Wednesday, July 29, 2015

Bookends of Steel


I came across these fabulous bookends at our favorite antique shop on the shoreline, The Trove in Old Saybook, CT. The style doesn't fit my current decorative scheme, but mainly these wrenches are just so HUGE--the tallest book pictured is 11 1/4" tall--that they'd take over my space. Not pictured above is how long the handles are. Perhaps I should've put my hand around one for perspective. I wanted them, but couldn't justify the purchase, so settled for a photo. Aren't they handsome? 

 "Custom made book-ends. Huge, heavy vintage wrenches. Aged and rough sawn maple beam base. $100 pair."

I've been pondering how to decorate my home office and I've decided on nautical touches--I want it to have a vibe like an old wooden ship while avoiding the slippery slope into kitschy. These wrenches have put me on the look-out for old nautical stuff that would be suitable as bookends. I currently use proper bookends (items designed as bookends) or stacks of books at the end of a row of books.

What do you use as bookends? Anything repurposed or do you prefer proper bookends?

Friday, July 24, 2015

First Edition: The Seven Dials Mystery

A couple posts back I wrote about the amazing adventure I had at Elliot's Books. In that post I mentioned a first American edition of The Seven Dials Mystery (1929) by Agatha Christie and how it was out of my price range.

Elliot has since listed the book for sale on his website for $2,750. What makes this book so rare is that the book is in near fine condition with it's original dust jacket in good condition. Click her to see the listing. Most editions of this book have only a facsimile dust jacket.

Some Agatha Christie collector will be over the moon to have this book in his or her collection. I'm content to say I got to hold it for a few minutes.

I haven't read much Agatha Christie and am toying with the idea of reading all her novels in chronological order.

Wednesday, July 22, 2015

Whatever your convictions are . . .



Beautiful inscription found in a book. What makes it even more powerful is that it's in a first edition of Rita Mae Brown's Rubyfruit Jungle. I hope Ann took the advice of Dan & Roz to heart.





Thursday, July 16, 2015

A Book Wonderland: Elliot's Books

Elliot
On Tuesday I had one of the most amazing book experiences of my life.

I was up in Cheshire, CT for a work meeting. Afterwards I planned on visiting a bookstore in Bethany. I called ahead and found they were closed on Tuesdays. So I opened Readar (a very handy app from LibraryThing) and looked for another bookstore to visit. (I've lived in CT for over a year now and am still in discovery mode.) Elliot's Books caught my eye. From the information online it seemed like he was an internet bookseller, but I wasn't certain and called the listed number.

Ring, ring.

"Hello?"

"Hi, are you open today?"

"What do you mean?"

"Are you open to the public?"

"It's interesting you should ask," pause, "because just yesterday I had signs made that we'd be open by appointment. I've been thinking about opening up to the public. You see, other than some friends, no one has seen my inventory since 1968."

My heart fluttered. "Oh, wow," I managed to reply.

The man on the other end of the call was Elliot, of Elliot's Books. What ensued after this introduction was a conversation about how I found him, how he wants to start unloading his inventory, what sort of books I was interested in, and some history on Elliot's bookselling past. He has over 200, 000 books on hand and only a small portion (5, 000) are listed online. The conversation ended with Elliot saying, "Why don't you come over. You can be my beta test."

I couldn't get there fast enough. I knew I was driving toward a great adventure.

When I pulled into Elliot's driveway in Northford, my pulse quickened as drove alongside the big red barn and pulled up in front. Elliot walked over from his house, which is on the same property, saying he'd been reading about me. He googled me and found my blog, Facebook page, Twitter account, etc., so he knew who to expect.

The front part of what is a very long barn, 7-8,000 sq ft.

Elliot lead me into his beautiful barn. Walking in I was stunned to behold the shelves, stacks, and levels of books before me. My piddly little smart phone camera could not capture the vastness of this place. These pictures pale in comparison to the reality.

The view when you walk in.

Inventory that is online.
Heading from the front towards the back.

