price-compare results for meta vendor sites


31 December 2006

Overview of Book Publishing - Notes


IS 561: Paperback Book Publishing Lecture Notes:
History of Paper-Bound Books, notes of William C. Robinson
University of Tennessee

Early Days In Europe
In the beginning, books were quite expensive and were often issued in paper covers with the expectation that the owner would have the book bound according to his taste in something more durable and attractive.

Earlier in the history of the book, the change from leather binding to cloth binding substantially reduced the cost of book buying. A cloth book cost about 17 percent of the cost of a leather one. A mass market paper edition costs more than that when compared to the cloth edition.

Although they became visible in the U.S. just before the second World War, paperbacks have a long history. In Europe, popular paperbacks appeared as early as 1845 by Christian Tauchnitz in Leipzig who introduced a popular reprint series. For quite a long time, there were relatively few original paper editions. Paper bound books were also common in France for most of the 19th Century. Early paperbacks did not fit in pockets, had tiny type, and unattractive covers. Growth in paperback production and sales was related to development of railroad transportation which provided people with an environment where activity was limited and reading was possible. Travelers desired small editions that were easy to carry and read while on the road. Inexpensive paper bound books were also disposable.

Cheap paper reprints had been available in Britain since the Victorian era (Routledge's Railway Classics or Pickering's Diamond Classics for example), but the books were of poor quality and dated. They were considered to be 'cheap.'

Early Days In the U.S.

The first paper bound full-length novel published in the U.S. was Charles O'Malley which was issued in 1840. Others soon followed. Traditional book publishers asked Congress to ban paper bound books. In 1843, Congress increased postal rates for paper bound books and the market collapsed.

The rapid expansion of the railroads in the 1850s and 1860s led to "railroad" literature, usually cheap crime, romance, and joke books. The Beadle Brothers issued the first dime novel in 1860, Malaeska: Indian Wife of the White Hunter. These 96 page paperbacks did have a sewn binding. The "dime novels" were popular into the early 1870s and inexpensive paper allowed for quite a low price.

Click on this post's title to continue. (Part of an well organized, college level course on publishing.

The Dragon's Almanac - 31 December


from Justin Wintle
"Books do not catch every word and words do not catch every thought."
. . . (1459) Chinese

Penguin Paperbacks & Pulp, History & Collecting, from Vintage Voice at Popula


from - Vintage Voice at Popula by Oliver Corlett:

The First 20th Century Paperbacks

A landmark in the history of the paperback in the English-speaking world was the arrival of Penguin, the first really 'respectable' paperback imprint, in 1935. The story goes that Allen Lane, Chairman of The Bodley Head, a London publisher, was returning by train from a weekend in the country with one of his authors -- Agatha Christie -- and her husband. The Bodley Head, like many publishers of the time, was suffering precipitously declining sales, and had been since the onset of the Depression, and Lane was looking for a way to save his troubled business. Browsing the station kiosks for something to read while he waited for the train, he could find nothing to buy except slick magazines and low-quality paperback fiction (like the cheaply produced Routledge's Railway Classic reprint series). It occurred to him that good quality fiction and nonfiction might find a wider readership if only books were more affordable, and on July 30th, 1935 he introduced the Penguin imprint to an unsuspecting world.

Early Penguins, with their distinctive orange/blue/green, white and black covers (no pictures, just a title, the Penguin logo and an author), were all priced at sixpence (that is, 2 1/2p in today's British currency, or about 4 cents at today's exchange rates) - about the same as a pack of 10 cigarettes, or a fifteenth the price of a typical hardcover at the time - and for the first time were sold not just in bookstores but in mass-market outlets like Woolworths and, naturally, railroad station kiosks. Lane took care that the type, the ink and the paper were of good quality, to match the content. The low price was allegedly made possible not, as many assume, because the covers were paper rather than cloth, but because the covers were paper rather than cloth, but because print runs were substantially larger than for hardcover books - 17,000 copies was the breakeven volume; hence, Lane took a substantial gamble that there would be sufficient demand in the British market to meet a run of this size. In the event, of course, he was right. Within six months of the introduction of the first 10 titles, about one million Penguins had been sold; and Penguin Books sold over three million copies in its first full year, 1936. This was really what started the ball rolling for the modern paperback industry.

The first ten titles?

The Mysterious Affair at Styles by Agatha Christie
Madame Claire by Susan Ertz
A Farewell to Arms by Ernest Hemingway
Poets Pub by Eric Linklater
Carnival by Compton Mackenzie
Ariel by Andre Maurois
Twenty-Five by Beverly Nichols
The Unpleasantness at the Bellona Club by Dorothy Sayers
Gone to Earth by Mary Webb
William by E.H. Young

In 1939, Penguin opened an office in the US, under the direction of an Englishman named Ian Ballantine, a man who was destined to play an important role in shaping the paperback industry in the US in the following decades. (In 1945 Ballantine, together with Bennett Cerf, founded Bantam Books, and in the early 1950s he founded Ballantine Books; both of these went on to become significant factors in the US and world publishing markets).

From Lowbrow to Nobrow - Peter Swirski


Google Book Search:

'From Lobrow to Nobrow' demolishes the elite argument that popular fiction and popular culture are the underside of civilization. In this innovative book, Peter Swirski goes beyond demonstrating that 'high-brow' has been transformed to 'low-brow,' showing that nobrow art is the interactive factor in the relationship between popular art and highbrow art.

Swirski begins with a series of groundbreaking questions about the nature of popular fiction, vindicating it as an artform that expresses and reflects the aesthetic and social values of its readers, and not a source of ideological brainwashing or the result of declining literary standards. He follows his insightful introduction to the socio-aesthetics of genre literature with a synthesis of the century long debate on the merits of popular fiction and a study of genre informed by analytic aesthetics and game theory.

Swirski then turns to three 'nobrow' novels that have been largely ignored by critics. Examining the aesthetics of 'ascertainment' in Karel Čapek's 'War With the Newts,' Raymond Chandler's 'Playback,' and Stanislaw Lem's 'Chain of Chance,' crossover tours de force, 'From Lowbrow to Nobrow' throws new light on the hazards and rewards of nobrow traffic between popular forms and highbrow aesthetics.

'I would rank this book among the top five in popular culture studies.' Gary Hoppenstand, editor of 'The Journal of Popular Culture' and 'Popular Fiction: An Anthology'

From Lowbrow to Nobrow, by Peter Swirski
Published 2005
McGill-Queen's Press - MQUP
224 pages
ISBN 0773530193

If you click on the title of this post, you will land inside the Books(dot)Google site. Here you have an interesting interface where books are introduced using annotated sample pages off of scans.

Two reasons for pointing this out here on 'Cheap Priceless Editions': 1) this is my first time using the Books(dot)Google site (I had to sign in with my google ID and PW); 2) my first hit there was in a search of pulp fiction and the scan reader showed several book covers from classic romance titles so well I know I soon will be using this web feature for other searches.

30 December 2006

I'll Have My Trashy Fiction Wry, Thank You. Or Should I Say 'Serve mine with rye, please. With a dash of limey.' ?


This is a mere experiment. I'm trying to give readers a taste of the tongue-in-cheek descriptions written by Angus Wilson in Anglo-Saxon Attitudes (Penguin, 1958).

I think it is possible to just slap down a scan from the book as an image and let you read that, if I make the thing large enough. If you cannot read the text, which I will attempt myself on a cheap monitor tomorrow, just click on it a couple times and it should return enlarged on a separate page - we'll see. If that doesn't work, I will OCR the thing and upload the text. Here goes:

From page 55.

With Camera Angles Straight, Lights Right, Nail It All Down and Snap Away


This is a shot without much diffusion because the light is aimed at the opposite fabric screen with what spills onto the book's cover raking across the surface. A shot like this will show every bumped corner, crease, as well as edgewear. Sometimes this is what is called for by the customer considering a book purchase.

This example is apt. The childrens book has a gnarled upper corner (to your left).

The small accessories, such as tape, a measure, et cetera, are all familiar to photographers who have done product shots.

This image of a black, 35 mm film camera could use still more fill flash than I gave it. The same material used as a backdrop was drawn forward over a cross beam made from a monopod camera stand and attached well over the 'nature morte' arrangement. Computer screen monitors vary and the low resolutions I use for all image uploads hide the fact that the original image DOES have detail in the darker shadows.

Sorry about the 1% lean to the right. I was just being lazy about image editing.

Light Box Folds Up Neatly After Giving Nice Image Results


Where are images? Jeez, is this ever taking a long time to load!

