots of the Olympics. "It is ironically appropriate that the mythical stables (or rather farmyards) of Augeas were situated on the future site of the sanctuary of Zeus at Olympia. The story was that Augeas never used to clean out the stinking, insalubrious dungyards of his huge cattle herds; eventually Hercules turned up and diverted the local river to wash out the accumula tions of slurry. While he was at it, he inaugurated the Olympic Festival, at least according to one of several founding myths. Ironically appropriate because there is probably no tradition derived from ancient Greece that has become so clogged and contaminated by ideological dung, self-interested nationalist ordure, and bogus sanitising as the modern Olympics."
NYTimes on Ngugi

A longer profile of Kenyan novelist and playwright Ngugi wa Thiongo, following the earlier report of his attack in Nairobi.
on the immoral novel

Three questions (only) for critic James Woods.

Saturday, August 14, 2004

Czeslaw Milosz dead at 93

Nobel Prize winning poet Czeslaw Milosz passed today in Krakow, Poland. Milosz, whose books were in banned in his native Poland in 1946, fled Poland for asylum in France in 1951. His crusade against those who would seek to silence the human spirit was tireless.

You Whose Name

You whose name is aggressor and devourer.
Putrid and sultry, in fermentation.
You mash into pulp sages and prophets,
Criminals and heroes, indifferently.
My vocativus is useless.
You do not hear me, though I address you,
Yet I want to speak, for I am against you.
So what if you gulp me, I am not yours.
You overcome me with exhaustion and fever.
You blur my thought, which protests,
You roll over me, dull unconscious power.
The one who will overcome you is swift, armed:
Mind, spirit, maker, renewer.
He jousts with you in depths and on high,
Equestrian, winged, lofty, silver-scaled.
I have served him in the investiture of forms.
It's not my concern what he will do with me.
A retinue advances in the sunlight by the lakes.
From white villages Easter bells resound.

Czeslaw Milosz

Friday, August 13, 2004

Julia Child

The news has just crawled across the screen that Julia Child has passed. Think I'll go have an omelet and a glass of beaujolais in her honor.
Ted Kooser selected new Poet Laureate of the US

Ted Kooser has been selected to replace Louis Gluck as the Poet Laureate of the US.

Of the new choice, Librarian of Congress James Billington said, "Ted Kooser is a major poetic voice for rural and small town America and the first poet laureate chosen from the Great Plains. His verse reaches beyond his native region to touch on universal themes in accessible ways."
Ngugi attacked in Kenya

Ngugi wa Thiongo, Kenyan novelist and playwright was attacked upon his return to Kenya after 22 years of exile. Nigugi has been a persistent voice of anti-imperialism throughout his career, as well as a critic of the brutalism which has enveloped African life in the wake of colonialism.

"Literature does not grow or even develop in a vacuum, it is given impetus, shape, direction and even area of concern by social, political and economic forces in a particular society. The relationship between creative literature and these other forces cannot be ignored, especially in Africa, where modern literature has grown against the gory background of European imperialism and its changing manifestations: slavery, colonialism and neo-colonialism. Our culture over the last hundred years has developed against the same stunting dwarfing background." (Homecoming, quoted in Cook and Okenimkpe, 19)

Wednesday, August 11, 2004

what does 'lost' mean anyway?

While the rediscovery of a lost short story of Virginia Woolf has generated some excitement, a previously lost Virginia Woolf notebook has been known for a bit more than a year and has gone more or less unmentioned in the press. The problem with the enthusiasm for the new short story, is that it was never really 'lost'. It had been published in Good Housekeeping in the early 1930's. It had, however, failed to be republished and thus offered an opportunity for some new hype. Nothing wrong with that - just a misuse of the term 'lost'.

Tuesday, August 10, 2004

a Phillip Larkin trove

A previously unknown cache of unpublished Philip Larkin material has been uncovered in his home town of Hull. It includes nearly 250 unknown poems.

Monday, August 09, 2004

Goethe's language dumbed down

Gunter Grass, topless page 3 girls, and a number of right-wing parties in Germany have all spoken out against a recent official adoption of changes to the German language. The changes, put in place nearly six years ago, have been declared 'stupid and confusing'.

