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

Archive for August, 2010

August 30th, 2010 • Posted in On The Book

Taste check in aisle three

Back from a week of baking and browsing in Eastern Ontario where three used bookstores were scrutinized: one in Golden Lake where a copy of William Nicholson: The Graphic Work, by Colin Campbell was purchased, and two in Combermere: Madonna House Madonna House Bookstore

and Pilgrim Reader Books from which several Frank Newfeld (the great Canadian illustrator/designerstay tuned for the audio) books were procured, including softcover editions of 

From here.

Ralph Gustafson’s Rivers Among Rocks (one of the Design for Poetry series) and

Montreal Books

Irving Layton’s Balls for a One-armed Juggler.

And: a pleasing ‘taste check’ experience as shelves were scoured: first book pulled – from the Canadian literature section – had a previous owner’s name neatly inscribed on the front end paper; second book pulled – at the other end of the store in the poetry section – same name; third, in the back where the to-be-stacked books are kept – and we have the trifecta. From a choice of thousands these were the books chosen -  like the magician who picks from the deck only those cards you’re thinking of. Only this was no trick. Simply an alignment of tastes affirming and reinforcing each other.

August 26th, 2010 • Posted in Authors and Books

‘Gazing with massive self love at my library’

My library has been sequestered in storage for more than a year now and I’m hurting. After six Geoff Dyer finally got to unpack and shelve his, all in one room. Here’s what he had to say afterwards:

"…I don’t even need an intellect, now that I’ve got all my books around me. Finding myself, at last, in the perfect situation for work I don’t want to do any work. I can’t go for more than a few moments without sliding back my chair and gazing with massive self-love at my library. Needless to say, I have no impulse to read. Books are to be arranged and classified, shuffled around. At the very most I want to take a volume from the shelves, consult it, perhaps smell it, and replace it, carefully. Sometime in the future I may want to add a few incremental volumes but, for the moment, I just want to sit here, gazing at my life, it is my life. More exactly it is, in a sense, my life over with. Assembling my books in one room is the fulfilment of a life’s ambition. There’s nothing else I want. Except to sit here, purring.

from ‘Unpacking my Library,’ in Anglo-English Attitudes (1999 Little, Brown)


August 24th, 2010 • Posted in Authors and Books

Rural, Mailbox update

Am luxuriating this week, mostly on a dock that juts out into Golden Lake. Last year at the same location I happened across a wide mouth bass-shaped mailbox which graced a  road-side, lake-side. Here’s what was  IMG_1123

encountered on the way up this year. Near Red Pine Camp -  where we’re staying [Club Med, Eastern Ontario] there sit some phenomenally .



barns. Wildlife


is pretty


in your face too.

August 24th, 2010 • Posted in Wicked Quotes

Wicked Quotes from Hitch 22

Some wicked quotes from Hitch-22:

"…the bogus refulgences of Kahilil Gibran and the sickly tautologies of The Prophet."

"Alcohol for me has been an aspect of my optimism: the mood caught by Charles Ryder in Brideshead Revisited when he discourses on aspects of the Bacchic and the Dionysian and claims that he at least chooses to drink " in the love of the moment, and the wish to prolong and enhance it."

"I was able to see my father in his last repose before the screwing-on of the lid, and later to do for him what he had once done for me, and carry him on my shoulders."

"…when told by the headmaster that only ‘the cream’ attended the school, [he said] yes, I know what you mean – thick and rich"

"’…the sheer perfect relief of being shot at by someone who has missed you’, Winston Churchill."

"The true essence of dictatorship is in fact not its regularity but its unpredictability and caprice; those who live under it must never be able to relax, must never be quite sure if they have followed the rules correctly or not. (The rule of thumb was: whatever is not compulsory is forbidden.)"

"…religion is an excellent reinforcement of shaky temporal authority."

"I learned that to be amusing was not to be frivolous and that language – always the language – was the magic key as much to prose as to poetry."

On JFK: " I felt no particular sense of loss at the passing of such a high-risk narcissist. If I registered any distinct emotion, it was that of mild relief."

"His name was Guy, and I still sometimes twitch a little when I run into someone else who’s called that – even in America, where in a way it is every boy’s name."

"…we had a whey-faced interview."

"I always take it for granted that sexual moralizing by public figures in a sign of hypocracy or worse, and most usually a desire to perform the very act that is most being condemned."

"I hope never to lose the access to outrage that I felt then."

Clive James describes Martin Amis as "a stubby Jagger."

"…the burgeoning refulgence of our love…"

Carwash: enjoying two young ladies at the same time


August 21st, 2010 • Posted in On Book Collecting

Collecting books on beer and career

This from installment number one in a series of articles I’m writing on book collecting for

Book collecting finds its best start in your passions. If you love something, you’re going to want to learn as much about it as you possibly can. Let’s say for example it’s beer. Everything about it fascinates you – its taste, color, texture, the process by which it’s made, the bottles it comes in, the good-time television commercials that promote it, the sporting events and gear it sponsors, the parties it enhances – everything.

Books have been around for more than five hundred years, which means that mountains has been written on every topic imaginable. Beer is no exception. Search’s inventory using the term “beer” and see for yourself:

The Good Bottled Beer Guide, Home Brewed Beers and Stouts; Beer, Bed and Breakfast; The Art of Drinksmanship; … all can be had for a dollar or less.

