Musings on Place, Travel, Books, Literature, Poetry, Literary Criticism, Collecting, Media, Life and the Arts

Archive for December, 2009

December 31st, 2009 • Posted in Authors and Books

Grumble, grumble…

Unbelievable the number of assholes who drive slowly in the passing lanes here in North America, especially when it allows them to block off all paths past them. This just doesn't happen on the Autobahn. Even when three lanes offer themselves up…no one bloody uses them…no, they jam themselves over on the left…either simply oblivious to how inconsiderate they are…or too 'proud' to drive on the right hand side, so that people like me who like to speed can blast past them without having to slow down.     

December 30th, 2009 • Posted in Nigel Beale Photos

Only in America, you say?

Carrollton, Kentucky to be precise.

December 30th, 2009 • Posted in Nigel Beale Bookstore Photos

Cincinnati Cartel?

Every used bookstore

I visited

this past Sunday in Cincinnati

was, save for this kid's store

closed… :(

Must have been some sort of unsavory behind-doors deal struck to shut us biblio heathens out on the Sabbath.

December 29th, 2009 • Posted in On Book Collecting

Who put publisher George Doran out of commission?

I procured a copy of publisher George Doran's memoirs recently. This is a photo of what Doran inscribed in his book: something something "who has put me out of commission for a time. With kind regards and appreciation" …damned if I can make out who it's inscribed to…all I can decifer is that his last name is Allen. A member of the famous publishing family? I hope. Anyone care to venture a guess as to his or her first name?

December 20th, 2009 • Posted in On Book Collecting

Mailing list for buying and selling rare, collectible books…

This looks very interesting:

The Bibliophile Mailing List exists for the purpose of buying and selling rare, scarce, out-of-print, and collectible books and related material; and for discussions pertaining to these activities. Members are expected to observe the amenities of good manners and professional behavior. We welcome articles and discussions about books, including collecting, preserving, selling, etc.

December 20th, 2009 • Posted in Authors and Books

Well, the weather outside is frightful…

(I’m currently in snow storm central: the lovely downtown Armonk, N.Y. – home to IBM’s international headquarters – just north of NYC). So, I thought I’d post

something quite


courtesy of the very talented

Ms. Caroline Liguori


December 19th, 2009 • Posted in Authors and Books

Bevington straddles, scoops Doctorow by eleven years

Success in book publishing has to do with straddling…technologies. Coach House Press/Books founder Stan Bevington reiterates this truth in these excerpts from Roy MacSkimming’s ‘Perilous Trade Conversations’ [conducted back in 1998], now found in the latest edition of CNQ magazine:

 "Bevington: …I was fascinated by the photo-offset available at the time. I had done silkscreen and photo silkscreen, so I understood photography. I’d learned a lot about photography with an old wooden camera I used to make printing plates for pictures. so that mix and match of technology worked right from the beginning of our press. We had a linotype machine and a hand letterpress, then we bought a small photo-offset press. We were able to put real-looking type into nice pictures and started doing books – photo-offset illustrations and letterpress type. With that production facility, we were able to crank out quite a variety of books."

Bevington: …now [1998] we’re in a transitional period where people are reading computer manuals and instruction manuals online and getting information that uwsed to be inthe print-only world. so that a transformation. And when you see our website, and you see the liveliness of some of hte poets, you’ll see that paper couldn’t accommodate what they’re writing. So they’re able to communicate in ways that are indigenous to the new media. I think it’s a terrific time.

MacSkimming: But clearly you haven’t abandoned paper.

Bevington: It’s an and/also argument. We won’t get involved in the either/or arguent. this is why I think t’s so strange that no other publisher has picked it up. We find we can make limited-edition fetish objects, we can make a cheap paperback, and we can gie it away ont he web, and people will still buy the expensive one. They”ll complain about price, but they’ll buy it. conventional marketng wisdom doesn’t seem to be in place anymore.

MacSkimming: Is this because they’ve encountered the book on the web?

Bevington: And they want the real thing! The web has been the most terrific advertising source for us. Just terrific. "

Exactly what Cory Doctorow says here eleven years later.

December 16th, 2009 • Posted in Authors and Books

Audio Interview with Rare Books Librarian Richard Landon, conducted by Nigel Beale.

