THE BOOK TROUT

THE BOOK TROUT
Books, Book selling, book reading, book loving

Sunday, April 29, 2007

On the Importance of Art



As a farewell to National Poetry Month, I offer the following Spring poem:

If of thy mortal goods thou art bereft,
And from thy slender store two loaves alone to thee are left,
Sell one, and with the dole
Buy hyacinths to feed thy soul.

-By Sadi, Persian Poet (1184-1291)

Thursday, April 26, 2007

Wattieza, First Among Trees



Today is National Arbor Day (officially celebrated on the last Friday of April) and to commemorate this event the Book Trout would like to relate the saga of the lovely palm tree pictured here. It has just been identified in the latest issue of Nature as Wattieza, a Devonian Era palm-like tree, that scientists have identified as the first true tree to populate the Earth. It lived 380 million years ago in nearby Schoharie County and grew up to 26 feet tall. State Museum of New York scientists dug out sections of the trunk and then a twelve-foot-long fossilized piece of the crown from a quarry excavation while the quarry construction clock ticked, and we are glad they did.

While we wait for a poet to compose an ode to this forest giant, here's an Arab proverb from the tree quotes section of Gardeners Digest to ruminate on this Arbor Day.
It is good to know the truth, but it is better to speak of palm trees.

Wednesday, April 25, 2007

La Vida Low-Brow


On the advice of rabid reader and writer Anthony Bourdain (see Nasty Bits, Hooves and Snouts blog post), we tracked down a copy of George Orwell's "Down and Out in Paris and London". Published in 1933, this was Orwell's first book, a semi-autobiographical novel about his life in a seedy, colorful Parisian neighborhood and his attempts to scrounge a living after his money is stolen. I threw the book across the room after the second chapter scene when Orwell describes creepy bistro comrade Charlie, who rants about how he discovered the true meaning of love in raping peasant girl over and over again.

Dan, however, soldiered on and enjoyed later scenes, when the book's hero works as the lowest rung on the kitchen ladder of Hotel X with his Russian refugee friend Boris. As a plongeur, our unnamed hero must do anything required to keep the kitchens going, which usually means the most menial tasks, from washing loftier kitchen workers' clothes and dishes, fetching them meals, rolling pats of butter, counting sugar lumps and hauling whatever is needed around the furnace-hot kitchen labyrinths. Lots of cursing in English and French spices up the soupy atmosphere.

Later in the book, our Orwellian buddy heads to London to better his chances of borrowing friends' funds, and this section was not as vivid or interesting for Dan. He sympathetically describes his tramp buddies, but without the restaurant scenes, it just didn't match the savor of the mid-section of the book.

Monday, April 23, 2007

A Spectacular View


An artistic dairy farmer fashioned these giant eyeglasses out of old carriage wheel rims in nearby Wilton, New York and I thought they were worth a look.

Sunday, April 22, 2007

Happy Birthday to the Bard of Avon



Tomorrow, April 23rd, is known as William Shakespeare's date of death and is also celebrated as his birth date as well. In case you are not able to attend the festivities in merrie olde England, here are some ways you might tip your hat to the Bard:

1) Read one of his wonderful plays or enjoy a sonnet. Every home library ought to contain a collected works of Shakespeare to dip into.

2) Try your hand at the Shakespeare Sonnet Shake-up, a fun website that allows you to create your own sonnet using lines from the Immortal One.

3) Attend a Shakespeare play and soak up some Elizabethan atmosphere. Lots of college and local theater groups incorporate Shakespeare's works in their annual schedules.

4) Read Leon Rooke's bawdy, intelligent novel "Shakespeare's Dog" (NY: Ecco Press, 1986), which chronicles Will Shakespizzle's (variant spelling) life from the point of view of his dog, the notably unneutered Mr. Hooker.

5) Memorize a Shakepearean insult or two. Here are some memorable bits of invective from the plays:

-"This is a slight unmeritable man, meet to be sent on errands." (Julius Caesar)
-"[Thou art] wither'd like an old apple-john." (Henry IV, Part 1)
-"Drunkeness is his best virtue." (All's Well That Ends Well)
-"Would the fountain of your mind were clear again, that I might water an ass at it." (Troilus and Cressida)
-"You juggler! You canker-blossom!" (A Midsummer Night's Dream)
-"Then did the sun on dunghill shine." (The Merry Wives of Windsor)
-"Thou hast need of more rags to lay on thee." (The Winter's Tale)

6) Cook up a batch of Macbeth Soup:


1ST WITCH: Round about the caldron go;
In the poison'd entrails throw.-
Toad, that under cold stone,
Days and nights has thiry-one
Swelter'd venom sleeping got,
Boil thou first i' the charmèd pot!