Saturday, August 07, 2004

the Vatican porn collection

Stumbled across this old (1982) Straight Dope column on the Vatican's alleged 'world's largest porn collection'. Cecil Adams makes short work of this old (pope) urban myth, pointing out that most of the collection - at least that they are willing to admit to - predates the Englightenment (doesn't everything there?). He asks the natural followup - who does own the world's largest porn collection and where is it kept? - and offers some interesting leads. One interesting note from Cecil's column - the microfilm of the Vatican's porn collection is housed in John Ashcroft's home state of Missouri.

Thursday, July 29, 2004

Saramago on children's books:

"If adults read children's books, the world would be a better place, according to the Portuguese author José Saramago, left. Speaking in Rome before a performance of a musical based on a children's story he wrote 30 years ago, Mr. Saramago, 81, said of children's tales: "They are moral fables that teach values which we consider indispensable, like solidarity, respect for others and goodness. But after, we as adults forget these lessons in real life,'' Agence France-Presse reported, citing the Italian news agency Lusa. Mr. Saramago, whose works combine magical realism with political comment, won the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1998."


Thursday, July 15, 2004

On the 100th anniversary of the death of Anton Chekhov, Rosamund Bartlett has an interesting article in today's Guardian. The article includes this description of Chekhov by Richard Ford:

"As readers of imaginative literature, we are always seeking clues, warnings," he wrote in the introduction to a recent anthology. "Where in life to search more assiduously; what not to overlook; what's the origin of this sort of human calamity, that sort of joy and pleasure: how can we live nearer to the latter, further off from the former? And to such seekers as we are, Chekhov is a guide, perhaps the guide.""

Friday, June 18, 2004

what were they drinking?

1.4 million dollars! That was the hammer price, not including the 12% buyers premium charged by the house which brings the price to 1.56 million, for the annotated multilith copy of the Big Book of AA at today's Sotheby's auction in NYC. It sold to an anonymous phone bidder who jumped in at about 1 million, after spirited bidding between two other phone bidders, one represented by his own agent in the back of the room who looked a great deal like a sleazy sports agent from Jerry McGuire . The final price was well above the 300-500k estimate, which seemed to be a bit of a shock to all of the booksellers in the room.

The room itself had been pretty quiet for the morning session, with many lots passed altogether. At lunch in the cafe upstairs, our table was approached by a producer from HBO who wanted to know if any of us were bidding on the "big book". Not that any of us could have contemplated spending that kind of money for any book, but we told him that none of us were interested, and that any action was likely to take place on the phones. Someone cracked that if he'd been from HBO's Sex and the City and had asked about the romantic lives of booksellers, "not interested" or "mostly takes place on the phone" might have worked for answers as well. After lunch, we found that the room was now populated by an entirely different group of people, almost none with paddles, but many with cameras. One of these new arrivals asked if we were from HBO. They all looked like they could use a drink.

People do pay crazy prices for things everyday, from apartments in NYC to cars to trophy wives, so this shouldn't be surprising. I've been around this business to know that auction prices are no more than the wish fulfillment of at least two people, but this price is quite ridiculous - driven more by cult of celebrity (or in this case the celebration of a cult) than by any real historical importance. To put a point on this, an unnamed person being interviewed by HBO in the lobby equated this piece with a manuscript by Elvis Presley (although I'd take an Elvis manuscript over this thing any day).

It was equally disappointing to see the Redoute Roses sell for only $400,000 (less than the $500,000 low estimate). It was a stunning copy of an amazing book.

Monday, June 07, 2004

raise one for the werkbund Posted by Hello
in the doldrums

July and August aren't really so bad. By then we've grown to expect that sales will be slow and business all but non-existent. It's May and July that catch me by surprise every year. Once the April New York ABAA fair comes and goes, the calls and emails just drop away. Fortunately, there are appraisals and the occassional insitutional sale, encouraged by the annual institutional budget cycle, which for many begins anew in July.

