Thursday, March 31, 2011

A Magnificent, Singular Copy of The Sword in the Stone

by Stephen J. Gertz

Binding by Donald Glaister.

One of only six deluxe, hand-colored presentation copies of T.H. White's classic, The Sword in the Stone, his modern recasting of the Mallorean Arthurian legend, the first part of  his Once and Future King series, and the author’s most famous work, has come to market.

White's signed presentation inscription reads:

"Of this edition six copies were coloured by the author, and presented to L.J. Potts, David Garnett, Michael Trubshawe, Siegfried Sassoon, and John Masefield. The sixth was retained by the author. T.H. White."


L.J. Potts was White's tutor at Cambridge, lifelong friend and close correspondent; British actor Michael Trubshawe (1905-1985) was a close friend, as was poet Siegfried Sassoon and Poet Laureate of the United Kingdom and childrens book author John Masefield.

This is David Garnett's copy, in a later, magnificently jeweled binding of genuine emeralds, rubies, and sapphires by Donald Glaister, with multicolored and gilt-decorated morocco and stingray inlays that abstract sword, stone, castle walls, cathedral windows, a vista of Britain in the distance, and an Escher-esque stairway to nowhere.


David "Bunny" Garnett (1892-1981) was a bookseller in London (Birrell & Garnett) and co-founder of Nonesuch Press, a small, fine press publisher famed for the outstanding quality and taste of its productions. He was a member of the Bloomsbury circle, marrying Vanessa Bell's daughter, scandalously twenty-six years his junior: Present at her birth, he, according to Carolyn G. Heilbrun's biography of the literary Garnett family, swore to marry "it" when she came of age twenty years later. His father was critic, biographer, and essayist Edward Garnett; his mother, Constance, was the foremost translator of the Russian novelists; and his grandfather was the literary historian, poet, critic, biographer, and curator of books at the British Museum, Richard Garnett,

Garnett was also an acclaimed novelist, one of his later novels, Aspects of Love (1955) adapted for the musical stage by Andrew Lloyd Webber.

Hand-coloring by T.H. White.

This precious copy is being offered for a cool $38,500 by high-spot specialist Biblioctopus (website a simple billboard), the Beverly Hills, California-based rare book firm that prides itself on refusing to bow to modern technology - "NO e-mail or Fax EVER" - yet will gladly communicate via Alexander Graham Bell's 19th century invention. TELEPHONE: 310 271-2173.
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Images courtesy of Biblioctopus proprietor, Mark Hime, with our thanks.
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Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Charles Bukowski's Last, Unpublished Poem and the Bestial Wail

by Stephen J. Gertz




On Friday, February 18, 1994, at 2:14 PM - eighteen days before his death - Charles Bukowski, America's poet laureate of society's fringe, sent to his publisher, John Martin of Black Sparrow Press, via FAX, what would be his last poem.

#1

oh, forgive me For Whom the Bell Tolls,
oh, forgive me Man who walked on water,

oh, forgive me little old woman who lived in a shoe,
oh, forgive me the mountain that roared at midnight,
oh, forgive me the dumb sounds of night and day and death,
oh, forgive me the death of the last beautiful panther,
oh, forgive me all the sunken ships and defeated armies,
this is my first FAX POEM.
It's too late:
I have been
smitten.

We wondered about it and asked John Martin for insight.

"On February 18, 1994 Hank had a fax machine installed at his home. He sent me his first fax message in the form of that poem. I'm sure he visualized sending me his future letters and poems via fax, but sadly 18 days later he was gone.

"I ran off nine photocopies of the fax, for a total of ten, and numbered and initialed them. Over the next few months and years I gave copies to individuals who were Bukowski collectors and regular customers of Black Sparrow. I think I gave away the last one more than 10 years ago.

"That poem has never been published (except as described here) and the poem has never been collected in a book."

A copy, #4,  has just come onto the marketplace, offered by Whitmore Rare Books.

FAX Poem #1 a far cry from the poetry in Bukowski's first chapbook, Flower, Fist, and Bestial Wail, published in an edition of 200 copies by Hearse Press out of Eureka, California in 1960, which introduced readers to the major themes that informed many of his works, particularly “the sense of a desolate, abandoned world,” as R. R. Cuscaden pointed out in The Outsider, the small literary magazine edited by Jon Edgar Webb  that published only five issues 1961-69. 





Thirty-four years after Flower, Fist and Bestial Wail, Charles Bukowski was no longer struggling with the demon muse. For the first time, after a long, difficult existence, his personal life and finances were secure. He had a home. He drove a nice car. 

He possessed, for once, a simple sense of joy. The lyric hard truths of his early poetry had given way to an almost childlike sense of wonder, carefree of the world, the bestial wail becalmed to a coo of delight.
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All images courtesy of Whitmore Rare Books, with our thanks, who, in addition to offering this absolutely scarce copy of FAX poem #1, offers this copy of Flower, Fist and Bestial Wail.

A personal thank you to John Martin.
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Of related interest:

Bukowski: Lost Original Drawings of a Dirty Old Man Are Found.

Charles Bukowski Bonanza At Auction.

Dirty Old Man Exposed at the Huntington.
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Tuesday, March 29, 2011

What's Cooking Down Under? Rare Cookbooks From Monash University

By Nancy Mattoon



Noble, Emily. Rabbit recipes.
(Melbourne : Victorian Rabbit Packers
and Exporters Association, [193-?]).
(All Images Courtesy of Sir Louis Matheson Library.)

Everyday life inside the average home is one of the hardest things for historians to document. Unlike business or political life, the inner workings of the domestic realm are essentially private and go largely unrecorded. A new exhibit at Australia's Monash University Library consists of a stellar collection of rare books which provide access to an essential aspect of the homemaker's secret world: food preparation. As Alexandra Michell's introduction to the show notes, "Because we must eat to live, food is therefore an absolute daily necessity, as well as the way in which we celebrate friendships, gatherings, and all sorts of special events...cookbooks document the history of food, giving us an insight into its availability and popularity at different times and in different cultures. Collections such as this one are helping to preserve the history of food and cooking."

The Australian women's weekly presents-
the teenagers' cook book :
from our Leila Howard test kitchen.
(Sydney : Australian Consolidated Press, 1969).

The collections of Monash's Sir Louis Matheson Library consist of "a large range of books from mainly France, England and Australia, dating from 1654 to the present day." The most unique titles in the Melbourne university's exhibition are those which cover the cooking culture of the Land Down Under. The show is so rich in material, that this brief Booktryst overview will be limited to only a sampling of those unusual and fascinating books concerning the history of Australian cookery.

The art of living in Australia / by Philip E. Muskett ;
together with three hundred Australian cookery recipes
and accessory kitchen information by Mrs. H. Wicken.
(London ; Melbourne : Eyre and Spottiswoode, [1892?]).

Author Philip Muskett was the Surgeon Superintendent to the New South Wales Government. Born in the Collingwood section of Melbourne, he despaired of "the fact that our people live in direct opposition to their semi-tropical environment." Muskett believed that his fellow Aussie's, "consumption of butcher's meat and of tea is enormously in excess of any common sense requirements, and is paralleled nowhere else in the world... " The doctor advocated greater consumption of local fish, oysters, fruits and vegetables, washed down with Australian wines rather than water or tea. Co-author Mrs. Wicken, a "Diplomee of the National Training School for Cookery, London; Lecturer on Cookery to the Technical College, Sydney," supplied the recipes and advice on setting up a proper kitchen, including the all important "ice chest," essential in Australia's tropical climate.

The Kingswood cookery book / by H. F. Wicken.
6th ed., rev. and enl.
(Melbourne : Whitcombe & Tombs, [1913]).

