Monday, November 30, 2009

Waldo Hunt and Pop-Up Books: A Brief Overview

Meggendorfer, Lothar. Travels of Little Lord Thumb and His Man Damian.
London: H. Grevel, n.d. [1890s].

The pop-up or moveable book has come a long way since the groundbreaking work of Lothar Meggendorfer (1847-1925), the gifted Munich-based illustrator who brought visual sophistication, innovative paper engineering with complex mechanics, and humor to movable books.

The Genius of Lothar Meggendorfer: A Movable Toy Book.
New York: Random House , 1985.

After Meggendorfer, the form declined amongst artists and faded from the general public’s consciousness. The skills were at risk of becoming lost.

Much, if not most, of the credit for the revival and renaissance of the pop-up or movable book goes to pop-up book collector and entrepreneur, Waldo Hunt, who died last week at age eighty-eight.

Waldo Hunt (1921-2009) Photo Credit: Associated Press

"I knew I'd found the magic key," Hunt later said. "No one was doing pop-ups in this country. No one could afford to make them here. They had to be done by hand, and labor was too expensive."

Workers at the Cargraphics factory in Ibarra, Colombia,
assemble pop-up books.
Cargraphics has become the
modern Mecca for pop-up book production
"He was such an important publisher of pop-up books who really advanced them technically. The pop-up designers who worked for him were amazing creative engineers," said Cynthia Burlingham, director of the Grunwald Center for the Graphic Arts at the Hammer Museum of the University of California at Los Angeles.

David Zeidberg, Avery Director of the Huntington Library in San Marino, Calif., recalled that Mr. Hunt was fascinated and motivated by the intricate engineering that went into books that can go from flat to 3-D structures with the turn of a page.

"Pull a tab . . . in any of Wally's books, and Disneyland appears," Zeidberg said.

In 1965, Hunt created Graphics International, which produced pop-up books for publisher Random House. In 1969, Hallmark Cards bought Graphics International and, after producing over forty titles with Hallmark, Hunt left to start Intervisual Communications in Los Angeles. Today, Intervisual Communications, or ICI, produces a large number of the pop-up books on the market. Hunt greatly broadened the pop-ups' appeal by designing for the wonder of adults as well as children, the pop-ups’ original target audience. He also integrated many technical advances in their creation and production.

Since Hunt, many artist-illustrators have entered the field, and the modern world of pop-up and movable books has become quite fruitful and lively.

Encyclopedia Mythologica: Fairies and Magical Creatures.
Matthew Reinhart and Robert Sabudo. Candlewick, 2008.

Hendricks, Stanley. Astronauts on the Moon:
The Story of the Apollo Moon Landings.
Hallmark Children's ed. Kansas City, Mo.: Hallmark Cards, [1970].
Illustrated by Al Muenchen. Paper engineer: Howard Lohnes.

Pop-ups or movable books have always held a special place as collectibles. Originally meant solely for the enjoyment of children, they were played with until they fell apart; it is difficult to find old and rare movable books that have survived fully intact with all moving and functional parts present and in working order, without repair. Dealers who specialize in rare and antiquarian pop-ups include Helen and Mark Younger's Aleph-Bet Books and Jo Ann Reisler Ltd, both trusted and knowledgeable.

(NISTER, Ernest). Peeps Into Fairyland: A Panorama Picture Book of Fairy Stories
with introduction by F.E. Weatherly. London: Nister, nd, [ca 1895].
“Considered by Eric Quayle, the historian of children's books,
to be one of the finest three-dimensional stand-up books ever produced
by Nister" (Haining: Movable Books p. 74-78).

Ernest Nister was one of the most well-known and innovative makers of movable books in the late nineteenth century. He began his company in Nuremberg, which was then a center for toy manufacturing. After producing several movables for the German market, Nister opened a London branch, where translations were made for the British trade. Nister soon expanded to the U.S., where Dutton in New York promoted and distributed his books.

Those interested in finding out more about pop-up and movable books can begin their investigation at The Movable Book Society, organized in 1993 as a resource and information site devoted to the genre.

An essential reference

Further online resources include:

Adriaan Heino
Ampersand Books
French Pop-Ups
Ellen Rubin
University of Delaware
University of North Texas
University of Virginia
Rutgers University
The Private Library

Pop-Up Book Producers:

David Carter
Bruce Foster
Keith Moseley
Jan Pienkowski
Robert Sabuda

Given the ability of pop-up books to treat a variety of subjects in a lively, entertaining and informative manner, it should come as no surprise that the erotic would gain the attention of paper-engineers.

Greenberg, Gary (Author) and Balvis Rubess (Illustrator). The Pop-Up Book of Sex.
Melcher Media for It Books, 2006. Paper engineer: Kees Moebeerk.

The Pop-Up Kama Sutra. New York: Stewart, Tabori and Chang, 2003.
Paper engineer: J. Biggs.
Caution should be exercised with these two. You never know - but can probably suspect - what will pop-up in your face when you open a page. A few teens video'd themselves looking through The Pop-Up Book of Sex in a bookstore and posted it on YouTube. Giggles abound, all earned. And abuse ensues - too irresistible!


Peeps Into Fairyland image courtesy Alpha-Bet Books.
Cargraphics factory image courtesy Ellen Rubin.
Quotes about Waldo Hunt from the Washington Post.

African American Archivist's Dream Must Not Be Deferred

Avery Clayton (1947-2009)

Avery Clayton lived long enough to find a home for the largest collection of African American artifacts on the West Coast. But not long enough to see the treasure trove of rare books, manuscripts, photographs, feature films and ephemera, his mother's life's work, made available to the public. Mr. Clayton died suddenly on Thursday, while hosting a Thanksgiving dinner. He was 62 years old.

Mayme A. Clayton (1923-2006)

Clayton's mother, Mayme, spent 40 years amassing materials on African American history from every source imaginable: garage sales, flea markets, attics, used-book stores, and even dumps. She rescued thousands of rare books, movies, sound recordings, photographs and letters documenting the Black experience in America, which otherwise might have been lost to scholars forever. Until Mayme Clayton's death in 2006 this priceless archive was stored haphazardly in her garage in the West Adams section of Los Angeles.

