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Friday, March 31, 2006

Chapter One Hundred Eight, in which the Poem of the Month is featured

Literary Vamp recently confessed to craving the approval of Edgar Allan Poe. The Master of Mourning was orphaned at age three, and dead at age forty. Though he is best remembered as an author of classic creepy short stories, he also wrote poetry, of which "The Raven" is most famous, and oft-quoted. One of our favorite works is "Ligeia", a story typically of death, grief, and a revenant.

Just the other day arrived from Bookins (the joys of which are outlined in the sorrowful Chapter One Hundred Three) a first edition of Kenneth Silverman's Edgar A. Poe: Mournful and Never-ending Remembrance. Dipping in at various places, we were reminded of Poe's poesy, and chose one representative of his style and subject matter.


Ah, broken is the golden bowl! the spirit flown forever!
Let the bell toll!- a saintly soul floats on the Stygian river;
And, Guy de Vere, hast thou no tear?- weep now or nevermore!
See! on yon drear and rigid bier low lies thy love, Lenore!
Come! let the burial rite be read- the funeral song be sung!-
An anthem for the queenliest dead that ever died so young-
A dirge for her the doubly dead in that she died so young.

"Wretches! ye loved her for her wealth and hated her for her pride,
And when she fell in feeble health, ye blessed her- that she died!
How shall the ritual, then, be read?- the requiem how be sung
By you- by yours, the evil eye,- by yours, the slanderous tongue
That did to death the innocence that died, and died so young?"

Peccavimus; but rave not thus! and let a Sabbath song
Go up to God so solemnly the dead may feel no wrong.
The sweet Lenore hath "gone before," with Hope, that flew beside,
Leaving thee wild for the dear child that should have been thy
For her, the fair and debonair, that now so lowly lies,
The life upon her yellow hair but not within her eyes
The life still there, upon her hair- the death upon her eyes.

"Avaunt! avaunt! from fiends below, the indignant ghost is riven-
From Hell unto a high estate far up within the Heaven-
From grief and groan, to a golden throne, beside the King of
Let no bell toll, then,- lest her soul, amid its hallowed mirth,
Should catch the note as it doth float up from the damned Earth!
And I!- to-night my heart is light!- no dirge will I upraise,
But waft the angel on her flight with a Paean of old days!"

Chapter One Hundred Seven, in which Books are exhibited

Last weekend Mad About Books participated in our first collectible exhibition. The event was held in conjunction with Cabela's Masters Walleye Circuit twentieth annual tournament in Spring Valley, Illinois, and featured decoys, lures, and other fishing-related and fowling items, as well as booths dedicated to taxidermy, decorative arts, prints, cookbooks, apparel, and a few local businesses.

On one large table and two free-standing bookshelves we offered many of our books on the featured subjects of fishing and hunting, as well as other nature and outdoor living titles; a selection of hardcover non-fiction titles attractively dressed in clear archival covers; a smattering of current fiction; and a nice representation of fine coffee table books on cowboys, American Indians, and other Americana. We printed a small flyer to distribute, scattered our business cards among the books, and on the front of the table displayed a full-color poster-sized print of our billboard.

The show opened at 8:00am. When we arrived at 6:15am, the fishermen were already out in the river. We were completely set up by 7:00am. The exhibition space was in the gymnasium of a high school, where shuttle parking for the fishing tournament was designated, and a pancake breakfast was being held across the corridor. A single piece of paper taped above an exit door identified the event to outsiders. This was the first year this show was being held, and what publicity there was had focused on decoys and fishing, both facts which seemed to severely limit the traffic. We estimate about one hundred people came through during the six hours.

It appeared one vendor sold a couple of his decorative feathers-on-paddles creations. We witnessed money exchanged for a deer sweatshirt. Most people filled out a slip for a chance to win an overnight stay at the nearby state park. We made two sales, which did not cover our costs. However, several people commented that they didn't know our store existed, and a few took our card. We also made the acquaintance of another exhibitor, a veteran of such shows, who shared some of his knowledge and clued us in to another show in our general area coming in May, which annually draws about 5,000 people. If we can exhibit there, we might generate a good bit of sales and word-of-mouth. And the dismal turnout was actually a good thing for our first showing, as we gained some easy experience (as well as free hints) that could prove greatly beneficial to us in future exhibitions.

The best part of the event is the ideas that were spawned and are now growing in our literary stream. Unfortunately, like in the commercial, we are best at coming up with the big ideas, and not so good at making them happen. We are by nature conservative, thoughtful, and slow to action. But that doesn't mean our ideas won't happen with a little help. Stay tuned for details, of either fruition or failure.