ALL: Double, double toil and trouble;
Fire, burn; and, caldron bubble.

2ND WITCH: Fillet of a fenny snake,
In the caldron boil and bake;
Eye of newt, and toe of frog,
Wool of bat, and tongue of dog,
Adder's fork, and blind-worm's sting,
Lizard's leg, and howlet's wing,-
For a charm of powerful trouble,
Like a hell-broth boil and bubble.

ALL: Double, double toil and trouble,
Fire, burn; and, caldron, bubble.

3RD WITCH: Scale of dragon, tooth of wolf,
Witches' mummy, maw and gulf
of the ravin'd salt-sea shark,
Root of hemlock digg'd i' the dark,
Liver of blaspheming Jew,
Gall of goat, and slips of yew
Sliver'd in the moon's eclipse,
Nose of Turk; and Tartar's lips,
Finger of birth-strangl'd babe,
Ditch-deliver'd by a drab,-
Make the gruel thick and slab:
Add thereto a tiger's chaudron,
For the ingredients of our caldron.

ALL: Double, double toil and trouble;
Fire, burn; and, caldron, bubble.

2ND WITCH: Cool it with a baboon's blood,
Then the charm is firm and good.

--Macbeth, Act IV, Scene 1

Friday, April 20, 2007

Earth Day at the Bookshop



Earth Day will be celebrated on Sunday, April 22nd. It's a great reason to reexamine ways to reduce our adverse impacts on the Earth. Our town has a clean-up day where kids (mostly) and some adults run around picking off street-side trash and haul it into huge municipal dumpsters. On other Earth Days, we've planted trees on our property (although the birches are pretty fragile and several didn't survive this year's February ice storm as you can see from the photograph.

At Old Saratoga Books, we try to reuse and recycle as much as possible. We obviously reuse and sell our secondhand inventory. When we have books that we can't use, we donate these to local libraries for their fundraising book sales or to local thrift shops. Some books end up at the recycling center, but these are the hopeless cases: reader's digest condensed books, mildewed or damaged books, encyclopedia sets with missing volumes, books that are extensively underlined or highlighted, etc.

The recycling extends to our mail order book sales. We pack and ship a lot of books each year and we protect them with bubble wrap, packing peanuts and other materials before fitting them into a box for mailing. Some of the materials are new, but most are recycled, since the day some years back when we put up a sign in the store window asking our customers to save their packing materials for us.

The response has been amazing and has really grown over the years. We do buy several wheels of bubble wrap a year but we haven't bought packing peanuts in recent memory. We get bags of peanuts donated by the local stained glass studio, the local school
custodian, a customer who works at a big box store, a homeopathic doctor, the local beauty spa, and our local Catholic priest (who has two parish's worth of Catholic literature arriving weekly for his services, not to mention all those little white candles he goes through). People also bring us smaller boxes (they are a bit sheepish about the Amazon boxes), those inflatable clear pillow things and other packing items.

We always tell people that we'll come pick these supplies up, but we get them
hand-delivered! We always give my special packing buddies a little extra discount on their books, so they get some reward, but most are just interested in the recycling aspect. Others who have an open shop may want to think about the sign idea as it really worked for us.

We do buy a load of new boxes every other year to fit our book orders, but there are always the odd-sized books that require irregular boxes and those multi-book orders, so we keep clean, non-food, non-hygiene-product boxes in the basement to cut down for these shipments. We cross out the writing with a black marker and peel off labels and stickers, so they don't look like Frankenboxes. We recently found out about some fun recycled packaging labels on children's author-illustrator Jan Brett's website. www.janbrett.com These labels feature "Hedgie's Surprise" icon, Hedgie. (Brett's website is loaded with other great downloads and activities that are worth checking out if you have small kids or are a teacher. I used to go to her website quite a bit when my friends and I were running a preschool story time at the local library.) We do use new boxes exclusively for our my international orders, as we don't want the box to look
"suspicious" and in need of opening at customs to delay its arrival.

We'd love to hear any other recycling ideas that folks may have about their recycling efforts. Happy Earth Day!

Monday, April 16, 2007

Biblionovels: A Selected Reading List




The last Book Trout entry described the classic Christopher Morley novels “The Haunted Bookshop” and its predecessor, “Parnassus on Wheels” and it made me think of so many other great bibliophilic novels. The following is a selected reading list of Biblionovels of note.


BIBLIONOVELS: A SELECTED READING LIST FROM THE BOOK TROUT


Adamson, Lydia, ”Beware the Laughing Gull”, (NY: Signet, 1998). Retired librarian and full-time birdwatcher Lucy Wayles solves the murder of a bride on her wedding day.