The greenish cast (in the image below of the carrying case), not the one above (taken INSIDE my newlighting setup), is caused by reflections from the table's green surface. It is exactly the sort of ambient light that using a lightbox prevents from spoiling your images.

I have attached a strap to the bag that is long enough to sling across the shoulder in such a way that it stays snuggly against your back if you are, say, riding a bicycle.

In the next post, you will see all the standard equipment and accessories that any and every table-top photo exercise requires. All of this stuff is inside the case, except the tripod which is attached to the side by its strap.

Under $20 Photo Light Diffusion Unit


To photograph books (or any table top arrangement of small objects) I have assembled inexpensive supports for a backdrop, a base, and two diffusion screens.

In a post here I stated that this could be done for under $20 with a bit of scrounging in flea markets. Well I got everything I needed for almost exactly $20 despite the fact that I bought the main light new at a hardware store for $13.

It is impossible ,in a single post, to load all the photo images needed to show readers how the setup is assembled and how I transport the various items for working on location in a bookstore. So I will run consecutive posts with headers that point to the relevant images from this morning's 'dry run' to test various lighting arrangements on various objects.

The first two items I found were standards to hold fabric for diffusing the light from two high intensity lamps. You could also use the neon variety of screw-in bulbs, each in a reflector. (Price = 2@ $1.99 = $3.98)

Next I found a flat plastic affair with creases that divide the unit into two tall panels and a slanting platform. You will see it; it's the blue contraption. I place a book on the slanting section after draping a towel or other backdrop over the back, front and sides of the boxlike frame. (This thing was made to fold shirts. After draping a shirt over it, one folds the panels on the side and then the front section and the shirt has straight folds for packing or for stacking in a drawer.)
(Price = $0.50 Balance = $4.48)

Finally, I bought a new goose-neck high intensity lamp that holds a 20 watt halogen quartz bulb. (Price = $13.00 Balance = $17.48)

This is starting to add up like the card game Blackjack, or 21. My outlay of cash did break the $20 challenge I set myself if you include the halogen quartz bulb I purchased to replace one that burned out on a lamp I intend to use for a second light. That cost $7.98. But since I did not use this lightsource in any of the photo images you will see here today, we won't count it.

Total cost: $17.98 Refer to the post HERE to look at a commercial unit costing $99.


The Dragon's Almanac - 30 December


from Justin Wintle

"Make a fire in seven places and smoke will rise in eight.."

. . . (1457) Chinese

29 December 2006

Dar es Salaam to Magical Zanzibar - via dcm's iPod


dcm is blogging as he hitchhikes up the east coast of Africa.

I caught the following from this dcm travelpod entry:

Dar es Salaam to Magical Zanzibar

Nothing prepared me for the Chirundu entrance into Zambia. It took 1 hour to get my passport stamped, then we had to take EVERY item off and out of the bus, so the customs officers could pick through them with a fine comb. Upon further investigation I was told it would take us at least 4 hours. I removed my backpack from seat 35 and headed for the border. This time I forgot my shoes – I told myself to stop doing that!

I walked through the big black gates and started looking for a ride to Lusaka. The pack of money changing vultures were the only ones interested in taking me for a ride. I found a very big yellow luxury bus – with aircon, reclining seats and wait for it – Nigerian Movies.

They felt sorry the pink-faced Mzungu (white person) and let me board for K20,000 – around R40.

I fell asleep on the cool bus, my iPod drowning out the noise of the drunks drinking Mosi beers and playing ‘pick up your fucking phone’ ring tones. I sat next to a big Zambian Mama who was more inquisitive than I was – 20 questions became 50 – including how religious I was and if I would be interested in black woman. After an hour I shut her up after telling her I was born Jewish but didn’t really practice anything, and that I had been married and divorced twice and lost 3 children. She didn’t speak to me for the rest of the trip.

Wyndham Lewis ? 1001 Books You Must Read Before You Die


1001 Books You Must Read Before You Die
edited by Peter Boxall
Cassell £20, pp960

On one of these blogs that exist with just one post on them . . the ephemeral sort that draw me back to see if the author has returned after abandoning his or her initial web posting . . I discovered an unlinked, unattributed list of books that are must-reads.

Browsing, I found the source and a pertinent review of the list (from last winter) on the Guardian site:

Sunday February 26, 2006
The Observer

1001 Books and surveys of its kind exist to remind us of what we have known and half-forgotten, what we are vaguely aware of but have never quite fully apprehended and what we have never even heard of.

. . .

Part of the snobbish parlour-game appeal of compendiums such as these lies in spotting the omissions, but, in all truth, why would anyone want to read - or read

about - no fewer than 11 books by JM Coetzee and seven by Wyndham Lewis, and yet forgo making the acquaintance of Rose Macaulay, Rosamond Lehmann, Olivia Manning, Rex Warner, Elizabeth Taylor, AL Barker or Ivy Compton-Burnett?

The review makes a passing mention of 'Man Without Qualities' (1933) by Robert Musil, calling his book an ' exhaustingly cerebral novel . . . '

Regarding the Musil book (and many others listed in my opinion) Guardian review states:

Bearing in mind the death sentence hanging over our

heads, we might balk at spending precious time reading

2,000 plotless pages.

My own (Blogaulaire's) scanning of the 1001 books listed revealed some huge gaps in my reading, especially for authors published within the past half century:

177. Vertigo - W.G. Sebald
178. Stone Junction - Jim Dodge
179. The Music of Chance - Paul Auster
180. The Things They Carried - Tim O'Brien
181. A Home at the End of the World - Michael Cunningham
182. Like Life - Lorrie Moore
183. Possession - A.S. Byatt
184. The Buddha of Suburbia - Hanif Kureishi
185. The Midnight Examiner - William Kotzwinkle
186. A Disaffection - James Kelman
187. Sexing the Cherry - Jeanette Winterson
188. Moon Palace - Paul Auster
. . .
212. The Afternoon of a Writer - Peter Handke
213. The Black Dahlia - James Ellroy
214. The Passion - Jeanette Winterson
215. The Pigeon - Patrick Süskind
216. The Child in Time - Ian McEwan
217. Cigarettes - Harry Mathews

Click THIS LINK to see the entire 1001.

This blog you are on is 'Cheap Priceless Editions' and, in keeping with the name, there is a search box at the top of every page that lets readers search for secondhand books across nearly a dozen vendor sites for used books. But that is not the way I would go to 'discover' the authors I do not yet know.

What I will do, if I ever decide to read the ones I've ignored so far (before I die) is to look for these books in brick 'n' mortar bookstores (before USED BOOK BOOKSTORES die and disappear).

By my calculation, to fill a few gaping holes in my reading list, I need to make up a spending budget.

Knowing in advance that some of the books I have not read nor heard of are unavailable at local used bookstores, I am facing either the cost of shipping and handling plus purchase price OR many, many trips to my local and our provincial library collections. Even at that, I keep staring at unread authors and titles (especially specific titles) that will probably have ticket prices high enough to break even a $2,000 budget . . with a mere dozen books. (Maybe, I hope, I'm being overly pessimistic.)

The problem lies in finding the precise title, not just any title, by a given author.

Of course I can quibble with the list. But if I have enjoyed one or two books by an author yet have ignored the title on the list, how can I claim that it is not far and away a better pick than the title I've been lucky enough to find and to have read?

I give up. Screw the list. I'm back to catch-as-catch-can for my fiction reading.

The review in The Observer Magazine (a Guardian tip-in publication) concluded with its own pared-down list:

10 heavyweight must-reads

Clarissa Samuel Richardson
War and Peace Leo Tolstoy
Ulysses James Joyce
USA John Dos Passos
Don Quixote Miguel de Cervantes
The Unconsoled Kazuo Ishiguro
Bleak House Charles Dickens
Middlemarch George Eliot
A la recherche du temps perdu Marcel Proust
The Brothers Karamazov Fyodor Dostoevsky

I still cannot decide whether my reading glass is half full or half empty. Damn these reading lists . . and the reviewers tauting every new title as if it tops all of the 1001 by every measure.

(Does it strike you reading this that the unique female author listed used a masculine pen name or that the British rate three books while Americans and the rest of Western Europe come it at but one? And then what about Canada, Australia, Africa?)

The Dragon's Almanac - 29 December


nude man sandwich board

from Justin Wintle

"A teacher should never abandon his books, nor a poor man his pig."

