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Archive for March, 2010

March 30th, 2010 • Posted in Authors and Books

British Publishers of the 1920s

 William Nicholson, Bookplate for the publisher William Heinemann, Woodcut, 1897

I plan to conduct a series of Biblio File interviews exclusively for subscribers to The Book Hunter Press’s database of Used Bookstores & Reviews. Each will feature conversations with experts on the histories of these (and other) British publishers (taken from First Editions of Today published by Elkin Mathews in 1928). If you, or anyone you know, are such an expert, please do contact me. 


(The ‘&’ key hasn’t seen such action in years):

Edward Arnold & Co.
J.W. Arrowsmith (London) Ltd
G. Bell & Sons, Ltd.
Ernest Benn, Ltd.
Blackie & Sons, Ltd.
Basil Blackwell
William Blackwood and Sons, Ltd.
Runs, Oates & Washbourne, Ltd.
Thornton Butterworth
Cambridge University Press
Jonathan Cape Ltd.
Cassell & Company, Ltd.
W. & R. Chambers, Ltd.
Chapman & Hall, Ltd.
Chatto & Windus
R. Cobden-Sanderson
W. Collins, Sons & Co., Ltd.
Constable and Co. Ltd.
C.W. Daniel Company
Peter Davies Ltd.
J.M. Dent & Sons, Ltd.
Noel Douglas
Gerald Duckworth & Co., Ltd.
Faber & Gwyer, Ltd.
T.N. Foulis, Ltd.
Wells Gardner, Darton & Co., Ltd.
Gay & Hancock, Ltd.
Victor Gollancz, Ltd.
Geo. G. Harrap & Co. Tld
W. Heffer & Sons, Ltd.
W. Heinemann, Ltd. Hodder & Stoughton, Ltd.
The Hogarth Press
Martin Hopkinson & Co. Ltd.
Hutchinson & Co. Ltd.
Herbert Jenkins, Ltd.
John Lane The Bodley Head, Ltd.
T. Warner Laurie, Ltd.
John Long, Ltd.
Longmans Green & Co. Ltd.
Macmillan & Co. Ltd.
Elkin Mathews & Marrot, Ltd.
Methuen & Co. Ltd. Mills & Boon, Ltd.
John Murray
Eveleigh Nash and Grayson, Ltd.
George Newnes, Ltd.
James Nisbet & Co., Ltd.
Nonesuch Press
George Over (Rugby) Ltd.
Oxford University Press
Cecil Palmer
Poetry Bookshop
Porpoise Press
Richards Press Ltd.
George Routledge & Sons, Ltd
Kegan Paul, Trench, Trubner & Co. Ltd.
Martin Secker, Ltd.
Selwyn & Blount, Ltd
Sidgwick & Jackson, Ltd.
Elliot Stock
Ward, Lock & Co.
Frederick Warne & Co. Ltd.
Wishart & Co.
March 30th, 2010 • Posted in Authors and Books

Audio Interview with Bob Fleck, Founder/President of Oak Knoll Books

Oak Knoll Books – specialists in books on books – was founded in 1976 by Bob Fleck, a chemical engineer by training, who let his hobby get the best of him. Oak Knoll Press, the publishing arm of the business was established two years later.

Today, the thriving company maintains an inventory of about 23,000 titles. Specialities include books about bibliography, book collecting, book design, book illustration, book selling, bookbinding, bookplates, children’s books, Delaware books, fine press books, forgery, graphic arts, libraries, literary criticism, marbling, papermaking, printing history, publishing, typography & type specimens, and writing & calligraphy – plus books about the history of all of these fields.

I met  with Bob recently to talk about the story of his company, about his love of books, of A. Edward Newton, of traveling the globe to meet fellow bibliophiles, of visiting used bookstores, and of the plan Bob has to partner with Between the Covers, The Kelmscott Bookshop, and The Old Bookshop of Bordentown,  to convert the second story of his existing premises into a new store called The Bookshop in Old New Castle. Grand Opening: May 1 (Click here to see a slide-show of the remodeling process). Please listen here:

Subscribe to Nigel Beale’s Biblio File Podcast here

Copyright © 2010 by Nigel Beale.