Avery Clayton, the eldest of Mayme's three sons, began to see the value of his mother's "hobby" when he became a teenager. "Her part was to assemble the collection," he said. "I really believe my part is to bring it to the world." Just days before his mother's death, Mr. Clayton signed a $1-a- year lease on a former courthouse in Culver City, CA., to house what is now the Mayme A. Clayton Library and Museum. Since 2006 he had tirelessly raised funds to catalog, preserve, conserve, and display the collection and make it accessible to the public. He also personally helped to archive many of the items. He had hoped to see the Library open in 2010 or 2011.

Avery Clayton seated before a portrait of his mother, which he painted for her 80th birthday.
(Photo by Phillip Scott Andrews, AP)

As of Avery Clayton's untimely death this week, only about one-fifth of the collection has been archived, according to Leah M. Kerr, director of the Clayton Library. "It's everybody's hope that we will be able to continue the work," she said. Mr. Clayton eloquently explained the reasons behind his family's efforts to preserve the long neglected history of African Americans to The New York Times in 2006: “One of the things that culture does is that it works like a family. If you know you come from a good family, it enables you to go out into the world, no matter what happens to you, and do O.K. It is the same thing with culture: If you know you come from a great people, it gives you that same feeling.”

The first exhibit of materials from the Library was organized just this year, in conjunction with the Huntington Library in San Marino, CA. Central Avenue and Beyond: The Harlem Renaissance in Los Angeles opened in October and will continue at the Huntington through February 8, 2010. Director of Literary Manuscripts at the Huntington Library, Sue Hodson, co-curated the exhibit with Avery Clayton. She noted that selecting materials for the show was "a great time of discovery" for Clayton because most had been collected while he was a child. "He had such a dream and a vision and a passion for what he was doing," she recalled.

The Mayme A. Clayton Library and Museum

Avery Clayton's original dream was that his mother would see a library named for her, holding her amazing collection, "in her lifetime." That did not come to pass. Now Mr. Clayton's death means that though he accomplished the minor miracle of finding a home for the Mayme A. Clayton Library, he will never see public benefit from his unfailing devotion to her legacy.

The Clayton Library includes an outstanding collection of signed first editions by authors of the Harlem Renaissance movement. One of those writers, poet Langston Hughes, wrote of the dire consequences of unfulfilled dreams in his most famous work:

A Dream Deferred

What happens to a dream deferred?

Does it dry up
like a raisin in the sun?
Or fester like a sore--
And then run?
Does it stink like rotten meat?
Or crust and sugar over--
like a syrupy sweet?

Maybe it just sags
like a heavy load.

Or does it explode?

Information about becoming a member of Western States Black Research and Educational Center, the non-profit organization that supports the Mayme A. Clayton Library and Museum, is available at the Library's website.

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Charity Begins At The Library

Libraries may be struggling with cuts in hours, staff, and budgets but that doesn't mean those institutions have forgotten that some folks are worse off than they are. Below is a very short, and NOT at all inclusive list of libraries that are sponsoring charitable efforts to make the holidays happier for everyone:

The Dwight D. Eisenhower Presidential Library in Abilene, Kansas is asking quilters to make wounded soldiers more comfortable. The “Quilts of Valor” challenge seeks display worthy quilts for an exhibit on Veteran's Day in 2010. After the exhibition, the quilts will be donated to wounded troops.

The Red Hook Public Library in New York has raised cash and food for the local St. Vincent de Paul Food Bank by allowing customers to have their library fines forgiven in exchange for charitable donations.

The Morris County Library in Whippany, New Jersey is collecting gently used, winter coats for men, women, children, and infants. The Jersey Cares Foundation will distribute the donated clothing to needy families around the state.

The Marion County Library in South Carolina will take $1.00 off of library fines for every can of food that is donated. The food will support Manna House in Mullins and the Marion Church of God Food Bank.

The Truro Library in Massachusetts will sponsor an "Angel Tree." The tree will be decorated with paper angels, with each angel representing a needy child in the area. Patrons can earn their own "angel wings" by purchasing and donating a suggested gift for their "adopted" child. Gifts will be distributed by the Homeless Prevention Council.

The Conneaut Public Library in Ohio will allow patrons who owe the library overdue fines to expunge their records with donations to the Conneaut Food Pantry. The program works like this: Whatever the fine, the amount will be sliced in half if the patron provides a like number of food items for the Pantry. For example, someone who owes $50 will be off the hook by providing 25 items.

The Stillwater, Minnesota Public Library is doing what comes naturally. This year, as in the past, they are collecting new children's books for distribution through Head Start and the Holiday Bureau. The public is invited to bring new, unwrapped hardcover or paperback children's books to the library for distribution to needy families in the area.

Finally, a bit further afield for Book Patrol, Manurewa Branch Public Library in Manukau, New Zealand is conducting its annual toy drive. Toys are collected at the Library and donated to the local Salvation Army for distribution to families the charity has worked with throughout the year.

Check with your local library to find out if they are teaming up with a worthy charity this holiday season. If not, consider donating to The Friends of The Library organization in your area. If these libraries and others like them don't survive the economic downturn, all of these programs could find themselves joining the ranks of the homeless.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Rains Reigns At Alabama Library

The University of North Alabama Library's Collier Library has announced the acquisition of film scripts, photographs, DVD's. interview recordings, and other personal papers from famed motion picture actor Claude Rains.

The collection is a donation from his only child, daughter Jessica Rains, herself an actor in such films as The Sting (1973) and Woody Allen’s Sleeper (1973).

Claude Rains, born in London in 1889, became a US citizen in 1939, a year following daughter Jessica's birth. Originally a stage actor, he came to motion pictures late in his career, becoming a sensation as the titular character in James Whale's The Invisible Man (1933).

In a film career spanning over 30 years, he appeared in such cinematic staples as Michael Curtiz's The Adventures of Robin Hood (1938), Frank Capra's Mr. Smith Goes to Washington (1939), Now, Voyager (1942), and Alfred Hitchcock's Notorious (1946), but may be most fondly remembered for his role as Captain Renault in Curtiz's Casablanca (1942).