Some Background
Elliot comes from a family of booksellers. His grandfather was a rag man. He'd go through town pushing his cart calling out, "Rags, rags." People would throw him their rags and also books. By the time he reach the wealthier part of town, the books became more lucrative than the rags. The grandfather raised three boys all of whom became booksellers. Irving's bookstore was in Worcester, Barnet's was in Woonsocket, and Elliot's father Sam's was in Providence. Sam opened his bookstore, the Lincoln Book Shoppe, in 1931.

Fast forward to August 1957 when Elliot opened his own bookstore in New Haven. It was on York Street until August 1960 when he moved to a larger space on the busier street of Broadway. Elliot was at this location until August 1968 when he decided to transition his business to mail order only. That, of course, morphed into online sales with the rise of the internet.

Now in his early 80s, Elliot wants to retire and find new homes for the 200, 000+ books in his possession. In the past Powell's has expressed interested in buying his entire inventory. He wasn't tempted by their inquiry in the past, but is now thinking that might be an interesting option. In my opinion, they'd be fools not to buy his entire inventory. (I've been to Powell's a couple times, such a great bookstore.)


Back to Tuesday
Elliot gave me a tour of the building--there are three levels, all packed with books. He also has maps, prints, and other paraphernalia. And Wallace Steven's personal art collection and bed. In addition to the high, wall-to-wall shelving, there are stacks of books everywhere. Some are quite massive. A few smaller ones have been knocked over by squirrels that got in some time ago and have since been kicked out.


After the tour Elliot gave me his cellphone number and told me to call when I was finished browsing. He walked over to his house and I walked back to the literature section which contains American and British with some Canadian titles. The books are roughly in alphabetical order by author, but not always. There were just too many shelves for me to go through them book by book as I didn't want to cut too much into Elliot's evening. I was, after all, an unexpected visitor and he did eventually have to make dinner.

What treasures await the right person?
Even from this quick once-over I found dozens of books I would have liked to buy. I also walked through the film section, women's history, and noticed a Russian lit section as well. I was there for two or three hours and maybe made it through about five rows and that was with a lot of skimming. You'd need more than a week to go through the whole place. There's everything from mass market paperbacks to journals to huge oversized hardcovers. The inventory is from Elliot's shop, estate sales, and Yale University Press runs. Look at the categories on his website and you'll get an idea of the range of his inventory.

The literature section begins to the right.
I went home with four books (which shows great restraint on my part):
1. Mr. Evans: A Cricketo-Dectective Story by Cyril Alington. Never heard of the author or the book, but it sounds different and interesting. 1922.
2. Adventures of Sherlock Holmes by A. Conan Doyle. A nice 1892 reading edition.
3. The High Window by Raymond Chandler. A 1945 first printing Tower Books Edition. Love the book jacket.
4. American Stuff: An Anthology of Prose and Verse by Members of the Federal Writers' Project with Sixteen Prints by The Federal Art Project, Viking Press, 1937.
The High Window by Raymond Chandler now lives in my library.
A fifth book that I was interested in turned out to be above my price range: a first US edition Agatha Christie with original dust jacket. Elliot couldn't find another one listed in the databases with an original dust jacket although there were a few that had facsimile dust jackets.

First US edition of The Seven Dials Mystery - is this not a gorgeous dust jacket?

IF YOU ARE INTERESTED IN VISITING ELIOTT'S BOOKS
Call Elliot at 203-484-2184 or email him at outofprintbooks1(at)mindspring.com* 
He is now allowing visitors strictly by appointment only.

As I mentioned above, just a small fraction of the inventory is online so the bulk of books are not priced. How Elliot priced the books I purchased was by searching an online database and seeing what similar books were selling for--by edition and condition. He gave me great prices based on that. However, this process takes some time, so if you're lucky enough to enter this book wonderland, make sure you take this into consideration when planning your time. See his website for more information.

A huge thank you to Elliot for letting me in and for sharing some amazing stories about his life in books. I was truly honored by this experience and can't wait to go back.

Elliot, bookseller for 58 years.


*Email address corrected 7/17/15.