March 29th, 2010 • Posted in Authors and Books

50 Famous Author Interviews

Neil Gaiman, Mark Haddon, Chuck Palahniuk, and Joanna Cole of Magic School Bus fame are among those included in this list of famous author interviews.

March 28th, 2010 • Posted in Authors and Books

30,000 out-of-copyright books for free? That’s it. I’m getting an iPad next week.

According to AppAdvice  Apple has imported the entire Project Gutenberg library of over 30,000 out-of-copyright books into iTunes, making it very easy, apparently, for iPad owners to access them. Apple’s $9.99 bestseller price puts the iTunes book store in direct competition with Amazon’s e-book store and the iPad head-to-head with Kindle. While the Kindle can also read the ePub format from Project Gutenberg, users reportedly have to go through a more convoluted download process to get books to the device.

March 26th, 2010 • Posted in On Book Collecting

Collecting the Keynote Series

I had the pleasure of meeting Mark Samuels Lasner when I was down in Florida recently. Among other things we talked about beautiful books, and what to collect (stay tuned for the audio). He suggested John Lane’s Keynote Series published in the 1890s, many of which contain Aubrey Beardsley designs. Here’s the list:

Vol 1 Keynotes by George Egerton
Vol 2 The Dancing Faun by Florence Farr
Vol 3 Poor Folk. Translated from the Russian of F. Dostoievsky by Lena Milman. With a preface by George Moore.
Vol 4 A Child of the Age by Francis Adams
Vol 5 The Great God Pan and The Inmost Light by Arthur Machen
Vol 6 Discords by George Egerton
Vol 7 Prince Zaleski by M.P. Shiel
Vol 8 The Woman Who Did by Grant Allen
Vol 9 Women’s Tragedies by H.D. Lowry
Vol 10 Grey Roses/The Bohemian Girl and Other Stories by Henry Harland
Vol 11 At the First Corner and Other Stories by H.B. Marriott Watson
Vol 12 Monochromes by Ella D’Arcy
Vol 13 At the Relton Arms by Evelyn Sharp
Vol 14 The Girl from the Farm by Gertrude Dix
Vol 15 The Mirror of Music by Stanley V. Makower
Vol 16 Yellow and White by W. Carlton Dawe
Vol 17 The Mountain Lovers by Fiona Macleod
Vol 18 The Woman Who Didn’t by Victoria Crosse
Vol 19 The Three Imposters by Arthur Machen
Vol 20 Nobody’s Fault by Netta Syrett
Vol 21 The British Barbarians by Grant Allen
Vol 22 In Homespun by E. Nesbit
Vol 23 Platonic Affections by John Smith
Vol 24 Nets for the Wind by Una Taylor
Vol 25 Where the Atlantic Meets the Land by Caldwell Lipsett
Vol 26 In Scarlet and Grey by Florence Henniker. (With The Spectre of the Real by Florence Henniker and Thomas Hardy)
Vol 27 Maris Stella by Marie Clothilde Balfour
Vol 28 Day Books by Mabel E. Wotton
Vol 29 Shapes in the Fire by M.P. Shiel
Vol 30 Ugly Idol by Claud Nicholson
Vol 31 Kakemonos by W. Carlton Dawe
Vol 32 God’s Failures by J.S. Fletcher
Vol 33 A Deliverance by Allan Monkhouse
Vol 34 Mere Sentiment by A. J. Dawson

March 26th, 2010 • Posted in Authors and Books

James Wood criticized for doing what Literary Critics are supposed to do

James Wood’s How Fiction Works has attracted a lot of attention, much of it positive.

Of course, when you write a book with such an authoritative sounding title, and state in its introduction that you plan to answer ‘some of the essential questions about the art of fiction,’  I suppose, if you choose not to examine plot and a number of other workshop 101 staples,  it shouldn’t be surprising that the odd pedagogist’s knicker gets knotted. 


This, plus condemnation for its not asking the right questions (as Mark Thwaite  put it early on: “I think far more interesting questions about the novel need to be asked. It seems to me that asking how fiction works is a very dull question indeed next to the existential one that really matters: why fiction is.”) -  is in fact what characterized much of the negative criticism that greeted the book in the birth room.