Rains casts a suspicious eye as gendarme Captain Renault in Casablanca

After The Invisible Man, Raines was in danger of becoming typecast as Universal's go-to actor for their sausage-like chain of B-grade horror films. He successfully broke out of this mold when he moved over to Warner Bros., though he would return to the horror genre throughout his career, with even some of his non-horror performances retaining a bit of the horror-film flair and style for which he was justly famous.

Of special significance in the Rains Collection are 30 hours of taped interviews with Mr. Rains for an anticipated autobiography. In fact, these interviews formed the cornerstone of noted author David J. Skal's biography, Claude Rains: An Actor's Voice (2008; University Press of Kentucky; 2nd edition), which is co-authored by Jessica Rains. Skal has authored several his books on horror and science-fiction films.

Both authors were on hand at the Rains Collection donation event staged at UNA this past week.

David J. Skal autographs his biography of Claude Rains. (Jessica Rains at left.)

In addition, UNA's English Club and Pillar of Fire club co-sponsored a related screening of The Invisible Man, followed by a reading of the stage adaptation of Arthur Koestler’s novel "Darkness at Noon" (1940), for which Rains won a Tony Award as Best Actor in 1951.

It is fitting that the Rains material has been donated to UNA, where it will be an integral part of their burgeoning film acquisitions specializing in the science-fiction and horror genres of the 1930's and 1940's. Other notable genre practitioners represented in their collections include noted sci-fi author Ray Bradbury, and George Clayton Johnson, co-author with William F. Nolan of the classic sci-fi novel Logan's Run (1967) and a writer from the classic Twilight Zone TV series, as well such well-known all-around actors as Ernest Borgnine, who has donated his copy of Marty (1955), for which he won an Academy Award as Best Actor. The Rains Collection will no doubt prove invaluable to scholars, researchers, and students of classic Hollywood films. In other words, the usual suspects.

The Oldest Living Rare Bookseller in the World

Muriel Craddock, 97, with daughter Kay in their family book store
in Melbourne, Australia. Photo: Joseph Feil.

Muriel Craddock, at age 97 1/2 surely the oldest living rare bookseller in the world, has announced the re-opening of Kay Craddock Antiquarian Bookseller, her family business in Melbourne, Australia.

Muriel, known as the Queen of antiquarian booksellers, and her late husband, Les, established the business forty-four years ago as The Treasure Chest. As the business grew it morphed into the Bourke Street Bookshop. When daughter Kay - who started working in the shop when she was sixteen - assumed management of the bookshop in 1990, the name was changed again to reflect the circumstances.

The Craddocks entered the business later in life, in their early fifties, their habit of giving old books a home snowballing to a crisis point. Following a long-established plot line for booklovers, ''it got to the stage,'' says Kay, ''that we either had to open a shop or stop buying them.'' For the book-intoxicated, the latter was not an option.

The renovation of the bookshop's building forced a 12-month temporary move that squeezed the (accounting) books. Now it's back to home sweet home.

''Mum is much-loved by customers,'' says Kay. ''Just sitting there, talking to people.'' Muriel says she never loses interest in the book trade, but in recent times she has been concerned at the attrition of old faces. ''I'm out-living everybody,'' she frets.

One of the great advantages of the rare book trade is that you can continue working in it until the day you die. I expect to, and can only hope that when/if I make it to 97 I will be perched at the counter maintaining full control of my body functions, just sitting there, talking to people, and not mumbling slobbered bibliographical points to myself or to those I have not outlived.

Full story at The Age.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Albert Camus in Grave Condition, France Holds Its Breath

The author at rest.

Albert Camus is in the midst of a post-existential crisis.

President Nicolas Sarkozy of France wants to transfer the remains of the writer and Nobel-laureate to the Panthéon, the Paris monument to some of the great men and women of France and one of the nation's most hallowed burial places. Camus is currently residing in the cemetery of Lourmarin, in the Luberon area of Provence, his birthplace.

The gall, says Camus’s son, Jean, who asserts that interring his father’s remains at the Panthéon would be contrary to his father’s wishes and does not want to have his legacy put to work in the service of the state.

Jean Camus’s sister, Catherine Camus, who manages her father’s estate, is prepared to give her approval and has spoken with Mr. Sarkozy on the subject, Le Monde said.

Mr. Sarkozy has said little publicly on the subject, but he noted last week that he had “been in touch with the family members,” adding: “I need their agreement.”
“No decision has been made on the Panthéonization,” a spokeswoman for the Elysée Palace said, declining to comment further.
A reader on the Web site of Le Figaro, a daily that is generally supportive of Mr. Sarkozy, said "Let’s leave Albert where he is while we wait.”

Albert Camus died in a car crash in the town of Villeblevin, in Burgundy, on Jan. 4, 1960, at the age of 46.
Full story at the New York Times.

Monday, November 23, 2009

2009 Bad Sex in Fiction Award Nominees Announced

Courtney Love presents the 2006 Bad Sex in Fiction Award
to Iain Hollingshead
for his novel, Twentysomething.
The nominees for Literary Review's 2009 Bad Sex in Fiction Awards were announced last Friday evening.

The awards were established by the editors to “gently dissuade authors and publishers from including unconvincing, perfunctory, embarrassing or redundant passages of a sexual nature in otherwise sound literary novels.” They are annually awarded to the author who produces the worst, most laughable and/or jarring description of a sexual encounter in a modern novel.

In other words, when sex scenes go horribly wrong secondary to punctuation, syntax, or falling off a cliff into a seething, moist cleft of sexual imagination, and penetrating, deeper into the black velvet-painting darkness, with pen and paper meeting as one in a turgid embrace that ends with exhausted stylus squirting its bounty directly upon the face of the laid paper, the now defiled page laying there, humiliated but with a twisted smile. "Did you comma?" the pen asked. "I prefer verso to recto," the paper said, suggestively, "semi-colon."

The award itself is in the form of a "semi-abstract trophy representing sex in the 1950s," which depicts a naked woman draped over an open book.