Andahazi, Federico, ”The Merciful Women”, translated from the Spanish by Alberto Manguel, (London: Doubleday, 2000). A novel featuring Lord Byron, Percy Bysshe Shelley, Mary Shelley and other hangers-on during an 1816 Swiss vacation. On the same night that Mary Shelley is to read aloud her Frankenstein tale, another literary dare had been extended to Byron's physician, Doctor Polidori, to offer a vampire tale. Great jacket art featuring Michelangelo's David with vampire bat codpiece.

Barron, Stephanie, the Jane Austen series. I particularly love this series. The literary conceit here is that a cache of Jane Austen's letters have been discovered at the bottom of an American relative's coal chute and they reveal that Jane had been working to solve murders, fall in love and spy for her country behind the mask of a proper English lady. The style and vocabulary fit Austen perfectly and there is plenty of dashing adventure to spice up the actual biographical events of her life.

Beresford-Howe, Constance, ”A Population of One”, (Toronto: Macmillan of Canada, 1977). Our heroine is a professor of English at a university and struggles to juggle revolting students, boring departmental assignments and a serious of romances.

Blackstock, Charity, “Dewey Death”, (NY: Ballantine, 1985). Intrigue, eccentric librarians and murder stalks the Inter-Libraries Despatch Association in London, a librarian's library.

Block, Lawrence, The Burglar Who series. Burglar-turned-used-bookseller Bernie Rhodenbarr is the hero of this comic mystery caper series set in Manhattan. Bernie just wants to focus on selling his beloved books, but he hasn't given up his lock picks yet.

Bradbury, Ray, ”Fahrenheit 451” (pick your edition from any number of editions and printings) is probably the one that springs to most peoples' minds, a futuristic fantasy-noir in which books are officially verboten, but so beloved that people memorize their favorites and recite them underground.

Byatt, A.S., "Possession”, (NY: Random House, 1990). A great literary puzzle wrapped inside a passionate romance between bibliophiles that shifts between present day and Victorian London.

Caldwell, Ian and Dustin Thomason, ”The Rule of Four”, (NY: The Dial Press, 2004) Murder breaks out when two Princeton students solve a ciphered message encoded in the 15th century manuscript of Hypnerotomachia Poliphili.

Colapinto, John, ”About the Author”, (NY: HarperCollins, 2001). Stockboy Cal Cunningham toils away in a Manhattan bookstore and dreams of writing the Great American Novel in this darkly humorous autobiographical novel. His killer shark literary agent is wonderfully over-the-top.

Curran, Terrie, ”All Booked Up”, (NY: Worldwide, 1989). A rare incunabula turns up missing at the academic Smedley Library, followed up by the corpse of one of its patrons.

Dobson, Joanne, Karen Pelletier series. Fordham University English Professor Joanne Dobson has turned out several elegant, quasi-autobiographical bibliomysteries featuring an English professor who solves literary puzzles involving nineteenth century American writers with the help of a hunky detective of Polish extraction.

Dunning, John, the Cliff Janeway series. Dunning just doesn't write these fast enough. His first book is the most satisfying, as his Denver police detective turned book scout seems to find an underpriced literary treasure at every single thrift shop and garage sale. The later books in the series focus less on his book finds and more on shoot 'em up chase scenes with villains. But do seek out Dunning's first bibliomystery, "Booked to Die", if you haven't read it.

Eco, Umberto, ”Foucault's Pendulum”, (San Diego, CA: Harcourt, Brace Jovanovich, 1989). Forget "The Da Vinci Code", this literate thriller about books, Knights Templar, Gnosticism, Stonehenge and international cabals is the one to read. Eco's other great biblio-roman is "The Name of the Rose"(San Diego, CA: Harcourt, Brace and Company, 1994), a murder mystery set in a 14th century Italian abbey. Lots of symbols and secrets hidden in illuminated manuscripts with a superb ending.

Engel, Howard, ”Murder in Montparnasse”, (Woodstock, NY: Overlook Press, 1999). A thriller set in 1920s Paris, in which our detective, journalist Michael Ward attempts to solve the Jack-the-Ripper-style serial murders of young women, aided by his cafe-loving writer and artist pals, including Gertrude Stein, Jules Pascin, Ezra Pound, James Joyce, etc.

Fforde, Jasper, The Thursday Next series. Several recent novels to date which are sort of a mix of mystery and fantasy, featuring literary detective Thursday Next, who investigates the kidnapping of Jane Eyre in one novel, hangs out with Shakespeare in the next.

Goodrum, Charles A., ”Dewey Decimated”, (NY: Crown Publishers, 1977). A classic bibliomystery involving death in the stacks of a rare book library. Author photo on rear jacket flap seated at his Library of Congress desk.