. . . (1450) Chinese

28 December 2006

Angus Wilson: Cruel-Kind Enemy of False Sentiment and Self-Delusion


Margaret Dabble Says I Made the Right Move Picking Up Angus Wilson in a 1950s Penguin Edition:

The New York Times
January 29, 1995

Angus Wilson: Cruel-Kind Enemy of False Sentiment and Self-Delusion

The writers we discover for ourselves hold a special and lasting place in our affections and our imagination. I first read Angus Wilson when I was an undergraduate at Cambridge in the late 1950's. Nobody had recommended him: I found him for myself. 'Anglo-Saxon Attitudes' had appeared in a Penguin paperback in 1958, and maybe this was the novel that introduced him to me -- or maybe it was a volume of short stories, or his first novel, 'Hemlock and After,' also available in Penguin. However I came upon him, I rapidly read my way through all that was available, and began to wait eagerly for the next volume. I can remember to this day the sheer physical pleasure of sitting on the flat roof outside my tower room at Newnham College, in the warm sunlight, when I should have been studying for some examination or other, reading Angus Wilson instead and knowing myself to be in the company of a master. . . .

. . . The excitement of discovery had a subversive element. Cambridge in the 1950's was heavily dominated by F. R. Leavis and his Great Tradition: we were more advanced than Oxford, for we were permitted -- indeed enjoined -- to read and admire D. H. Lawrence. But there all curiosity ended. . . .

. . . His critical energy, in the 1950's, was akin to that of the heroes of his own youth, Aldous Huxley and Evelyn Waugh, and he spared neither young nor old -- horrible and pretentious children as well as pompous and sadistic venerable bullies abound in his work. But his writing also had a great and growing humanity: later novels showed a profound and compassionate insight into the lives of women in a society that denied them choice, autonomy and dignity.

I knew this pile of Penguins from the 1950s was a precious find. The covers, a far cry from the artsy invitation to design our own covers for 'My Penguin' Classic (see the Penguin Blog), do it for me more than the 3-D variety for pop fiction so current today.

Packin it in on Richard North Patterson's 1984 Novel "Escape the Night" on Page 102


This secondhand fiction find was promising because it combined the NY City publishing world, the anti-communism of McCarthyite redbaiting of writers and the angst of forbiddingly distant fathers.

The plot is just too dependent on omniscience: the sort that gets into a badguy's head and still tells you point blank he's a looser and out for Oedipal revenge. Not very complex a complexe, ehh? If the sex is supposed to be graphic, why should it be linear?

No. Book Closed.

. . I wish I remembered where I put down that Sillitoe or that E. L. Doctorow novel Daniel . . I put them away for later when guests arrived for the holidays . . . Then there are eight or so novels printed by Penguin Books in the 1950s in simple off-white and orange covers, all by authors I've barely even heard of, let alone given the attention of careful reading. You know the Penguin's I mean: on the back cover it invariably reads: 'Not for Sale in the U.S.A.'

My two guests were both reading novels by recent Nobel Prize winning author Orhan Pamuk -- but neither one of these novels was left behind, only a couple older pop lit titles were orphaned in the livingroom this time . .

. . maybe this French from France blues and boxing title no one but no one outside the writers' coop publishing circle knows . . .

FINALLY ! It Looks Like Some Serious Snow Fell Last Night


Snow cover that stays will make my day what with our lack of the brilliant, bright, beautiful substance right up through Christmas day this year in southern Quebec.


Now I know I will get out there and 'taste' it with my ankle-high boots. (My trusty lace 'n' latch military-style boots, with long black tongues, the better to lick snow with.) I have only worn these things twice since last September -- and that time only for working in the mud.


Here are some Canadian critters (they've grown tremendously since this photo) snoozing through Montreal's Snow 'Fest of Winter '05 - '06. They did not yet have to pull a 'traineau' yet they already had snow in their bloodstreams:

I hope I do not have to explain to YOU how snow before, during and after the holiday season in Canada is like a thermometer for environmental health (as well as for the thinking citizenry nowadays) and that until the snow started to fall yesterday (though that bunch melted away) and now again today, up until now, we had failed to pass the grade and saw a miserable endgame coming in this game of chess with Mother Nature.

On a longdistance call from South Africa we tried to explain to a relative from the American Pacific NorthWest Coast the importance of snow. She had just been out looking at tiny penguins that have never seen ice and seem perfectly content. Well thanks but no thanks. We don't need our polar bears turning black!

The Dragon's Almanac - 28 December


from Justin Wintle

"Warriors and gold may be idle but they never rust."

. . (1448) Japanese

"I wish I could say the same for motorcycles." . .(0001) Blogaulaire

27 December 2006

Big Versus Small Press Publishers: Writers Prefer Support to a Cash Advance for Their Latest Title


Recently, the Canadian book blog Bookninja blogged US blogger Maud Newton's piece under a title that should have been edited to read "Maud examines the recent trend of big time authors who opt for "small"(er) publishers."

My edit was made to reflect the fact that these publishers are only relatively 'small'; relative to the majors who had already printed and distributed umpteen other, earlier titles by said major authors cited in the source articles Maud used for her own post.

Somehow (duh!) Bookninja blogging a US blog to run in Canada and using the words Small Press Publisher in the first paragraph is misleading. At least when the subject is really about top-name-recognition US authors. This fact means this small press talk is all about promotion and distribution within the Big Leagues of Fiction Titles, where book promotions costing tens of thousands (if not hundreds of k) are common practise.

From 'Maud' via Bookninja:

Increasingly, even established writers like Kurt Vonnegut are looking beyond big-name publishers. They’re signing small press deals that guarantee heightened publicity and higher royalties; in return the authors accept drastically reduced advances.

I just switched from a fairly big name press to a small one for my next book. It’s a different story for us poets, but it comes down to the economics of the whole thing. The decision was partly political, partly practical. If you’re treated like afterthought dirt at even the largest press, you’re still just afterthought dirt. Besides the increased production values and care given by smaller presses, you also get more personal attention from the people trying to sell books. They really care about what they’re publishing and do nothing out of habit. This is the advantage of living so close to the edge. It keeps the senses sharp. At my former press, poetry is really just a charity program that’s now done out of habit. They do believe in it, in principle, but have no resources or time to devote to it when there are lucrative fiction and nonfiction titles to promote. So four books a year get published and left to stand on their authors’ reputations. However, if you’re still developing that reputation….. So, what’s the point of having all that name-brand muscle behind you if no one lifts a finger to help? And regardless of where we poets go, we all have drastically reduced advances.

Posted by George of Bookninja

If a reader using a browser goes behind the blogs to check out the articles cited, we discover an honest cynicism regarding any new title being promoted by the book biz:

From The Boston Globe

A book and its cover
The work of fiction in the age of blockbuster publishing

By Sven Birkerts | December 17, 2006

Cynical, yes, but I go to bookstores, I keep tabs; I've seen what happens to megaliths like National Book Award-winner Norman Rush's "Mortals" (712 pages), or (Indian novelist Vikram Chandra's) countryman Vikram Seth's "A Suitable Boy" (1,488 pages!). They loom in forbidding ziggurats for a month or so, then they are returned, to be bought up by remainder houses, whereupon they loom again . . .

. . . Writing might be the most solitary and soul-concentrated of vocations, but once a book enters the publishing sluice, it is a collectively-finessed object -- and the greater the investment, the more finessing.

Then there's the genre factor. "Sacred Games" (by Vikram Chandra) may be a work of high literary ambition, but it also offers a lovely hook. Bombay (Mumbai) noir. The novel tracks the progress of a world-weary cop through the labyrinths of the city's gangland underworld. The descriptions have it thick with seamy texture, with criminals and harlots high and low.

I have to keep pinching myself (up until the moment I read the dollar figures being bantied about when discussing these novels) to remind myself that the subject is US and not Canadian publishing with all this multi-ethnicity. I even let myself be mislead into believing that a bookblogger named 'Maud' had to be a Canadian by name if by nothing else!

The clincher regarding the sort of Small Press being examined (and proof that we do not need a microscope for this investigation) is abundantly offered in the following citation taken from one of the sources in the mainstream media for all this blog commentary above:

From The Wall Street Journal

"Traditional publishing functions as an assembly line," says Mr. Morrell (a writer of thrillers, including 'Scavenger').

"Often by the time a book is published the project has gone through various departments and the memory of why certain decisions were made weren't passed along, so nobody can understand what's going on." By contrast, Mr. Morrell says he is involved in every step of the marketing at Vanguard, which plans on publishing only one or two books a month for the near future.

Vanguard says it is responding to the rapid-fire changes that have given the once-sleepy publishing world a distinctly casino-like atmosphere. Increasingly these days books have only a week or two to establish themselves as big hits; otherwise they're quickly washed to the back of the store.