May brought me a great appraisal, one of those which really gets me thinking again about my own reading and intellectual pursuits. I can't talk about it much here, but what impressed me about this archive was the slow accumulation of knowledge and insight over a 40 or so year period. Consistency and the dogged pursuit of information from very possible source is the name of the game.

spring reading list:

Recent reading: John Banville's Prague Pictures, Lester Bangs' Mainlines, Blood Feasts and Bad Tastes. Also read the new translation of the fragments of Heraclitus by Brooks Haxton which, unfortunately, has to be one of the worst books I've read in a long time. Particularly awful is the foreward by James Hillman, an artless blend of postmodern mush and new age babble. Tne pile next the bed remains way too tall...

Saturday, April 03, 2004

Just back from a trip to beautiful Garden City Long Island, home of the Long Island Antiquarian Book Fair. My friend Dan Wechsler and I have made a few trips in the last year to smaller fairs such as this one, and for the most part they are an opportunity to see a few colleagues and friends, and perhaps pick up a few books for reading. This one was no exception. Considering its location near the tony North Shore of Long Island, the show included few antiquarian dealers from New York City, or even some of the dealers of more rare material from Long Island itself (although I did notice several of these dealers in attendance to buy, but not exhibit). Quality was spotty, with lots of interesting books in just ok condition, and a booth or two which really should have been taken outside and fumigated.

There were, however, still lots of good things to see and perhaps purchase. David Bergman, a bit of an eccentric, and a specialist in Natural History and Paleontology, had a big booth for his very big books. David, a very strong and athletic baseball nut, is not a man of great stature, but his books of choice are mostly large and heavy folios, predominantly in his fields of interest, but also in the decorative arts. It's a pleasure to walk into a booth filled with books of an entirely different scale. It serves to remind us that not all books are octavos. A similar experience can be had at the Boston "Garage" show, where for many years now, one dealer has exhibited only miniatures (I've always envied this dealer the ease with which he can pack and leave).

Tom Congleton was also there, with a selection of stock from Between the Covers, including some great baseball books just in time for the beginning of the season. I'll admit that baseball books have never been my thing, but they take on an added meaning in the Spring.

A dealer I have never seen before, from Waccabuc, NY, (I apologize for not getting names - there was no dealer list supplied by the fair organizers), had a number of interesting things, including some very fine condition fifites and sixties paperbacks with lurid covers (again not an area I know anything about, but they were nice to see). The condition was very crisp, which is wonderful for a category of book usually found in miserable condition. They also had a nice copy of the Oxford 3 volume edition of Euclid's Elements. This is something I'd very much like to have for my own library, but I'm holding on to my resources for the business right now.

At the end of it all, I got out of there with a dozen or so books, including several wine books, a nice copy of Cyril Connolly's Rock Pool, an inscribed copy of Lionel Trilling's Liberal Imagination, and a few volumes to add to my collection of Bollingen imprints. Not bad, and not too much money was spent overall. Dan and I grabbed some lunch in Wiliamsburg, Brooklyn on the way home, at the Williamsburg Diner, an amazing little restaurant in an old railroad-car style diner. Not the best fair I've been to, but still a very pleasant way to spend half a day.

Monday, March 22, 2004

This past weekend found me back in Maine, attending to more details regarding my car, and shopping a bit for books. the highlight of the bookseeking came Friday, when I drove down to Boston to pick up Sam (she couldn't come up until after classes finished Thursday). I visited my friends Peter Stern and David Ritchie at the old shop where I used to work when Lame Duck Books was in that location. Peter was his old self, but Dave has carved out a nice new niche for himself in the year or two since he left Lame Duck. His stock is small but excellent, with broad interests, and very good or better condition. After I met Sam at South Station, we made a visit to Brattle Books, a wonderful source, as always, this time with a large newly arrived collection of cookbooks. I raided their wine book section, finding an interesting mid-20th century book on wine in Spain.

Later in Maine, I found copies of good books by Sigfried Kracauer, Herman Hesse, and Kurt Seligmann. The Seligmann was a common book in later editions, but a fine copy of the first edition in dust jacket, and with the rare belly-band was quite a find. Not an expensive book, but a prime copy of a work which fits neatly within my collection.

The more time we spend in Maine, the more we are convinced that our bookish life can continue without interruption. My hope is that whatever loss their may be in sources of books will be offset with more time and quiet in which to read.