Gottlieb, Samuel Hirsh, “Overbooked in Arizona”, (Scottsdale, AZ: Camelback Gallery, 1994). An apocalyptic tale of bibliomania gone terribly wrong. The narrator begins his tale from a Death Row jail cell in Arizona and relates his book obsession through the Southwestern and Western United States. Lots of real-life used and rare bookstores and books discussed.

Grimes, Martha, ”Foul Matter”, (NY: Viking, 2003). Intrigue set in the cutthroat world of New York City book publishing.

Grudin, Robert, “Book”, (NY: Random House, 1992). In jacket protector. An academic caper in which University of Washington English professor has disappeared along with all known copies of his obscure but brilliant novel.

Hart, Carolyn, Death on Demand series. Annie and Max Darling run a mystery bookshop on a South Carolina resort island and solve murders on the side. This is a great series for anyone who loves classic mysteries, because Hart peppers the books with references to various authors and novels and always has a puzzle involving paintings of scenes from famous murder mysteries that is solved at the end of the book. Her two black cats, Agatha and Dorothy (after Christie and Sayers) and the coffee mugs with famous mystery book titles displayed in the store add to this literary homage.

Hess, Joan, the Claire Molloy series. Molloy owns a new bookstore in a college town but always manages to be able to lock up and sneak off to solve murders. A light, humorous series.

Hunt, Barbara, ”A Little Night Music”, (NY: Rinehart and Company, 1947). Scots second-hand bookseller assembles a collection of rare books as a legacy for his daughter, but his plans are complicated by the arrival of a mysterious stranger.

Johnson, Pamela Hansford, “Cork Street, Next to the Hatter's”, (NY: Charles Scribner's Sons, 1965). London bookshop owner Cosmo Hines and his poet wife Dorothy Merlin preside over a raft of eccentric customers, including a literature professor who sets out to write a play, The Potted Shrimp, "so overpoweringly loathsome that nobody could put it on".

Jones, D.J.H.” Murder at the MLA”, (Athens, GA: University of Georgia Press, 1993). Chicago homicide detective Boaz Dixon must enlist the assistance of Yale professor Nancy Cook to solve the pile-up of bodies at the Modern Language Association annual meeting.

Kaewert, Julie, the Alex Plumtree series. Plumtree owns a small publishing house in London and must investigate murders on the side. All the titles start with Un- (Unbound, Untitled, etc.).

Kelly, Susan, ”Out of the Darkness”, (NY: Villard, 1992). Free-lance journalist used to write about true crime for magazines, but then recessionary cutbacks squeezes her markets. She hooks up with creepy true crime bestselling writer to investigate the serial murders of young New England women.

Kurzweil, Allen, “A Case of Curiosities”, (NY: Ballantine Books, 1993). Young inventor Claude Page "learns the arts of enameling and watchmaking from an irascible defrocked Abbe, apprentices himself to a pornographic bookseller, and applies his erotic erudition to the seduction of the wife of an impotent wigmaker" in this witty novel set in late 18th century France.

Kurzweil, Allen, “The Grand Complication”, (NY: Hyperion, 2001). A stylish novel about reference librarian Alexander Short, who is hired for some after-hours cataloguing by an eccentric bibliophile looking for information about an 18th century French inventor.

Marlowe, Stephen, “The House at the End of the World”, (NY: E.P. Dutton, 1995). A novel featuring Edgar Allan Poe which offers a fictional explanation for the missing week in the author's life in 1849 when he vanished and then reappeared mortally ill at a Baltimore hospital.

McAleer, John, “Coign of Vantage, or the Boston Athenaeum Murders”, (Woodstock, VT: Countryman Press, 1988). An erudite mystery involving multiple murders at a Boston Brahmin gentleman's club neatly solved by Ralph Waldo Emerson biographer Austin Layman.

Meredith, D.R., ”Murder in Volume”, (NY: Berkley, 2000). A light, fun read about a motley cast of characters in a murder mystery book group at the local bookshop. Of course, they have a real-life murder to solve.

Michaels, Barbara, ”Houses of Stone”, (NY: Simon and Schuster, 1993). "When young professor of English Karen Holloway happens on a privately printed volume of verse dating from the early nineteenth century, it's all in a day's work. But when a battered manuscript bearing the same mysterious attribution, "Ismene," turns up, Karen realizes that it is an important discovery that could be the making of her academic career". Barbara Michaels (real name Barbara Metzger) also writes those great Egyptological Amelia Peabody mysteries under the name Elizabeth Peters.