This year’s nominees are (with brief excerpts from offending passages):

The Humbling by Philip Roth
“It was English that Pegeen spoke when she looked over from where she was, now resting on her back beside Tracy, combing the little black cat-o’-nine-tails through Tracy’s long hair, and, with that kid-like smile that showed her two front teeth, said to him softly, ‘Your turn. Defile her.’ She took Tracy by one shoulder, whispered “Time to change masters,” and gently rolled the stranger’s large, warm body toward his. ‘Three children got together,’ he said, ‘and decided to put on a play,’ whereupon his performance began.”

The Infinities by John Banville
“Alba has stepped out of her dress in one flowing, stylised movement, like a torero, the object of all eyes, trailing his cape in the dust before the baffled bull; underneath, she is naked. She looks to the side, downwards; her eyelids are so shinily pale and fine that Adam can see clearly all the tiny veins in them, blue as lapis. He takes a floating step forward until his chest is barely touching the tips of her nipples, behind which he senses all the gravid tremulousness of her breasts. She puts her hands flat against his chest and leans into him in a simulacrum of a swoon, making a mewling sound.”

Rhyming Life and Death by Amos Oz
“Attentive to the very faintest of signals, like some piece of sonar equipment that can detect sounds in the deep imperceptible to the human ear, he registers the flow of tiny moans that rise from inside her as he continues to excite her, receiving and unconsciously classifying the fine nuances that differentiate one moan from another, in his skin rather than in his ears he feels the minute variations in her breathing, he feels the ripples in her skin, as though he has been transformed into a delicate seismograph that intercepts and instantly deciphers her body’s reactions, translating what he has discovered into skillful, precise navigation, anticipating and cautiously avoiding every sandbank, steering clear of each underwater reef, smoothing any roughness except that slow roughness that comes and goes and comes and turns and goes and comes and strokes and goes and makes her whole body quiver.”

The Naked Name of Love by Sanjida O’Connell
“This time her body felt real to him, not fragments from a dream, or a surreal hallucination, but there was a certain clumsiness, an awkwardness on his part as if it were the first time for him now that he was bereft of the herb that made him feel how she felt. They were not in tune and it was as if he were splashing about helplessly on the shore of some great ocean, waiting for a current, or the right swimming stroke to sweep him effortlessly out to sea.”

A Dead Hand: A Crime in Calcutta by Paul Theroux
“‘Baby.’ She took my head in both hands and guided it downward, between her fragrant thighs. ‘Yoni puja – pray, pray at my portal.’

“She was holding my head, murmuring ‘Pray,’ and I did so, beseeching her with my mouth and tongue, my licking a primitive form of language in a simple prayer. It had always worked before, a language she had taught me herself, the warm muffled tongue.”

The Death of Bunny Munro by Nick Cave
“He slips his hands under her cotton vest and her body spasms and slackens and he cups her small, cold breasts in his hands and feels the hard pearls of her nipples, like tiny secrets, against the barked palms of his hands. He feels the gradual winding down of her dying heart and can see a bluish tinge blossoming on the skin of her skull through her thin, ironed hair.”

The Kindly Ones by Jonathan Littell
“Una had stretched out on the bed of the guillotine; I lifted the lunette, made her put her head through it, and closed it on her long neck, after carefully lifting her heavy hair. She was panting... Leaning over the lunette, my own neck beneath the blade, I whispered to her: ‘I’m going to pull the lever, I’m going to let the blade drop.’ She begged me: ‘Please, f*** my pussy.’ – ‘No.’ I came suddenly, a jolt that emptied my head like a spoon scraping the inside of a soft-boiled egg.”

The Rescue Man by Anthony Quinn
“He had the sensation of journeying through veils, of a headlong descent towards disclosure, and the prospect of pausing to fiddle with more buttons was not to be borne.”

Love Begins in Winter by Simon Van Booy
“Hannah’s body was swallowing, digesting all that was mine to give. For those final moments, we existed seamlessly – all memory negated by a desire that both belonged to us and controlled us.

“After, we kept very still, like the only two roots of the forest.”

Ten Storey Love Song by Richard Milward
“Let’s have sex, they think simultaneously, couples having strange mind-reading powers after months and months of trying to figure each other out. Panting, Georgie starts rubbing her hands round Bobby’s biological erogenous zones, turning his trousers into a tent with lots of rude organs camping underneath. Bobby sucks all the freckles and moles off her chest, pulling the GD bib wheeeeeeeeeee over her head and flicking Georgie’s turquoise bra off her shoulders”

2006 Bad Sex in Fiction Award runner-up Tim Willocks declares: "I have long admired Literary Review for creating this award - if only because it's a much better guide to a good read than those purveyors of powerful sleeping drugs, the Booker, the Pulitzer, the Goncourt et al."

Previous winners of Literary Review’s Bad Sex in Fiction Award include Tom Wolfe, AA Gill, Sebastian Faulks, and Melvyn Bragg.

Friday, November 20, 2009

European Rare Book Seller Exhibits at Book Fair In Dubai

Booth at the 2009 Sharjah International Book Fair
in Dubai, November 11-21, 2009

Antiquariaat Forum, an ILAB, Netherlands-based dealer of rare books, prints, maps, manuscripts and drawings, is the only rare book dealer exhibiting at the Sharjah World Book Fair in Dubai.

According to Corstiaan S, Hesselink, Antiquariat Forum’s owner, affluent collectors, universities, libraries, and museums in the region are open to spending large sums to acquire rare, antiquarian books.

Hesselink brought only a small selection of books, wisely keyed to regional interests. A volume on falconry from the 16th century, priced at €165,000, has already attracted several serious buyers, according to Hesselink. Another first and only edition rare book on falconry by Francois de Saincte Aulaire (b. 1551), a grand falconer of France, is priced €60,000.

"Rare books fetch a fancy premium. The price of this hunting manuscript written in 1570 is €165,000. This is a book about hunting with falcons and reflects the importance of falconry in 16th century Middle East and Europe," said Hesselink.