Tuesday, March 16, 2004

It's always interesting to see how much the old faithful sources continue to provide predictably. I met Dan at the Strand Rare Book Room in advance of a lunch. As usual, they were processing more good books presently, than I'm likely to see almost any bookshop I visit elsewhere: a very clean copy of the wrappered edition of Warhol's Index Book; a beautiful copy of Diana Vreeland's Allure; a lacuna in my collection of catalogues from the seminal avant-garde dealers Ex Libris, and sundry other gems. Dan nabbed most of these and off we went to 12th Steet Books, just two blocks west.

12th Street has always been a favorite of mine, despite the radical change in its personality after a move from the old 17th Street location (under the name Chelsea Books). 12th Street's stock is consistently scholarly, with a steady stream of academic's collections replenishing the shelves. The books may not look "rare", but for someone with an interest in later 20th century scholarship, there are gems each time I visit. Today I found a fine, fine copy of Sebald's Rings of Saturn; an unusual anthropology journal which was designed by minimalist Dan Flavin(!); and just for reading, Waverely Root's memoirs of his time in Paris in the 20's and 30's. Dan and I had a bit of a grab fest when we both spotted two 60's wrappered novels signed by Louis Aragon, which itself was not so exciting, until we saw they were inscribed to Roman Jacobson and quite cheap.

Almost every time I visit these wonderful shops, I swear that I will be back again soon without so much of a delay. And I will regret it when I don't stop in again for a few weeks.

Tomorrow I head back to Maine for a few days, and will stop in at a shop that is quickly becoming my local Maine equivalent of the two shops above. Consistently unusual stock at good prices it what I seek. Samantha will take the Acela to Boston on Friday, where I'll meet her. I'm hoping we will have time for lunch and a visit to the Brattle Bookshop, which is Boston's answer to the above. When I worked around the corner from the Brattle, at John Wronoski's Lame Duck Books, we would visit sometimes three times a day, depending on what collection was being sorted and priced. They would frequently just fill up the carts in the lots outside with books, in an effort to keep the stock moving. I remember finding a group of children's books signed by the philosopher W.V. Quine, which was a hoot.

There are very few shops like this left in the states, as the supply seems to be waning relative to demand, and so many dealers think that there is a "right price" for a book based on the internet.

Monday, March 15, 2004

This past week was a busy one, punctuated by a day trip to New Haven with my colleague Dan Wechsler. The overt purpose of the trip was to pick up a book from a previous consignor, which we managed to sell after returning it. So we swapped a check for the book and took a look at some other very nice things which they had for sale. I'll return on a later date for some serious shopping, but we got out of there having purchased only a few small reference items.

After a lunch one-size-too-large at a hamburger joint in New Haven, we paid a visit to Bill Reese's offices. Terry B. was accomodating as one would expect and Dan and I found a half dozen unusual items to bring home, including a few inscribed Henry Millers, an early Greil Marcus edited rock 'n' roll collection, and a French work on visual poetry. I was also pleased to see their recent catalogue on little periodicals, but was a bit upset I had missed its release date by a few months, as there were quite a few things I would very much like to have purchased.

Friday included a late afternoon (4pm) lunch at Gramercy Tavern, which is a place Samantha is considering for her externship. The lunch was great. Grilled octopus and an artichoke salad to start, followed by salmon and bacon entrees. The bacon, served with spaetzle and red cabbage, was not smoked, but rather a grilled slab, with a texture like a very smooth pork shoulder. Delicious.

Sunday we continued the food extravaganza with a trip to the Food Convention at the Javitz Center. Acres and acres of booths filled with everything from pest control to POS systems, and a few booths were even dedicated to food itself. I'll talk about this fair a bit more later.

Tuesday, March 02, 2004

As always, time flies here, and not always because we're having fun. Jan and I have decided to close the gallery, which was brought about by a number of factors, not least of all that the lease would require a number of expensive renovations for me to take it over. I feel good about it, knowing that it will add an element of fresh start to the establishment of my sole proprietorship. Trying to clear up old debts is certainly adding stress to the equation as well.