Monfredo, Miriam Grace, the Glynis Tryon series. This is a great historical series set in Seneca Falls, New York in the mid-1800's. Not only are Civil War events swirling around, but the women's rights movement was born in this little Finger Lakes village. Enter librarian Glynis Tryon, who helps the local sheriff solve the inevitable murder.

Poe, Robert, “The Black Cat”, (NY: TOR, 1997). The author, a distant relation to Edgar Allan Poe, relates the story of a journalist, also a distant relation to Poe, who investigates the arrival of a witch woman and an outbreak of evil doings in his small town. Based on the original Poe's short story "The Black Cat".

Richardson, Bill, “Bachelor Brothers’ Bed and Breakfast”, (NY: St. Martin’s Press, 1996) and its’ sequel “Bachelor Brothers’ Bed and Breakfast Pillow Book” are wonderful, cozy reads about two gentle eccentric twin brothers, Virgil and Hector who run a bed and breakfast for bibliophiles. A great mix of humor and erudition.

Riley, Judith Merkle, ”A Vision of Light”, (NY: Delacorte, 1989). Wealthy young Margaret of Ashbury has the audacity to wish to write a book about her remarkable experiences, but this just isn't done in 14th century England, so she must hire a renegade monk to chronicle her life.

Savage, Sam, “Firmin: Adventures of a Metropolitan Lowlife”, (Minneapolis: Coffee House Press, 2006). Firmin the Vermin (he’s a rat) comes of age in the basement of a used bookstore and then ends up hanging out with a fantasy writer in 1960s Boston. He develops an appreciation for literature after consuming various books.

Truman, Margaret, “Murder at the Library of Congress”, (NY: Random House, 1999). While researching Christopher Columbus and his travels at the Library Congress, writer Annabel Reed-Smith helps solve a murder and searches for a legendary diary by one of Columbus' shipmates.

This is only a partial list of books I have in my personal collection or on our bookshop shelves, so feel free to recommend other favorites I have missed or let me know of any biblio novel bibliographies that may be available on the Internet. There are some great resources for the bibliomystery subgenre such as this one), but I am not aware of any bibliography that addresses the bibliophilic novel.

Have a lovely time reading.

Friday, April 13, 2007

Christopher Morley's Bookshop Novels


Bibliophiles who have not read Christopher Morley's nostalgic novels "Parnassus on Wheels", and its sequel, "The Haunted Bookshop", are in for a delectable reading session. The books, originally published in the 1910s, are stuffed with book references, the smell of leather bindings and eccentric bookshop owners and customers. My grandmother had these two wonderful, well-read books on her bookshelves so I was fortunate to get my inoculation early on. She even took me to see Morley's transplanted writing studio, the Knothole, which is in Christopher Morley Park in North Hills, Long Island, New York.

"Parnassus on Wheels" follows the balding red-headed bookshop sprite Roger Mifflin as he travels with his horse Pegasus in his bookmobile throughout the New England and New York countryside. He eventually finds true love with fair farmer Helen and settles down in the successive volume to open up "The Haunted Bookshop" in a Brooklyn brownstone. There he smokes his constant pipe, pets his dog Bocaccio and in between customers, trains a young assistant, Titania, in the ways of the old-fashioned bookstore. The plot involves some romance and a bit of international terrorism (this book was written between the World Wars), but it is the biblio filler that make the book a perennial favorite. There are many bookstores past and present who are named in honor of the two book titles.

The Haunted Bookshop greets its customers with a framed placard that explains the shop:

THIS SHOP IS HAUNTED by the ghosts
Of all great literature, in hosts;
We sell no fakes or trashes.
Lovers of books are welcome here,
No clerks will babble in your ear,
Please smoke--but don't drop ashes!

Browse as long as you like.
Prices of all books plainly marked.
If you want to ask questions, you'll find the proprietor
where the tobacco smoke is thickest.
We pay cash for books.
We have what you want, though you may not know you want it.

Malnutrition of the reading faculty is a serious thing.
Let us prescribe for you.
By R. & H. MIFFLIN, Proprs.


These books remain in-print and are also readily available from your local used bookstore and on the Internet. The nicest editions are the hardcover reprints charmingly illustrated by Douglas Gorsline in the 1940s. I know you'll enjoy your reading.

Man Booker Prize Finalists


The biennial (and only the second) Man Booker International
Prize will be granted to one of the following 15 authors. The 15 contenders are:

Chinua Achebe
Margaret Atwood
John Banville
Peter Carey
Don DeLillo
Carlos Fuentes
Doris Lessing
Ian McEwan
Harry Mulisch
Alice Munro
Michael Ondaatje
Amos Oz
Philip Roth
Salman Rushdie
Michel Tournier


For more information, check out the Man Booker website:


I vote for Canadian author Michael Ondaatje. Everything he writes: poetry, novels, essays, is incandescent and beautiful. "Anil's Ghost" is my favorite work of his, a haunting and tragic novel about war in the author's native Sri Lanka. Powell's Bookstore has a great interview with Ondaatje about this book which is fascinating.