He also has a 600-year-old Arabic economics book on free markets. "This is one of the earliest manuscripts on free market economies and its price is $12,600.

"We also have an original reproduction of an important atlas of Europe originally made in Amsterdam in the 17th century. It is priced at €75,000. One volume is entirely about Arabia and Asia and its original is kept in the Austrian National Library of Vienna."

Antiquariat Forum also has a collection of twenty early photographs of Mecca. "These are really rare photographs of Mecca when photography was in its infancy. The price is $126,300."

The Sharjah International Book Fair is a 10 day annual event showcasing the books of more than 750 publishers from close to 42 nations, with an average of 400,000 visitors attending each year. and with sales and trade connections estimated at $28 million. Considered the area’s biggest public event, the aim of Sharjah International Book Fair is to generate the reading habit amongst the region's people. It runs through November 21, 2009.

Full story from Emirates Business 24/7.

NYPL Goes Underground

The Velvet Underground with Nico (far left) and Andy Warhol (left).

Nearly 45 years after their formation, The Velvet Underground, the most influential band to emerge from the New York City rock scene of the 60's, is reuniting at the city's public library. On December 8 three of the group's surviving members, singer-songwriter-guitarist Lou Reed, drummer Maureen Tucker, and bassist Doug Yule will come together for a question and answer session, and appropriately, to promote a new book celebrating the band's history.

LEIGH, Michael. The Velvet Underground.
NY: Macfadden, [1963].

While the library might seem an unlikely place for the reunion of an experimental rock group, The Velvets have always been a bookish band. They chose their name from a mass market paperback documenting the 60's sexual subculture of The Big Apple. A filmmaker friend of Reed's reportedly found a copy of the tome on the street, and the subject matter resonated with the songwriter who had already penned a tune called "Venus In Furs," inspired by Leopold von Sacher-Masoch's book of the same name.

KUGELBERG, Johan. The Velvet Underground: New York Art.
NY: Rizzoli, 2009.

In a further indication of The Velvets' love of the written word, the Library event is timed to coincide with the release of a new book detailing the band's history. The Velvet Underground: New York Art is short on text, but according to Raw Magazine: "[contains] more full-color images than a strong acid trip." The book's publisher, Rizzoli, promises: "an astonishing assembly of rare objects and artworks...from never-before-seen photographs of the band's first live show in New York to Andy Warhol's cover and poster designs, Lou Reed's hand written music and lyrics, underground press clippings and controversial reviews, flyers, handbills, and posters."

Since tickets for New York Public Library's evening with The Velvets sold out as soon as they hit the library's website, most of us hungering for a walk on the wild side will have to be content with the heroin-like rush delivered by those beautiful images from Rizzoli. That printed satellite of love will have to supply enough white heat and white light for our pale blue eyes to make up for the fact that we're left waiting for the man.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Mr. Rhythm Gets His Groove Back

Andre Williams, aka Mr. Rhythm, whose talkin’ R&B dance-dittys, Bacon Fat, Greasy Chicken, Pass the Biscuits Please, Ribs n' Tips, and the immortal Jail Bait hit the charts during the mid-late 1950s but whose career later hit the skids, followed by a descent into an alcohol and drugs-fueled skid-row life, has got his mojo workin’ once again with his first literary effort.

Sweets and Other Stories is a fictional narrative that takes readers on a wild, edgy ride from Chicago to Houston, New Orleans, and New York City, as a teenage girl finds herself in a family way, without, alas, a family. Forced to fend for herself, she is taken under the wing of a local pimp who entices her into prostitution.

The narrative that follows is a free-for-all through the shadow world of pimps and their women, corrupt funeral directors, gangs and drug running, with sidebar anecdotes that are guaranteed to appall, alarm and astonish. Extreme entries remain unedited, and none of Williams' raw-drawl storytelling style has been tampered with in this unusual and startling fiction debut. The text ends with lyrics to songs that Williams, now 73, has recently composed.

“When I first peered into this book and saw the words ‘Sweets got in the cab and asked the driver to take her to a good fortune teller,’ I was mesmerized, drawn in by what I knew to be a rare new voice in American fiction...The stories he has written deserve to survive as well. They most certainly deserve to be read, as the rewards they offer are many and fine.” - Nick Tosches, from his Foreword.

Can you deal with Sweets and Other Stories by Andre Williams?

After his R&B salutes to cholesterol, down home cookin', and the young and illegal, Andre Williams went on to co-write Stevie Wonder’s first song, Thank You For Loving Me; wrote Shake a Tail Feather for The Five Du-Tones (later recorded by Ike and Tina Turner); supervised two albums by The Contours; and managed Edwin Starr.

Sweets and Other Stories, written by Williams as an exercise in rehab, is released by Kicks Books, a division of Kicks Magazine, both ventures part of Miriam Linna and Billy Miller’s Brooklyn-based vintage as vantage-point, fringe-to-front-and-center pop-culture empire that exploded on the scene in the mid-1980s with Norton Records, their label (named in honor of Brooklyn’s favorite son and Ralph Kramden’s best friend) devoted to promoting primitive, retro rock'n'roll; rockabilly; garage punk; garage rock; lounge music; and early R&B. Linna, former drummer for The Cramps, one of the seminal groups to emerge in NYC’s punk scene of the ‘Seventies, is also, as if she doesn’t have enough to do to keep herself off the streets and out of trouble, one of the nation’s most respected dealers of vintage paperbacks.

You don’t have to be on Route 66 to get your kicks. Kicks Books’ Sweets and Other Stories by Andre Williams can be ordered directly from the publisher.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

"Legitimate Contender for World's Most Expensive Rare Book" (Not)

“Legitimate Contender For World’s Most Expensive Book” ?
(Twelfth edition)

“Hiya kids, hiya, hiya, hiya!”

Froggy, the croaking - and long-croaked - gremlin, has risen from the graveyard of 50s television to pluck his magic twanger once more and bedevil a hapless victim. This time, a deluded "rare book dealer" is his prey.

Who’s the poor sap? Why it’s Milliondollarauctions123, aka Ebay’s most egregious example of sub-amateur rare bookseller, who declares, after stating his headline above:

“Far more important than $30.8 million Codex Leicester.”