"Publishing is now very much like opening weekend grosses in the movie business, it's about exploding out of the box and selling as many copies as quickly as possible," says Roger Cooper, Vanguard's publisher.

Although such writers as James Patterson, Mitch Albom and Mr. King have been able to successfully ride that wave, many authors with good track records and established fan bases have been cut adrift, he says. Often their publishers are forced to concentrate on each season's biggest bets.

Such authors may still sell well, but often they feel under-published. Vanguard, by contrast, says it focuses on marketing its books three months before publication -- and then three months after publication. In theory, this means writers will have a richer opportunity to reach their fans."

Being published by a Small Press within Canada's borders does not mean that an author's book is out of the running for winning a major literary or nonfiction award, either nationally or internationally. But it does mean that the publisher cannot afford the 'richer opportunity to reach their fans' as meant by the Wall Street Journal piece quoted above. That is if the number of 'their fans' starts getting above a four- or modest five-digit figure.

What Hope Pharmacie Esperanza? Doors are Closed without Notice


For the past week or two, the doors to the café Pharmacie Esperanza have been closed. There is no notice posted to explain matters. Though I have seen customers who have walked up St. Laurent Blvd or east along St. Viateur for 5 or 6 blocks only to face these closed doors, none of us seems to have a clue.

Now the rumour is circulating that they were closed due to either a code violation or a liquor permit restriction. These rumours tell that the back room was the target.

If anyone reading this knows the answer about this closure, knows whether it is temporary or permanent, please post a COMMENT here. Many music, performance and discussion events will be cancelled and rescheduled if Pharmacie Esperanza must stay closed for any longer period running into January, 2007. I hope they can re-open soon.


The restaurant-café Pharmacie Esperanza, 5490 St-Laurent, Montreal, is a layback venue where writers, artists, and musicians (outnumbered by laptop-toting McGill undergrads whose thirst for 'a unique underground caché' never sleeps) table hop or spread out on huge sofa-divans giving each other sideways glances . . .

On this blogger's world tour site the P. E. made it onto the list of a couple dozen highlights for tourists.

26 December 2006

The Dragon's Almanac - 27 December


from Justin Wintle

"Even an impartial magistrate will fail to settle a family dispute."

. . . (1445) Chinese

25 December 2006

Only a Madman (woman) Never Thinks of Those Less Fortunate


Christmas means many things to many people; Hannukkah, Kwanza (which begins tomorrow) or Ramadan (in the 9th month) are the same: yet it is my conviction that during these celebrations, whether you think mostly divine or banal thoughts, about family or the celestial host, there is something wrong with your head if you do not pause for a moment and consider the condition of people you sincerely believe are less fortunate than yourself.

I have seen Christmas collections of food and money (the passing of a hat) among groups of people who I was convinced were the very ones in need of the charity of others. It did amaze me at one point in my life. Piety or the expression of pious sentiments (which are not the same things) do not strike me as the highest form of either charitable conduct nor as the most effective forms of building solidarity. But even that last sentence is so chock-a-block full of abstraction that I consider it mostly hot air. Yet I cannot fathom how people can imagine they are celebrating a festive day of any significance around the globe without making time to think about people who are less fortunate.

Perhaps all pious phrase-making comes down to parsing these expressions. But whoever thinks of others must, in every perspective I can imagine, be able to look upon the condition of some fraction of humanity and think 'there but for the grace of God go I'. (Capitalize the words that make sense to you: 'Grace', 'god', 'i'. Even Friedrich Nietzsche seems to me, scanning over the Teutonic intelligentsia and tradition, to be saying the same thing.

In this spirit (if not explicitly calling for prayer) I offer a cut 'n' paste from a volunteer Western Euro-American who blogged a diary entry from the East African nation Kenya, where she took a walking tour of Kenya's notorious slum, Kibera:


I brought over about 70 pounds of supplies from some of the money you all collected and am distributing it to a few different places. The sad thing is you have to be careful because the people that run it take it from them and bring it to their own children. You see absolutely nothing that was left from the other volunteers because it just goes missing. I have lots of friends here now that are here for 6 months to a year and know the right places to give it. That is also where i will be giving some cash too. There is a program that helps out with Kibera, just down the street from us, that is in the most desperate need. Ahh...Kibera....a story unto itself!!

We went for a proper tour of Kibera on Wednesday. Now when I say tour, it is not a fun and pleasant Disney type tour, it is just that we were able to go to places that you would normally be hurt or worse if you ever went alone. It's the size of Central Park and has a million people living in it. Sewers-none, garbage disposal-none, homes bigger than 13x13-none! We were taken by a man named Peter who was a Kibera consultant for The Constant Gardener. He met us early in the morning at a clinic and first took us to his home. We all assumed he (Peter) lived outside of the slum but he walked us into a dark small, room the size of about 13x13 that his wife, two teenaged sons and 2 small daughters. It was neat and tidy, and he is very proud of his home. He shows us a copy of National Geographic from 2005 in which he is featured. The title of the article "You think you know Africa? You don't know..." We left his home to travel along the tracks and enter the main part. He is so well respected in his community because of the volunteer work that he does that nobody messes with him or anyone with him. The only time you are in danger is if there are riots and then you must get out.

We travelled to Mama Tunza's another orphanage we are working at. It has been recently upgraded and now has cement floors and a blue painted tin door. It is a small space in the midst of rubbish and rotted out cars. Yet the children are sweet and so welcoming! I brought a world map which they instantly grabbed and Wallace, one of the biggest, wanted to show us where we were all from. He is so smart and says he learns where all the volunteers live so that one day when he can come visit he will know how to get there. I fell in love with him. He is so smart. He is so eager to soak up any information you will feed him. I will be bringing some stuff to all of them. Especially Wallace! We took pictures, they took pictures and we were back on our way. Down the track...if you see the movie, you will see how it looks.

It is amazing though how pictures cannot capture the reality, the sounds, and smell. The children will run from everywhere when they see mzungus and they all shout 'HOW ARE YOU?' We say 'mazuri sana (i'm very fine)' and they laugh!!!! They are lovely. They run to shake your hand no matter what they were doing. They want nothing, they just want to touch you. I will be taking another tour with Peter so I can video tape as you have to hear them calling out! We kept walking through the garbage, and literally human waste and go to a Nubian family's home for babies. I believe this group of people are originally Ethiopian and have a slightly different version of Ki-Swahili. They were lovely. We had delicious chai massala and I held the babies. It was quite bizarre as among all of the poverty this house had a tv in which we were watching the WB show 'One Tree Hill' while drinking tea...bizarre! We left them, said our goodbye's and moved uphill so we could overlook the entire area.

It is overwhelming, the site that you see! We walk back through the streets again fighting the waste and murky water only to come across a rotting dog and someone that looks as if they had just recently died laying right in the 'street' with children playing all around him. I felt sick, but knew there was nothing I could do. I wanted to cry. Cartoon, our other guide (the sweetest kid) just grabbed my hand and pulled me by. I don't know how anyone could live like this, but I know it is not my place to judge. I just so desparately wish I could fix the situation for people like Peter and Cartoon who want so much more. Cartoon-his nickname btw is a muscian and volunteers at Mama Tunza's. He is 21 and goes to play guitar for the children. In the pics, he is the one in the red Arsenal shirt. He was excited for you all to see the pictures when i told him I was sending them home. I would like to see if I could help him some way. So we finish off our tour with lunch at a local restaurant for 50 ksh which is about $1. That includes rice pilau with a bit of beef and a cold coke in the bottle. I cannot believe the places I am eating at. Nora, I take back all my laughter about your plates in me!! I hope you can all see the movie sometime to give you a sense of what I am seeing. I do love it, it is crazy, but i love it.

Well, I am off to prepare for my children's Christmas morning. I am giving out sweets, and some toys and stickers and books. I am buying plums and bananas so they can eat them right away and will bring bread as well. Some of my friends here are joining me so it will be more fun for them!! We are having a big football and caps match during the day....then we are off to Mama Tunza's for the afternoon. The night will be reserved for a nice expensive dinner out and lots and lots of Tuskers (beer)--it's for the children--we have to collect the bottle caps.

I hope you all have an amazing Christmas and Happy New Year's!! We're off to Maasai land tomorrow, so I will let you know how it is!
Love me!

The Dragon's Almanac - 25 December


from Justin Wintle

"For every man sent by Heaven earth provides a grave."

. . . (1436) Chinese

24 December 2006

Diffusion Lightbox for Tabletop Digital Images of Books


The photo of book spines here:
. . . was taken using ambient light at the McGill Bookfair last fall. It's not an ideal image because the light was harsh, coming from overhead fluorescent tubes. There was a small window immediately behind the books with diffuse sunlight somewhat balancing the colour-shift toward greenish 'neon' tones.

