Sunday, December 24, 2006

a few of my favorite blogs

In the spirit of the holiday, I'd like to send a thank you to a few of my favorite blogs and sites. I turn to these not so much for information (I have separate list to thank for that - perhaps later), but for the quality of the experience, some thoughtful reflection, and sometimes both. Giornale Nuovo, is the work of one Mr H., a youngish man living in Sweden with a keen sense of style regarding historical graphics. Favorite recent posts have included: Engraved and Etched English Title Pages and Basoli's Alphabet

Mark Woods, an Ottowan, runs Wood s Lot, a a hefty mash-up of thoughtful text snippets and images selected from across the ages. This is one of the most philosophical (in the sense of humanistic tradition), sites I know, and I find it a salve for the frazzled internet work in whch I normally find myself. It's not unusual to find texts by Miguel de Unamuno, Laura Riding Jackson and Walter Benjamin matched with art work by Joseph Cornell.

Both of these sites are also presented in a simple, almost minimalist format, which is such a relief from the visual mess provided by most blogs/sites these days.

Thursday, December 21, 2006

Poet Piergiorgio Welby gets his wish

Piergiorgio, Italian poet dies with dignity. Conservatives do what they can to stifle that dignity, and demand the arrest of the doctor who sedated him and removed him from his hospital respirator. Piergiorgio has been blogging about his desire to control his own destiny for some time, logging over 1000 entries by tapping out the words with a stick on a computer keyboard. He also wrote an open letter to the President of Italy, in support of control of his own life, and included this short, powerful evocation of real life, "“Life is the woman who loves you, the wind through your hair, the sun on your face, an evening stroll with a friend. Life is also a woman who leaves you, a rainy day, a friend who deceives you. I am neither melancholic nor manic-depressive. I find the idea of dying horrible. But what is left to me is no longer a life.”
Adam Bellow, pamphleteer for the 21st century

Can the pamphlet bring ideas back into publishing for the masses? Saul Bellow's son Adam thinks so, and looks to Haldeman-Julius' Little Blue Books as a model.
"We've learned nothing in 12,000 years"

Picasso on paleolithic cave art, in Gregory Curtis' new book, The Cave Painters.

Friday, December 15, 2006

Borges manuscripts turn up

Relief is in the air in Cambridge as Lame Duck's two lost Borges manuscripts turn up tucked into another item.
Volbracht's Myko Libri

Every so often a bibliography comes along that's not just a handy tool. The great books on books can be beautiful objects in themselves, beautifully designed and a pleasure to pore over. Jurgen Holstein's recent survey of modern dust jacket design, and the multi-volume collection of juveniles, The Children's World of Learning 1480 -1880, published by Antiquariaat Forum come to mind. My new favorite bibliography is Christian Volbracht's new catalogue of his own collection of books on mushrooms, Myko Libri, Die Bibliothek der Pilzbucher. Volbracht has gone to great trouble to create a publication worthy of his great collection. Published by the author in a signed, limited edition of 750 copies, the book contains more then 2300 entries, and is illustrated in color throughout, with a mixture of title pages, plates and decorated book covers. A number of indices provide quick lists of various subject areas, from early works (Pliny's 1481 Historia Naturalis is the first) to regional publications, books on mycogastronomy, hallucinogens and iconography. The quarto-sized tome is handsomely bound in brown cloth with an illustrated dust jacket.

Monday, November 20, 2006

Ehon: The Artist and the Book in Japan

The New York Public Library has a fantastic new exhibition up currently, titled Ehon: The Artist and the Book in Japan. Ehon surveys the development of the Japanese picture book, a 1350 year history which began in the eighth century. The survey extends through the Japanese Avant-Garde, including the MAVO movement, through to Anime and the contemporary photographic artist book. While I have not yet seen the exhibit, I did order the 380 page companion volume, published by the NYPL and the University of Washington Press. It a beautiful book, with enough illustration to truly draw you into these visual wonders. The show runs through February, 2007.

Friday, September 29, 2006

you can't play chess in flore...

Andrew Hussey's new book, Paris: the Secret History will be available this November, and it sounds like a good one. I might venture a bet that Paris has been the most profiled city in book lore (with new York and London as the other obvious contenders). The book claims to tell the history of the City of Light through its "whores and beggars... hustlers and vagabonds", and while Hussey recognizes the sad changes that the city's current touristic life requires (e.g. you can't play chess in Flore), he also reveals how Parisian life remains vital, and is perhaps experiencing a renaissance right now. Steven Poole has a lengthy review in the TLS.