It's interesting that as we wind the business down we are being approached with lots of good new material. A handful of good Ed Ruscha titles, a copy of Claude Cahun's Aveux non Avenus (a favorite of mine), and possibly a copy of Max Ernst/Rene Crevel's Mr. Knife and Miss Fork. We'll see what we can do to buy these books, as they're right up our alley. I'd really like to have them for the upcoming ARLISS show in early April. It's important to me to put together the best list possible for that show, and things are coming together for it. A complete run of Film Culture magazine, The Crowninshield primitive art photographs, Antoine Laval's great LA Orange County portfolio, and lot's more that we've never shown before.

Tomorrow I drive to Maine to take care of some business and I'm hoping to make a quick trip to Portland to do some book scouting, and on the way home I'll make stops in Boston and New Haven. The good news is I'll get to see friends in most of those places and see my little niece Emma as well.

Wednesday, February 25, 2004

I've been back from Vegas for almost a week now, and things have been hectic. A trip to the suburbs yesterday with my friend and colleague Dan (Sanctuary Books, NYC) was a much needed respite from the stress of the shop and finances. It was a house call, and the owners had a small collection of mostly French books. A few nice bird books, an unusual Marie Antoinette item and a stray volume from a 17th century anatomical work. But almost everything had a least one defect - a loose hinge, a scuffed binding, and worse - a lacking title page. The owner clearly wanted to sell, but he had the disease - internet know-it-all-ism. He'd found Abe listings for many of the books, and assumed that the most expensive listing might compare with the item he had. Wrong. One of the hard learned lessons of my bookselling careeer is that an ordinary copy of a book might bring only a fraction of the price a distinguished copy. A book might be distinguished by being in truly outstanding condition, or in a later binding by a significant art binder. Signed or inscribed copies and associations are similar. I'm lumping an awful lot of categories together here, but the point is simply that an author and a title should not lead one to expect that the highest price listed on Abe is relevant to the book on the shelf at home.

Tuesday, February 17, 2004

It's been a while, but with the death of Samantha's grandmother and the attendant events, I've been a bit off the book track. My work has been mostly packing and shipping. In the midst of all of this lack of accomplishment I now must go to Las Vegas for two days, for a surprise celebration for my Aunt Jean's 70th birthday. It should be good fun, but I'm not really in much of a mood, emotionally or financially to be in Las Vegas.

It's strange because I know of at least two major collectors in Las Vegas, both casino owners. Neither has ever purchased a book from me, but I did sell one of them a few items when I worked for another dealer. I've also sold a few things lately to a collector of American avant-garde film material. The idea of pursuing a collection of esoteric material out there in the desert surrounded by pensioners pissing away their savings. Then again, this is where Howard Hughes spent much of his life.

Tuesday, February 10, 2004

Recent discussions on the Bibliophile newsgroup board have addressed the issue of how to price a book when there is a lack of other copies on the net. The bottom line of the discussion seems to be research and knowledge. This needs to be expanded to include the pricing of books when there are several or many copies on line. The use of online listings as anything more than an auxiliary tool for pricing is not research to be employed by booksellers. Knowledge and experience, a reference collection, colleagues you can count on to turn to when your stuck; these are the indispensible tools of the bookseller.

I was faced with an appropriate illustration of the perils of the current state of bookselling yesterday. I walked into a small local store yesterday, one which has been operating for quite some time. It's a general shop and does not have an "antiquarian" or rare section, but on the wall, in a folded ziplock bag, was a beaten up copy of Beckett's En Attendant Godot, with the wrapper separated from the book, a big chunk of the spine missing and general darkening throughout. It was marked $1000, which would be a very healthy price for a first in such crappy shape. But it wasn't a first, just a 15mille (fifteen thousandth), which was worth perhaps $10 if it had been in perfect shape.

I had a friendly conversation with the person at the counter, who was not the owner, but who was a "cataloguer" for the shop. They had written the listing, and with the owner had priced the book, and neither had any idea how to begin to determine a French first edition. They defended the price by saying that there were other copies of the first on line for $4500. They didn't know that these were mine, nor did they know that the prices were as they were because one was truly fine and the other was a very scarce review copy. They had merely looked the book up on Bookfinder, seen the higher prices and the same date of publication and marked it accordingly.