Harriet Frances Wicken published the first edition of her Kingswood cookery book in London in 1885. A revised, Australian edition of her book appeared in 1889 and went through six editions to 1913. In the introduction to the first edition, Mrs. Wicken stressed the importance of culinary skills to women: "The art of good cooking (if I may call it so) is so absolutely necessary to the comfort and well-being of all classes of the community, that I think its value cannot be over-estimated. A dinner well cooked promotes digestion, and conduces to contentment and happiness. I hope that the day is not far distant when cookery will form an important item in the education of our girls."

Cookery recipes for the people / by Miss Pearson.
2nd ed.
(Melbourne : Australasian American Trading Co., 1889)

[Cover title: Australian cookery : recipes for the people]

Margaret J. Pearson was the cooking instructor at the Melbourne Workingmen’s College. The recipes in this book are from classes she gave for the Metropolitan Gas Co. at the 1888 Centennial Exhibition in Melbourne, held to celebrate the one-hundredth anniversary of European settlement in Australia. According to a newspaper account of the event, these classes were attended by "maids and matrons of every degree in the social scale from the general servant who wishes to qualify for the more important office of cook, to the lady of fashion, who, for the moment, has 'taken up' cookery as her latest and most engrossing fad."

Mrs. Lance Rawson's cookery book
and household hints
.
3rd ed., enl. and rev.
(Rockhampton, [Qld.] : William Hopkins, 1890).

[Cover title: The Queensland
cookery and poultry book
.]


Wilhelmina Frances Rawson was born in Sydney and lived in North Queensland. Her Queensland cookery and poultry book was first published in 1878. Her purpose in writing the book was to provide a useful cookbook to the homemaker living in the bush having, "scant material to work with." She encouraged the inventive use of local food sources, to wit: "When I tell my friends that we often eat Bandicoots, Kangaroo Rats, Wallaby, and Paddymelon, they look astonished, and yet there is no reason they should not be good for human food, as they all live on grass or roots. Often a young bush housekeeper is at her wits' end when killing-day is postponed, and the beef has run out, little knowing that she has materials for a sumptuous repast not far from her kitchen."

Australian economic cookery book
and housewife's companion
/
by F. Fawcett Story.
(Sydney : Kealy & Philip, 1900).

Mrs. Story taught cooking at Sydney Technical College and at Hurlstone Teachers Training College in the 1880s and 1890s. The frontispiece shows one of her cooking classes. In her preface she emphasizes the need for girls to learn basic, everyday cooking, "As it is, when girls do attend cookery classes for a term or two, it is generally only with the idea of learning to make scones and cakes, nice little supper dishes for company, etc., and very rarely indeed with the object of making themselves so thoroughly acquainted with the art and science of cookery as to fit them to take charge of households."

Kimberley cook book.
Some old recipes and some new ones
.
[Recipes by Marianne Yambo ... [et al. ;
lino prints by Marianne Yambo ... [et al.] ;
printed and edited by Jan Palethorpe]
[Western Australia] : Jan Palethorpe, [1997?]

The Matheson Library's copy of this collection of aboriginal recipes from the Kimberley region of North-Western Australia is Number One of only 20 copies printed. It contains traditional recipes from native peoples, and is illustrated with linoleum cuts of ancient symbols created by aboriginal artists. It is written in a conversational style, emphasizing the oral tradition of the Australian Aboriginals. These natives of the continent did not have written languages when first encountered by Europeans. Their songs, stories, legends, chants, and recipes made up a rich oral literature with incredible diversity among various tribes. When British colonists arrived in Botany Bay in 1788, there were over 250 spoken Aboriginal languages with 600 dialects. Their subtle and complex culture has only been carefully studied, and appreciated, since the mid-20th century.

87 Kitchen Inspirations.
(Brisbane : Simpson Bros. Pty. Ltd., 1938).

This is only a tiny selection of the over 100 rare books on display at the Sir Louis Matheson Library, and in the excellent virtual exhibition created for online visitors. The show celebrates the gift of valuable seventeenth to nineteenth century French and English cookbooks made to the Library by Alexandra (Sandy) Michell, beginning in 1988. Ms. Michell has also made generous financial donations to the Matheson Library, allowing the collection to be enriched and expanded to include a fine collection of early Australian cookbooks, and a selection of twentieth century material. Additionally, Ms. Michell has written an insightful introduction to the exhibition, which has been made available on the Library's website.

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Monday, March 28, 2011

Incredibly Scarce Cocaine Magazine (1925) and Marihuana Matches (1937)

by Stephen J. Gertz

Kokain. Eine Moderne Revue. Heft (Installment) 2. Wein: 1925.

It is amongst the rarest of all items of drug literature, virtually unknown to scholars and collectors until now. It is Kokain Eine Moderne Revue, a literary journal published in Vienna 1915-1925. Only five issues were published. Little, at this time, is known about it beyond that gleaned from the issues under notice.

Kokain. Eine Moderne Revue. Heft (Installment) 4. Wein: 1925.

Edited by Fritz Bauer, about whom I've yet to discover anything (he was not the notorious Nazi jurist),  Kokain featured many contributions by women, and was highlighted by the cover art, graphic design and erotic lithography of Stefan Eggeler. Issue #3 was, apparently, confiscated by the Viennese authorities because one of the stories within, Im Kellerloch (In the Cellar Hole) by Erwin Stranik (1898-?; OCLC notes twenty-three titles by him), contained a particularly graphic description of a sexual act. The story was republished in issue #4 (above) along with an essay by Stranik, Was ist Kunst und was ist Pornographie? ("What is Art and what is Pornography?"),  discussing the affair.

What is particularly interesting about Kokain Eine Moderne Revue is that it not only provides further evidence that Weimar culture was lively indeed but, more to the point, its introduction, in 1915, preceded by three years the post-WWI establishment of the Weimar Republic in 1918. As such, Kokain Eine Moderne Revue can justifiably be considered an early, if not the earliest, hint of what was to come, an inspiration, perhaps, for the most libertine and decadent period in Western culture during the twentieth - or any other - century, the defeat of the German and Austro-Hungarian empires in the most violently cataclysmic war yet fought leading to  the collapse of traditional values and the fatalistic pursuit of  desperately carefree, unrestrained pleasure, the Jazz Age in overdrive.

OCLC/KVK locate only two copies of any issues of Kokain Eine Moderne Revue, at the Landesbibliothekenverbund Ostereich, and Verbundkatalog HeBIS, Hessen.
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BAUER, Fritz, (editor) and Stefan Eggeler (artist). KOKAIN. Eine Moderne Revue. Heft 2 and 4. Wein, 1925. First (only) editions. Quarto. #2: [3]-73, [1] pp. #4 (irregularly bound and paginated): [3]-18, 51-66, 35-73, [1] pp. Illustrated wrappers. Text in German. With numerous black & white and color lithographs. With Library of Congress duplicate stamps (yet no copies located in LOC).
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03/29/2011. We have received the following information about Stefan Eggeler from our colleague Elmar Seibel, of Ars Libri Ltd:

"An Austrian painter, printmaker and illustrator, Stefan Eggeler (1894 – 1969) studied art at the Vienna Academy. His first original etching was published in 1914 and during the following twenty years he created a number of outstanding engravings and etchings, most dealing with either figure studies or interior scenes.

"He was a fairly prolific Austrian illustrator of erotic and particularly sado-masochistic books and portfolios. Years & years ago, we had a whole archive of his, possibly from the library of Erich von Kahler; he might have been a friend of Lily von Kahler’s [Erich's wife, aka Alice]. All very odd bunnies. Sort of like Rudolf Jettmar."

• • •

Attention children: Don't play with matches. Particularly these.


Assassin of Youth Matchbook, 1937. Front.

Assassin of Youth Matchbook, 1937. Rear.

The producers of Assassin of Youth, the classic 1937 anti-marijuana exploitation film directed by Elmer Clifton, didn't miss a trick to ballyhoo the movie. Here, they provided an ingenious, if not diabolical, way to promote it with every strike of a match to light legal cigarettes, customized for local theaters.

