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Archive for April, 2009

April 30th, 2009 • Posted in On Collecting

The Benefits of Being a Poor Book Collector

This from Holbrook Jackson’s The Anatomy of Bibliomania:

"I do boldly claim that the collector who can buy everything that takes his fancy without regard for the outlay, who has all the best finds offered to him by the bookseller, whose agents attend every important auction sale, and who knows for certain that he has only to sit and wait for all the good books to fall into his lap, can never taste the ecstasies of such men as Charles Lamb and Samuel Taylor Coleridge, who had to pause before they laid out a few shillings on books they most ardently desired; or that bibliophilie recorded by Lord Lytton in Zanoni who after years of hunting succeeded in forming an almost perfect library of works in occult philosophy, but so poor was he that he had to open a bookshop and trade, as it were, in his own flesh and blood: if a customer entered, his countenance fell; but let him depart empty handed, and he would smile gaily, oblivious for a time of bare cup-board and inward cravings."

April 29th, 2009 • Posted in Wicked Quotes

John Keats, the love of Philosophy and use of the word ‘purpose’

John Keats in a letter to his publisher John Taylor, April 27, 1818 (The Letters of John Keats, ed. Maurice Buxton Forman O.U.P. 1948):

" I was purposing to travel over the north this Summer – there is but one thing to prevent me – I know nothing I have read nothing and I mean to follow Solomon’s directions of ‘ get Wisdom – get understanding’ – I find cavalier days are gone by. I find that I can have no enjoyment in the World but continual drinking of knowledge – I find there is no worthy pursuit but the idea of doing some good for the world – some do it with their society – some with their wit – some with their benevolence – some with a sort of power of conferring pleasure and good humour on all they meet and in a thousand ways all equally dutiful to the command of Great Nature – there is but one way for me- the road lies th[r]ough application study and thought. I will pursue it and to that end purpose retiring for some years. I have been hovering some time between an exquisite sense of the luxurious and a love for Philosophy – were I calculated for the former I should be glad – but as I am not I shall turn all my soul to the latter."

April 29th, 2009 • Posted in On Collecting

Kuthan’s Menagerie: famous fine printing in Canada

Library of Canada.

This from Heavenly Monkey’s website:

The original edition with a new preface by Robert Reid
Nevermore Press 1960/Heavenly Monkey 2003

Kuthan’s Menagerie of Interesting Zoo Animals was published in 1960 from the private press of Robert and Felicity Reid (under the imprint Nevermore Press). It has since become famous in the history of fine printing in Canada, not just for Kuthan’s exquisite multi-color linocuts of animals, but also for the fact that only 60 of the edition’s 130 copies were ever bound; the balance remained in the bindery, eventually forgotten but luckily, not lost.

Kuthan’s Menagerie measures 9.75 x 13 inches. The paper is Golden Hind, a laid sheet, printed one side only and folded. Reid explains this both helped solve a problem with see-through and bulk up the book (which consists of 13 sheets forming 26 pages, from half title to colophon). The pages were printed landscape, and the sheets bound along the open edge.

The unbound copies were purchased from the original binder’s estate by Vancouver booksellers Stephen Lunsford and William Hoffer, in the late ’80s; all of the 50 complete copies remaining have now been issued through Heavenly Monkey. Rather than attempt to recreate the original binding, the remaining copies were issued in the livre d’artiste manner – loose, with a new wrap and custom-made clamshell box. Kuthan’s Menagerie Completed feature a new title page; the two-page preface by Robert R. Reid, the original publisher; and an additional colophon, all printed at Heavenly Monkey in 18-point Perpetua on the same Golden Hind paper used in the original book. The original sheets are surrounded by an inner wrap of the yellow Japanese paper used for endsheets in the copies bound in 1960. All of the sheets are held in an outer wrap of handmade St Armand paper (listen to my interview with David Carruthers here) . The colophon is numbered (50 copies) and signed by Robert Reid. (Please note these copies do not bear George Kuthan’s signature. The copies issued in 1960 were numbered and signed after being bound.) The clamshell box, made by Simone Mynen, is covered in red Japanese fabric with decorative printed labels debossed on the front and spine.

No further copies of Kuthan’s Menagerie exist; the 50 issued in 2003 through Heavenly Monkey complete the edition. C$750 (out of print).

April 29th, 2009 • Posted in Authors and Books

Alfred Hitchcock died Today. Here’s his best scene…

This from a great looking site, Today in Literature:

On this day in 1980 Alfred Hitchcock died at the age of eighty. Hitchcock averaged a film a year for over fifty years, and all but a handful of them began as a short story, novel or play. While many films came from "shocker" or noir writers such as Robert Bloch (Psycho) and Cornell Woolrich (Rear Window), or more mainstream suspense writers such as Daphne du Maurier (The Birds, Rebecca), John Buchan (The Thirty-Nine Steps) and Patricia Highsmith (Strangers on a Train), a surprising number came from more famous or literary types — Conrad, Steinbeck, Galsworthy, Maugham, Wyndham Lewis, Sean O’Casey and others.

My vote for all-time best scene in a Hitchcock movie: When the necktie killer in Frenzy is frantically searching for an incriminating tie pin (I think it was) on an already rigor mortisizing murder victim who is lodged in the back of a moving truck filled, I think it was, with potatoes which start falling out onto the road…and, more specifically, when he starts snapping open the corpse’s dead fingers to see if they might be holding it…but why, silly me, am I relying on a faulty memory, when all I have to do is…



April 29th, 2009 • Posted in Authors and Books

2009 Lorian Hemingway Short Story Competition

Lorian Hemmingway

Entries are now being accepted for the 2009 Lorian Hemingway Short Story Competition. It’s open to all writers whose fiction has not appeared in a nationally distributed publication with a circulation of 5,000 or more.  2008 drew more than 1,110 submissions. The Winner was Glenys Osborne of Melbourne, Australia, for "How Can I Write Your Story?" about the death of a self-destructive musician and his grieving friend’s struggle to honor his life in words.