Thursday, September 28, 2006

leonardo on paper

The Victoria & Albert Museum has a new exhibition, focussing on Leonardo Da Vinci's thought process as expressed on paper. The drawings include anatomical studies, mathematical expressions and designs for machinery.

Friday, September 22, 2006

a new collected camus

Gallimard has issued an expanded and corrected complete works of Camus in its venerable Bibliotheque de la Pleiade series. Robin Buss has a review in the TLS.

sweet pages

Tim Richardson is the author of a history of confectionery entitled Sweets: History of a Temptation,(in America the title has been appropriately dumbed down to Sweets: A History of Candy) The British Library has a short interview and an illustrated selection of his favorite books from the history of sweets.

Sunday, September 10, 2006

more about haying

We have about seven or eight acres of open pasture. It's been used for hay in the past, but was quickly headed toward becoming a field of weeds and, eventually, a woods again. Our neighbor Dave was kind enough to let me use his Farmall A with a sickle
bar mower to cut the grass. Originally my plan was just to cut it before the weeds went to seed, and let it rot in the field as fertilizer for next year's hopefully healthier crop of hay. Hay mowing, it turns out, is nothing like mowing the lawn. It's hard work, especially on an older tractor (this one's from around 1943). At times one is practically wrestling with the machine to keep the sickle bar clear of clumps of hay, and the tractor in something of a straight line. I finished about half of the fields and had to stop mowing to replace the wooden pitman bar, a piece which is made of wood so that it might break if too much pressure is put on the blades, so as to not transmit the problem to the tractor's PTO (no need to explain this) or through to the engine.

Fortunately, I was approached just then by a local farmer who asked if he could hay the field, and keep a percentage of the crop. I don't have access to the equipment to do a full haying myself, to say nothing of the required skill, so I jumped at the chance to watch someone who knows what they're doing cut the field. A few days later, some diesel pickups could be spotted idling at the edge of the field while the farmer, John T. and his crew made a plan. The cutting which remained was dispatched by John's son Jonathan, with a much more exact execution, making my half of the field look amateurish and uneven, with clumps of uncut grass and weeds still sticking up straight. Jonathan's rows were trimmed evenly, and they were straight.

The cut hay lay in the field for a few days turning gold as it dried. The Jonathan showed up again with his tractor towing an implement called a 'tedder'. The tedder uses long steel rotating fingers to lift and fluff the hay, allowing it to dry more thoroughly. The next day, A second tractor arrived, pulling a hay rake, and yet another tractor with the baler. The pick ups were pulling two hay wagons, one a six wheeler (that's the one in the picture with my last posting below).

Four or five hours later, the two wagons were full with nearly two hundred seventy bales. Because I have limited use for the hay this year, I told John to keep all but 20 bales, which I'll likely use for mulch. The rest was his. Typically, a field owner would split the hay roughly 50/50 with the team that hays. In the future I expect we'll use that half for our sheep.

Friday, September 08, 2006

bluebirds / hay fields

Fall comes early here, and with it the bird migrations. Ducks and geese are frequent transients, but we've been waiting for the bluebirds. They were here last year, right after we moved in, playfully picking grasshoppers and crickets out of the high grass. But this year we've cut the grass around the house, and hayed the two pastures we could easily get farm equipment into. So would they return? Not to worry, yesterday around five in the afternoon Samantha and I were out back, when a flock of bluebirds emerged from the forest and headed for the marsh down the road. Packs of ten or fifteen birds at a time flapped and coasted across the green fields, thier little orange chests giving them away. There were likely more than one hundred in all. We hope some will stay for a few days at least.

Monday, August 14, 2006

Grisha's solution to Poincare's problem

A brief article in the NYTimes about the elusive Grisha's solution of Poincare's problem, and it's implications for mathematics.

Thursday, August 10, 2006

futurist visual poetry at the Getty

A Tumultous Assembly: Visual Poems of the Italian Futurists opened this week at the Getty Center. It runs through January 7, 2007.

Sunday, July 23, 2006

what I seek in a bibliography

My personal library is partially posted on, and I've had an interesting inquiry about the Gabler Bibliography of English language wine books, Wine Into Words, 2nd Edition. I have given the book a rating of 3 stars in my library, and another lister wanted to know why not higher. I think the Gabler book is a fine book, and there is nothing else out there which approaches its usefulness. Gabler has clearly spent more time with American and English wine books than anyone I am aware of, and deserves praise for that.