More recent response waters with the same hose, insisting – often indignantly – that the book, because it fails to examine all forms of fiction with the same level of attention,  is a failure. Wood, from this quarter, seems not to be allowed an opinion. He is chastened for writing polemically, for having a bias, for defending and arguing the merits of a personal ideal. He is, in short, criticized, for doing exactly what literary critics are supposed to do.

Criticism for not writing what others want or expect you to write is no fault of the author, but rather, I’d suggest, one of positioning. This is why  - while the book itself needs no defending,  I here offer up two  suggested tweaks , minor amendments which, if they’d been incorporated at the start, could well have saved the world from a whole pile of miserable critiquing.

The first a is title change, to:  How the Best Fiction Works.

Evidently, for some, the fact that James Wood’s name appears on the cover is not enough to indicate that what’s written inside constitutes his opinion;  by emphasizing ‘free indirect style’, point of view, detail and character, Wood isn’t conducting a freshman class in composition, he’s telling us what he thinks is required to produced the ‘best,’ most ‘successful ‘ fiction.

Second, in response to Mark,  a clarifying introductory note on the what and why of fiction, in order to contextualize post modernist complaints. A note that, if I’d written it, would have read something like this:

Why fiction is?

Some have argued that it – storytelling – is a biologically programmed survival mechanism. Preparatory work: a method of dealing with the future; for circumventing danger – creating solutions to real and imagined problems; of overcoming challenges, managing the unforeseen; where  imaginative powers  serve as tools for creating scenarios which encourage and enable the species to adapt, predict and accommodate itself to what’s ahead.

Why fiction? Because we want and need to escape from dull, quotidian existence. We want to change the world, challenge our minds, seek patterns, play games. Learn. Find ‘truths.’ Do a better job of living. Know ourselves, others, the planet…the universe.

Because we have an innate curiosity perhaps, that moves us – or at least those of us who want more – to invent new, alternate worlds, make-believe characters, friends, places, creatures…and to share them with others. To delight, please, instruct, entertain.

Because imagining is what our brains are wired to do. Because some possess a deep desire to experience new things. To change the environment. To persuade, coerce, dominate.  To manipulate reality.  To maintain the status-quo. To incite revolution.

What fiction is?

Well it is, for readers and writers: a way to live another life; to assume a different perspective; to feel; to experience sympathy;  to create; to express and communicate; to connect.   To learn about living; to learn about life and oneself; to think serious thoughts; to get advice. To revel in aesthetic accomplishment; to appreciate the way words are put together – their  beauty, cadence, rhythm and rhyme; the images they conjure, the meanings they convey. The movies you make with them in your mind.

A way for writers to entertain. To give pleasure. Excite. To make others laugh. To share pain, suffering, deep thoughts. To present arguments. Visions for new societies,  improved methods of government, of living together. A way for readers to cultivate their minds.

For some, fiction is a way to fart around with perception and perspective. To experiment. To incorporate and reflect the boredom or frustrations of real life, for example. Or the experience of a drug trip. Or living as a slug, or in a galaxy far, far away.

All this with a set of silly little black marks on the page.

Fiction then is a whole bunch of different things to different people.

But the best fiction is not. It’s one thing, and in the best tradition of literary criticism, it’s up to the critic to present his opinions – on what is good, and what is bad – using the most persuasive means he can muster. 

This is what Wood does in How Fiction Works.

This is what A.D. Jameson over at the Big Idea attacks him for, in what I considered at the time to be "a lengthy eructation of ill conceived, frequently picayune argument, unworthy of response.

Subsequent congenial exchanges with Jameson have convinced me, not that his post isn’t insulting or poorly reasoned, but that it does warrant a response. So, in the coming days I will – with this present post as a touchstone – proceed to articulate my objections.


March 25th, 2010 • Posted in Authors and Books, CITIES, Ottawa, ON

Profile of Ottawa artist Adrian Gollner by Nigel Beale.

This from Guerilla Magazine, #23

Boldly creative and obsessively organized, Adrian Göllner is a man of two minds—and he draws upon both of them to win public art commissions all over the world.

Story by Nigel Beale  /  Photographs by Rémi Thériault

Several years ago I went through the Ron Mueck exhibition at the National Gallery of Canada. The sculptures, so meticulously human and life-like, were either huge or tiny. Despite breathtakingly accurate renderings of human flesh, eyelashes, toenails and hair follicles, if the works had been life-sized, the appeal would have evaporated.