The competition was created in 1981 to ‘boost the efforts of writers who have not yet achieved major-market success.’ Lorian, granddaughter of Ernest, is the author of  "Walking into the River," "Walk on Water" and "A World Turned Over."
Winners will be announced at the end of July 2009 in Key West.

April 28th, 2009 • Posted in Authors and Books

Ismael Lo – Africa

Had hoped I might catch Ismael at the Cape Town Jazz Festival recently. No such luck. But, as it turned out, the very weekend I returned to Montreal, he played the Metropolis. Not surprisingly, this was the highlight:


April 28th, 2009 • Posted in Authors and Books

Literature in Translation: Audio interview with Open Letter’s Chad Post, by Nigel Beale.

Open Letter is the University of Rochester’s literary publishing house. ‘ It is dedicated to connecting readers with great international authors and their works. Publishing twelve books a year and running an online literary website called Three Percent, Open Letter is one of only a handful of U.S. organizations with a commitment to cultivating an appreciation for international literature.’

‘Chad W. Post is the director of Open Letter, a press dedicated to publishing literature in translation. He also runs Three Percent, an online blog and review site focused on international literature. Prior to starting Open Letter, he was the associate director at Dalkey Archive Press. In addition, he co-founded Reading the World, a unique collaboration between publishers and independent bookstores to promote world literature.’ We talk here among other things about the dominance of great non-English speaking novelists, Roberto Bolaño, Julio Cortazar (Hopscotch is one of Post’s favourite novels), Jose Saramago and the phenomenon of one-foreign-author-at-a-time, reasons for the success of 2666, why American authors have the inside track, how economics works against translation, and the opportunities that exist in publishing foreign authors.

Please listen here: (Apologies for the rather abrupt ending).

Copyright © 2009 by Nigel Beale.

April 27th, 2009 • Posted in Nigel Beale Bookstore Photos

Ignorant Bookstore Photo of the Week

Just off Long Street, Cape Town, S.A.

April 27th, 2009 • Posted in Authors and Books

The Clay-Cold lips of Sea-Shouldering Whales

In a TLS review of Creative Criticism; Essays on the Unity of Genius and Taste (Henry Holt, 1917) by J.E. Springarn, Virginia Woolf says this:

"For how in criticism are we to go altogether without ‘rules’? Is not the decision to do so merely another rule? Although to feel is of the first importance, to know why one feels is of great importance too. There can be no doubt, however, that to be free to make one’s own laws and to be alert to do it afresh for every newcomer is an essential part of any criticism worth having. "

This quote tends to simultaneously support the differing points Zach Wells and I make during this exchange on Thomas Hardy. Woolf agrees with me that ‘to feel’ is of first importance’ and with Zach who says:

"I’m not so keen on “agreed upon evaluative criteria.” I think each poem has to be approached as freshly as possible. Having predetermined criteria for evaluation too easily throws one off the scent of something unfamiliar."

It’s easy to agree with this: open-minded acceptance. No preconceived biases or structures or holes to bang pegs into. Obvious as this is, however, it ‘s equally obvious that if conversation/ movement/a change in opinion about relative merit is to occur, if new thoughts or ideas are to be adopted, some agreement has to be reached on evaluative critieria and their relative importance. Poems aren’t like solvable math questions. No right answers; but rational judgment requires rules against which to measure value; courts within which to make better or worse arguments in support of likes and dislikes. Otherwise we’re only so many subjective sea-liners, blithely passing each other – regardless of how much horn blowing-  in the dark.

My take:  the emotional impact of poetic words takes precedence over any technical, lyrical virtuosity. That I am made sad by narrative, or wowed by words aptly placed (Keats, for example, was blown away by Spenser’s: ‘the sea-shouldering whale;’ I’m partial to: ‘For I crave one kiss of your clay-cold lips’) is more important to me than if they happen to rhyme; or if form happens to exemplify the tenets of a particular genre. It can of course be argued that the best poems achieve both, seamlessly, and that without tension between the container and the contained, neither succeed. Hard to disagree with this.


April 23rd, 2009 • Posted in Authors and Books

Coetzee on Beckett, Johnson and Hopeless Love

J.M. Coetzee on Beckett’s Letters:

One of the more unexpected of his literary enthusiasms is for Samuel Johnson. Struck by the "mad terrified face" in the portrait by James Barry, he comes up in 1936 with the idea of turning the story of Johnson’s relationship with Hester Thrale into a stage play. It is not the great pontificator of Boswell’s Life who engages him, as the letters make clear, but the man who struggled all his life against indolence and the black dog of depression. In Beckett’s version of events, Johnson takes up residence with the much younger Hester and her husband at a time when he is already impotent and therefore doomed to be a "Platonic gigolo" in the ménage à trois. He suffers first the despair of "the lover with nothing to love with," then heartbreak when the husband dies and Hester goes off with another man.

"Mere existence is so much better than nothing, that one would rather exist even in pain," said Dr. Johnson. The Hester Thrale of Beckett’s projected play will fail to understand that a man can prefer to love hopelessly than to feel nothing at all, and thus fail to recognize the tragic dimension of Johnson’s love for her.

In the confident public man who privately struggles against listlessness and depression, who sees no point in living yet cannot face annihilation, Beckett clearly detects a kindred spirit. Yet after an initial flurry of excitement over the Johnson project, his own indolence supervenes. Three years pass before he puts pen to paper; halfway through Act I he abandons the work.[1]