If I am reluctant to praise the book higher, it is because it is too inclusive and not selective enough. In my experience, there are two types of bibliographies: one is completely inclusive, and lists every last item which ever existed on its subject (author bibliographies are typically of this sort, and should be); the second type is much more subjective, and typically relects the selections of a long term collector or scholar(s). Bibliographies in this second category might include Howes (American imprints). Printing and the Mind of Man (the history of ideas) or the Roth 101 (the photo book). In these cases the bibliographer guides the reader through a large field, toward the books which are (in the author's opinion) truly important. In both cases the bibliographies have also done much to shape the bookselling and collecting markets in their respective fields. They reflect a true connoiseurship. Gabler, who has done much to improve his book in the second edition, still includes many, many mediocre books in the list, books which serve little purpose for the collector unless one just seeks every last English language book on th subject. To me, this lessens the effect of the valuable comments Gabler has included on many entries, and moves the book toward being a checklist.

That said, the book remains very useful and I recommend it if you don't already have it.

Friday, July 07, 2006

now all of your favorite classical works in one handy volume!

The Weekly Standard has a review of a new collection of samples from the Loeb Classical library, along with a short history of the imprint. Already a resource for the inquiring "everyman" more than the classically educated scholar, the library now needs a one-volume edition to reach what passes for the educated today.

"The source of the Loeb Library's cachet may be shrouded from us in a trifling age, but that of their popularity isn't hard to discover: Along with the original Greek and Latin texts printed on the left-hand page as each book opens--texts, to say the least, of circumscribed value to most people--on the right-hand side we find crisp, unembellished English translations. The Loebs are the world's classiest crib, a trot for grownups. They are classics with a safety net. Here was an excellent innovation for those who have mentally mislaid the mastery of the classical languages they gained in schooldays. Here was also a perfect device for those who never learned them, and they make a somewhat larger crowd these days."

Wednesday, July 05, 2006

Mezzo-soprano Lorraine Hunt Lieberson has died.

Never far from my CD player, Lieberson's recording of Bach's Cantatas BWV 82 and 199, has been a favorite piece of music of mine for the last few years, both a consolation and a provocation to deeper feeling. The NY Times obit today reviews her career.

"...her shattering performances several years ago in two Bach cantatas for solo voice and orchestra, staged by the director Peter Sellars, seen in Lincoln Center's New Visions series, with the Orchestra of Emmanuel Music, Craig Smith conducting.

In Cantata No. 82, "Ich Habe Genug" ("I Have Enough"), Ms. Hunt Lieberson, wearing a flimsy hospital gown and thick woolen socks, her face contorted with pain and yearning, portrayed a terminally ill patient who, no longer able to endure treatments, wants to let go and be comforted by Jesus. During one consoling aria, "Schlummert ein, ihr matten Augen" ("Slumber now, weary eyes"), she yanked tubes from her arms and sang the spiraling melody with an uncanny blend of ennobling grace and unbearable sadness."

Sunday, July 02, 2006

ferlinghetti asea

There's a nice short profile of and interview with Lawrence Ferlighetti in today's Guardian. In it he describes his life on a sub-chaser in WWII. "Any smaller than us you weren't a ship, you were a boat. But we could order anything a battleship could order so we got an entire set of the Modern Library. We had all the classics stacked everywhere all over the ship, including the john. We also got a lot of medicinal brandy the same way."

Friday, June 30, 2006

tut a tippler

It should be no surprise that the king who lived one of the grandest lives ever turns out to be a red wine drinker. I wonder if his bottles (giant clay casks I imagine) had pictures of cute animals on the labels?
the chicken diet

Our twelve hens are settling in down in the coop. The girls grow visibly larger almost daily, and have a list of new tricks. They now roost on the roof of the nesting boxes, on the ladder leading to the door (and the outside world), on the concrete block ledge that runs around the perimeter of the coop - just about everywhere but on the roosting bars I built for them. Joan Jett, the alpha hen, has taken to standing on top of the metal capped feeder, perhaps to get a better view of the flying bugs. Their diet has been of a pretty high quality lately, including arugala and brocolli rabe which had bolted, honeydew melon, snails, grasshoppers and whatever hapless bugs wander into their pen.

Our favorite remains Petunia, the little one, who is always first to greet us at the door of the coop, and who allows herself to be picked up easily, while the others require some serious chasing. As a result, Petunia gets the majority of snails.