The result is better than having only one flash on the digital camera that sits extremely close to the lens.


This set-up, with the camera on a stable tripodlike stand, two photo floods (like high intensity reading lamps), and a three-sided diffusion-screen lightbox is a nifty setup for taking digital photos of small objects. This particular model sells (when it is in stock) for US $100 plus shipping, taxes and customs duties.

When I have finalized my own secondhand purchases and re-invented this wheel (so to speak), I will post images of the setup I can come up with for well under $20 (not counting the tripod to hold the camera).

If this works out, my lightbox will be even more portable, lighter and more flexible in terms of the size of books and other articles it will accomodate. I believe it will be possible to effectively light and reduce glare or hotspots upon any object up to the size of a coffee table.

The Dragon's Almanac - 24 December


Lawn Ornament Wash Basin

from Justin Wintle

"Don't drink what you can't carry."

. . . (1430) Chinese

23 December 2006

Feliz Navidad - More Than Offering Another Hallmark Remark


Maybe a multicultural, multilingual celebration of Christmas has become harder to organize and pull off well, or is less meaningful, the more urgently 'we' all need to pull together collectively to solve global problems.

My personal cultural background as a north american white, anglo-saxon protestant away from home at Christmastime has exposed me to a lifetime of phony commercial attempts to link Christmas with excessive spending (for gifts, foods and entertainment). Expressions of fellow-feeling with Other Cultures, Other Peoples over the Holiday Season were once-upon-a-time framed as paternalistic gestures in the mould of extending kindness to those less fortunate than 'we' are.

Yesterday Dulio, an Argentinean, and I hefted a donated television set from the car trunk of a Jewish woman who dropped it off at COCLA for the Latino community charity drive. She helped in the effort (for awhile), but you could tell that all she wanted to do was to 'dump' the thing and get back to her own affairs as quickly as possible. (I cannot blame her a bit.)

After wrestling that huge, boxy behemoth T.V., all any person could possibly feel is how much we'd rather have a flat-screen LCD model that is so light and thin it could simply be hung on a wall, plugged in, and forgotten.

Gift-giving, unlike sharing baked bread or a homemade casserole, has started to be chosing the "latest model" hi-tech gadget for those in your immediate family and a rush to the mall for low-tech surrogates for gift-giving outside the family circle. 'Things' are either 'the latest model' or they are garbage, a mere hand-me-down or stocking stuffer.

Where I missed the boat in giving gifts to my friends, once again this year in 2006, was in not making the effort to procure color prints from my digital images (the snapshots I've taken over the entire year). Receiving a candid portrait tucked inside a nice card with a personal note (in the recipient's own Spanish, English or French language - whatever) would please each person I know well enough to give a gift to . . But it's not too late with New Year's Day coming!

I cannot get away with just putting these digital images up on the web and giving a copy of the URL address to the recipients of my holiday greeting cards -- simply because the adults I know do not browse the web and (except for email) are intimidated by what they see via the Internet. Yet everybody I know loves to receive a bunch of color prints they can hold in their paws.

For expressing my holiday cheer to Spanish speakers, this year I am discovering that the best I can do is to take the time to attempt to communicate with them by trying to talk about their original home town, about family members still in the home country and ones living here in Montreal while attempting to tell them about my own family back home and my own daughters who have grown up in Quebec. I find myself carrying more and more wallet-sized photos of family. Nothing works better when trying to converse than to ask about a person's family, about where they came from geographically (and in detail), while trying to give similar accounts of my own origins and my own family.

It is an irony; in our own culture depictions of family conversation tend to accentuate the two extremes: saccharine images of 'Father Knows Best' bonhommie and bitter feuding and strife between generations forced to pretend they can celebrate anything together. The irony comes from how satisfying it can feel to get away from the immediate family and try to communicate with a person who does not even speak your own language and who does not even celebrate the holidays like all the Masses of shoppers in our Canada-American culture.

You can consider yourself a member of a privileged caste if, somehow, you can find the time and energy over the holiday break to get away from Family and make the time to talk face-to-face with a nearby 'stranger' away from all the hustle and bustle. These stolen moments give meaning to that otherwise Hallmark cliche 'It was a privilege to make your acquaintance.'

22 December 2006

Novelist E. L. Doctorow. Quotes about Writing from a Writer


From 'Think exist (dot) com'. "Finding quotations was never this easy."

Writers quotes. E. L. Doctorow, American Author and Editor, b.1931

“I can walk into a bookstore and hand over my credit card and they don't know who the hell I am. Maybe that says something about bookstore clerks.”
E. L. Doctorow quote

“Writing is an exploration. You start from nothing and learn as you go.”
E. L. Doctorow quote

“Writing is a socially acceptable form of schizophrenia.”
E. L. Doctorow quote

“Writers are not just people who sit down and write. They hazard themselves. Every time you compose a book your composition of yourself is at stake.”
E. L. Doctorow quote

“It's like driving a car at night. You never see further than your headlights, but you can make the whole trip that way.”
E. L. Doctorow quote

“There is no longer any such thing as fiction or nonfiction; there's only narrative.”
E. L. Doctorow quote

“Good writing is supposed to evoke sensation in the reader - not the fact that it is raining, but the feeling of being rained upon.”
vanturpais E. L. Doctorow quote

“Planning to write is not writing. Outlining, researching, talking to people ---- what you're doing, none of that is writing. Writing is writing.”
E. L. Doctorow quote

The Dragon's Almanac - 22 December


from Justin Wintle

"One step too few is enough
to miss the ferry."

. . . (1423)


21 December 2006

What Would You Experience by Trying to Collect All that Alan Sillitoe Ever Published ???



from -- Books and Writers


"Alan Sillitoe is generally grouped among the "angry young men" of the 1950s, with John Osborne, John Braine, John Wain, Arnold Wesker, and Kingsley Amis. He introduced in the post-World War II British fiction realistically portrayed working-class heroes, but his range as a writer has since widened. Sillitoe has published more than fifty books over the last forty years, as well as more than four hundred essays."

Stars, seen through midnight windows
Of earth-grained eyes
Are fullstops ending invisible sentences,
Aphorisms, quips, mottoes of the gods
Indicate what might have been made clear
Had words stayed plain before them.

(from 'Stars' in A Falling Out of Love, 1964)

Note (NBDR - Blogaulaire) Would the US's Beats, the prose and poetry writers who were most prolific in the 1950s on this side of 'the Pond', also qualify as members of "the angry young men" generation? In the 1960s, after the anti-nuclear mobilizations and the launch of the Soviet satellite Sputnik, the label used for both women and men who went counter to the Establishment culture was Beatniks (derived from Sput-nik).

But what about the evident class consciousness of this grouping of British writers? Was a more vague sobriquette invented to underplay the conflictual class issues that were raised within their published narrative? Or did the 'anger' that showed up in their fictional characters deviate so greatly from what proletarian writers had produced in the 1930s and '40s that this literary tendency deserved a new name-label with a less politically charged connotation?

It is interesting to note the link to science fiction writing and the 'angry young man' trend in the British and US novel of the 1950s. In the US, Kurt Vonnegut inherited the connection throughout the 1960s, yet very few other US writers carried both banners beside him, i.e., anger and fantasy.

The various protagonists of Sillitoe's early fiction are generally restless young men from the slum world, who oppose the established order of things, but who are at the same time affected by consumerism and hedonism. Sillitoe rejected artistic elitism and instead of satirizing cosy middle-class British life, he focused on rebellious individuals and poor people, who have vile lives. "If I lost all I have in the world I wouldn't worry much," Sillitoe wrote in THE RAGMAN'S DAUGHTER (1963).

"If I was to go across the road for a packet of fags one morning and come back to see the house clapping its hands in flames with everything I owned burning inside I'd turn my back without any thought or regret and walk away, even if my jacket and last ten-bob note were in the flames as well."

The collection of short fiction was praised for its vitality. "Every story (and there is not one dud) has the exhilaration of revolutionary writing," stated Julian Jebb in The Sunday Times. THE DEATH OF WILLIAM POSTERS (1965), A TREE ON FIRE (1967), and A START IN LIFE (1970) formed a trilogy about a Nottingham factory worker. In the 1970s he produced another trilogy, consisting of THE FLOWER OF LIFE (1974), THE WIDOWER'S SON (1976) and STORYTELLER (1979). A selection of his short stories, mostly written beween 1959-1981, Sillitoe collected in NEW AND COLLECTED SHORT STORIES (2003).