A page from daVinci's Codex Leicester

The book in question? Alfred Thayer Mahan's The Influence of Seapower Upon History 1660-1783. What’s the asking price?

$21,000,000. No joke, folks. Oh, and that’s just the reserve. Good thing there's no buyer's premium. Time for Ebay to change its name to Oybay.

Milliondollardunce weaves one of the most astounding tales of rare book baloney we’ve seen in quite some time. A lot of helium was used to pump up this book.

“The sale of this book for over $30.8 million would deservedly break the record price paid by Bill Gates for the Codex Leicester. This book is far more historically significant than the Codex and is worthy of the the new price record. Historically, The Influence of Seapower Upon History was the successor to the Declaration of Independence and the Monroe Doctrine in the saga of human liberty. If no higher provenanced copy of this book exists, the offered volume is actually priceless.

“If America had not risen to the challenge of competing ideologies at the dawning of the 20th century, freedom as we know it today probably would not exist. Rising totalitarian empires almost certainly would have toppled an America that had chosen, instead, to be an isolated fortress nation. Through a century in which over 250,000,000 people were killed by their own totalitarian governments, The Influence of Seapower Upon History was the philosophical and strategic text that preserved life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.

“In the 1940's, Mahan's prescient advocacy of a larger navy would narrowly avert global tyranny. The survival of liberty and democracy to this present day is attributable, in part, to the book now offered. Unless a more historic copy of this book exists, the offered volume ranks among the top documentary treasures in humanity's passage to universal human rights, suffrage, and liberty.

“Internet search results of this book generally devolve into pejorative statements about American ‘imperialism,’ while avoiding the context of the genocidal 20th century. The following keyword searches restore that key context in humanity's long dark passage to democratic peace: (Seller is not associated with any website.) R.J. Rummel, democide, photographs democide, Unit 731, 1848 Communist Manifesto, AHA Bemis address, 1919 War Plan Orange, 1919 political parties established, 1921 Washington Naval Conference, Russian Revolution 1917, totalitarianism, personality cult, political economy”

Are you sold? Wait.

There are presently four-hundred and seventy-two - 472! - copies of this “rare book” noted by OCLC in institutions worldwide, a fact unreported by Milliondollardufus.

Here’s an oh, by-the-way that Milliondollardingbat neglects to include in his 21-gun cannonade catalog salute: the basic and essential bibliographical fact, Boston: Little, Brown, 1918.

But this copy, according to Milliondollardunderhead, has magnificently marvelous, mama mia! provenance: “War Department Library, Library Office Chief of Staff, Pentagon Library, Army Library, Department of Defense Library.” It is suggested that it might, just might have been touched by Gen. George C. Marshall.

The Influence of Seapower Upon History 1660-1783 was, indeed, an important and influential book but this copy could have been signed and licked by every four-star general and rear admiral 1918-1945 and it still wouldn’t be worth more than $20,000 at auction - on a good day full of sunshine and fairie dust when everyone has lost their mind, know it but don't care. It's an ex-library copy, jeez, a pariah to collectors, particularly as it is an ex-library copy of a later edition - the twelfth - not the first edition of 1890.

OCLC/WorldCat notes 352 copies of the first edition in institutional collections worldwide.

A copy of the first edition recently sold at auction for £150 ($252).

The OCLC info you have to pay for to access. The auction price is available to all on the Net.

That anyone of sano mentis could declare this book to be of greater import than the Codex - the collection of manuscript leaves on scientific subjects written by Leonardo da Vinci - calls into question current standards of mental competence.

Milliondollarauction123 qualifies for his own personal entry in the DSM-IV; the man’s just plain kwazy!

But, when you’ve been plucked by Froggy’s magic twanger, anything is possible. You are compelled to behave like a fool.

So, don’t delay. This Ebay auction closes on November 19th. Current bids: None.


The ABAA chat-board has wound up the chatter-teeth toy on this story. The consensus is that, should milliondollarauctions123 ever decide to join the American Antiquarian Booksellers Association of America, his initial membership fee should be set at $21,000,000.

Scotland's Library Highlights Highland's Historic Homicides

Victorian Artist James Hamilton's Romantic Depiction of The Massacre of Glencoe

The National Library of Scotland has chosen as the centerpiece of an exhibit of "nine cultural treasures" one of the most infamous documents in the country's history: the 1692 government order commanding the notorious Massacre of Glencoe. The chilling contents of this death warrant stand as a horrific example of state sanctioned murder.

The Official Order For The Massacre (see full text below.)

In August of 1691 the English crown ordered the chiefs of all Scottish clans to take an oath of allegiance to William III by year's end. This proclamation reflected the desire of the monarchs from the House Of Orange-Nassau to crush the recently deposed Stuart rulers. The unfortunate Alasdair, Chief of Clan MacDonald of Glencoe, swore his fealty to William just over a week into the new year of 1692. (Bureaucrats, later revealed to be part of the murder plot, deliberately delayed the efforts of the clan leader, known as informally as MacIain, to meet the deadline.) This trifling delay allowed a scheming Secretary of State to make an example of the MacDonald clan by ordering that all "under seventy" die by the sword, and "these miscreants be cutt off root and branch."

Robert Campbell of Glenlyon

The man charged with executing the murderous order was Captain Robert Campbell, 5th Laird of Glenlyon. Campbell was a wastrel: a bankrupt, drunken gambler who had lost his fortune to unwise investment and endless extravagance. His last remaining holdings had been looted by soldiers belonging to the MacDonald of Glencoe clan in 1689. This forced the desperate Laird, now 59, to seek humiliating employment as a foot soldier for the Earl of Argyll. As a result, there was no love lost between clans MacDonald and Campbell.

The bitter cold Winter of 1691-92 found Major Campbell's regiment, most probably by design, billeted on land belonging to his enemy, MacIain. The Clan MacDonald Chief extended traditional Highland hospitality to The Earl Of Argyll's soldiers, despite the history of bad blood between himself and their commanding officer. For at least two weeks Campbell and his men depleted the precious Winter food supply of their hosts, and drank and toasted to their good health. Captain Campbell bunked in MacIain's own home, and even proposed arranged marriages between young members of the two clans, ostensibly to end their ongoing feud.