As such they meet one of the most important criteria for collecting books: they’re cheap.

What this means is that others haven’t yet seen the value in them. Why go after what everyone else wants? Hemingway’s first editions, for example–how utterly unoriginal. They’ll cost you a bomb and, unless you’re bleeding greenbacks, the chances are slim you’ll ever get all of them; and you can forget the high points.

Hunting books that nobody else loves–those books that have gone unconsidered–is a much more rewarding, affordable endeavor. Consider that inexpensive books probably haven’t had a case yet made for their collectibility. Value is as much a function of creative argument as anything else. A book on its own may not be worth much, but as part of smartly conceived set, its value can be significant. Many fascinating collecting avenues open up…

Read the rest here…

August 18th, 2010 • Posted in Wicked Quotes

The shameful ignorance of thinking that we know what we do not know

“To fear death, my friends, is only to think ourselves wise, without being wise: for it is to think that we know what we do not know. For anything that men can tell, death may be the greatest good that can happen to them: but they fear it as if they knew quite well that it was the greatest of evils. And what is this but that shameful ignorance of thinking that we know what we do not know?” Socrates.

Ironic isn’t it that organized religion capitalizes on this fear, peddling its various brands of known unknowns, and, in so doing, causes untold numbers of deaths.

August 15th, 2010 • Posted in Bookstores

Clean streets more important than open book shops?

Nigel Beale's Bookstore Photographs


Andrew Cohen reports here that there are more bookstores in Buenos Aires than there are in the entire country of Brazil, a nation of  some 190 million, roughly five times the population of Argentina. One store for every 6000 residents of BA, a place where booksellling is seen as a ‘true,’ if not terribly lucrative, profession. The reason: government has in place a version of England’s old ‘Net Book Agreement’  which came into effect on the first day of the 20th century (Jan 1, 1900). It held that any bookseller who sold a book at less than the price agreed upon by publishers and retailers would cease getting books to sell. Collapse of the Agreement in 1997 benefited big box, ‘high street’ bookstore chains and reduced book prices. Supermarkets also got into the game, selling popular titles at deep discounts. The result: books are definitely cheaper…obviously a good thing for consumers, particularly those formerly unable to afford them, but, devastating to the independent bookstore: as of 2009, some 500 had closed since the demise of the agreement.

Cohen cites civic priority as the reason for Argentina’s commitment to culture. Bridges, subway stations and roads can wait. It’s bookstores, museums and theatres that are important. As culture minister Hernan Lombardi puts it "In a crisis, we worry about losing identity. That’s when we need to support culture". No wonder Buenos Aires is such an amazing city…and Canada has had such struggles defining it’s ‘identity’. Far better to scrape those menacing centimeters of snow from the roads every day than invest in more libraries, or support independent and used bookstore owners, what?

August 13th, 2010 • Posted in Authors and Books

What Alfred Knopf believed about books…



The Borzoi Credo appeared originally as an advertisement in The Atlantic Monthly, November 1957 as follows:

 "I believe that a publisher’s imprint means something, and that if readers paid more attention to the publisher of the books they buy, their chances of being disappointed would be infinitely less.
 I believe that good books should be well made, and I try to give every book I publish a format that is distinctive and attractive.
 I believe that I have never published an unworthy book.
 I believe that a publisher has a moral as well as a commercial obligation to his authors to try in every way to promote the sales of their books, to keep them in print, and to enhance his author’s prestige.
 I believe that a review by an incompetent critic is a sin against the author, the book, the publisher, and the publication in which the review appears.
I believe that the basic need of the book business is not Madison Avenue ballyhoo, but more booksellers who love and understand books and who can communicate their enthusiasm to a waiting audience.
 I believe that magazines, movies, television, and radio will never replace good books."


August 13th, 2010 • Posted in Authors and Books

Science Fiction a reality in Ottawa next weekend: August 20-22, 2010

People with pointy ears, green skin and expansive imaginations will be gathering in Ottawa next weekend at the Travelodge Hotel & Conference Centre1376 Carling Avenue for Can-Con. What dat you say?

"CAN•CON is a celebration of Canada’s numerous and ongoing contributions to the genres of science-fiction, fantasy, alternate histories, utopian and dystopian fiction, and speculative horror… It’s an entertaining and informative blend of Canada’s finest! 100% volunteer-run and entirely not-for-profit, CAN•CON is a labour of love for the many that organize and staff it.

Those who watch speculative fiction on television or read it in books are the thinkers and doers of today and tomorrow. CAN•CON’s goal is to get us all together — face to face — to discuss where our technology and developing society might take us. We do this not only for the thrill of exploring what possibilities the future holds for us, but also prepare for the physical and ethical dangers our species will have to deal with. CAN•CON is not just a place where people get together to discuss books, art, and authors, it is where ideas come together to shape the future of our world and to shape the future for our children."

And Bytown Books will be there selling Science Fiction stuff, first and other rare editions.

August 13th, 2010 • Posted in Authors and Books

Hintonburg Arts Festival set to paint town

My friend Tony Martins of Guerilla magazine fame has been moonlighting a bit of late…helping to organize the Hintonburg Arts Festival. Starts tomorrow at noon. If you’re in the nation’s capital, why not head on down to Hinchley Avenue to see what kind of damage Tony can do…maybe get your face painted.