Sillitoe has moved in his later works beyond this lower-class milieu towards analysis of the psychological states of his characters. In the autobiographical RAW MATERIAL (1972) he portrayed his grandparents, A Start in Life leaves the protagonist peacefully cultivating his garden, bemused by a prophecy that he will go wild again at thirty-five.

In 1959 Sillitoe married Ruth Fainlight; they had a son and adopted a daughter. THE RATS AND OTHER POEMS (1960) was Sillitoe's first published book of verse. "I have always regarded myself as a poet before novelist," Sillotoe once said, but he has met with little critical success for his poetry. In 1963 Sillitoe spent a month in the Soviet Union, recording his impressions in ROAD TO VOLGOGRAD (1964). Sillitoe has lived with his family mostly in London, but has also spent time in Tangier, Spain, and Israel. During the last years they have divided their time between London and France. best known for his novels, Sillitoe has also published children's books (starring a cat called Marmelade Jim), poetry, and plays. LIFE WITHOUT ARMOUR (1995) was an autobiography.


For further reading:

Alan Sillitoe by A.R. Penner (1972); Commitment As Art by Ronald Dee Vaverka (1978 - Dissertation--Uppsala Univ); Alan Sillitoe: A Critical Assessment by S.S. Atherton (1979); The British Working-Class Novel in the Twentieth Century, ed. by J. Hawthorn (1984); Alan Sillitoe by David Gerard (1988); Working-Class Fiction in Theory and Action: A Reading of Alan Sillitoe by P. Hitchcock (1989); Understanding Alan Sillitoe, ed. by Matthew Joseph Bruccoli (1999); The Long Apprenticeship: Alienation in the Early Work of Alan Sillitoe by John Sawkins (2001)

Selected works:

THE LONELINESS OF LONG-DISTANCE RUNNER, 1958 - (film 1962, directed by Tony Richardson, starring Michael Redgrave, Tom Courtenay, Avis Bunnage, Peter Madden, Julia Foster)
SATURDAY NIGHT AND SUNDAY MORNING, 1958 - (film 1960, directed by Karel Reisz, starring Albert Finney, Shirley Anne Field, Rachel Roberts) - Lauantai-illasta sunnuntai aamuun (suom. Erkki Haglund)
THE RAGMAN'S DAUGHTER, 1963 - (film 1963, dir. by Harold Becker, starring Simon Rouse, Victoria Tennant, Ptrick O'Connell, Leslie Sands)
Lope de Vega: All Citizens are Soldiers, 1969 (translation)
A START IN LIFE, 1970 (Bogaulaire is reading this novel . . . )
POEMS, 1971
THE RAGMAN'S DAUGHTER, 1972 (play from his story)
STORM, 1974
MOUNTAINS AND CAVERNS, 1975 (essays, among others of D.H.Lawrence)
THE SAXON SHORE WAY, 1975 (with F. Godwin)
3 PLAYS, 1978

The Dragon's Almanac - 21 December


Mexican Hat Dance

from Justin Wintle

"One man cannot breathe through another man's nose."

. . . (1421) Thai

20 December 2006

The Dragon's Almanac - 20 December


from Justin Wintle

"Twelve armed men cannot control the
strife created by one elegant woman."

. . (1417) Chinese

Creationists by E.L. Doctorow - Summary

0 comments - Houston Chronicle

Blogaulaire has not read Creationists, E. L. Doctorow's recent book of essays reviewed below. I am still in the middle of his early 1970s novel, "The Book of Daniel" and thoroughly enjoying it. (By the way, in his own writing, E.L.D. portrays the black janitor who lives in the basement of the family's apartment building in a stereotypical vein, very close to what he deplores in Mark Twain's early work. Just between you and me . . . )


"From Welcome to Hard Times to The March, and especially in such novels as The Book of Daniel, Ragtime and Billy Bathgate, Doctorow's own creativity has been fired by American history, by the West, the Civil War, the Cold War, by gangsters and rebels and immigrants. So some of the most provocative things he has to say are about the writer's relationship to America — or in the case of Franz Kafka, to Amerika, a novel that foundered because the immensity of the country stymied Kafka's claustrophobic Old World imagination. As Doctorow says, Kafka 'held his book together as long as he'd ignored the true scale of the American continent,' but 'the minute he tried to fold our vast openness into his conceit he was finished.'

But even American writers come to grief. Harriet Beecher Stowe may have touched the American conscience with Uncle Tom's Cabin, but Doctorow faults the book for 'the implicit racism of Stowe's stereotypes' of black people. 'It is an indication of how tortuous is the moral progress of a culture where even the religiously driven protest, the aesthetically organized act of moral intellect, assumes the biases of the system it would overthrow.'
And Stowe is not the only transgressor when it comes to racial stereotyping that ironically works against the author's message. Doctorow faults Mark Twain for letting Tom Sawyer take over the latter part of Huckleberry Finn — this is 'terrible for American literature,' he says, not only because it turns a grown-up book into juvenile fiction but also because it weakens the rapport between Huck and Jim.

And the portrayal of Jim troubles him as much as Stowe's stereotyping. Huck, Doctorow notes, 'struggles against the white mores of his time to help the black man, Jim, escape from slavery, but it is Huck's progenitor" — Twain himself — "who portrays Jim, in minstrelese, as a gullible black child-man led by white children."

Doctorow rejects Hemingway's famous assertion that "all modern American literature comes from one book by Mark Twain called Huckleberry Finn." Instead, he says, "It begins with Moby-Dick, the book that swallowed European civilization whole."

Blogaulaire agrees with the Doctorow deconstruction the Houston reviewer described in the quote. In poetry, nearly every poet who went to Mayan Mexico and 'wrote back' displays the shallow cultural imperialism Kafka stumbled through. Even Lorca waxes racists in his notes and poems from New York City as he trembles before Black Harlem.

For many years Charles Matthews was books editor for the San Jose Mercury-News. He lives in Mountain View, Calif.

19 December 2006

Paul Neilan : Apathy and Other Small Victories


book reviews : spike magazine:

"I remember with nostalgia digesting the contents of Chuck Palahniuk's stomach in his debut novel Fight Club, and wondering why the hell he even bothered to rise in the morning. It was visceral and exciting to see the stirrings, of my own apathetic generation. They say it's always easy to recognize one of your own, and it was, in the end.

Misguided beacons of hope, in oceans of relentless despair and revelation. Second-by-second bytes of surrealism, drip-fed to you through a plasma-coloured tube. Navel-gazing, in a nutshell. So now, we bomb the shit out of each other, devise ingenious ways of blowing up aircraft, with liquid explosives, paperclips and an iPod, or otherwise inhabit 'hi-density Jpod clusters,' at the end of the world.

Three cheers for nihilism, and for making a profession out of not giving a fuck, when underneath we do, more than most. For desiring a cloak of pathos and invisibility and yet being cursed with the contradiction, of needing a public stage upon which to vent it all. I'm human, so shoot me. Riotously funny sometimes, it hurts.

Apathy And Other Small Victories, by Paul Neilan. Angst plus equal parts sublimated anger, life seen through the grime of a Greyhound bus window, disposable culture and disposable life...

'If Tolstoy were alive today and working as a temp at Panoptican Insurance, he'd say that all insurance companies are the same, then throw himself through an eighteenth story window and plunge to his death in a hail of glass and shattered dignity. I worked on the eighteenth floor, but the windows were too thick...' "

Citation from online seller:

Apathy and Other Small Victories

by: Paul Neilan
publisher: St. Martin's Press, released: 02 May, 2006
price: £8.48 (new), £4.77 (used)

The Silmarillion: edited by Christopher Tolkien


On - rare, limited and signed editions - J. R. R. Tolkien

From an online article about collecting all editions of The Silmarillion.

Development of the text

The earliest drafts of The Silmarillion stories date back to as early as 1917, when Tolkien, a British officer stationed in France during World War I was laid up in a military field hospital with trench fever. At the time, he called his collection of nascent stories The Book of Lost Tales. After the war, he tried to publish some of his stories, however many editors rejected him, regarding his work as 'fairy tale' unsuitable for adult readership. He tried once more, having already published The Hobbit in 1937; however that time too, The Silmarillion was deemed too complicated. Tolkien was asked to write a sequel to The Hobbit which would become his significant novel The Lord of the Rings.

But Tolkien never abandoned his book. He regarded The Silmarillion as the most important of his work, seeing in its tales not only the genesis of Middle-earth and later events as told in The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings, but the entire core of his legendarium. He continued to work on them over the next several decades, revising and reworking his ideas, right up until his death in 1973.