Assassin of Youth Matchbook, 1935. Inside.

Per usual, the anti-drug message is contradicted by a powerfully overt erotic charge. Sex sells. And sex sells illegal drugs.
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These images make their Internet debut on Booktryst and are courtesy of Between the Covers, with our thanks. The two issues of Kokain immediately sold for $1200 and are now part of the R.K. Siegel Library of Drug Literature. The Assassin of Youth matchbook also sold within moments of being offered, selling for $250; later reprinted, genuine examples in such fine condition are rare.
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Anyone in the U.S. or Europe with further knowledge of Kokain. Eine Moderne Revue, Fritz Bauer or Stefan Eggeler is encouraged to contact me. The hunt for other issues begins.
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Friday, March 25, 2011

Alice Puts On Her Dancing Shoes At Scotland's Library

By Nancy Mattoon


Artwork For The Scottish Ballet's New Production
Based on Alice's Adventures In Wonderland.

(All Images Courtesy of National Library of Scotland.)

The National Library of Scotland has teamed up with the Scottish Ballet to celebrate the creations of Charles Lutwidge Dodgson, AKA Lewis Carroll, especially his best known work, Alice's Adventures in Wonderland. The ballet is mounting a new production based on Carroll's classic tale of Alice's trip down the rabbit hole, featuring choreography by Artistic Director Ashley Page, otherworldly designs from Antony McDonald, and a specially commissioned musical score by Robert Moran. As a tie-in with the Library, the ballet is providing a behind-the-scenes film montage of rehearsals for the pending production, and original costumes and sets from Alice, allowing library-goers to get a sneak preview of the show which premieres at the Festival Theatre in Edinburgh in April 2011. Visitors will also have a chance to win tickets to the production by entering a competition at the Library.

John Tenniel's Illustration
Of Alice
and the Infamous "Drink Me" Bottle.


Not to be outdone by the Scottish Ballet, the National Library is bringing out its most treasured pieces of "Wonderlandiana" for a new exhibition. The aptly named Alice in Wonderland Treasures Display launches on Friday, March 18, 2011. Stephanie Breen, senior curator, of the National Library of Scotland, says: "The Alice in Wonderland Treasures Display is a unique opportunity for enthusiasts to get up close to a very rare issue of the book and other treasures which are seldom seen." A true highlight of the show is a rare copy of the withdrawn 1865 first issue of Alice's Adventures In Wonderland, which the author hastily recalled after the first print run of 2,000 copies, following complaints about the quality of the printed illustrations from their creator, John Tenniel. Few copies of this run have survived, and the Library's copy is in the original red cloth binding.

Tenniel's Alice Upsetting The Jury Box.

Curator Breen noted that the Library's unusually fine collection of early editions of Alice's Adventures In Wonderland allow visitors to "have a wonderful opportunity to view the first and second editions side by side and examine the differences in printing between the withdrawn 1865 Alice, printed at the Clarendon Press, and the subsequent 1866 edition, printed by Richard Clay as a replacement."

Other highlights of the exhibition include:

  • A presentation copy of Alice's Adventures in Wonderland (1866), including a poem specially composed by the author for Marion Terry (1853-1930). Along with her sister, Ellen Terry, Marion became a celebrated stage actress. Miss Terry's presentation copy of The Hunting of the Snark (1876) will also be on display.
  • The first version of the Alice story to appear in color, known as The Nursery "Alice" (1890). The book was adapted for younger readers by Dodgson and accompanied by twenty color versions of John Tenniel's original illustrations, which were engraved and printed by leading Victorian color printer, Edmund Evans.
  • First editions of Through the Looking-Glass, and What Alice Found There (1872) showing the White Knight frontispiece and the Jabberwock illustration. Dodgson initially considered Tenniel's Jabberwock, intended for the frontispiece, "too terrible a monster" for his young readers.
  • An 1893 advertisement apologizing for the printing of the illustrations in the latest press run of Through the Looking-Glass, and requesting holders of copies to return them for exchange. Charles Dodgson wanted his readers to have nothing but "the best workmanship attainable for the price."
Arthur Rackham's Version
Of
The Court Of The Queen Of Hearts.


  • Wonderland ephemera, such as The "Wonderland" Postage-Stamp-Case (first published 1890) and The Game of Logic (1887), as well as many handwritten letters from Dodgson.
Tenniel's Perpetually Late White Rabbit.

Catherine Cassidy, Associate Director of Education, Scottish Ballet, says: "We are delighted to be working in partnership with the National Library of Scotland and are particularly excited about reaching new audiences through both the display and our first ever backstage live stream event on April 21, 2011." Viewers will be treated to a glimpse of life behind the scenes at Scottish Ballet directly before the Company's premiere performance of Alice, and this event can be viewed live at the National Library with a post stream discussion, as well from the Scottish Ballet website. The Alice in Wonderland Treasures Display will be on show from March 18-May 2, 2011 at the National Library of Scotland in Edinburgh.
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Thursday, March 24, 2011

Wild Ride Journal of a Hollywood Bookseller 12

by Arnold M. Herr

Earlier today:

A very attractive woman (long raven-black hair, beautiful symetrical face and a lush figure in a low-cut, tight black leather outfit) stepped up to the counter in my shop and asked me about books written by and about exotic dancers.  I asked her if that included burlesque and she replied "yes, of course."

Me:  It's an area I wish I knew more about.  The only ones that come to mind are the obvious ones by Gypsy Rose Lee and Ann Corio.

She:  I have copies of those.  I'd like to find some others because I'm writing my memoirs and would like to - you know - compare notes.

Me:  You're an exotic dancer?

She:  Yep!  My name is Queen Bunnypants.  You play a tune, any tune and I'll dance exotically to it.

Me (reaching for a CD):  All right, let's try this one.

Queen Bunnypants (turning her head to read the title):  Oooooo, John Phillip Sousa.  My favorite.

I slipped the disk into the player and cranked up the amperage.  Out blasted The Stars and Stripes Forever.    She did a few high-steppin' movements, grabbed the stanchion, swung around it a couple of times, arched her back and let her hair sweep across my counter.  I lifted the calculator so she could clear away the eraser crumbs.

Queen Bunnypants (leaning on the counter):  So whaddya think?

Me:  I'm impressed.  Is Queen Bunnypants your real name?

Queen Bunnypants:  It's really Ginger Hale.

Me:  C'mon.

Queen Bunnypants:  I've also danced under the names Joy Almond and Jugs Wilde.

Although I didn't have any books on exotic dancing, I remembered that I might have a few photos of interest, so I rummaged through one of my file cabinets and found several 8x10s of Josephine Baker, all taken in Paris during the 1920s.  One was signed by her.  Queen Bunnypants bought a couple of them including the signed one.  She was delighted with her purchase and bounced and jiggled in glee.  She said she'd be back.  I suggested she phone me before coming in.  That way, I could post an urgent message on the ABAA discuss line (non-trade of course) and alert the other members who might like to be here when she shows up.

To bring you up to date:
I've had to move my shop recently.  A large corporation bought up several retail buildings in the 400 block of North Fairfax Ave. in L. A. where I had been located for more than nine years and sought to upgrade the neighborhood by chucking out what they deemed to be undesireable  businesses - mine included.  It's still difficult for me to discuss this matter calmly; I was driving along Beverly Blvd. near my old store when I saw one of the new landlords of my old shop in the car next to mine.  I had one of my assistants with me in my van at the time and he told me I started snapping and snarling at the other car.  I was apparently foaming at the mouth too.  I don't remember any of it.