Monday, March 27, 2006

The Draft, Chapter Two

There is another posting of the novel in progress at Crapometer. Once again, if you have the time and inclination, click over and leave your feedback on Chapter Two.

Just to make things interesting, the Dear Reader who endeavours to comment on each of the first eight chapters, and whose feedback is of greatest value concerning structure, style, plot, inconsistencies, and all that good stuff, will win A Writer's Book of Days: A Spirited Companion and Lively Muse for the Writing Life, by Judy Reeves. If anyone has some catching up to do, the profound and provocative Chapter One can be found here.

Sunday, March 26, 2006

Chapter One Hundred Six, in which the Books are bountiful

On Thursday and Friday your Bibliothecary roamed over five hundred miles across Fields of Opportunities in search of books.

The great middle west of America is beautiful land to travel. No flat expanse of land this, like in Wyoming, but undulating and parceled, so though nothing rises higher than a church steeple, neither can one see for miles in every direction. Brown now and March bare, spring will soon turn the entire landscape green and abundant.

A quick check of wesellusedbooks.com gave us a couple of stops along the route to our ultimate destination, and with a leisurely schedule such digressions were welcome. So into a university town we followed our Google map, and without a specific address we circled twice until at last we came upon The Haunted Bookshop. The name reminded us of Christopher Morley, and the appearance reminded us vaguely of Norman Bates' house. Outside on a bench on the porch sat a box labeled "Free to a good home" in which were a few unwanted books. And on the door hung the sign indicating the store was "Closed" on Thursdays.

Back on the road to the next stop, a little town two miles off the interstate, where the old highway used to run, apparently built because the railway also passed there--not very large, but with its own Opera House, so it must have seen some days of glory. Again without an address we turned down one of the two main roads and found the little shop with a big blue awning proclaiming "Slightly Read Books." The interior was dark, the door was locked, but through the windows there were books to be seen. Without any other sign we couldn't tell if it was also closed on Thursdays, or moving to a new location, or out of business.

On to the big city we proceeded. To the next book store we had an address and Google directions. This makes finding something only marginally easier when the major expressway is undergoing construction and one of the streets we must travel is cut in half, when the map is to city instead of street scale, and when the twists and turns disorient the driver. Eventually we found the large old building that housed "Well Read Books." Outside stood the bearded proprietor watching with amusement our parking travails.

We were warmly welcomed and given a verbal description of the layout of the store: ten or twelve rooms on two floors in an old house, and very little organization. The store had the general appearance of having been shaken by an earthquake. Books were everywhere, on the shelves, as well as on the floor, and on top of other books, with just as many in and out of boxes stacked in the corners and along the walls and in front of the shelves and in the middle of the rooms. While we browsed, two other people came in and sat down in the front room to chat with the proprietor. We did not make much of an effort at finding anything, just scanned the books until something caught our eye. Appeared one title by Christopher Morley, and an old edition of Micah Clarke, by Conan Doyle. The proprietor knocked off a few dollars, and when we handed him our notes, he pulled change from his wallet and encouraged us to come back again.

Now to cross the big city was required, and in a generally eastward direction we proceeded, which led us directly downtown. Business was just beginning to end for the early finishers, so traffic was not horrendous. And one glorious reward for our wanderings rose up in the distance. Between the valley of buildings, at the end of the long road, towering atop a hill high above the rest of the city gleamed a golden dome crowning the stately edifice of the capitol building, accessed in front by an expanse of fifty or so steps. The view is as grand as any created by modern man, and definitely worth a detour if it does not appear in one's directions.

The ultimate destination for our trip could not have bore any greater contrast to the last store. Held within a huge building at the state fairgrounds, this was clean, organized, spacious, well-staffed, and designed for the ease of every book-fancier, from the casual reader of Nora Roberts, to the seasoned hunter of rare tomes, to the harvester of mass quantities. A line of people that stretched around to the rear of the building seemed reduced to but a few browsers once inside the huge space. Rules were announced, among which hording was prohibited and books left unattended in stacks with names or blankets or anything else on them were immediately reshelved. A special holding area was prepared and fully staffed if one could not carry all the books one wanted, and these were considered purchased--there would be no sorting through them at a later date. Books were individually priced, fully categorized, and with approximately 300,000 available, there was sure to be something to fit every interest.

We have previously described the feeling of overwhelming desire that seizes us at sales such as this. The number of beautiful and interesting books is simply staggering, and there comes a point when we must sigh and realise we may want them all, but we can never have them all. And really, if we did have them all, would there be any excitement over the sales to come? Though we may have spent too much money at this sale, we certainly left behind far more wonderful books than we acquired. If you weren't there this weekend, you missed out on some great books.