His most widely known work, "The English Patient", is the Booker Prize-winning epic of memorable characters wounded by the onslaught of World War II. "Running in the Family" is an interesting autobiographical look at Ondaatje's parents and his childhood in Sri Lanka. I've got "Coming Through Slaughter" on my bookshelf of things to read and am really looking forward to this novel based on the life of jazz cornet legend Buddy Bolden.

Thursday, April 12, 2007

The Book Trout mourns Kilgore Trout


Kurt Vonnegut (1922-2007)

Kurt Vonnegut has just died and the world is a poorer place. Dan and I regard him as one of our favorite authors and thinkers and we are saddened that he is gone. In the pantheon of beloved novels on our home library shelves Vonnegut is well-represented.

I first read Vonnegut in high school in the 1970s, under the tutelage of a hip, kooky-in-a-good-way teacher whose last name I can't remember, but who was known by all as "Fondly, Tanya" by the way she signed comments on our English compositions. We teenagers loved the course because she had us read a lot of contemporary classics in between Shakespeare and Hawthorne and Dickens. Vonnegut's "Cat's Cradle" was on the syllabus and it remains one of my favorite fantasies.

Fast forward twenty years: Dan and I were in the second year of operation here in the village of Schuylerville, New York (population 1,197). Dan answered the bookshop phone and almost passed out when someone identifying himself as Kurt Vonnegut wanted us to look at some books for sale. It turned out to be author Vonnegut's nephew, who wanted us to look over his late father Bernard's books. Bernard was a professor of meteorology at the State University of New York at Albany and provided some inspiration for his brother's ice-nine passages in "Cat's Cradle".

We ultimately purchased these books, and while we found no signed or first edition Vonnegut titles, we were amused and delighted with the books we had. In between esoteric weather science titles were lots of books by H.L. Mencken and Mark Twain, which nephew Kurt indicated were favorites with the Vonnegut boys. Later on, Dan and I read "Timequake", Vonnegut's quasi-autobiographical novel which referred to his brother with great affection, and we smiled again.

America has lost one of its greatest contemporary writers and we salute his memory.

Wednesday, April 11, 2007

The Zen of Spam


I have been enjoying my new gmail account which not only allows me to check on my mail between home and bookshop, but has all the spam neatly filed into a spam folder so I can delete it all with one click after a brief viewing. With my business email address prominently displayed on our website, lots of spam is inevitable.

I usually find a chuckle from some of the mistranslations and computer-generated sentences from the spammer world and found that there is another blogger at Spam Poetry, who has found a way to mojo this daily annoyance into something positive. The Spam Poetry site is a compilation of the myriad of genital-enhancement, mortgage financing pitches and other cyber-dreck turned into word art. As the Spam Poetess puts it:

"A little bit Found Art, a little bit Whimsy, and mostly, just to find a way for me to find a peaceful intersection between digital communication and my life".

In the spirit of this haiku-like calm, I thought I would offer a contribution from today's spam tidings.


Separate yourself from other men

As those bitely
Dissimulate R. Underskirt,
Shed weight now and enjoy the process.

Have marmot between buzzing.

Act today;
Separate yourself from other men.

Monday, April 9, 2007

Bookends I Have Known




I am always prowling for interesting bookends for Old Saratoga Books. Attached are some photos of some of our collection holding up the books at our shop. I don't care if I have both bookends or if they are chipped, I love them all. Family members always know what to get Dan and I for presents.

If these three shots aren't enough eye candy for you, you can take a peek at the many gorgeous bookends on view at the website for the Figural Cast Iron Collector's Club.

Saturday, April 7, 2007

Books for Easter



My two egg-chicks will be getting books in their Easter baskets tomorrow. I went hippity-hopping to my local independent new book shop, Red Fox Books, run by my buddies Sue Fox and Naftali Rottenstreich in downtown Glens Falls, New York. I made sure to preorder a copy of the final Harry Potter book for Summer reading, and then picked up two books which I think will be hits with the kids. My artsy 14-year-old is getting "The Astonishing Adventures of Fanboy and Goth Girl" by Barry Lyga, which looks intriguing. A first novel for the author, the plot follows the trials of high school sophomore Fanboy, who is not enthused about an imminent new sibling from his mom and "the stepfascist", and who finds refuge from tormenting bullies at school by creating a graphic novel. His befriended by the outrageous and cynical Goth Girl, who shares his love of comic books.