A Vicorian Portrait of A Member Of Clan MacDonald By Artist R.R. McIan

Campbell's conduct was revealed as a ruse upon receipt of the soon-to-be infamous order from his superior officer, Major Duncanson. Campbell and Duncanson spent the evening of February 12, 1692 dining and playing cards with their unsuspecting hosts, even making plans for a festive meal the following evening. But at 5am on February 13 the killing began. The hospitable MacIain was stabbed to death before he could arise from his bed and alert his family to the soldier's treachery. In all, 38 members of clan MacDonald were slain as they attempted to escape from their former guests. Another 40 family members, mostly women and children, died from exposure to the Winter's cold as they fled the dwellings they had generously shared with those who now cruelly set them ablaze.

Glencoe's Winter Landscape

Hair-raising accounts by survivors of the cowardly killings soon prompted a government inquiry into the crime. But despite the fact that Scots law included a special provision for the severest of penalties to be imposed on perpetrators of "murders under trust," no one was ever brought to justice for the Massacre of Glencoe. The event remained a rallying point for those who wished to restore the rule of the Stuart kings well into the next century. In the Victorian era the deaths at Glencoe were romanticized in art and literature, most notably in Sir Walter Scott's story, The Highland Widow. In the 1930's the unforgiving landscape, and equally harsh history, of the glen inspired T.S. Eliot's poem, Rannoch, by Glencoe:

Here the crow starves, here the patient stag
Breeds for the rifle. Between the soft moor
And the soft sky, scarcely room
To leap or soar. Substance crumbles, in the thin air
Moon cold or moon hot. The road winds in
Listlessness of ancient war,
Langour of broken steel,
Clamour of confused wrong, apt
In silence. Memory is strong
Beyond the bone, Pride snapped,
Shadow of pride is long, in the pass
No concurrence of bone.

The document authorizing the murder of an entire clan, guilty only of being convenient victims for a government bent on consolidating control, will be on exhibit at the National Library of Scotland until early January, in low light conditions and with flash photography banned. In a perfect world, such careful preservation of a document detailing the depravity of the power mad might prevent the repetition of such evil events. But our world is sadly far from perfect.

Here is the full text of the document:

You are hereby ordered to fall upon the rebels, the McDonalds of Glenco, and put all to the sword under seventy. You are to have special care that old Fox and his sons doe upon no account escape your hands, you are to secure all the avenues that no man escape. This you are to putt in execution at fyve of the clock precisely: and by that time, or very shortly after it, I'll strive to be att you with a stronger party: if I doe not come to you att fyve, you are not to tarry for me, but to fall on. This is by the Kings speciall command, for the good & safety of the Country, that these micreants be cutt off root and branch. See that this be putt in execution without feud or favour, else you may expect to be dealt with as one not true to King nor Government, nor a man fitt to carry Commissione in the Kings service. Expecting you will not faill in fulfilling hereof, as you love your selfe, I subscribe these with my hand at Balicholis Feb: 12, 1692

For their Majesties service

To Captain Robert Campbell
of Glenlyon
(signed) R. Duncanson

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

The Lowest Entry-Level Job In Hollywood, Part Two

I Should Have Stayed Home by Horace McCoy. NY: Alfred A. Knopf, 1938.

I Should Have Stayed Home is one of the great, if largely unknown, Hollywood novels. Written by Horace McCoy (1897-1955), author of They Shoot Horses, Don’t They? (1933), it is the tale of young Ralph Carson, a wanna-be from Georgia who comes to Hollywood to be discovered. The title of the book sums up the results of his effort. It’s a message that should be plastered on all Hollywood city limit signs, in L.A. bus depots, train stations and airports.

Ralph and his girl, Mona, another hopeful, wind up working as extras, a job generally considered to be the lowest entry level job in Hollywood. They are clearly, and definitively, losers, and they know it.

Nobody working studio labor considered themselves losers. Nobody doing studio labor considered it a stepping stone to greater, “above-the-line,” Hollywood glory. It was a job, hard physical work, that fed families or fueled young, single life, and nothing to be ashamed of.

The youngest guys, though, pretty much figured it as something to do until something else came along, and it was understood, with no little degree of anxiety, that if you were still doing it after three years, you’d be doing it for thirty and wind up a broken, prematurely old man; evidence abounded. I certainly felt that way, and the word “loser” would often pop into my head like a neon sign flashing on and off into a darkened room in a film-noir while the depressed protagonist, me, lay in bed, anxiously pondering a future I could not see.

Some of the guys whose youth was fading would show up for work at 6AM with booze breath.

Leon did, from time to time.

I committed myself to read his poetry and I was in his home. Now he brings out his notebooks. The gun is on the table. I’m on the spot.

I painfully suspect what I’m about to read and my dread blossoms as I begin.

“They don’t know me, don’t know me at all. They step on me, day by day, they want to grind me down but I won't let them! I’m a sensitive man among small animals who don’t care. Nobody cares! No. Body. Cares. Sometimes I want to kill them all, these puny excuses for humanity, who bite and bite and bite and are still hungry. I feel too much, my cells are screaming. They want me to swim in their shit but I’ll show them all!”

You get the idea: the inked ravings of a very disturbed individual. Who has a loaded gun on the table and is anxious for my review. In those days, I was making a habit of hanging out with disturbed individuals; they made me feel a lot better about myself. But now I may die as the result of my self-help therapy.

"So, what'ya think?"

“Well, it’s intense. Vibrant. Alive. You have a gift for getting your thoughts down on paper and the discipline to do so. It’s bit rough, though.”

“What’ya mean, ‘rough’?”

“Uh, well, you need to work on it, smooth out the writing a little, maybe tone down the venom.”

“I like the venom.”

“What can I say? You’re the poet! Go with your instinct.”

“Good advice. Thanks. I really appreciate it. Let’s shoot something.”

“What about the police?” I casually asked in an anxious fit of good sense.