After Tolkien's death

For several years after his father's death, Christopher Tolkien worked through the mass of papers written by his father creating a coherent, consistent and chronologically accurate whole. On some of the later parts of the 'Quenta Silmarillion' which were in the roughest state, he worked with fantasy author Guy Gavriel Kay to construct a narrative practically from nothing. The final result, which included genealogies, maps, an index and the first-ever published Elvish word list was published in 1977.

Inside the book

The Silmarillion combines five parts:

  1. The Ainulindalë - the creation of Eä, Tolkien's universe.
  2. The Valaquenta - a description of the Valar and Maiar
  3. The Quenta Silmarillion - the history of the events before and during the First Age
  4. The Akallabêth - the history of the Second Age
  5. Of the Rings of Power and the Third Age

    These five parts, in origin separate works, were (combined in one volume) as J. R. R. Tolkien (intended) . . .

    Click on the title of this post to read more about collecting Tolkien books.

The Dragon's Almanac - 19 December


Woman Holding Mans Shoulder

from Justin Wintle

"When Heaven veils the sun wise men extinguish their lamps ."

. . . (1413) Chinese

18 December 2006

The Dragon's Almanac - 18 December


Snow Electric Wires

from Justin Wintle

"The false prophet who foretells calamity and the true prophet who predicts health should both be cherished ."

. . . (1409) Chinese

USA Undergrads - Early Start as Rare Book Collectors & Bookdealers


Rare books find a home with youths :
By Carol Huang | Contributor to The Christian Science Monitor
(Post titles are links - click to see the source.)

"Bill Miglore, who graduated from Amherst College last spring, held up a dusty 1940 copy of Scholastic Magazine. But this copy contains Truman Capote's first-ever published work: a few lines about what he liked girls to wear on dates. The work had gone undiscovered for so long that Capote specialists stopped looking for it 20 years ago.

Fellow panelist Anne Harley, who records, performs, teaches, and researches Russian Gypsy and chamber music from the 1780s to 1850s, collects books of, well, Russian Gypsy and chamber music from the 1780s to 1850s. Her collection illuminating the 'cultural milieu' of the music won her Boston University's book-collecting prize last spring.

Ms. Harley reads aloud an excerpt that 'made her eyes light up' the first time she saw it, inviting the audience to experience the moment the words captured."

This feature story is not a humble one from 'The Music Man' about the farm boy who keeps a dime novel hidden in the corn crib. Huang continues:

Miglore snatched up the long-lost Capote paragraph by running a variety of specialized online searches for the right Scholastic Magazine, which someone had decided to sell on, a leading online marketplace.

"It is a time-consuming and devoted process," Harley says by phone prior to the panel. Her hunt for books is even more exhausting: She travels to Russia at least once a year and wades through an aggravating bureaucracy. Harley has undergone interviews just to look at a book catalog; she's waited days to ask permission to photocopy, only to be denied. A week's work might yield just eight lines of music.

Finding valuable books on a student budget increases the challenge - and heightens the thrill. Miglore found T.S. Eliot's "The Cocktail Party" inscribed by the author to his cousin Martha Eliot in a Boston bookstore - for $4. Fellow panelists gasp with empathetic delight at the story.

17 December 2006

Literature Buggers Reality: My Part-time Bookselling as Reflected in a 1972 E. L. Doctorow Novel – his Book of Daniel


The following text strikes me as a reminder that my friend’s bookstore exists as just one more example of a genre of radical-marginal-countercultural cliché which is continually being ‘thrown up’ and perpetuated by pseudo-prophets who start businesses that are doomed to fail financially because they are mere excuses for anti-social, isolated existence without a commitment to make them work as sources of income and as viable services to one’s community.

From a scan of: E. L. Doctorow, The Book of Daniel. New York, New American Library, 1972; p 49 --

-- where Daniel describes his biological father’s storefront radio repair shop:

On the bed of the window, resting on old curled crepe paper, bleached grey, are two display radios—a table model and a console with cloth-covered doors and a combination automatic record changer. When you go inside you see that the two window display radios have nothing inside them. They are empty cabinets. Not many people buy radios here. Mostly they have their old ones fixed. There is no irony in Paul Isaacson’s owning his own business, because he makes no profit. He employs no one and, therefore, exploits no one. Isaacson Radio, Sales and Repair, is not a good business. There were lots of poor or lower middle class people in that neighborhood. They all knew someone who could sell cheaper. And they did not support big repair bills. He was honest and he never overcharged. Rochelle, who kept the books at home, was supposed to figure out how to pay the rent each month.

(Sandra, a single mother of grown boys, has to figure that one out herself!)

Is my friend ‘Sandra’, the owner of the bookstore where I so recently worked (the place I have often described on this blog), setting herself up as a martyr? If so, could it be in close parallel to the scenario described in Doctorow's “Book of Daniel”? Is membership in a 'decade of revolt and reinventing values' sometimes not a stepping stone to selling out as a radical-chic or YUPPIE parvenu but (sometimes) more closely related to being a card-carrying commie? This has me wondering about the counter-cultural types versus the Marxist types in new ways.

I want to doubt it, disbelieve the remarkable similarities. Something makes me want to chalk it up to neurosis - as I think E. L. Doctorow was attempting . . at times . . in his fiction.

Maybe the phenomenon goes deeper than the parallel with radical history/biography (Sandra's as well as my own); maybe it is a similarity more related to persons who actively choose to remain marginal to the world of business and commerce, serving a ‘higher goal’, one that requires a personal sacrifice (effacement, in French) of ones personal identity behind piles of books, radios, or the paraphernalia of any trade -- a trade/profession that serves more as an excuse to avoid more than a supplement for engaging with real people in personally fulfilling relationships.

Do ideologues use their business and the objects of their failing professions as armor behind which they can hide their own real face, their intimate personality?

Background (from a student essay) displayed online HERE

Daniel and his sister Susan are the fictional children of Julius and Ethel Rosenberg. In Doctorow’s novel they are called the Isaacsons. Like the real people they were modeled on, The Rosenberg’s were members of the Communist Party of the United States. They were charged with passing atomic secrets to the Soviet Union. How lower middle-class people from the Bronx got possession of atomic secrets to pass to the Russians was never explained by the American government of the day. In the novel Daniel’s father owns a small radio repair business and Daniel’s mother, Rochelle, is a housewife.


WARNING: This is a sample of an essay by a student who "just didn't know where to start. " You may copy the essay if you wish but please use it only as a guide to good writing. Turning it as your work would be plagiarism and could get you kicked out of school.

And for a bit of enthusiastic endorsement for E. L. Doctorow’s novel Book of Daniel with which I am in agreement, we might as well read the entry on ABE for a bookseller’s unusually long offer to sell the novel for $1.50:

Book of Daniel[Buy it!]
Doctorow, E L 1.50 Abebooks Daniel's Books

Bantam Doubleday Dell Softcover. Bantam Doubleday Dell 1983 Fine/ Unread, faintest wear, In plastic.

Description: The central figure of this novel is a young man whose parents were executed for conspiring to steal atomic secrets for Russia. His name is Daniel Isaacson, and as the story opens, his parents have been dead for many years. He has had a long time to adjust to their deaths. He has not adjusted. Out of the shambles of his childhood, he has constructed a new life-marriage to an adoring girl who gives him a son of his own, and a career (as a) scholar. It is a life that enrages him.

In the silence of the library at Columbia University, where he is supposedly writing a Ph.D. dissertation, Daniel composes something quite different. .It is a confession of his most intimate relation-with his wife, his foster parents, and his kid sister Susan, whose own radicalism so reproaches him. It is a of memories: riding a bus with his parents to the ill-fated Paul Robeson concert in Peekskill; watching the FBI take his father away; appearing with Susan at rallies protesting their parents" innocence; visiting his mother and father in the Death House.

It (the novel) is a(bout an) investigation: transcribing Daniel’s interviews with people who knew his parents, or who knew about them; and logging his strange researches and discoveries in the library stacks. It is a (story) of judgments of everyone involved in the case-lawyers, police, informers, friends, and the Isaacson family itself. It is a (book) rich in characters, from elderly grandmothers of immigrant culture to covert radicals of the McCarthy era to hippie marchers on the Pentagon. It is a (book) that spans the quarter-century of American life since World War II.

It is a (book) about the nature of Left politics in this country - its sacrificial rites, its peculiar cruelties, its humility, its bitterness. It is a about some of the beautiful and terrible feelings of childhood. It is about the nature of guilt and innocence, and about the relations of people to nations. It is The (Book) of Daniel.

