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.