“Don’t worry. They know me.”

Of course.

We went into his yard and dinged some cans. I got out of there as soon as I could. Too much poetry for one night.

Reckless Hollywood by Haynes Lubou (pseud.). Amour Press, 1932
Reckless Hollywood (1932), by the pseudonymous Haynes Lubou, is another Hollywood novel involving extras. “This is a rather sordid and explicit romantic novel about the life of a Hollywood extra, Petty Love...The story follows Love as she discovers the reality of life for a Hollywood extra - next day’s work is contingent upon sleeping with the the assistant director tonight”* (Slide).

No such problem for studio laborers!

Yet around this time I started dating the eldest daughter of a popular film and television comedian of the 1940s-50s. The manly-guy thing was a turn-on for her. She loved that I was a manual laborer. Even more, she enjoyed the fact that I was a filthy mess after work and never wanted me to shower before we got messy together. Apparently, there's b.o. and then there's B.O.

Like Petty Love, I was a pawn of Hollywood tyranny: I wanted to get out of the studio labor racket but it excited my Hollywood scion, and I was trapped in a sordid and explicit struggle between ambition and desire! I suspect, however, that I enjoyed it more than Petty Love.

I would be remiss if I didn’t mention the weirdest, strangest, bizarre-est Hollywood novel ever penned. It ain’t in Slide’s essential reference, The Hollywood Novel, that’s for sure. The reason it is unknown is that it was originally written as a clandestine erotic manuscript and not openly published until 1969 by a pornographer in a cheap n’ cheesily produced edition.

Hollywood in India by A. de Granamour (Paul Hugo Little).
City of Industry: Collectors Publications (Marvin Miller), 1969

Hollywood in India by A. de Granamour (Paul Hugo Little) is a mammoth, 695-page magnum opus de porn originally written, c. early 1940s, in multi-parts for a private collector. Within, an Indian rajah kidnaps a gaggle of Hollywood’s hottest female stars of the 1930s and 1940s and turns them into his sex-slaves. In the original manuscript, the stars were explicitly identified. In the above volume, its only open edition, their last names were dropped at the suggestion of the dealer who sold the publisher the original manuscript and wisely counseled restraint; many of these ladies were still alive, old, and likely to be more litigious than lascivious.

As a result, it’s fairly easy to ID the slaves in this sub-continental sadist's Delhi dungeon: Paulette Goddard, Evelyn Keyes, Mary Astor, Miriam Hopkins, Ella Raines, Ann Dvorak, etc., including one movie star who would later gain notoriety for her sadistic treatment of her daughter. Yes, there’s something rather piquant, just, and delightfully satisfying about Joan Crawford getting a taste of the lash.

The thrill of dead-end manual labor at the studio was wearing thin. It was time to move on. I had worked with the propmakers, the studio carpenters responsible for constructing virtually everything at the studios not involving masonry, and become friendly with one of the foremen. He was kind to cue me when work was available, I went down to Local 44, I.A.T.S.E., registered, and got a permit to work until I earned my thirty days.

Earthquake, Universal's salute to the entertaining aspects of plate tectonics in a serious snit, was being released very soon, and we were in overdrive to get the speaker systems ready for delivery to the selected theaters across the country that would feature the Sensurround effect of feeling a real trembler while sitting in your seat. We propmakers were responsible for the building the cabinetry for the speakers and electronics.

The Sensurround speaker systems were, essentially, sub-sub woofers the size of double-doored industrial refrigerators. The effect was genuine; these babies shook your bones. After assembly, each speaker had to be tested.

The specs for optimum experience had the viewer dead-center, around four to five feet in front of the speakers. It was pretty intense. But there's intensity and then there's Intensity, and when the intense are intensely seeking intensity, are in their early 'twenties, and just happen to work at a place that is reinventing movie intensity, very intense opportunities come their way.

And so, taking turns, a few of us decided to see just what would happen if we stood directly in front of one of these things, two feet, when it was cranked up to test.

Medina's ears bled. Leon's nose bled. Terry threw up. I, on the other hand, experienced a deep massage - I'm talkin' mitochondria-deep massage - that very soon, within seconds, turned into a mosh-pit party for the sub-atomic particles I call my own. If you'd placed a skeleton in front of the speaker it would have danced a jig before crumbling to dust. I sensed a similar fate for myself and so got the hell out of the way and across the stage. And immediately to a bathroom. Constipation an issue? Get yourself one of these non-ingestible, family-size, insta-evacuation laxatives. That's how I spell relief.

There were 5000 members of Local 44. After four months with only twenty-one days of work, my crack team of financial advisors (my mother, my father) suggested that I seek alternative employment, and loathe though I was to respect their opinion, I shared it: single dollar bills were fleeing my bank account in fear of certain, solitary confinement if they stayed and none of ‘em wanted to be the last dollar remaining, forlorn and alone.

But I learned an enormous amount about carpentry and picked up basic and not so basic skills. I can, for instance, build you a house. As long as you don't have to live in it, the wind doesn't exceed 25 miles an hour, it never rains, and you don't need basic utilities. In short, the illusion of a house.

Fitting, because, at the time I began at the studio, I was an illusion of a man, seeking substance. Hollywood is not the go-to place to find substance but studio manual labor possesses weight, it is real, and there is never any doubt that you've earned your pay. There is no bullshit. I was proud of the way I handled myself and earned respect. And I have never slept better than when I would come home after a very hard, physical day on the backlot or on location and collapse into bed, exhausted, without any inner chatter whatsoever to oppress me.

A few years later, when I began to work on the inside as a development executive and, later, story editor, I found that my head was still in Local 724, Studio Labor. At least once a day, I'd have the strong impulse to slap some ass in a suit upside the head to keep the BS off of me, and assert, "What we have here is a failure to communicate." These guys think they're tough. Pleeeze...

Part One.

* Reckless Hollywood is a rather startling novel in one specific sense. It is the first novel to make explicit references to homosexuality in Hollywood. Even more shocking at the time, the book acknowledges a certain star's need for frequent abortions.

I Should Have Stayed Home image courtesy Kobek
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