Daughter Number Two will receive Brian Selznick's "The Invention of Hugo Cabret", which is a sweeping graphic novel about an orphaned clock keeper and thief, the eponymous Hugo, who lives in the walls of a busy Paris train station. At first I thought this 500+ page doorstop might be a bit off-putting for my sixth grader, but my bookstore pals gushed over it and I can see why. It is full of soft pencil illustrations of shadowy subterranean warrens, streetscapes, cinema halls, and best of all, bookshops! Check out the gorgeous bookshop interior in the accompanying photo. I want my shop to look like that. Mine's too orderly and the staircase is too straight and wide. I need some more classical statues around.

Can't wait to read these two books after the kids are done with them. Hope you find some good Spring reading too!

Friday, April 6, 2007

Nasty Bits, Hooves and Snouts


Dan and I both devoured the previous books ("Kitchen Confidential", "A Cook's Tour") by gonzo writer/chef/sushi freak/Food Network celebrity Anthony Bourdain. His high-octane style is witty and gritty, his adventures are always interesting and he is passionate about tasty, exotic food, although one wonders how he tastes anything as each paragraph seems to be studded with a cigarette or vodka cocktail.

"The Nasty Bits: Collected Varietal Cuts, Usable Trim, Scraps, and Bones" (NY: Bloomsbury, 2006) is another gastronomic treat. Aptly described on the front jacket copy, Bourdain "serves up a well-seasoned hell-broth of candid, outrageous stories from his worldwide misadventures". He is a vivid and snort-out-loud funny writer. The book is fascinating armchair travel to Vietnamese sidewalk noodle vendors, high-profile restaurants in Las Vegas casino theme parks, Afro-Brazilian restaurants, Bourdain's favorite New York hangouts, and a snoozy ocean liner condo for gigamillionaires. Wherever he goes, he has a disdain for elitists, bigots and non-omnivores. I loved his review of
a raw food cookbook:
"The cover photo of Boutenko's manifesto displays a truly hideous spread of such unappetizing, clumsy butt-ugliness as to frighten away any but the most fervently devoted; it looks as if some fifties-era Betty Crocker got titanically drunk and decided to lay out a buffet for the Symbionese Liberation Army. A starved Weimaraner would turn up its nose up at such appalling fare."

There was a fascinating entry about Spaniard Ferran Adria, a chef's chef whose restaurant El Bulli features his alchemical food. Adria has extensively studied how to transform various food textures, tastes and structures and has plans to encapsulate these magical experiments into a multi-volume masterwork (Internet copies of single volumes of this Spanish language work start at $150). Bourdain experienced a thirty-course, four-hour tasting session at El Bulli and brings this "gastro-thrill ride" to the reader, from Parmesan ice-cream sandwiches to sea cucumber cracklings to a raw egg yolk shellacked in caramel and covered in gold leaf.

The book inspired us to seek out two books that he mentions as favorites to re-read often: George Orwell's "Down and Out in London and Paris" and Nicholas Freeling's "The Kitchen". I'm sure we'll love them as we've loved this collection of food writings.

Thursday, April 5, 2007

April Snow


Argh! This is what I woke up to this morning. I feared that the South Glens Falls school district would cancel school thus adding an extra day to the ten day April vacation the kids have off. But no, my fears were groundless and the little darlings skipped off happily to school. Well, trudged sullenly to the bus stop.

Here's a poem to ward off winter...

Fear Mo More the Heat o' the Sun

Fear no more the heat o' the sun,
Nor the furious winter's rages;
Thou thy worldly task hast done,
Home art gone, and ta'en thy wages;
Golden lads and girls all must,
As chimney-sweepers, come to dust.

Fear no more the frown o' the great;
Thou art past the tyrant's stroke:
Care no more to clothe and eat;
To thee the reed is as the oak:
The sceptre, learning, physic, must
All follow this, and come to dust.

Fear no more the lightning-flash,
Nor the all-dreaded thunder-stone;
Fear not slander, censure rash;
Thou hast finished joy and moan;
All lovers young, all lovers must
Consign to thee, and come to dust.

No exorciser harm thee!
Nor no witchcraft charm thee!
Ghost unlaid forbear thee!
Nothing ill come near thee!
Quiet consummation have;
And renownéd be thy grave!

-- William Shakespeare

The Bard knows all.