But I've already relocated to another shop about six blocks north of the previous one and am now positioned at a very busy intersection in West Hollywood.  It's an old (for Southern California) building - built in the 1920s - and has a stateliness to it that my former shop lacked.  For five or so decades it had been the Big and Tall Men's clothing shop.  Those folks folded up their tent about two years ago and a Russian video store moved in.  They lasted a bit over a year and for a short while before I moved in, it had been a dog poop removal company.  I kid you not.  They left a few things behind:  a beat-up old desk and 15 shovels.  I tossed them all out.  I mentioned this to Mickey Tsimmis and he admonished me for not calling him.  He would have taken the shovels. 

"A bookseller can never have too many shovels," he said authoritatively. 

There was some white lettering on a black glass panel under one of the two plate glass windows at the front of my new shop that read "Poop Removal."  I cleverly transformed the capital "P" to a capital "B" with a single brushstroke.  The lower case "p" took a bit more work, but I managed to make it look like a "k".  It now read "Book Removal."  But only for a couple of days, when the city of West Hollywood notified me that the lettering on the front of my shop covered more square footage than I was entitled to. 

Me:  What are you complaining about?  The dog poop guy had more lettering than I do.  He even had a picture!

West Hollywood official:  But at least he was providing a useful service to the community.

Shows you where I stand in the pecking order around here.  The lettering got painted over.  Oh well....
   
Shortly thereafter, the guy who had owned the poop business dropped by my new shop and introduced himself as I was unpacking books.  He told me he had been a newspaper reporter once, but wasn't very good at it and going into the poop removal business seemed to be a natural for him:  it enabled him to keep his old nickname - Scoop.  He was sad that he had to close up his shop.

Scoop:  I miss some of the neighbors around here.  See that old guy across the street?

Me (looking out the window):  The one with the cape?

Scoop:  Yeah.  He used to come in every day.  The entire year I was here, he always came in to say hello.

Me:  That's nice.

Scoop:  In all that time he never shook my hand.  In fact, almost everybody avoided shaking my hand. 
I made a mental note to head for the sink the moment Scoop left.

Just last week:
   
Mickey called me on my cell phone.  I was in my car driving back to my bookshop in West Hollywood after buying a load of Limited Editions Club volumes at Park LaBrea.  My sister was holding down the fort at the store while I was out.  I would have used my van, but it was being repaired that day.  The books were piled loosely and were sliding around in the back of my old Corvette.  All my empty boxes were still in the van.

Mickey:  Harry Greenstamps died and is being buried today.  My car's on the fritz and I was hoping you could pick me up to take me to the funeral.  Whaddya say?

Me:  I never liked the guy, Mickey.  You hated him too.

(Harry Greenstamps fancied himself a book maven, but was a sometime book scout whose specialty was medical and technical textbooks.  Most dealers bought nothing from him).

Mickey:  I know, but I'm going just to make sure he's really dead.

Me:  OK, I'll be by in 15 minutes.

I got there in 10 and found him noshing on a bowl of cold gray gruel.

Mickey:  I have to fortify myself for this.

Me:  Gimme a break Mickey; you get flatulent when you eat that stuff.

Mickey:  Not excessively so.

Me:  We're gonna be in a small car.   A little bit goes a long way.  Why don't you eat this thing over here instead. 

Mickey:  It's a six-year-old banana.  It's past its prime.

I lowered the two windows in the car and we set off for the funeral parlor.  Mickey was pawing through my LECs.

Mickey:  How come I don't get calls for stuff like this anymore? 

Me:  Change your diet.

Mickey:  In fact, I rarely get calls at all anymore.  I miss the looting and pillaging.

We got to the viewing and sure enough, Harry was righteously dead.  Mickey and I were all for leaving at that point, but Harry's ex-wife pleaded with us to accompany the small gathering to the cemetery.  Small was right:  there couldn't have been more than 10 or 12 people altogether.  That included Harry.  In a weak moment I relented and said "sure, why not?"

Dumb!  Dumb!  Dumb!

Mickey wasn't pleased either but kept quiet since I was his ride back to his store.  Harry was stowed in the back of a hearse as Mickey and I galumphed outside and piled into the 'vette.  We pulled into the procession.  Somehow we ended up directly behind the hearse; the limousine and rest of the caravan had gotten stuck at a long light.  A few moments later, as the hearse stopped at an intersection, some goniff ran up to the driver, stuck a gun in his face and yanked him out of the car.  The carjacker slid behind the wheel and sped off.  Mickey and I stared in disbelief.  The hearse driver ran up to me.

Driver:  That son-of-a-bitch just stole my hearse with your friend in the back.

Me:  He was no friend of mine.

Mickey:  Nor mine.

Driver:  Lemme in the back!

Me:  Are you kidding?

Another weak moment:  I popped the release for the rear window/hatchback which is hinged at the targa top.  The hearse driver leaped in among the LECs.  He made to toss them out but I spun around in my seat and glowered menacingly at him.

Me:  Toss out one book from this car and I will beat you to death with that copy of Walden you have in your hand there.

Mickey:  Is that the one signed by Edward Steichen?

Me (still glaring at the hearse driver):  Yeah.

He carefully set the book down and made himself comfy. 

Driver:  OK, I won't mess with the books.  Could you please haul ass?

The car was dangerously overloaded and hadn't been tuned up in a year and half.  I told him if we have to haul ass, we'll have to make three trips.  But then I realized that I could never live down the humiliation of having the 'Vette outrun by a hearse.  So I floored it.

KA-POW!  PTOOOEY!  SCREEEECH!

That was the car, not me.  I burned plenty of miles off my rear tires.  There was a lot of roaring and screaming going on.  The roaring came from under the hood and the exhaust pipes.  The screaming from my passengers.  We went careening along surface streets through Hollywood, onto the 101 freeway, across the Valley and down the 405.  Along the way the hearse driver called 911 on his cell phone and we picked up a contingent of police cars.  They signalled for me to back off, but I stayed close nonetheless.  The hearse barrelled off the freeway near Los Angeles International Airport and quickly spun out of control when the carjacker hit a patch of oil in the road.  The hearse plowed into a light pole at about 45 mph in front of a doughnut shop just off Century Blvd.  The tail end swung around and the rear door flew open, launching the casket (with Harry inside) into a parked Willys.  The coffin splintered and Harry's body rocketed over the car and landed in the hole of a 25-foot tall doughnut. 

"God, I love the book business" I said as I slammed on the brakes behind several police cars.  To make a long story short, the carjacker was arrested after being pulled from the wreckage and the hearse driver (he called himself Downwind Murphy and after skidding through much of L. A. County with him jammed into my car, I can attest to the appropriateness of his name) made a persuasive case to the cops that we had to get the body to the cemetery.

The problem, though, was that we had no way to carry Harry's carcass to the gravesite, what with the hearse all smashed up.  One of the cops though, got the bright idea of tying him to my car.  He produced some rope and helped us tie Harry to the Corvette's hood. 

It was a warm day, and Corvettes run hot despite the weather.  But on a warm day they run even hotter.  Having Harry's corpse simmering on the griddle was sufficient reason for me not to spare the horses to the graveyard.

While waiting at an intersection I did a double-take when I spotted a guy in a dirty, fringed buckskin jacket holding up a sign that read "will blow for food."

In his other hand was a trumpet.  Downwind got very excited and yelled for me to pull up alongside the musician. 

Downwind:  Let's grab that guy.  We'll slip him a few bucks and get him to play Taps.  They were gonna have me play it on my spoons, but he'll be better.

Downwind talked the guy into accompanying us for ten bucks.  He crawled into the tiny space behind the two seats already filled with Downwind and my LECs.  He tossed the trumpet to Mickey to hold and introduced himself as Howard Wagstaff Gribble.  He had recently eaten something with a lot of garlic in it; you could tell.  We were all sweating heavily.  It was a pretty funky ride.  Mercifully, it was short.

We arrived at the cemetery a short while later with Harry strapped to the hood like a dead moose, and Mickey, Downwind, Howard Wagstaff Gribble, me, and 100 or so LECs all scattered higgledy-piggledy inside the car.  There were gasps of shock from some of the attendees, but I could also detect a few satisfied "see, I told you he was really dead" and similar remarks making the rounds.