It will be another week or so before we can release the hens into the outdoors. Hopefully they will be mostly safe, and return home without too much coaxing. Raleigh (our terrier mutt) remains intrigued by the hens but, so far, not aggressive. We'll see what happens when they meet without twisted wire between them.

Thursday, June 29, 2006

time for a rant

Can someone please explain to me the benefit to a company in lying to its customers? In the process of renovating our house, we've had to deal with lots of suppliers, and a friend of ours who does terrific tile work has acquired the tile and fixtures for our various jobs, and done most of the installation work as well. But the suppliers he's forced to work with are incredible. We're ordering a clawfoot tub, along with all of the hardware for the shower, drain, curtain ring, etc. Two days ago we spoke to the company about the tub and fixtures. We made it clear that our top priority was availability, as I need the parts soon. We were told, "the tub and fixtures are in stock and will take two to three weeks to get to the customer." This was doable in our time framework. Yesterday, we went throught the parts list with the company on the phone, and were told that all of the parts were available and ready to ship except the tub, which is arriving at the warehouse tomorrow (Friday). Even though this was already acontradiction of what we'd been told the day before, I said ok and we placed the order.They faxed the order back, saying the tub was on a boat and would not be in the states until the middle of July, and that although the other parts are in the warehouse, it would take 2-3 weeks before those could be shipped.

Modern American companies call this a "computer mistake" or "incorrect information," but there is a simpler word for it - lying. If a customer says their main concern is a schedule, why would you even take an order for something you can't supply in their time frame? Of course, the company takes the easy way out and asks, "who did you speak to?" as if I don't know it was the same voice I was speaking to presently.

Let's reserve a special circle in Dante's hell for these idiots.

Monday, June 26, 2006


When we moved to a farm, with four outbuildings and enough land for a significant tire dump, we thought it would be the end of 'too much stuff'. Instead we've filled the garage barn with building supplies, a lawn tractor, tile saw, band saw, paint, and 'organic' farm chemicals. The older barn is filled with several cords of firewood, furniture we don't yet have a place for in the house, and hundreds of boxes of books. The livestock barn does finally have some livestock (12 little chickens) and more building supplies, as well as 200 banana boxes of French books in the tack room. The chicken barn is still empty, mostly because it is wet most of the time. A leaky roof and condensation on the floor cause have halted my plans for a hip gallery of avant-garde books and paper to confuse the neighbors.

To remind myself that we're not the only ones accumulating things, I periodically check the accumulation project. Click on the various images to read the story of an unusual collection.

Friday, June 23, 2006

anatomy of a struggling book fair, and some suggestions

Some people have asked for a report on the Portland Book Fair, so here goes... I can't help but say that the fair seems to be on its last legs, with both dealer and customer attendance down, and none of the energy required to keep going in this difficult market.

I sold only a few dollars worth of books above the relatively inexpensive booth fee, so counting the cost of the books themselves and other expenses, I lost money. This is not an unusual occurence for me at book fairs, so my slow sales are not an indictment of the fair, but most other dealers said their sales were similar, with a few exceptions who said sales were ok.

Scouting wasn't much fun either. I bought about a dozen books, mostly cookbooks or gardening books for myself and Samantha, and one architecture book for sale. There were lots of good books there
at reasonable prices for reading, but the customers weren't there. The room was pretty empty for much of the day.

Meeting new customers is always the third reason to do a book fair, and on this count, I fared better. Not only did I meet a few interesting people, but they contacted me after the fair. I take this as a good sign, and look forward to working with these folks. It will take a bit of business from these folks to make up for the two clutzes in my booth who each dropped a $700 book. Both books cracked a hinge or were otherwise slightly damaged, so I'll send them to the "junk for eBay" pile. Neither nimble customer flinched when they dropped their book, and neither apologized. Whatever happened to "you break it, you buy it"? Next book fair, I'll be putting up a "you break it, you eat it" sign.

Bitching about book fairs is a time honored activity for booksellers, and guessing the cause of a slow book fair has taken up millions of hours of our time. Good weather, bad weather, the stock market, competing television or sporting events, an illegal war, the increasingly illiterate US population... But why was this fair slow, especially in comparison to the pretty energetic Concord NH fair of just two weeks earlier? Even amongst the busy dealers and eager customers at that fair, word was that Portland is waning, lots of room was still available, and there is no energy.

This is surprising to me in that Portland as a city has really grown in the last few years. The population seems less provincial and a bit wealthier than in the past. I was interested to hear that the AIGA (American Institute of Graphic Arts) had just finished a week long annual meeting in Portland the day before the show. The arts in general are growing in profile in the region. So where were the customers?