Wednesday, April 4, 2007

Book of the Day - Klingon Dictionary


The Klingons are my favorite Star Trek characters. They have the coolest facial hair and they're stylin' those Gene Simmons topknots while swaggering around with outlaw space-biker bluster. Now I can converse with my buddies with a book I unearthed while rearranging our science fiction shelves:

The Klingon Dictionary: English/Klingon, Klingon/English:The Official Guide to Klingon Words and Phrases, by Marc Okrand, NY: Pocket, 1992. Okrand developed the prototypic Klingon language and culture for the Star Trek movies and for the television series Star Trek: The Next Generation and in these pages he provides pronunciation guides, commands in "clipped Klingon", lots of grammatical advice and the most fun section "A Selected List of Useful Klingon phrases". Here's a few of the spiciest:

Where can I get my shoes cleaned? (NOOK-dak WAK-wij vi-lam-KHA-chokh-mokh)
Your nose is shiny (boch GHICH-raj)
Your ship is a garbage scow (vekkh-DOOJ okh DOOJ-lij-E)
Does it bite? (chop-A)
Where do you keep the chocolate? (MOST IMPORTANT!) (NOOK-dak yooch da-POL).

Time to beam up.

Tuesday, April 3, 2007

Snowdrops for the Soul



At least ten years ago, I planted a bulb garden in the center of my front lawn. I had lots of Spring bulbs carefully selected from three different garden catalogs and as many local garden stores. Visions of gently nodding pastel beauties danced in my mind's eye. This carefully tended plot thawed the following Spring and then, horrifyingly, filled over with water from the melting snows. I had forgotten that this was a low spot in our yard and so most of these flowers just rotted in place. When things dried up, I dug out some the slimy bulb remnants and tried transplanting them on higher ground. I didn't notice until later that some of the snowdrop bulbs had heroically flowered. Each year they come back and it's a nice reminder that the migrating birds will return and things will green up and flower again.

Here's a snowdrop poem from Louise Gluck's Pulitzer Prize-winning collection, "The Wild Iris" (NY: Ecco, 1993) to celebrate the changing of the seasons.

SNOWDROPS

by Louise Glück

Do you know what I was, how I lived? You know
what despair is; then
winter should have meaning for you.

I did not expect to survive,
earth suppressing me. I didn't expect
to waken again, to feel
in damp earth my body
able to respond again, remembering
after so long how to open again
in the cold light
of earliest spring--

afraid, yes, but among you again
crying yes risk joy

in the raw wind of the new world.

Monday, April 2, 2007

Got Cheese?


April is National Poetry Month and in celebration I cracked open my
copy of "Very Bad Poetry", edited by Kathryn and Ross Petras (NY:
Vintage, 1997, not for sale). From these pages I offer the following
poem by Canadian furniture maker and poet James McIntyre (1827-1906).
McIntyre created this dairy ditty after viewing a four ton cheese on
display at a Toronto exposition in this pre-television era. No word
on what type of cheese was so inspirational, but it musta been Gouda.

Ode on the Mammoth Cheese
(Weighing Over 7,000 Pounds)

We have seen thee, queen of cheese,
Lying quietly at year ease,
Gently fanned by evening breeze,
Thy fair form no flies dare seize.

All gaily dressed soon you'll go
To the great Provincial show,
To be admired by many a beau
In the city of Toronto.

Cows numerous as a swarm of bees,
Or as the leaves upon the trees,
It did require to make thee please,
And stand unrivalled, queen of cheese.

May you not receive a scar as
We have heard that Mr. Harris
Intends to send you off as far as
The great world's show at Paris.

Of the youth beware of these,
For some of them might rudely squeeze
And bite your cheek, then songs or glees
We could not sing, oh! queen of cheese.

We'rt thou suspended from balloon,
You'd cast a shade even at noon,
Folks would think it was the moon
About to fall and crush them soon.


(I like to image Michael Ondaatje reading this.)

Sunday, April 1, 2007

Recommended Reading: WOODEN BOATS


Dan likes to read nautical books and recently cracked open Michael Ruhlman's "Wooden Boats: In Pursuit of the Perfect Craft at an American Boatyard" (NY: Viking, 2001). Here are his thoughts:

**** I very much enjoyed Michael Ruhlman's account of his time involved with a small boatyard on Martha's Vineyard. His detailing of the construction of several craft-built wooden boats and his profiling of their makers, promoters and enthusiasts was very compelling and thought-provoking. But what I really enjoyed was his philosophical approach to the subject. Terms such as "boatstruck" and "workmanship of risk" and "the art and science of labor" really struck home and will cause anyone who reads this excellent book to reexamine their own daily efforts.

April Special - 20% off all Books


In honor of the launch of the Book Trout, we are offering a 20% discount on ALL of our books listed on the Old Saratoga Books website. There is no minimum purchase required and all books are included in the over 90 categories we have listed. Just enter the coupon code BookTrout01 when you check out and this 20% discount will be automatically applied.

Old Saratoga Books has lots of great new books in the music, American Revolution, European history, Africana and children's books sections. The 20% off sale will run from April 1st through May 1st, 2007.