The body was quickly wrapped in my blue car cover, which was quickly pulled out from under the LECs - no replacement coffin was handy, and frankly, we were all in a hurry to get this over with anyway.  Harry was then lowered into the ground with great alacrity and little dignity.

It was obvious Howard Wagstaff Gribble hadn't had much experience with a trumpet, and I overheard him telling someone that he had "blown up a lot of balloons, so how bad could I be?"  Actually, pretty bad.  But what he lacked in musicality, Howard Wagstaff Gribble made up for in lungpower.

The tune started out resembling Taps, but quickly gained momentum and began sounding like Boogie-Woogie Bugle Boy.   As you might imagine, the ceremony soon morphed into a scene of graveside jitterbugging and a swell time was had by all.  Downwind Murphy was even persuaded to play much of the Cole Porter Songbook on his spoons.

Thusly, Harry Greenstamps was laid to rest as most of the mourners boogalooed off into the sunset. 

I on the other hand, was not feeling so merry; turns out that one of the LECs - the Matisse-signed edition of Joyce's Ulysses got interred with Harry in my car cover.  On the drive back to Hollywood, Mickey and I plotted its retrieval.
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Editor's Note: Arnold M. Herr takes a breather but will return in the not too distant future.  Coming soon:  The Lopsided Merkin
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Wednesday, March 23, 2011

The Amazing House of Bookshelves

by Stephen J. Gertz

The wooden structure at center appears to be a standard residence.

But step inside and it is anything but standard.

The client, living in Moriguchi, Osaka, Japan, owned an extensive collection of books centering upon Islamic history. He wanted a combination private residence-study with maximum capacity for storage and exhibition of his library.  So, in 2006, the Kazuya Morita Architecture Studio of Kyoto designed the Shelf Pod, in essence a house of bookshelves with a bed and bathroom.

Pinch me. Am I dreaming?


"In order to satisfy this demand effectively, we designed a lattice structure made from 25mm thick laminated pine-board which serve as book-shelves. The dimensions of each shelf are as follows: 360mm height, 300mm width and 300mm depth. All of the architectural elements in this space (stairs, windows, desks, chairs, etc) have been designed on the basis of this shelf scale, with the aim of achieving geometrical harmony which is comparable to Islamic Architecture. This innovative structural system affords not only large amount of book storage, but the possibility of flexible floor level which can be delivered from every height of bookshelf. Each space for different activity rise up helically, giving the impression of exploring a wooden jungle gym.




"The original image of this structure is derived from the Japanese woodcraft of Kumiko (lattice). The structural integrity against an earthquake is provided by a panel of plywood board nailed on the shelf. Initially, the horizontal resistant force guaranteed by the panels was examined in a real-scale model. Further to this, an analysis of the whole structure was performed in order to determine the placement of the windows and panels. The inter-locking laminated pine-board was manufactured precisely in advance and assembled on-site. Similarly, the pyramid-shaped roof was assembled on-site, from 12 pieces of prefabricated wooden roof panel. The completed roof has a thickness of only 230mm and sensitively covers the whole space like the dome of a Mosque.


"In addition to its unique structure, the outer wall employs the construction techniques of a traditional Japanese storehouse Dozou. The bamboo net wall foundation layer was attached to the lattice structure and the clay and straw mixture was applied to the foundation by the trowel. Then the red cedar panels forms exterior wall. The interior clay wall was finished with white plaster. These techniques are in accordance with urban fireproofing specifications, as well as maintaining a suitably humid environment for the storage of books."

In a bathroom flush with bookshelves
you'd need Ex-Lax to get me out of there.

 Site : Moriguchi, JAPAN
Design : Kazuya Morita Architecture Studio / Kazuya Morita ,Issei Kawashima.
Structural Engineer : Mitsuda Structural Consultant.
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With thanks to Elmar Seibel of Ars Libri Ltd, who led me to Alex Johnson and his wonderful Bookshelf Blog, which led me to  the Kazuya Morita Architecture Studio.
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Tuesday, March 22, 2011

'Wellcome' To The World's Filthiest Library Exhibit

By Nancy Mattoon


Poster For The Wellcome Collection's Filthy New Show.
(All Images Courtesy of The Wellcome Library.)

"In the sweat of thy face shalt thou eat bread, till thou return unto the ground; for out of it wast thou taken: for dust thou art, and unto dust shalt thou return."

Genesis 3:19 (King James Version)

London's Wellcome Collection and Library, home to one of the world's greatest collections for the study of the history and progress of medicine, is dishing the dirt in a new exhibit. The Wellcome's curators have dug into a mound of over 2 million items, from an ancient Egyptian prescription to the papers of scientist Francis Crick, to create a show which "will reveal the fascinating world of filth that remains one of the very last taboos."

Illustration From: Sir William Watson Cheyne's
Antiseptic surgery: its principles, practice, history and results.
London: Smith Elder, 1882.

The exhibition, entitled Dirt: The Filthy Reality of Everyday Life, consists of over 200 artifacts including rare books, cultural ephemera, scientific documents and instruments, and archival photographs and films, brought together to uncover "a rich history of disgust and delight in the grimy truths and dirty secrets of our past." Inspired by anthropologist Dame Mary Douglas's observation that dirt is "matter out of place," the show is organized around six cities, in six different periods of history, and six different countries, to show the ever-changing attitudes of mankind towards filth and cleanliness. It begins in the South Holland city of Delft in 1683, and ends with a look to the future: the city of New York in 2030.

Author Portrait and Illustration From:
Arcana naturæ detecta / ab Antonie van Leeuwenhoek.
Delphis Batavorum : Apud Henricum a Krooneveld , 1695.

The three earliest cities chosen for the show provide the most documentation based on rare books and ephemera. The first highlights the obsessively clean culture of the homemakers of Delft, circa 1683. Here we see paintings and engravings of "housewives and their maidservants maintaining a strict regime of sweeping, scouring and polishing interiors that already appear spotless." Also included are some of the earliest sketches of bacteria, as found in the drawings of scientist Antonie van Leeuwenhoek, often called "the father of microbiology," who stumbled upon the existence of microscopic organisms after developing a magnifying lens to examine the quality of cloth.

E.H. Dixon's 1837 Watercolor Of London's Great Dust Heap.

Next, we are taken to a street in Victorian London. Included is an 1837 watercolor of what was known as "The Great Dust Heap At Kings Cross." This enormous, black mountain of refuse blotted out the sky above Euston Road with cinders and ash. Mixed with the remnants of burnt coal and wood were rotting vegetables and meat, whole animal carcasses, rags, metal, glass, and the occasional dismembered human body part or entire corpse. The dust heap is an important location in Charles Dickens novel, Our Mutual Friend (1864-65), and was also the subject of a scathing 1850 article by R.H. Horne entitled "Dust or Ugliness Redeemed," and printed in the magazine published by Dickens, Household Words.

William Alfred Delamotte's 1847
Watercolor Of A Case Of Hospital Gangrene.

The final of the three cities in the exhibition well documented by the Wellcome Library is Glasgow, Scotland in the second half of the 19th century. Here, the focus is on the hospital, and early efforts at creating a sterile environment for surgery and recovery. The works of Joseph Lister and Sir William Watson Cheyne illustrate the attempt to overcome the filthy environment which resulted in an astounding 90 per cent chance of amputation due to infection among Glasgow Hospital patients treated for broken limbs or compound fractures, circa 1867. Lister discovered that carbolic acid was being used to mask the stench of the sewers of nearby Carlisle, and decided to apply the same principle in the operating room, spraying surfaces with the corrosive to eradicate bacteria. Cheyne documented this and other new methods of hospital hygiene in his book, Antiseptic surgery: its principles, practice, history and results. (1882)

One of the Earliest Depictions Of Bacteria.
Arcana naturæ detecta / ab Antonie van Leeuwenhoek.
Delphis Batavorum : Apud Henricum a Krooneveld , 1695.