I have no easy answer to this, but I'll be back at the fair next year, and I'll make some suggestions now about how to get Portland back on the book fair map.

1. the three sets of players with interest in the fair must all work, together or separately, to bring in more customers. The promoter, the Maine Antiquarian Bookseller Association, and the individual dealers need to actively get more dealers and more customers there.

2. local dealers not present should be encouraged to attend. Most of the larger maine open shops were note exhibiting. I'm sure they all have differing, valid reasons for not doing so, but they should personally be encouraged to attend. After all, where better to target potential customers for the fair than at the local shops in Portland, Camden, etc.

3. use the internet. The MABA has a tiny box in the corner of their website with no real info about the fair, and a link to the promoter's website, which also has limited info, as it is really aimed at dealers. MABA should create a simple page which is aimed at the public, which explains the book fair in terms of what they might find there; books in all fields, reading copies and rare books, old things and new things. Have a picture or two. Individual dealers can link to the page and email it to their customers.

4. Dealers need to take things more into their own hands. Instead of complaining to the promoter, who is busy thinking about things like tables, labor, security, etc., so we don't have to, dealers should look for ways to publicize the show themselves. Lots of newspapers up here will run anything they get in the form of a press release. Contacting your local paper with a press release is almost free of charge (maybe the MABA page I suggested could be in the form of a press release so dealers could just print it out and send it).

5. Reach out to like-minded organizations. There are organizations out there that may be inclined to help spread the word about a book fair. The Maine Publishers and Writers Alliance, local public libraries, the Maine Arts Commission,, etc. These organizations maintain online calendars, and it is not difficult to get listed. Many orgs also have email lists they might send to.

Well, this is just a beginning. I hope others might take this list and run with it.
lightning, chickens

Once again it rains. We've had time enough to build an ark but have been otherwise distracted. Tuesday night our house was hit by lightning, which knocked out the phone service, killed the answering machine, modem and wireless router, and seems to have damaged the wall oven as well. I finally got the phone service back yesterday, and then the internet.

Despite the bad weather we've managed to get things done. The chickens are here. Twelve of them: six rhode island reds and six plymouth barred rocks. The barred rocks are slightly larger and much more assertive. They'll all live inside for a few more weeks before they're big enough to hit the yard. I bring them bugs from the garden and they seem to be looking forward to my visits now (chickens can be bribed).

When it's not raining, I'm residing the garage barn; a first time project for me. The garage is a warm up and training run for the rear wall of the house, which I'll side next. The second bathroom and various smaller projects continue more slowly, but are moving in the right direction.

Monday, June 05, 2006

two weekends in New Hampshire

Two weekends, two weeks apart, and nothing in common but rain.

Samantha and I spent a Saturday driving through last month's torrential rain in order to attend the New Hampshire Sheep and Wool Festival. Held on the grounds of State Fair, the event was populated with soggy sheep, llamas, apalcas, goats, rabbits and their relative enthusiasts. Appropriately, the whole place smelled like wet sheep. We were there to get an education in the wooly creatures, perhaps even pick a breed that will eventually trade a roof over their heads for mowing our lawn. Unfortunately, some of the sheep exhibitors must have stayed home, and some of the breeds we were excited to see weren't present. we cna only hope that the weather for Maine's upcoming Fiber Frolic (next week) will be better.

I returned to New Hampshire yesterday in search of a quarry with which I feel a bit more comfortable - books. The book fair, in Concord NH, was really pleasant. Just one day, a full room of dealers (most of whom I don't know or see elsewhere), and some good books to buy. Some new purchases included: a monograph on Cobra artist Pierre Alechinsky, inscribed by the author to gallery owner Xavier Fourcade, a rare Jean Tinguely exhibition catalogue, an inscribed book by poet Harvey Shapiro, and a very rare work of Paul Claudel, the first separately printed edition of his Ideogrammes Occidenteaux, published in an edition of 200 and rarely seen. A few other oddball food and famr books rounded out the purchases. It was also nice to see some friendly colleagues: Dave and Jenny Ritchie, John Waite, Greg Powers, Jim Arsenault, and others. In all, a good day.