The same somehow holds true of great fiction, where words themselves serve to distort or magnify reality. In so doing they hold us rapt.

Mueck’s sculptures fascinate us because, while we know they aren’t human (as we know, too, that words in a novel don’t produce real people), they so closely resemble the real thing that we puzzle over them, marvel at their verisimilitude, strain at the tension between likeness and difference, real and imagined, familiar and strange.

It is exactly this duality—this blur between the real and the unreal—that most interests Ottawa’s Adrian Göllner. His progressive rise to prominence through the winning of international public art commissions is rooted in a double nature driven by curiosity and artistry.

In the early 1990s, after George Bush Sr.’s invasion of Iraq, CNN started hawking a set of Desert Storm videos highlighting the “very best” of its Gulf War coverage. As Göllner recalls, you couldn’t at first figure out if the videos were for real or just some kind of parody; a joke; war served up in a neat infotainment package for consumption in the comfort of your living room.

The unintentionally farcical nature of the CNN videos inspired Göllner, whose army-base childhood in Germany had left him preoccupied with the Cold War (the artist’s military father was on assignment there “preparing for World War III” for much of Göllner’s early life.)

Riffing off this farce/fact dichotomy, Göllner created a series of Cold War trading cards, complete with bomb-testing stats, warnings about which countries not to piss off, and advice on how to prevent the “Reds” from taking over. The cards were convincing enough to keep people guessing (crass commercial product or parody?) and sold briskly. The Deifenbunker tourist attraction located just outside of Ottawa took 100 sets and invited Göllner to do a similarly themed on-site installation.

Adrian Göllner

Adrian Göllner was photographed in front of Stand, the glass wall installation he created as part of the City of Ottawa’s Shenkman Arts Centre in Orleans.

Exposure here, and through a public commission he’d completed in Kitchener, Ontario, got Göllner a shot at another large prize, this one connected with construction of the Canadian embassy in Berlin. Göllner included his faux anti-communist propaganda materials as part of the bid and won the project. Using the propaganda “meant that I knew what Berlin meant,” reasoned Göllner.

In this instance and many others, Göllner’s ability to understand context, to research and grasp the import of architectural design and intent, and to come up with compelling-yet-elemental ideas has helped him win vaunted public art commissions all over the globe.

But there is another, equally important aspect driving Göllner’s success: his meticulous organizational skills.

“Public work is about 20% art and 80% administration,” the artist explains, pointing to the importance of purely rational tasks such as dialoguing with architects and suppliers, acquiring knowledge of materials, estimating, planning and research. And after all that, of course, there’s the required ability to execute. It may be a cliché, but for Göllner, winning a commission really is the place where preparation meets opportunity.

From his father Göllner received a penchant for precision, an eye for detail, a desire for order and promptness (he’s an avid clock collector). So great was this influence that Göllner long expected a life of duty in the military—something that changed only in high school when he discovered that he might actually be able to make a living from doing what he loved: making art—a talent for which he may well have inherited from his Trinidadian mother, herself an artist.

Just as the real and the imagined meet in Göllner’s work, a rational/intuitive duality happily co-inhabits his mind and psyche. It’s a combination ideally suited to the winning of public art commissions, a synthesis where left and right brains connect and team up to produce executable ideas.

The blend is potent. Along with early experience as an art consultant with the City of Ottawa, this dual nature has helped Göllner win and execute commissions in places as as far-flung as Mexico (where he created pixilated images of Pancho Villa made from Canadian Tire money), Dublin (hundreds of separate postcard-sized pieces of the Irish flag), Birmingham, England, (canvases made from locally found fabric, pee-stained mattresses, used clothing, and a Royal Mail bag), New Zealand (specially lit box houses), and Toronto (lighting of sixteen high-rise towers in “warm” colours).

In recent years, computers have played an important part in the fun. In 2007, during a residency in Trinidad, Göllner used computers to plot asymmetric shapes from the country’s weekly winning lottery numbers, giving graphic expression to the concept of luck. The resulting shapes served as a sounding board for people’s beliefs about a nebulous, but important topic.

Why let the seeming randomness of computers have such influence?

“Art based on rhythms from statistics produces work that takes me to much more interesting places,” Göllner explains.