A companion book to the exhibition, also entitled Dirt: The Filthy Reality of Everyday Life (2011), has been published by Profile Books. It is filled with illustrations from the Wellcome Library and Archives, and features several new essays as well as "a short graphic novel section on the significance and implications of dirt from the microbial level through to the environmental." Ken Arnold, director of public programs at the Wellcome Collection summed up the idea behind the book and the exhibit, "Dirt is everywhere and periodically we get very worried about it. But we have also discovered that we need bits of it and guiltily, secretly, we are sometimes drawn to it." The makes perfect sense, since as the burial service in the Book Of Common Prayer (1662) reminds us, we will all eventually be reduced to that from which we came: "Earth to earth, ashes to ashes, dust to dust."

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Monday, March 21, 2011

The Most Significant Books of California History, Part 2

by Stephen J. Gertz


Zamorano Select, a companion volume to the essential The Zamorano 80 (1945), has just been published by the Zamorano Club. It is an instant must-have for collectors of Californiana, specifically rare books about California history, and key reference. 

This collection of bibliographical essays, limited to only 350 copies, covers 120 significant books in California history, ranging in date from On the Ambitious Projects of Russia in Regard to North West America (1830) to The California Gold Rush (1997). The contributing writers are Larry E. Burgess, William G. Donohoo, Alan Jutzi, and Gordon J. Van De Water.  Gary Kurutz provides an Introduction. Ordering details below.


The Zamorano Club is Southern California’s oldest organization of bibliophiles and manuscript collectors. Founded in 1928, it sponsors lectures and publications on bookish topics. Most noteworthy among the latter is the Zamorano 80 (1945), a member-selected and -written catalogue of the most significant books in California history. The Club was named in honor of Agustín V. Zamorano (1798-1842), a provisional governor of Alta California and the state’s first printer.


Launch Party for a Reference Book? Yowsa!

Here's a paragraph I never thought I'd write:

If you live in or plan to visit Southern California, on Saturday, March 26 at 5 p.m. a party to celebrate the publication of Zamarano Select will be held at The Book Shop, 134 N Citrus Ave., in Covina. The event is open to the public and refreshments will be served. 

A special display of some of the books featured in  Zamorano Select has been arranged. In addition, contributors to the Select will talk about some 
of the books chosen and will be on hand to sign copies.

The concept of a book party and signing for a limited edition of a somewhat esoteric volume screams parallel universe - check to make sure the sun rose in the east when you woke up this morning. And yet...

That a public party in honor of this book has been organized will come as no surprise to those who know Brad Johnson, proprietor of The Book Shop along with his wife Jennifer. Brad began his career in the trade as a neonate, selling used books on how to influence parents to the formerly fetus in the infant ward. He began working at The Book Shop as a teenager. Now in his early thirties, he has been an (official) bookman for half his life. One day we're all going to be working for or buying from this guy.

For more information regarding the launch party please email Jen Johnson or call (626) 967-1888.
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BURGESS, Larry E. William G. Donohoo, Alan Jutzi, and Gordon J. Van De Water. Zamarano Select. With an introduction is by Gary Kurutz. Los Angeles: Zamarano Club, 2011. 176 pp, 26 illustrations including eight tipped-in color plates. Octavo. 9-1/4 x 6-1/8 inches, decorated cloth. offset printed. Designed and produced by Peter Rutledge Koch with the assistance of Jonathan Gerken.

Limited to 350 copies, of which 66 are reserved for subscribers.

$100 ($65 to members) plus applicable tax and shipping. Trade terms available.

To order, or for further details, please email the Club Secretary, Stephen Tabor or phone (626) 405-2179.
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A selected list of the publications of the Zamorano Club is available here.
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Friday, March 18, 2011

Untested Tranquilizer Back In Circulation At Yale Library

By Nancy Mattoon


"Monty," Yale Law Library's
Controversial Canine Tranquilizer.

(Image Courtesy of Lillian Goldman Law Library.)

A Booktryst story first reported in September 2010, concerning the illicit use of an untested tranquilizer at the Yale Law School Library, has taken a new turn. Once again, the scoop on the continuing controversy involving the Lillian Goldman Law Library comes from the online legal tabloid, Above The Law. Last year, the tabloid revealed staffers at the library were circulating a stress-reliever with the street name "Monty" to calm the frayed nerves of the school's would-be legal eagles. Once this irresponsible experiment came to light, the controversial substance was suddenly "withdrawn," and Goldman librarian Julian Aiken denied the entire episode, claiming: "I'm not quite sure where Above the Law got its information from, but we have not actually proceeded with circulating Monty."

Lillian Goldman Law Library's
Original Full
Catalog Record For "Monty."
It Was Mysteriously Deleted In September, 2010.


But a March 10, 2011 internal memo obtained by Above The Law reveals that far from abandoning the study of the tranquilizer, technically known as, "Border Terrier Mix General Montgomery," the Yale staffers are now planning a controlled clinical trial of the substance, using volunteer students as guinea pigs. According to the Goldman Library memo: "The Law library intends to run a three-day pilot program starting on March 28, 2011 during which students will be able to “check out” our certified library therapy dog, Monty, for thirty minute periods. We hope that making a therapy dog available to our students will prove to be a positive addition to current services offered by the library."

Above The Law's Paparazzi Captured
This Candid Shot
Of Monty in 2010.


It appears that this time around library staffers are determined to rigorously test their new treatment for the psychologically overwhelmed students of America's top-rated law school. Again quoting from the internal memo, "Beginning March 21, 2011, a sign-up sheet with additional information will be available at the circulation desk for students wishing to check out Monty. Even though Monty is hypoallergenic, visits will be confined to a dedicated non-public space in the library to eliminate potential adverse reactions from any library user who might have dog-related concerns. We are committed to ensuring our library remains a welcoming and comfortable environment for all our users. Finally, we will need your feedback and comments to help us decide if this will be a permanent on-going program available during stressful periods of the semester, for example during examinations."

Another 2010 Document From The Goldman Library,
Since Removed From The Catalog.


However, even with this new, much more tightly structured approach to introducing the still-experimental Monty to psychologically vulnerable scholars, official Yale sources remain tight-lipped regarding the stress reliever. "We can confirm that the Law Library is, in fact, doing this pilot program with Monty, the therapy dog, but beyond that, we have nothing to add," said Kathy Colello, the news director in the Office of Public Affairs. When contacted, Goldman library assistant Eugene Kozoloff maintained complete ignorance, stating he had seen “neither hide nor hair” of the dog. But recent law school alum Sohail Ramirez says he has already been introduced to Monty, and can verify that he is “definitely real and awesome.”

Yale's Original Mascot,
"Handsome Dan" The Bulldog,
Is Eerily Similar To Monty.

(Image Courtesy of the Yale University
Manuscripts & Archives Digital Images Database.)

Booktryst's independent research has revealed some facts that would seem to back-up the validity of the study, but also some decidedly cautionary information. Since Monty is a "mix," that means some of his genetic background remains a question mark. But according to Wikipedia, the Border Terrier breed's "love of people and even temperament make them fine therapy dogs, especially for children and the elderly, and they are occasionally used to aid the blind or deaf." On the other hand, student test subjects should have a care, Border Terriers were "originally bred as fox and vermin hunters...they will get along well with cats that they have been raised with, but may chase other cats and small animals such as mice, rabbits, squirrels, rats, and guinea pigs." (Emphasis mine.)