Wednesday, May 17, 2006

After months in limbo, my website, is back up and running. It should grow quickly over the next weeks and months, but to see some of my inventory check the new arrivals or catalogues page.
the vanishing legal pad

In the early 1990's I was lucky enough to be called to a small light manufacturing building in Lower Manhattan. I was there to look at some old equipment, perhaps to acquire it for an organization I worked for at the time, a not-for-profit which kept older printing equipment (mostly letterpress printing presses) available for artists and fine printers. The business we visited made one thing only: lined paper for pads. White or yellow pads, with thin parallel green lines and a vertical red stipe down the left hand margin. There was a time when these pads were used everywhere, and in effect, made the world go 'round.

The machines used to make these pads were incredible. Large and loom-like, their frames gently supported roller-fed paper, loosely with nothing underneath. At the top of the machine was an ink reservoir, with numerous thin strings extending out the bottom. Green ink ran unprotected down these strings to little pen nibs, similar to those of a fountain pen. The nibs were held by long thin arms (of either wood or copper - I don't recall) which held these ink delivery devices in a tight row, but which allowed them to bob up and down freely on the undulating paper being drawn through below. As the paper was pulled through the machine, the little pens drew perfect parallel lines with ink replenished from above. The perfection of the lines seemed an impossibility given the gentle but constant up and down motion of the paper. The owner of the business explained that if the paper was pulled across a flat surface, every speck of dust that might land or imperfection on the paper itself would cause the lines to loose their straight path, and we'd end up with something that looked like an EKG.

The business was closing for all the usual reasons: high rents, difficulty receiving and making deliveries in the narrow streets of Lower Manhattan, and loss of customers. In fact he had only one customer remaining: the New York City Police Department. They still used his pads for the police notebooks, carried on the beat by every officer. He had been supplying them for many decades, but they too could be expected to switch to modern pads.

The lined paper makers weren't for us, and so we passed, hoping that a museum or collector might step in and save them from the dumpster. I briefly considered taking one home myself, to assemble in my apartment, and operate my "artisinal note pad" business. [As crazy as this idea was, I recently met a woman who had an operational two-story motorized dry cleaning rack in her apartment in NYC].

An interesting article on the yellow legal pad's place in history, and of its impending demise, can be found in the current Legal Affairs magazine.

Monday, April 17, 2006

mining the shelves and fileboxes

Those of you who know me, know that about half of my book selling work consists of appraisals and the inventory of literary and artistic archives in preparation for their sale or donation to an institution. Much of this work comes to me through my working relationship with another dealer of rare books, and I'm somewhat restricted in what I can discuss out of respect for the privacy of those who hire us. But something I can discuss is the wonderful opportunity afforded by these visits to the homes, offices and studios of writers, artists, editors and others. Before each session begins, I open myself up a little file on my laptop for notes, and fill it as I go with book citations, names of artists I'm coming across for the first time, specific recordings and even quotes. Here are a few from some recent visits:

Forrest Gander's broad minded collection of essays, A Faithful Existence, takes on a number of subjects somewhat unfamiliar to me, including contemporary Southern poetry, but his passion for the material pulled me through. I ended up reading this through twice in successive nights, an unusual feat for me, as I usually read multiple books simultaneously in fits in starts.

[an unfinished post - more in the morning]

Tuesday, April 11, 2006

new acquisitions

The book shopping never stops around here, even when I'm mostly busy at home. Some recent acquisitions (for personal consumption - not resale) include: a collection of essays by the historian of archaic and classical Greece, J.P. Vernant, Mortals & Immortals, Antonio Lobo Antunes' The Natural Order of Things, the Lobel and Page edition of Poetarum Lesbiorum Fragmenta, and poet Ann Carson's book length poem, The Beauty of the Husband.

Saturday, April 01, 2006

global warming

It's hard to complain about the consumption of hydrocarbons when I'm reaping the benefits here in Maine with two 70+ degree days in a row in March! I might feel differently if I were an ice fisherman or snowmobiler - two groups of people who spent their winters' extracting personal property from icy water at the bottom of lakes.

The warm weather brings with it the end of sap collecting season. The Giles Family Farm people came by the day before yesterday to remove the sap buckets from our trees and pull out the taps. Fortunately my nieces were here the day before and saw the sap collection process for themselves. Now they know the origins of at least one item on the kitchen table.

The yard work is beginning to show some progress. I've pruned the two larger apples trees to within an inch of their lives, and some raking in various flower beds has exposed all sorts of nascent early spring blooms. New categories of materials to be stored arise, so alongside several different levels of compost, I will need spaces for rocks (big, medium and small), two different types of slate and flat rock, tree branches to be chipped, and the chips I hope to make.