Among the treasures we did amass were seven new titles about Shackleton and his explorations, numerous volumes about the American Revolution, a few books by Christopher Morley, and several plates and prints of troubadours, medieval illumination, and ancient maps. One book turned out, upon further research, to be scarce, and priced by other dealers at around one hundred dollars. When we had picked it up at the sale, the price had appeared to be one dollar fifty, written as 150. However, learning of the relative scarcity of the title, suddenly we wondered if we had in fact paid one hundred fifty dollars. Following an uneasy afternoon of impending buyer's remorse, we were able to retreive our receipts, and were relieved to find no book had been rung up for 150.00. A handy profit is now hoped for.

The sale ended after 9:00pm, and a long drive home was before us. As soon as we joined the interstate, the snow began to fly. Driving at night into swirling snow feels like flying through outer space on the Millenium Falcon, and can be mesmerizing. So after about ninety minutes we joined the truck drivers at the rest stop and curled up in the book-filled car for some sleep. When we woke ready to resume the drive, dawn was fast approaching. Since the sky was filled with clouds, there was no sunrise to speak of, but the morning light revealed a landscape of fields covered with a thin layer of snow, white and clean.

Tuesday, March 21, 2006

Chapter One Hundred Five, in which Criticism is sought

Among the sadder things in the life of this book-fancier is the dispersion of friends. Lately, we relate so few of the adventures of Tiresias, Erato, Leander, and Callisto because they are now far-flung across this great land. And not only do we dearly miss their companionship, we also have come face to face with a void in our writing. Honest and insightful critics come in no better variety than theirs. And though the glory days of the mighty Quilldrivers may be over, the writing still must be done.

At Crapometer, the first chapter of our current project has been posted for your perusal. As we know our Dear Readers are astute, tasteful, and demanding, we would be grateful if all three of you would click over, read our arrangement of words, and leave some feedback. What works for you? What doesn't? What is unclear or confusing? What sentence took your breath away? Do you want to read more, or do you want to toss your computer out the window and stick with real writing from real authors?

If interest is good, and feedback is valuable (good and bad), we will likely continue to reveal the draft at Crapometer. Thanks for your time, and Happy Reading!

Saturday, March 18, 2006

Chapter One Hundred Four, in which Ideas are brought together

Your Bibliothecary has taken the best ideas from two different blogs and put them together. SFP posted evidence of a previously undiscovered theory of Albert Einstein. Doppelganger reminded us of a famous quote from A. Edward Newton, which she is using on her new t-shirts. Put the two into the biblioblender and what do you get?

Friday, March 17, 2006

Chapter One Hundred Three, in which Questions are posed

Question: What do the following books have in common?

Primordial: Pecial Investigations Agency
The Iraq War
Standard Catalog of Firearms
Goddesses, Whores, Wives and Slaves: Women in Classical Antiquity
The Saint-a-Day Guide: A Lighthearted but Accurate Compendium
C&O Canal Companion
Dreamer: Firewalker

Answer: They are all among the books any one of you Dear Readers could have had for free.

Question: How?

Answer: Bookins. Your Bibliothecary came upon this site back in November, billed as "Your Guaranteed Source for Free Books." And yes, the books are free. Postage, however, is not. Yet for that nominal charge, there are great deals to be had on brand new books, and almost anything else that has an ISBN number assigned to it.

Question: How does it work?

Answer: Each book "costs" a certain number of points. When a book that you offer on your trade list for five points is taken, you accumulate those five points upon delivery. Then those five points are available for you to acquire a book from your wish list. And it all happens without getting out of your footie pajamas: Books you receive are sent directly to you, and books you give are left for the postal carrier with pre-paid postage you print at home.

Question: I'm a bookseller. Why should I give away books for free?

Answer: We like it because there are always books that we cannot sell either online or in the shop, and we can still find them a good home through Bookins. And in return for those books that we have no use for, we can acquire new titles for our own collection for only the cost of shipping.

Question: How good can it really be?

Answer: The usefulness of this site depends greatly upon the variety of books available. The more people who participate, the more books there will be to choose from. And so we come today to our Dear Readers to recommend this site and service. Go to the site to sign up today, or follow the link in the formal message below to give your Bibliothecary credit for a referral.

Quillhill has invited you to join Bookins, the revolutionary new book-swapping website for people who love to read.

It is easy and membership is free.

You will get free books, and Bookins will find your old books new homes and new readers.

Best of all, there is no need to go to the post office. Print prepaid postage right from the website, on regular paper.

Click below to join today, and start swapping for books you want!