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Thursday, March 17, 2011

The Wild Ride Journal of a Hollywood Bookseller 11

by Arnold M. Herr
 
A day or so later, Jack and I found that Mickey had replaced us with a couple of new chumps.....er, uh employees, and was teaching them Stamp-Moistening 101.  He would lip-shpritz the stamp (or the envelope flap) with a fine, even mist.  That way you never actually had to touch the flap or the stamp with your tongue.  You couldn't be too careful in those days (the ones before self-sticking stamps).  I worked up the nerve to ask Mickey how he had gotten back to the store from Mrs. P. Talbot-Carson's pad in Pasadena.  Jack and I had after all, stol.....uh, borrowed his car.  We found him puttering around in the psychology section of the store, standing under the sign that read "a death wish a day keeps the analyst away."

Me:  How did you...uh...get back here to the store from Mrs. P. Talbot-Carson's place?

Mickey:  She had Wormwood drive me back in the Bentley.  It's a really big car, y'know.

Me:  I don't know.  I'm a buck-ninety-eight kinda guy.  I don't ride around in Bentleys.

Mickey:  I got into this discussion with Wormwood about how many books could be stuffed into it.  We couldn't agree on anything because neither of us knew exactly how many cubic feet of space were in the car.

Me:  Yeah....

Mickey:  So we pulled onto the shoulder of the Pasadena Freeway and found a tape-measure in the trunk and tried to figure it out.  While we were doing this a CHP officer on a motorcycle pulled up thinking we were having car trouble.  When we told him what we were up to, he wanted to cite Wormwood for some sort of infraction.

Me:  And Wormwood would have scalped you for all the grief you cause him.

Mickey:  No.  The CHP guy's father had been an architect and so the officer knew a little bit about volume and how to determine cubic feet and we all stood around doing calculations.

Me:  So how many books could you cram into a Bentley?
   
Mickey:  About 900, if you ripped out the seats.

Me:  Front and rear?

Mickey:  Right.  You would have to drive the car seated on a milk crate.

Me:  So did you customize the interior?

Mickey:  Naw.  Wormwood figured if we did that, Mrs. P. Talbot-Carson would run his giblets through a wringer.

Last Thursday:

I phoned Morty.  I had a problem that needed clearing up.

Me:  Morty?

Morty:  Yeah.  What's up?

Me:  I've got a little problem.

Me:  Whatsamatter?

Me:  I'm getting complaints:  people who are reading the stuff I'm writing are confused.  They ask me if Morty Plonk and Mickey Tsimmis are the same guy or two different people.  I tell them you're actually about seventeen different people, each with his own distinct personality but the same lousy taste in clothes.

Morty:  What are you driving at?

Me:  For the sake of simplicity, I'd like to stick with one name for you in my articles.  I know you've used different monikers at different times and I've even tried drawing a timeline to refer to when I'm writing, but it's still bewildering. 

Morty: Howzabout referring to me as the Bookseller Formerly Known as Morty Plonk.

Me:  Someone's already come up with something very similar.

Morty:  Call me Slick; I've always liked the name Slick. 

Me:  Forget it.  What name do you  have on your driver's license?

Morty:  I don't know; I can't find it.  I think it's Parsnips K. Magpie, but I'm not sure.

Me:  Any other documents?

Morty:  My last will and testicle?

Me:  Testament.

Morty:  It's Noodnik.  I think my license says Noodnik.

Me:  I'll make it easy:  I'll call you Mickey Tsimmis regardless.  From now on, whatever you were calling yourself, you're gonna be Mickey Tsimmis.

Mickey:  Fine, as long as you don't call me late for lunch.

Not too long ago:

I ran into Rupert Barnyogurt at a dinner party given by an old customer of mine who collected books on photography and architecture.  I hadn't seen old Rupert for thirty-some years and was surprised he was still alive.  I found him rinsing his dentures in the punchbowl.

Rupert:  I had some food stuck between my gums and the plate.  I hope you don't mind.

Me:  I don't care.  I'm not drinking that stuff anyway.  Is that the same filthy t-shirt you were wearing in 1973?  It's ripened nicely.

Rupert:  No, I've had two others since then.  And it does have a nice seasoned look to it don't you think?

Me:  Hunh, seasoned....

Rupert:  In the old days I used to take whatever shirt, socks and shorts I was wearing that day into the tub with me when I bathed at night.  Kind of an efficient use of water and soap, wouldn't you say?

Me:  Hunh, efficient...

Rupert:  And then carrying that thought one step farther, I asked my priest if it would be couth to wash my dishes in the same water.

Me:  Hunh, couth....

Rupert:  ...and he suggested I eat off my shorts and save a step.

Me:  Hunh, a weisenheimer.

A few weeks ago:

And so I wasn't too surprised when a short time later, Rupert called to let me know he had unearthed some more books while on one of his periodic archaeological digs at his old house in Hollywood.  Perhaps the term "dig" is a little shy of the mark; "mudslide" might be more accurate, or a tectonic shifting of layers.  Whatever it was, I was invited to come over and take a look.

Barnyogurt:  If Morty Plonk is still around, he's welcome to come over too.

Me:  He's still around and he's calling himself Mickey Tsimmis now.

Barnyogurt:  That's not a good sign; the man is having an identity crisis.

Me:  He has no problem with knowing who he is; he has difficulty with how he's perceived by others.

Barnyogurt:  I'm glad you cleared that up for me.  Whoever he is, he's welcome to come over.

I then phoned Mickey.  He sounded sad.

Mickey:  I was thinking of my mother and the times when I told her I was bored and had nothing to do and she made me play "wet toe in a hot socket."  She found it amusing when I skittered across the floor on my butt after getting zapped.

Me:  Well, cheer up!  Rupert Barnyogurt invited the two of us over to look at some books he's excavated.

Mickey (groaning):  Why are you throwing temptation in my path?  You know I shouldn't be buying any more books.  I can't even get to the john here at the store.  The trail is completely blocked.

Me:  I love torturing you Mickey.  Besides, Rupert's good company; we'll have a few yuks.

And so that evening, as Rupert pried open the door, he handed each of us hardhats with flashlights duct-taped to them.  I noticed someone had tacked up a sign to the front door which read "proof of recent tetanus shot required."  Rupert offered us a drink, but he couldn't find any glasses, clean or otherwise, so we sipped from the garden hose which we passed around.  Tap water was the beverage du jour.

Mickey (sniffing the air):  I smell burning feathers.

Barnyogurt:  That's some of my down-home cooking.  But before we look at the books, I want to show you something. 

He led us to a bathroom.

Barnyogurt:  I don't often have company over, so I decided to clean it up a little.

It wasn't exactly "cleaned" - he had pushed the heavy stuff to one side and raked up the rest of it.

Mickey:  It's very nice, but I wouldn't want to eat a meal in here.

Me:  Yeah, and it's nice to know that when you drop your pants, they won't stick to the floor.

I returned to what I thought was the living room since it seemed the most geologically active.  I poked around for a bit and found some furniture...or what used to be furniture.  The area near the couch seemed promising, so I cleared away some debris.  I spotted something that looked promising so I took a chance and reached under the couch.  The thing I touched had a halvah-like consistency; it felt warm, so it's possible it may have been alive but it didn't react to my prodding, so it was in all probablility, dead.  Rupert shouted from the end of a distant tunnel that a copy of Oliver Wendell Holmes, Jr.'s The Common Law inscribed by Holmes to someone wonderfully important might be somewhere near where I was groping.  He said if I didn't mind getting bitten and possibly contracting rabies, I might poke around a bit more.  I asked him who the "wonderful" recipient might have been, but it had been so long since he had seen it, he'd forgotten.  I began rooting around in earnest - Rupert made his way toward me through the tunnel but was unable to bend down, his belly was so large.  He owned an interesting contraption that had two hooks, one on either side of a doorway (I think it was a doorway - it might have been a vent) that would grasp each side of his trousers's waistband.  With a small wheel, he could lower the pants enough so he could step out of them.  He could also raise them after he had stepped into them.  That saved him from having to bend over.  His footwear included flip-flops, loafers and bedroom slippers.  Sometimes in matched pairs, sometimes not.  He didn't give a damn.