We've mapped out the general shape and location of the patio, and I'll need to order sand and crushed rock, along with the stone itself. My friend Mike has promised to lend me his backhoe, so I will need to learn another dangerous trade (at least for us bookish types).

Wednesday, March 22, 2006

an office & a schedule

With the house now liveable, and basic items finding their way to appropriate new locations, I've begun to put my office together, unpacking reference books and office supplies and a few books to research and hopefully sell. Some months back, I had written in these pages about the fear of packing my library; the idea that I might never again see some of these old friends. The fear was, of course, unfounded, and here these friends are once again (at least some of them for the time being).

The biggest task at hand is returning to some type of routine in the office. I have more than lots to do, as my archiving work has left me with numerous archives catalogued but not yet compiled. Lots of recent travel has created a topsy turvy schedule, but things begin to fall into place. Sam and I have coffee together before she heads off to the bakery in the morning, and after she leaves I head outside for a half-hour to hour of minor field work or wood splitting. Fixing fence wire, pruning apple trees or cutting back dead brush is as good as the coffee for a brace in the morning, and after that I can have a bite to eat and sit down to work. More time can be spent outdoors at the height of the day, when it's warmer, and then back to the computer again. Around five, a final hour or so outdoors is a good way to wind down the day before dinner preparations begin.

With this new schedule, I can hope to accomplish my office work and my many outdoor projects.

Thursday, March 09, 2006

both old and new style buckets. Posted by Picasa
the sap buckets are up

Just a week or two ago, the folks from Giles Family Farm came by to hang sap buckets on our sugar maples. We had heard that local homeowners let them tap their trees in exchange for a bit of the final product and some communal sharing. For days now the buckets have been empty save for a few drops of what I assumed were rain water. But yesterday a multi-generational crew from the Giles family were out front with a pickup-mounted collecting tank, gathering sap from buckets along both sides of the road. Surprisingly, the buckets were now more than half full, and one of the collectors (my guess is Mr. Giles) told me that by this Saturday, the warm weather would have them running at full speed - three or more drops per second.

The Giles family sugar shack is about two miles from here, and a drive to the location requires passing hundreds of the metal or plastic buckets, some with the traditional metal spigot, others with a plastic spigot and short hose. Where the trees extend up the slopes of hills, the hoses are joined into a winding circuit of gravity driven delivery, with larger collecting tanks at the bottom.

I hope to visit the sugar shack soon (they said to come after two pm most days, as it takes that long to get the boil going). And I hear there is a Maple Sugar Day in the next month or so, when the sugar makers hold open houses.

I realised later that the Giles family operates a large orchard nearby as well, and that when they came by to collect, I was in the middle of a severe pruning of our two overgrown apple trees. Two minutes of conversation with them could probably have saved me the hours of reading about pruning, and resulted in a much less scalped looking tree. I'm sure they gaot a good chuckle out of the city boys orchard skills.

collecting sap. one of seven or so trees now hung with buckets. Posted by Picasa

Tuesday, February 28, 2006

don gray; mobius poem, being a four dimensional concrete sculpture happening Posted by Picasa
first book fair in a while

I exhibited again this year at the Greenwich Village Antiquarian Book Fair and had a great time and a very good fair sales wise. This small, collegial, neighborhood fair has become one of the better fairs of the year for me. Sales were strong on Friday night and Sunday, and I met a few interesting people on Saturday. Most of sales were squarely in the avant-gardes, with books and ephemera by Andy Warhol, Alan Kaprow, Ed Ruscha and John Cage. A few pieces of modern lit. went to dealer friends of mine, including books by Kerouac, Ray Bradbury and Tennesee Williams.

I bought well, returning with two bags of books which included a nearly unique book sculpture from 1969, the rare catalogue/box for Paolo Soleri's exhibition at the Corocaran Gallery in 1970, an additional copy of the Schwarz/Duchamp Readymades catalogue (I was protecting my price), Waverly Root's Food of Italy, inscribed by the designer Warren Chappel, and a nice clean copy of Joseph Mitchell's 'The Bottom of the Harbor'. In short, something in every category in which I buy.

Other dealers had various reactions - which in my experience is the way this works. It can never be predicatable, and efforts to "understand" sales from fair to fair are pretty futile efforts. Books I brought specially for a particular customer sat in the case, while other things I may have easily left at home sold. There were several new dealers (or first time exhibitors) this year, and they seemed happy enough. I didn't hear anyone say they were not returning except Bill Boyer, who has done this fair longer than anyone else, and says, as we all do, that it's harder to find good books these days.