Did this make me crazy? Yes. It is irresponsible on the part of the bookseller. It makes it appear there are more copies of this book available than there actually are. It reflects badly on booksellers as a whole. Etc. etc.

Bookselling is an exciting trade in part because you never know what you might next have to learn about. I remember researching a fine collection of bird books while working for another bookseller, and a small group of very rare early accounts of the Spanish conquest of America for yet another seller. I knew nothing of these areas when I started, but by the time I was finished with each, I had a general knowledge of the appropriate reference books, had tracked down listings from older dealer catalogues and auction catalogues, and catalogued and priced the books accordingly. Could I have made a mistake? It's possible, but I had done my best at the time and could now feel comfortable defending my research and prices, should a customer or colleague question them.

The tasks of research and cataloguing should be seen as opportunities, not chores. They are part of what makes bookselling a challenge and their skillful execution brings a bit of honor to the trade with each performance.

Monday, February 09, 2004

I'm back to work again today, after four days in Los Angeles to visit our friend Robin and to attend the LA Book Fair. It was a very pleasurable long weekend, with some quiet downtime in Robin's very peaceful house, high on a hill in Highland Park, near Pasadena, with views of the snowcapped Sierras in the distance and a yard filled with cactii and succulents, flowering and fruit bearing trees. The warm weather and green surroundings led Samantha and I to have some serious misgivings about our plans to eventually move to Maine, where our porch plants would spend most of their lives indoors, waiting for their short season.

The fair was much more promising than any of perhaps the last ten fairs I've attended. For those who have looked to this fair as an indicator of business to come, sellers seemed relatively upbeat about the level of sales and attendance and morale were, in my view, up significantly. My own buying was modest, as I'm trying hard to stay focussed on eliminating my older accounts payable, but I did find a handsome Pontus Hulten designed exhibition catalolgue from the Moderna Museet in Stolkholm as well as a few reference books. The highlights of the fair were many. Here are just a few selected purely subjectively:

John Windle's booth held a copy of an old favorite of mine, The First Six Books of the Elements of Euclid, (London, 1847), designed by Oliver Byrne, which uses colors and shapes to simplify the mathematical explanation of the work. I first ran across this work in Rauri Mclean's Victorian Book Design & Colour Printing, and have sought it out at book fairs ever since, just to spend a few minutes with one of the most beautiful of 19th Century books.

While Ursus is best known for art books, particularly the grand livre d'artistes, their counter case held a small, unspectacular volume which on closer inspection was a presentation copy of Madison and Hamilton's Federalist. All I can say is wow.

Ars Libri, with David Stang manning the booth, had a wonderful selection of important art material, including illustrated books from the Roumanian avant-garde, and a collection of material for an unpublished livre d'artiste by Jim Dine, which was marked sold by the time I got to the booth.

For poetry, James S. Jaffe had the booth to visit. Samantha and our friend Robin spent more than a bit of time admiring the manuscript poem by Emily Dickinson and corrected typescript of Sylvia Plath.

My old employer John Wronoski of Lame Duck Books had distinguished copies of books by Nietzsche, Kant, Thomas Mann, Rilke, and his spectacular collection of manuscripts and inscribed books of Jorge Luis Borges. I had seen most of these items before, but he was offering for the first time a very pretty copy of Garcia Lorca's first book, Impresiones y viajes (Madrid, 1918), an account of a trip to Castile with his art class.

Antiquariaat Forum of the Netherlands has stunning early books, but I was most interested to see the complete three-volume edition of their magnificent catalogue, The Children's World of Learning, 1440-1880, that they have been working on for many years. The complete set is over 1500 pages, with nearly 1200 illustrations; it is now the indispensible reference work for early children's literature, and includes an essay comparing the new work to the previous standard in the field by Gamuchian.

Collegiality at the fair was as appropriately high as the prices, and it was very nice to see some friendly faces from the European fair circuit, including Torgny Schunesson and Borje Bengsston or Antikvariat Kulturbryggarna in Sweden, Julius Steiner of Asher Rare Books, Charlie Unsworth of Unsworth Booksellers in London, Laurens Hesselink of Forum, and many others.