Richard Landon is Director of the Thomas Fisher Rare Book Library and Professor of English. He has taught courses on aspects of the history of the book and bibliography for many years in the University of Toronto’s Graduate Department of English and the Faculty of Information. Among his recent publications are Bibliophilia Scholastica Floreat (2005), Ars Medica (2006), ‘Two Collectors: Thomas Grenville and Lord Amherst of Hackney’ in Commonwealth of Books (2007), ‘The Elixir of Life: Richard Garnett, the British Museum Library, and Literary London’ in Literary Cultures and the Material Book (2007), and articles in the History of the Book In Canada (2004-2007).

We met recently in his office

to talk about his career, the role of a rare books librarian, the Encyclopédie, changes that have occurred in the market place, collecting as scholarship, Charles Darwin, Galileo, Copernicus, the future of the Thomas Fisher collection, ebooks, books about books, unpublished medieval texts and limitless collecting possibilities. Please listen here:

December 16th, 2009 • Posted in Authors and Books

rob mclennan requests attention…

rob mclennan, in this querulous little post, worries that my profile of him in Guerilla magazine focuses on the writer instead of the writing.

Hello? rob:  the piece is a P-R-O-F-I-L-E, not a review…and how it manages to constitute ‘sour grapes,’ or ‘diva behavior’, as you suggest, I really don’t know.

What I do know, since you ask, is that I don’t think, from what I’ve read of it, that your writing is very good.


Jack Kerouac typed all of On the Road using a single ream of tracing paper so as not to have to waste time or energy changing sheets. The book I think shares with mclennan’s work an unedited brain dumped-like quality.

Take this, from a poem written by mclennan ten years ago entitled ‘fire, newspaper, cigarettes, etc.’

I cant imagine loving anymore. Some of us
Just take up space on this planet until we leave.
& the others, well, I don’t know.
She doesn’t love me, black smoke the dark night
& an explosion + fire in my neighbourhood.
Her letters drop me to my knees.
John puts out his cigarette & goes back into his house.
Susan stands on the sidewalk a few minutes more.
Nothing remains of the red brick building.
Its winter


Or this, ten years later, from mclennan’s recent collection Gifts, called ‘Smoke’:

Stride confident, calmly through maps and
Be spectacle, bespectacled.
I am rumi; removed.
would sit there and static; or a record of
flax on a seahorse; the sink and the swim?
is interesting uncle, pull back or the arm.
The room smokes from within. smokes.

This poetry has no momentum…no building expectation…there is little rhythm, or music. No motion that pushes the reader or the text forward. The language is pedestrian. In fact, it stands still, goes nowhere. All we get are games with letter cases and punctuation and meaningless ‘&’ symbols.  It’s as if mclennan has written a prose piece, dropped every third or fourth word, laid out what remains on the page to look like a poem for the reader to marvel at; to dwell on its ‘free structure’; ponder its deep mystery; squint at its inscrutability. There is, at least for this reader, no sensuous delight or charm independent of the meaning of these words.  There is nothing extraordinary to sit with; or to admire.  Words have not been used in any exceptional or unusual way.

Sticking with the heat theme, compare the above with Scottish poet Robin Robertson’s  ‘Feeding the Fire’

Some hard half eaten logs lie
Drifting in ash;
Black in the flocculent smother of grey.
Just a puttering flame,
The occasional spat of cinder.
Holding a sheet of the Times
Up against it, though,
The lung of paper sucked in
And suddenly lit from behind:
A roaring diorama;
The long throat of fire, feasting,
Hungry for news. The page is read,
Then reddened, then consumed.

There is originality here. Evident craftsmanship. The words dance; they sound like fire. They rub against each other, resonate with heat. There lies a primitive pleasure in reciting them. Mouth and listen, for example, to ‘hard, half eaten logs lie Drifting in ash.’ I, at least, experience a delight in voicing these words.

‘Lung’ is given new life.  ‘Flame’ is now ‘throat,’ which lends strength and meaning to the alliterative fire, feasting;  we’re engorged with a  powerful, provoking metaphor linking worth and consumption.  

During the past twelve years Robertson has produced perhaps five volumes of poetry, two of which are translations…


Here’s what mclennan says about his novels: “They’re very condensed…boiled down…I’m not fan of the English novel of 400 pages. English novels including a page and a half description of a tree…I’m more interested in the dense emotionally descriptive novel that doesn’t have a single wasted word.”