Join Bookins Now!

Sunday, March 5, 2006

Chapter One Hundred Two, in which one Thing leads to Another

Several weeks ago your Bibliothecary visited a discount book store. One of the titles we acquired was The Art of Travel, by Alain de Botton, a nice compact first edition volume with the look of leather. We thought this would make a valuable addition to a small accumulation of titles by the same author, a couple which we had read and vaguely recalled enjoying.

We carried this new book with us on the out-of-town book hunt featured in the Chesterfieldian Chapters Eighty-Nine through Ninety-One. As soon as we began to read, we were reminded why we enjoyed the author so much. He employed a Socratic monologue in a mix of fact and fiction that could be compared to Kundera's proclaimed style of writing about the author's discovery of his characters. It was, to steal a phrase, unputdownable.

Having recently finished a novel we were reading, our thoughts turned to revisiting de Botton. We checked our collection and found one title, The Romantic Movement, that our memory did not recall reading. We began, and though there was more plot to this book than the travel book, the philosophical ideas were no less intriguing.

At our humble bookshop, we are constantly pausing to browse a book that catches our eye. Not a day passes that we don't find something else that we would like to read. We have begun so many--20,000 Leagues Under the Sea, The Federalist Papers, Lamb, and most recently The Virginian--and there are so many more we think we should be reading--Durant's voluminous survey of civilization, everything by Gould, all Native American history. So yesterday we were led by our reading of de Botton to dip our toes, first into Greek myth, and then into Plato.

A few weeks ago one of our regular readers came in the shop and revealed a new interest in philosophy. He said his fiction reading had led him to look into the subject of the occult, which had turned him on to some of the great philosophers, and he had become instantly hooked. Another of our regulars buys a different Rand title nearly every month. We have had little direct experience reading the philosophers, a smattering of Nietzsche being the furthest extent. Why this should be we cannot adequately say, because now it seems as if there is no more obvious thing for a writer than to live an examined life.

Looking more deeply into the section of philosophy, we pull out Socrates Cafe, by Christopher Phillips, and begin to read. This is the story of a man who gives up everything to facilitate Socratic dialogues in various locales around the country. Though mainly about his experience, the central philosophic questions form a general introduction to the discipline. And so, right in the middle of Verne, Publius, Moore, Wister, de Botton, and the three or four other books we are currently engaged in at home, we dive into Phillips' book.

Books, then, are like literary Russian dolls: we begin reading one, and inside we find another one, which we begin reading and find inside another one, and so on, and so on. To put it another way, reading is the tree trunk from which books branch endlessly toward the sky. On the road of life, books are never a dead end, and pleasure is truly found in the journey, in getting lost along the way, in leaving the map behind. We read a novel by Proust or Irving and are led off in search of paintings by Vermeer and Bruegel, which result in discoveries in photography, composition, and medieval life, new fiction titles by Chevalier and Rocquet, and then feature films. We read a tale by Wilde and discover another by Huysmans, and Louys, and Barney, which lead us to a biography of Cavalieri and an interest in opera. The story of the Boston Tea Party brings about knowledge of the Sons of Liberty, which engenders an interest in Adams, and the American Revolution, and the Bolshevik Revolution, and the charisma of Lenin, and the corruption of power, and back again to the driving principles of the Founding Fathers.

Inside books are digressions and detours, new roads and uncharted lands, histories and futures. We need only open one, and we are embarked on a lifetime of endless discovery.

Thursday, March 2, 2006


We want to thank Ella for dipping into her Box of Books to pull out the next selection for the Slaves of Golconda: The Virginian, by Owen Wister. Once again this is a classic. And a western continues to build the variety. Your Bibliothecary has not read many westerns, and we are looking forward to this one. Slaves are asked to gather and commence reviewing on Sunday 30 April. If you haven't yet had a formal invitiation or introduction, don't let that stop you from joining in the mining.

Ella was given the assignment of selecting this title as the first of a rotating responsibility. She has also been empowered to appoint the next Slave who will have the honor of selecting the next title. In case anyone is not sure what to choose, we encourage everyone to lean heavily toward classics, and though we would welcome the duty of reading Remembrance of Things Past, others might find something of such length a bit too much like slavery. So what will it be? One can never go wrong with Thomas Hardy.

Margaret Atwood has invented the LongPen. Now she can sign books at a distant bookstore from the comfort of her own home. How about multiple signings at once? Maybe, instead of book readings, where people gather to hear an author recite some of her work, there will be book writings, where people will gather to watch an author write something.

Blurb is offering bloggers an easy way to get into print. Book-Smart will make published authors of us all.