For my good friend Dan Wechsler of Sanctuary Books, NYC, it was his first ABAA fair, one for which he had prepared for some time. His planning paid off, and pre-show sales were excellent, including a handsome first of Jane Austen's triple-decker Pride & Prejudice, a first of Gone with the Wind, and signed first of Abbie Hoffman's Steal this Book, which he had purchased from me the night before the fair after a meal and some wine. Dan's experience encouraged me to expedite my application to the ABAA. While I don't expect my experience will mirror his, mostly because of my specialization, it's got to beat the other fairs which remain good places to buy, but lately haven't been good for much else.

All in all, this years LA Book Fair was one of the most upbeat fairs I've attended in a few years. One can only hope that the big fairs are finally pulling out of the slump incited by the economic downturn and reactions to the chaning role of the internet in the business. We'll have to wait and see what happens in April in New York.

Tuesday, February 03, 2004

The final of three "Restaurant Week" lunches put me in a mood which has shaped the rest of my day positively. This one was at Bolo, Bobby Flay's old Spanish stand by on 22nd street. Some searching downtown led me to an inscribed first of Abbie Hoffman's Steal This Book. A fine, first English language edition of A.R. Luria's Working Brain was a nice find too, if not as valuable as the Hoffman. Lately it seems as if the good finds are coming in quickly, which they are. Some scarce avant-garde catalogues from Galerie Gmurzynska in Zug, and some scarce references on Futurism and French Psychoanalysis.

Thursday Samantha and I leave for LA, where we'll visit her friend Robin and spend some time at the California International Book Fair. We'll dine with some friends, hopefully visit a few book shops, and perhaps gets a bit of rest in between.

Sunday, February 01, 2004

The various book newsgroups usually provide me with fodder for my daily griping and little else. While I post books for sale, I have only once sold a book to someone who found it on the newsgroup, and in that case it was to a customer I had known previously. Much of the traffic seems to be in the "What's Spam?" or "Should I trust customers from France?" or "How does one abbreviate 'page'?" vein. Samantha has had it with listening to me gripe about what a bunch of boobs the other booksellers are, so I try to keep it to myself. Just when I think the newsgroup has hit a new low ("how does one abbreviate 'page'?), I find a truly useful piece of information passed on by some like-minded soul who must also be gritting his teeth at most of the pablum that gets served up.

Today, it was a story from The Economist on the persistence of Latin in today's world. Buried within the story is news of a weekly Latin Radio show produced by the Finnish Broadcasting Company. Nuntii Latini, is a five minute news digest, spoken entirely in Latin. Since some of the news they announce is local to Finland, the show includes a strange mix of Latin and Finnish.

Friday, January 30, 2004

I'm currently investigating a small handsome book of WWI poems by Paul Vaillant-Couturier, illustrated with lithographs by Jean d'Espouy. Villant-Couturier was, from what I've learned tonight, a Pacifist and editor of l'Humanitie.

A small street in Paris' XIVth is named after him, and he is buried in Pere Lachaise. Pere Lachaise has become a regular spot for me to visit whenever I'm in Paris, less for famous corpse spotting than as a place for meditation and communing with history. The mixture of solemnity and grand dilapidation fascinates me endlessly. Near sunset, tiny panes of stained glass, many shattered from attempted theft and vandalism, leave bursts of color on the chilly stones. A handy online guide to Pere Lachaise and other Paris cimetieres can be found at

I've had much less luck finding information on the illustrator of the small volume, Jean d'Espouy, although I'm tempted to assume he was related to the famous explorer of the Pyranees, Raymond d'Espouy.

Thursday, January 29, 2004

Samantha's current culinary school preoccupation is ice cream in all its forms: gelato, sorbet, and granita, as well as the good old-fashioned type. This leads me to examine the external nature of this process, namely the machinery of ice cream making. One informative source is They have a very large assortment of machines from the simplest and least expensive home gadgets, to the big restaurant grade behemoths, described with jargon like, "countertop, 3 head, single phase 208-240 volt, air cooled, gravity fill, model #CS2-237". Sounds good to me. Crank it up!

