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.