For another commission in Nashville, Tennessee, the artist combined two things he knew about the city—the songs of country music legend Hank Williams and the history of hydrogen bomb testing in post-war times. The result was a stylized computer graph that plotted bomb blast schedules against Williams’ hit songs moving up and down the country charts.

Later, for a piece in Norfolk, Virginia that commemorated the 40th anniversary of the Cuban Missile Crisis, Göllner converted the transcripts of communication between Kennedy and Kruschev into Morse code and depicted the results on posters.

“The dialogue dictates composition,” Göllner says of this process. “The code flexes between a language, and, because it’s in a gallery, an abstraction.”

These notions can be hard to get your head around, but Göllner is clearly on to something.

In his recent book Reality Hunger, David Shields writes about the line between the real and the unreal, suggesting that it is at the centre of a new, organic, as yet unnamed artistic movement he defines as “deliberate unartiness: raw material, seemingly unprocessed, unfiltered, uncensored, and unprofessional … a blurring (to the point of invisibility) of any distinction between fiction and nonfiction; the lure and blur of the real.”

Thanks to an engaging ability to blend the rational and the artistic, it seems certain that the private mind of Adrian Göllner will make itself felt publically for years to come. Recent projects on home soil include a lighting installation at the Vancouver Olympic Games, work with Ottawa’s Domicile Developments, and in a smaller, more personal project, the release of physical energy from a person who over-wound a clock seventy years ago, rejuvenating it, rendering it unharnessed, un-sprung, in the form of a mechanically generated pencil drawing.

Proof perhaps that even the line between life and death may turn out to be a blur.

March 23rd, 2010 • Posted in Authors and Books

Guerilla at the National Gallery Thursday Night

Guerilla magazine and the National Gallery of Canada team up to present:

  • Live performance by Ottawa’s legendary Hammerheads band
    An intimate piano-and-vocals set by the charming Megan Jerome
    Free tours of the National Gallery’s Nicolas Baier exhibition
    A hands-on silk screening workshop
    An instructional African drumming session with Dr. Lee
    A slide presentation preview of Martin Lipman’s photo portraits of Governor General Award-winning artists
    And…the launch of Guerilla #23 online and in print which contains an article by me on
    Ottawa artist Adrian Gollner.
March 22nd, 2010 • Posted in Authors and Books

Audio Interview with Richard Holloway: On Religion, Self awareness and Compassion

Photo: Nigel Beale.

Richard Holloway is a Scottish writer/broadcaster  and former Bishop of Edinburgh in the Scottish Episcopal Church who was educated at Kelham Theological College and the Union Theological Seminary, New York City. Between 1959 and 1986 he was curate, vicar and rector at parishes in England, Scotland and the United States, at which point he became the Bishop of Edinburgh, a position he resigned from in 2000. Now an outspoken commentator on religious belief in the modern world, he is author of more than 20 books, well-known for his support of liberal causes, including human rights for gays and lesbians in and outside of the church. Holloway lives in Edinburgh with his American-born wife Jean. They have three adult children.

We talk here about one of his most recent books, Between the Monster and the Saint, as he puts it: ‘a gradual plea for self awareness and forgiveness, and through this, tolerance and compassion toward others.

(Subscribe to Nigel Beale’s Biblio File Podcast here)

 Copyright © 2010 by Nigel Beale.
March 21st, 2010 • Posted in Authors and Books

Audio Interview with author Nicholson Baker: On the Future of the Book

Photo: Nigel Beale.

Nicholson Baker (born January 7, 1957) is an American writer of fiction and non-fiction. As a novelist he often focuses on describing the minute physical detail of our surroundings, straws and escalators for example, writing on provocative topics such as voyeurism, phone sex  and planned assassination.  Enthusiasts laud his ability to explore and illuminate the human psyche, critics call him a boring gadfly. Much of his non-fiction deals with the printed word, how it’s presented, stored, consumed. 

We talk here about the future of the book, ebooks, the ipad, the Kindle, brodart dust jacket covers, Daniel Dafoe, bloggers, CIA, weapons scientists at the Library of Congress, letterpress printing and the pulling of books off shelves.

Please listen here:

( Subscribe to the Biblio File Podcast here )

 Copyright © 2010 by Nigel Beale.