And then Rupert wandered away and I continued ferreting through the slag.  I opened a box and found a complete set (13 volumes bound in seven) of Hastings' Encyclopedia of Religion & Ethics.  I hauled the box outside - not as easy as it sounds - I had to push it through a 15 foot tunnel with my nose to get it to the main trail leading to the door.  I was getting a little light-headed breathing all that bad air in the house, so it was a perfect opportunity to remain outside for a spell.  I found Rupert out there on the lawn seated on a rotting mound of Harlequin Romances.

Rupert (sighing):  I'm soooo depressed.

Me (sympathetically):  Of course you are:  you're overweight, you live in unbelievable squalor breathing mold and dust, your t-shirt is filthy, and you're reading a book by Norman Mailer.  No wonder you're unhappy.

Rupert:  I've been thinking of some of my disasterous first dates.  Believe it or not, there used to be a driveway over there. 

Rupert was describing the topographical features of the grounds surrounding his house and his love life, certain I could make sense of it all.    

The term "grounds" may be a bit misleading because you couldn't see any of them;  they were all covered with....well, with stuff.  There was stuff piled everywhere, higgledy-piggledy.  Stuff was oozing out the windows, some of which hadn't been closed since 1955.  Decrepit lawnmowers were leaning against ceramic cactii; the hulks of a Buick Riviera and a Chrysler Cordoba (that's right, the one with rich, Corinthian leather) were positioned nose to nose on the lawn with their hoods raised and they seemed to snarling and spitting antifreeze at each other.

Rupert:  I used to be able to drive around to the back of the house; there was a driveway over there.  But as my holdings increased and the place began to overflow, the driveway kept getting shorter and shorter and I had to park on the grass and then on the street. 

Me:  And what has this got to do with disasterous first dates?

Rupert:  I'm getting to that.  One evening when I could still get the car into the driveway, I pulled in with Angie on the seat beside me...

Me:  Don't tell me:  her last name was O'Plasty.

Rupert:  Oh, have you dated her too?  Well, no matter.  The driveway was so narrow I could barely squeeze the car in.  Also that kitchen window there....

Me:  What kitchen window?  I see what must be a mound of 1500 to 2000 boxes and other assorted detritus topped with a Maytag washer. 
   
The tumulus must have equalled the weight of a dwarf star.  A blue tarp lay on top of the heap; a feeble attempt to protect it from the elements.  Sort of like covering Orson Welles with a Kleenex and hoping to keep him dry during a monsoon.

Rupert:  Take my word for it, the window's there.  I hadn't been able to close it for years.  I hadn't been able to reach it in years.  But bad weather couldn't get inside because of the heaps of dirty dishes and pots and pans and rotting food.

Me:  Cute...

Rupert:  I pulled the car in the driveway with Angie sitting beside me.

Me:  Yeah....

Rupert:  ...and the corner of the bumper nudged the side of the house...

Me:  Uh huh...

Rupert:  ...which was enough to dislodge all the dishes and pots and pans and they all came crashing down on the hood of the car. 

Me:  And Angie?

Rupert:  She nearly plotzed.  The waffle iron broke the windshield.  I didn't even know I owned a waffle iron.  Such noise; such confusion; such a mess.  Have you ever seen an eight year old banana?  It resembles a strip of beef jerky.  Needless to say, the romance had gone out of the moment.  Angie tried to flee but she couldn't get the car door open.  There was a minor avalanche of rubble that threatened to crush the car.  She started crying and blubbering about being only 31 years old and that her child-bearing years were slipping away.  Suddenly, it seemed that neon lettering was flashing before my eyes saying "Commitment" and I wanted no part of it.  I blurted out "you want to have a baby?"  She said "I've admired your genes for a long time Rupert, but is see now that you're...well, you're untidy!"  "It's even worse inside Angie" I said.  "I don't know how to tell you this, but I'm a packrat."

Me:  How did she react to your candor?

Rupert:  She began throwing lighted matches out the window and screaming.

Me:  Matches??  What does that mean?

Rupert:    I don't know.  Luckily, nothing caught fire. 
   
Me:  Probably not enough oxygen.

Rupert:  So then she climbed into the back seat, grabbed a volume of Dr. Johnson's Dictionary of the English Language and beat me nearly senseless with it.  She then kicked out the rear window and went running off into the night.

Me:  Probably just as well.  You two wouldn't have been compatible. 

Rupert:  Yeah......

Me:  By the way, tell me about the Johnson volume.

Rupert:  London.  1755.  It was the real McCoy.

Me:  Both volumes?

Rupert:  Yup.  And in pretty good shape.  Even volume one.  I got the worst of it in the drubbing.  The front hinge was a little weak, but not too bad.

Me:  Where is it now?

Rupert:  Still in the car.
   
Me:  Which one?
   
I torqued my head in the direction of the Riviera and the Cordoba. 

Rupert:  It's not those.  It's in the Plymouth.

Me:  What Plymouth?
   
Rupert:  I think it's buried under that mound.

Me:  You think?

Rupert:  I'm certain.  It's buried under the mass.

Me:  Let's dig it out.

Rupert:  Another time.  It's a formidable task.

Me:  Nah!  It'll be a cinch. 

In the old days Mickey and I were known as the Megalopolis Wrecking Crew.  Steaming, cyclopean heaps were our speciality.
And so Mickey and I burrowed a path to the old Plymouth.  After an hour of filthy work, Mickey was able to crawl into the window broken by Angie O'Plasty and retrieved the books.  The damage to volume I was worse than Rupert remembered:  the board was detached and the spine was splitting.  But Rupert's confusion could be forgiven; he had probably suffered a minor concussion and his brains were probably addled from the abuse.

We stood under a streetlight inspecting the dictionary when I noticed an early inked note on the first free endpaper.  The hair on the back of my neck stood up.  "Holy moley!" I muttered, was this written in Johnson's own hand?  I had seen examples of his writing before and this looked pretty good to me.  Unfortunately, there were several deep stains covering and obscuring part of the inscription.  It was in Latin and although I was unable to decipher all of it, I was able to pick out a few words:

...mingere [maybe]........cum bumbis...saluberimum [I think] est lumbis....

My hands were trembling.  I wouldn't mind owning this set.  I could tell that Mickey was thinking the same thing.  Would I trading blows with him on the sidewalk over who took precedence in this matter?  Nah.  Mickey and I went back a long time and I knew we wouldn't fight over some something like this.  I knew he would treat me as honorably as I would him.  I started to reach for my revolver.  But Rupert solved the problem before it came to that.  He decided to keep the books. 

"But you invited us over here to buy books!!" Mickey remonstrated. 

Rupert:  Yeah, but  not these books.

Mickey:  C'mon Rupert, they'll only get buried again in this pesthole, and what good'll that do you? 

Me (whispering into Mickey's ear):  Tell him you got a tetanus shot today just for the occasion.

Mickey (to Rupert):  I was innoculated before coming over here.

Rupert grabbed volume II from Mickey and held out his other hand to me for volume I.  I handed it to him.  Rupert replaced the books in the Plymouth, emerged from the tunnel we had dug and kicked out the supporting 2x4s allowing all the rubble to once again entomb the car.  We tried mollifying Rupert but the visit ended on a sour note.
 
A little later:

"He'll be fine tomorrow,"  I consoled Mickey.  "He knows we're not evil."

Mickey:  Speak for yourself.

We were seated in a booth at Tortilla Flatulence, a restaurant hidden away in a back lane of Hollywood.  I was picking at my free-range lima beans while Mickey stared at his plate and dragged his fork across the liver and into the peas.

We both sighed.  Bonifacio the cook thought we were editorializing about our meals and frowned.  Just to be safe, I suggested to Mickey that we shouldn't return for another meal there for a while.
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Next, Episode 12: In which Queen Bunnypants, Harry Greenstamps, etc. make an appearance.
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