1A-R2-C2 Daniel’s Books [Enumclaw, WA, U.S.A.]

A Young Toronto Woman Relates Her Discovery of Kenya and a Shantytown World


Blogaulaire commented this morning on the post linked to the title above (just click on it).

Here is a snippet from what 'Mambo!' blogged on her new site from her 'new site':

It's quite a dangerous place...not like downtown toronto scary, but like seeing machetes in the head volunteer found a dude like that two weeks ago and he and 2 guys put him in a shopping cart to the hospital. All day yesterday we heard stories from the past two weeks of volunteers getting robbed and attacked in the night when camping or hiking by bandits! Oh god!! I don't think i would deal well with bandits! Anyway, I live in a nice house comparitively speaking with 2 other boys (i think aussie) and two girls who are leaving tomorrow. Haven't met anyone yet but heard they are cool. Oh, and if you want to see what Kibera looks like rent the move The Constant's fantastic and that's where it is filmed. It's weird because when nora and i saw it in the summer on video I could picture myself there....and low and behold when I stood on the roof of my temporary host mother's last night I noticed it the the left of me....and the train tracks where they filmed were right behind her house.....crazy...seriously, crazy!

The Dragon's Almanac - 17 December


hands holding abstract

from Justin Wintle

"Teaching that enters the ears but not the heart is like dinner eaten in a dream."

. . . (1402) Chinese

16 December 2006

Australia : Invites Us All to an Upcoming Book Launch


Not your ordinary literary calendar; not in Australia in any case --
Despite the Australian draught, despite the brush fires, despite the unseasonably warm temperatures in northern and eastern Canada as the globe warms unnaturally, I would jump at the opportunity to head off for Australia before the end of January of 'next' year (2007) (i.e., one month from today).

True, there are (or were) about one million things I want to do and see in Australia OTHER THAN go to 'one more' book launch or poetry reading. (As if there aren't more than enough of both such events in Montreal! Enough, at least, to fill my next year's agenda.) In your North American city, I'll wager you have the same sort of embarras de choix. Yet after reading the calendar and the announcement copied below, I would go just for this book show and my own signed copies of two books. Nothing local in my area can compare.

Read the blurb I've pasted below from what appears to me to be a very interesting and dynamic leftish bookstore in Sydney. Many people I imagine would love to have this sort of book launch happening in a local venue with local writers; yet we would also accept an urgent call by an editor to write this particular launch up after said imaginary editor 'flips' for the plane tickets and hotel reservations I'm certain. But this is only one of several events of equal or greater importance being held in this particular Australian bookstore this coming Winter and Spring -- click on the title above to discover more offerings at gleebooks.

Eat your hearts out lefties and progressive intellectuals (if you happen to live halfway around the globe from Australia as does Blogaulaire

---------------------- A twin twin-title launch by the multiple authors of two interesting books.

Wednesday, February 28, 2007 / 6.00pm for the 6.30pm Launch

The authors who will be launching their respective books are:
Georgina Murray, Mike Donaldson & Scott Poynting

The two books:

Capitalist Networks & Social Power in Aust & NZ
Ruling Class Men: Money, Sex, Power

To be launched by Raewyn Connell

Venue: gleebooks
49 Glebe Point Rd, Glebe

Cost: Free

RSVP: gleebooks - 9660 2333
Request a place

Book Summaries:

Capitalist Networks & Social Power in Aust & NZ
Georgina Murray

It is often asserted that the ruling elite in Western capitalist economies now consists of liberal intellectuals and their media sympathisers. By contrast this book looks at the real elite in Australian and New Zealand society and shows that there is still a
ruling class based upon economic dominance. From an analysis of corporate and public records, interviews, and other primary and secondary data, it develops a icture of networks of power that are changing but are as real as any network in the past.

Ruling Class men: Money, Sex, Power
Mike Donaldson, Scott Poynting

What is it like to be a master of the universe?

The authors have researched the desires and fears of the world's most powerful men. The Murdochs, Packers, Kennedys, Agnellis and other men like them, directly determine the fates of thousands and influence the future of the world like no other people. Described as 'sacred monsters' by one of their own, they are carefully created to be what they are and to enjoy shaping the world in their own likeness. To learn about these often reclusive men, the authors extended the lifehistory technique to interrogate autobiographies, diaries and biographies and have created a composite picture, a collective portrait, of tycoons over three generations. The book carefully explores the childhoods, schooling, work and play, sexual activities, marriages and deaths of the wealthiest men who have ever lived. It exposes the nature of ruling-class masculinity itself.

The Authors:

Mike Donaldson convenes the Sociology Programme at the University of Wollongong. He has written many books and articles on contemporary life,
including Male Trouble, Looking at Australian Masculinities (2003), Taking Our Time (1996) and Time of Our Lives, Labour and Love in the Working Class (1991). He has worked as a consultant with UNESCO and has taught at universities in New Zealand, Papua New Guinea and Australia.

Scott Poynting is Associate Professor in the School of Humanities and Languages at the University of Western Sydney, where he teaches Cultural and Social Analysis.

His recently co-authored books include Bin Laden in the Suburbs: Criminalising the Arab Other (2004), and Kebabs, Kids, Cops and Crime: Youth, Ethnicity and Crime (2000).

Publisher and media enquiries to: Morgan Smith gleebooks Events Manager

The Australian Letters Blog


The daily newspaper, The Australian.:

From their Letters Blog

PETER Holbrook’s article"Classics out of print" stimulated a few comments from readers that articulate similar concerns regarding the disappearance of the English language literary canon from the curricula of schools and universities in Australia. Holbrook says that this is an urgent reminder to all those interested in literature that now, not tomorrow, is the time to take a stand or "a 'Literary paradise' may soon be lost”.

(Sounds exactly the same as the story in the USA and Canada, and for the same basic reasons.)


The economics of publishing mean that the bookshop is no longer a place where we can browse through our literary heritage. Our great writers have vanished from the nation’s bookshelves because they don’t sell in the volumes of the latest pot-boiler. When literature confronts the bottom line, there seems to be no question as to which one wins out.
Mark Howie

Aged 31: A Few Reactions in Writing to What Got Published in 1975


In Year 1975, maybe you were waiting to be born. Maybe it was a busy year, so you did little recreational reading. Were you zonked out on something chemical; off trekking around the globe?

Well link to the ''s Page F75' ---- to catch up. (I found F75 while looking up a book I found and purchased today written by Ira Progoff, The Death & Rebirth of Psychology.) I knew that Progoff was credited as being one of Bandler's mentors circa 1975 and was regarded as an inspiring foundation for the neuro-linguistic programming (NLP) school. Now that I am reading Progoff, I find him a convincing authority.

On -- Page F75 -- the review in one paragraph of an NLP classic that published that year regards the book as far from being one of the best titles for easy reading enjoyment . The review is amusing:

Bandler, Richard, and Grinder, John, STRUCTURE OF MAGIC, THE, 1975, Science and Behavior Books (Palo Alto, CA), Trade. Subtitle: A BOOK ABOUT LANGUAGE AND THERAPY. Pity the poor heavy metal kid, looking for some quick surface spells, or the D&D* freak looking for a book on fantasy games, who bought this and discovered that its about Transformational Grammar and semantics. The cover has a nice color wizard, of the generic sort used on D&D* book covers. There's no wizardry within, though. It's just a boring bit of psychobabble about how to get from the "surface structure" to the "deep structure" through the use of the authors' linguistic "meta-model." This book stands as a good example of the paradox which exists in the whole pseudo-linguistic world. Why is it that those who are obsessed with language as the prime mover of human experience can't write better?

If these pseudo-heavy books bore right through your occipital lobes or overwhelm your retinal nerve-matrix (or are merely so boring you skip right past them in every used bookstore), then try this book for a juicier 1975 Book Title :


Anger, Kenneth, HOLLYWOOD BABYLON, 1975, Straight Arrow, HB. Anger was a character more outrageous than most of the Hollywood denizens he wrote about. He grew up around the movie biz and picked up a lot of leads about the sleazy side of Hollywood. Here's what really happened at Fatty Arbuckle's disastrous party, and the whole gory truth about Jane Mansfield's death, with tales of seduction, rape, suicide, and murder. Anger published most of this in Europe, but a lot of the information had worked its way back to the States to become part of the pop/folk tradition long before this edition was published. At times, Anger seems to be gleefully dancing on the grave of Hollywood myths. Anger, a fan of Aleister Crowley, opened the book with a quotation from the Magus: "Every man and woman, a star". It is one of the most ingenious misquotes I have ever encountered.

*D&D = Dungeons and Dragons