But this stuff is expensive, so I too a look at eBay to see what they might have. As always, the answer is lots. They had good deals on all sizes of machines, including a very neat White Mountain maker powered by John Deere. It's a bit big for our apartment, but I can definitely see having something like this in Maine.

Finally got the comment section to work, at least partially.

Found an interesting site today, gnod, or global network of dreams. If i understand it correctly, it uses reader feedback to situate authors in proximity to each other conceptually, and then maps the proximities visually. As it is dependent upon reader's casual listings of favorite authors, and assumes that reader tastes imply closeness of ideas, it can result in some very odd juxtapositions such as Rabelais and Philip Johnson.

Still, the visual representation affords some interesting links and encourages some adventurous exploratory reading. I highly recommend spending a few minutes with gnod.

Wednesday, January 28, 2004

The dreaded snow storm predicted to bury New York has failed to materialize, but Samantha and I have done our best to pretend we have a snowday. I'm working my way through cataloguing the books purchased last weekend at the book fair and elsewhere, and should be ready to issue another list soon. Just as well, as lists are about the only opportunity for selling these days, with interest in book fairs dwindling and the internet sales sites becoming a lowest-common-denominator flea market. The gallery too has suffered from the changing nature of the book marketplace, with destination oriented customers just not making the trip any longer. Here's an image if you haven't seen it:

Tuesday, January 27, 2004

Ah... a good day, and I owe it all to... lunch! This is Restaurant Week in NYC, which means that restaurants typically beyond the reach of those of us with modest wallet open their doors and drop their prices. Samantha and I had a marvelous lunch at Danny Meyer's 11 Madison Park. My meal consisted of a seafood borscht, delicate with an amazing broth, followed by beef stroganoff, and topped off with a mint chip ice cream cake. Mmmmm. Samantha's main course was brook trout in a grapefruit based sauce with endive, and she finished with a pineapple upside down almond-flour cake, topped with creme fraiche ice cream. All accompanied by a Gigondas and a Muscadet. The food was very fine, delicate, but with strong flavors.

We have a few more lunches sheduled this week, including Montrachet and Bolo, so I can count on being in a very good mood most of the time.

Under the influence of lunch, a bit of browsing at the Strand proved fruitful as well. I turned up a copy of Hermann Struck's Amerika (1/100 with all plates signed), a pair of Bonnard livres, and some French deco periodicals from the 1920's. It was a very good day.

I've taken a long hiatius from this barely begun work, but inspired by Samantha's diligent posting, I will restart. It's been a disappointing week, with a museum turning down an archive they had been hot for for several months, and yet another book fair debacle.

The Books at the Armory Show fair was this past weekend, held annually at the site of the original Armory Show featuring Marcel Duchamp, which at the time shocked the cultural world. The energy has clearly gone out of it though, with fewer visitors again this year, continuing the downward trend. However, the conviviality was pleasant and there were a few good books to buy. I found a nice copy of the second edition of Claude Levi-Strauss's Triste Tropiques, inscribed by the great Structuralist, and with a letter laid-in. Also found a nice cloth first of John Cage's Notations, another personal favorite of mine, as well as some fine issues of Dance Index magazine with the covers designed by Joseph Cornell. The next few days will be spent cataloguing these and the 15 or so other titles I picked up.

The low point of the fair came for me when a woman approached me about the copy of Robert Frank's Les Americains I had displayed. She asked about a first of the American edition, an unusual case in that a later publication is more valuable than the true first. Personally, I prefer the French edition, with its collection of America-critical quotes juxtaposed against the photographs. I explained this to the woman at the fair, accompanied by the bookseller's litany of condition being the paramount factor when dealing with rare books. She looked at me with a staight face and told me an "expert" had informed her that authentic firsts have loose pages because of a poor binding. I said yes, the first was perfect bound, which frequently leads to loose pages, but that just means that there are fewer copies in fine condition with the pages still intact, as they should be. She would have none of it, insisting that the book is not a first edition, unless the pages are falling out. She huffed off, realizing I would have none of it. Yet another delusional book owner, convinced their book is the only one truly worth anything.