Tuesday, June 16, 2015

The Wolf Border by Sarah Hall


I am both attracted to and repelled by novels that involve animals. I'm a big softy when it comes to critters, so normally I err on the side of caution and say no to animal books. The controversial subject of reintroducing wolves is one that will no doubt include some painful scenes (either for the wolves or lambs or humans who care about them). However, seeing as how I enjoyed The Loop by Nicholas Evens, I was intrigued by The Wolf Border and said yes to a review copy.
From the publisher: For almost a decade, zoologist Rachel Caine has lived a solitary existence far from her estranged family in England, monitoring wolves in a remote section of Idaho as part of a wildlife recovery program. But a surprising phone call takes her back to the peat and wet light of the Lake District where she grew up. The eccentric Earl of Annerdale has a controversial scheme to reintroduce the Grey Wolf to the English countryside, and he wants Rachel to spearhead the project. Though she's skeptical, the earl's lands are close to the village where she grew up, and where her aging mother now lives.

While the earl's plan harks back to an ancient idyll of untamed British wilderness, Rachel must contend with modern-day realities--health and safety issues, public anger and fear, cynical political interests. But the return of the Grey unexpectedly sparks her own regeneration.

Exploring the fundamental nature of wilderness and wildness, The Wolf Border illuminates both our animal nature and humanity: sex, love, conflict, and the desire to find answers to the question of our existence--the emotions, desires, and needs that rule our lives.
I was blown away by an early scene in the book when Rachel visits her mother in the nursing home. It is so emotional and raw, yet well done. Other scenes, primarily landscape descriptions, made me put down the book and Google a location.

The overall plot was interesting and I kept reading to see what would happen to Rachel and the wolves, but I never really attached to Rachel or any of the characters (likeable or un). Was intentional on the author's part, to keep the reader at arm's length, sort of like how a zoologist spends hours/days/years observing her subjects, but has to maintain a distance to keep objective? I'm also wondering if the lack of quotation marks had some kind of psychological effect (there were none in the uncorrected proof I read).

Rachel is a bit of loner and her sex life is, for the most part, purely physical and uncomplicated by emotional attachment, a bit like what some humans might imagine wolf sex is like. The sex in this book, while graphic, serves to establish and maintain character as most literary sex should, I imagine. In the example below the "she" refers to Rachel, post-coitus (as Sheldon would say):

    She pads down to the kitchen, the loam of semen slipping between her thighs. 

"Yuck," was my first thought. My second thought was, "The history of the novel would be better off without that sentence." But looking back after finishing the book I can detect deeper meanings in that one sentence. Rachel pads like a wolf and the semen is described with a word that conveys earthiness, which, in the context of this novel, is an essential, positive thing. It signifies Rachel chose a good mate. It also shows how Rachel is a bit disconnected and rather passive to many things that happen to her even if she's the one who chooses her mates (again, like a wolf).

Studying heterosexuals can be fascinating. ;)

The Wolf Border certainly gave my flame to visit the Lake District a good fanning. Literary fiction readers with a penchant for animals and environmental concerns will no doubt want to check out The Wolf Border.

Here's a bit about the author:
Sarah Hall was born in 1974 in Cumbria, England. She received a master of letters in creative writing from Scotland's St. Andrews University and has published four novels. Haweswater won the Commonwealth Writers' Prize (overall winner, Best First Novel) and a Society of Authors Betty Trask Award. The Electric Michelangelo was shortlisted for the Man Booker Prize, the Commonwealth Writers' Prize (Eurasia Region), and the Prix Femina √Čtranger, and was longlisted for the Orange Prize for Fiction. Daughters of the North won the 2006/07 John Llewellyn Rhys Prize and the James Tiptree Jr. Award, and was shortlisted for the Arthur C. Clarke Award for science fiction. How to Paint a Dead Man was longlisted for the Man Booker Prize and won the Portico Prize for Fiction. In 2013 Hall was named one of Granta's Best Young British Novelists, a prize awarded every ten years, and she won the BBC National Short Story Award and the E. M. Forster Award from the American Academy of Arts and Letters. Find out more about Sarah at her website.

Sarah Hall
HarperCollins, U.S. release: June 9, 2015
Read for TLC Book Tours: I received a free copy in exchange for an honest review. To read more TLC reviews of this novel click here.

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