I will try the April NYC satellite fair this year (called the Carriage House Fair), and cross my fingers for entry into the ABAA next year. Then I'll hop on the waiting list for the New York ABAA fair, which is certainly the fair most worth doing in the states. The fall Armory fair remains useful for me, although there is a lot of complaining about the rising prices and falling crowds. In my opinion the falling crowds are the bigger problem, partially due to the boring neighborhood where the downtown armory is located. The Greenwich Village fair benefits greatly from being in a neighborhood traditionally interested in literature and the arts, and one which now has lots of well-heeled folks willing to drop in to browse, whereas no one goes to the Lexington Avenue Armory who is not already highly motivated.

I did not attend LA this year, but many dealer friends of mine did. The word I heard was that it was OK to good, although the art related dealers didn't do well. The LA fair remains fairly narrow and unsophisticated to my taste: modern lit., film related books, Americana, etc. (not that these fields are unsophisticated, just that there are not so many other diverse fields

Contrary to some of the words on book blogs these days, book fairs are not dead, they've just changed, like the rest of bookselling.

Sunday, February 12, 2006

some recent reading

The last 30 days have brought a final push on the renovation, the arrival of movers with the contents of our storage unit, and a bit of vacation travel. Despite all this, I've been reading a bit. Before our move into the farmhouse, we packed up the contents of the apartment in Kennebunk, a place I've enjoyed greatly for the last five years and filled with books. Reread Walter Benjamin's essay "On Unpacking My Library" again for the umpteenth time as I put the books into boxes. It's not the first time I've experienced a feeling of dreaded mortality while preparing my library for storage. The fear of not seeing these friends again. But I try to liken it to seeing loved ones off on a long sea voyage. The return of these books, when they are finally unpacked many months from now, will be so welcome.

The rest of my reading has been light, and the cold weather here in Maine has got me looking forward to spring and working outdoors in the garden and fields. William Echikson's Noble Rot was a great introduction to the current state of affairs in Bordeaux' wine industry, and paints a more nuanced picture of the influence of Robert Parker and Michel Rolland than did Jonathan Rossiter's Mondovino. While I'm sympathetic to Rossiter's anti-globalization point of view (when it comes to food culture at least), Parker and Rolland do seem to have spurred some of the more recalcitrant small farmers toward basic modern methods (and here I mean cleanliness and harvesting at the height of ripeness, not micro-oxygenation or GMA). For a look backwards at winemakers facing technology vs. natural methods issues, I recommend Christy Campbell's The Botanist and the Vintner, which describes the decades long struggle with the dreaded phyloxera. In the end, an understanding of the biology of the plant and the predator succeeded over what appear to have been fairly blind applications of pesticides (which were encouraged by the railroad companies, which profitted from shipping the chemicals in to the countryside). I read this last one during our recent trip to a wonderful little island in the Turks and Caicos, and the section which described French farmers moving their grape fields to essentially sand dunes on the Mediterranean shore and in Algeria got me wondering what might grow amidst the scrubby Carribean plants.

Saturday, January 21, 2006


I'm a little behind things these days, having been preoccupied with our ongoing renovation. But I've learned that Joyce Godsey has been busy creating a blog linked to the Bibliophile newsgroup, as well as one of her own. She was nice enough to link to Casa Malaprop, which will surely result in at leat one person clicking through, only to ask, "what the heck does this have to do with books?". To be honest, lately, not much. But until our recent complete emersion into the world of Home Depot and This Old House, Casa Malaprop was a place for my general thoughts on things mostly book related, with a occasional left turns to food and drink topics. Here's a promise to get back on track with more books news, reports on reading and the general fads and foibles of the books dealing world. Thanks for looking in the meantime.

The living room / dining room nexus. Posted by Picasa

Finally! something in the house that smells good - melting chocolate. Posted by Picasa

Samantha takes the appliances out for a test drive. Brownies on the way! Posted by Picasa

Samantha's been busy painting the floors. She grew tired of the white walls, so we've gone far in the other direction with the floors.  Posted by Picasa

Raleigh in the living room. Posted by Picasa

Finally got the stove hooked up and operational, with the new hood and squirrel proof vent on the outside. Posted by Picasa

Sunday, January 01, 2006

it's amazing what some paint can do - dining room china cabinet. thanks to Bud and Dennis. Posted by Picasa

Dave routs the hole for the sink. Posted by Picasa

the first set of cabinets, with drawers and doors. Posted by Picasa