Tell me if this, contained in his latest prose doesn’t contradict what has just been said:

“From the time she was small Alberta could see forever; she could see through walls. When her dog ran away from home, she watched it escape for three full days. The storms as they came in, and the swirls of dust and light that created accidents on the horizon Buildings hills and trees were not there. What she could see between.

A few miles to the south, the valley. Invisible until you were in it. The two sides folded together like an envelope, sealing everything in. A swath in the brown earth and then a green scar where a stitch of fresh water ran. Beneath the earth. Beneath her view."

For what it’s worth, I’m more partial to mclennan’s prose than his poetry, despite the solecisms. Beneath its somewhat flowery surface, there is buried, I admit, a soft, pleasing, pleasant lyricism.


Soft is perhaps the apt word to use for mclennan’s criticism. subverting the lyric doesn’t contain a harsh judgment or critical statement on any one of its 237 pages. It does, however, list the names and works of literally hundreds of Canadian poets. As such it might more accurately be described as bibliography; a telephone directory. How many poets’ names can I fit into one book? Similarly, in an early collection of poems, Richard Brautigan Ahhhhhhhhhhh, mclennan manages to thank, on the acknowledgments page, no less than 36 people. As Edward Thomas once said of Ezra Pound, ‘too much noise about Pound and not enough substance; too much referring and not enough originality.’ During one essay ‘Yes I have published a lot of stuff’ mclennan interviews himself, asking: why do you have to be such a jerk?’ There is no answer to the question. It looks as if there’s been an error made in the text. What we get is: ’2. I write at my own speed.’ When I asked the book’s editor Michael Helm for an explanation, he told me that this was ‘exactly how rob wanted it to appear.’ When I asked mclennan for the same, he said that the editors had removed his answer. Either way, one suspects that, because he poses the question to himself, there might be some owning up to the fact that he is more about performance than he is art.

December 16th, 2009 • Posted in On Politics

Canada, not Iran or China, the major threat to a peaceful, stable World?

According to George Monbiot in the Guardian:

Canada is a cultured, peaceful nation, which every so often allows a band of Neanderthals to trample over it. Timber firms were licensed to log the old-growth forest in Clayaquot Sound; fishing companies were permitted to destroy the Grand Banks: in both cases these get-rich-quick schemes impoverished Canada and its reputation. But this is much worse, as it affects the whole world. The government’s scheming at the climate talks is doing for its national image what whaling has done for Japan.

I will not pretend that this country is the only obstacle to an agreement at Copenhagen. But it is the major one. It feels odd to be writing this. The immediate threat to the global effort to sustain a peaceful and stable world comes not from Saudi Arabia or Iran or China. It comes from Canada. How could that be true?

I read Monbiot’s piece last night. This morning, this from an address delivered by Northrop Frye in 1975 to the Royal Society of Canada:

"The older generation to which I have finally become assigned, was brought up to think of Canada as a land of unlimited natural resources, an unloving but rich earth-mother bulging with endless supplies of nickel and asbestos, or, in her softer parts, with the kind of soil that would allow of huge grain and lumber surpluses. The result of such assumptions is that many of our major social problems are those of ecology, the extinction of animal species, the plundering of forests and mines, the pollution of water, as the hundreds of millions of years that nature took to build up our supplies of coal and oil are canceled out in a generation or two… We are the grave robbers of our own resources, and posterity will not be grateful to us."

So now, can anyone come up with a reasonable counter argument to these severe condemnations? An adequate justification for the profits, jobs and taxes that are created and drawn from Canada’s natural resources? If not then it may well be time to remove those maple leaves from the backpack.

Update: Speaking of reasonable: This from a lively comments thread following a story about fake Environment Canada news releases:

Canadiankilljoy: We’re being asked to give up a $200B revenue maker that isn’t the biggest polluter by a long shot with nothing in return. How is that reasonable? It’s reasonable when you’re asking another country to do it but no when that $200B is paying for everything from daycare to healthcare. We can’t simply ‘drop it’.

Snafu: It becomes reasonable only if you stop using economic reasoning for reasoning.

Canadiankilljoy: lol. Spoken like someone without a job or a family to feed. It’s not ‘economical reasoning’…it’s rational realistic reasoning. You sound like someone giving advice to a burning person: "It’s all in your mind, you aren’t really feeling any pain at all".

Maybe China can stop using economic reasoning as a reason….after all they’re supposed to be the communist ones.