Thursday, September 29, 2011

A Walk on the Wild Side by Nelson Algren

A Walk on the Wild Side by Nelson Algren. Hardcover published by Neville Spearman 1958.

I’m a massive fan of Nelson Algren, to the point that I’m willing to write that I think the first half of Never Come Morning (another title by him) is possibly some of the best stuff, I’ve ever read.  I’m also happy to let you know that I’ve read it more than once and that Lefty Bicek remains one of the most vivid literary creations that I have ever encountered.  Once you know lefty, you don’t forget him.  A Walk on the Wild Side is another great title but I have to confess that i’ve only read it the once and it was a long time ago, so my memory of it is a little bit hazy. 

Nelson didn’t write a lot of stuff, but what he did write has left numerous fans hanging on his every word.  I remember ready an introduction to a paperback reissue of one of his books where Kurt Vonnegut writes about taking Salman Rushdie to meet the man himself… Rushdie was in total awe, I think Vonnegut was a friend of Algrens.  Lou Reed’s epic song is named after this particular title and I’m fairly certain that Tom Waits has referenced and mentioned Mr Algren as well. 

There’s a 1962 film of A Walk on the Wild Side which has a very young Jane Fonda in it.  I have seen it but it was a long time ago and to be honest it didn’t grab me at the time.  Maybe I need to revisit it… possibly after a reread of the book.  I’m pretty certain that Nelson wasn’t very happy with the film and then when they* made The Man with the Golden Arm he vowed to never have anything to do with Hollywood again.  There’s a great biography by Bettina Drew which details a lot of Algrens unhappiness particularly with Hollywood.  (TMWTGA is a better film… but the ending was considerably altered… Algrens books never end with things looking up.)  

So this particular copy of this book has a very worn dust jacket.  When I write “very worn” I mean VERY worn.  What I’m most amazed about is that it does still have a dust jacket, worn or otherwise.  Within a week of finding this copy, I found another but it doesn’t have a dust jacket.  To find two Nelson Algren titles within a week is pretty strange… maybe not for other booksellers but here at Huc & Gabet we find this sort of thing rarely.  So I’ve written about this book because I think it’s another great title by an outstanding author that if you haven't read any of, you should.


Saturday, September 24, 2011

The Hardy Boys (and the mystery of the lack of sales).

The Hardy Boys.

The Hardy Boys: The Secret Warning by Franklin W. Dixon.
The Hardy Boys: The Short-Wave Mystery by Franklin W. Dixon.
The Hardy Boys: A Figure in Hiding by Franklin W. Dixon.
The Hardy Boys: Mystery of the Flying Express by Franklin W. Dixon.

I thought the Hardy Boys were popular. Or at least had a cult following… you know… some nostalgia value at least.  I’ve just listed 4 titles on eBay for the second time after a failed first attempt.  The first time around there was very little interest… OK… no interest, which equals no sales.  I’m having difficulty understanding this strange occurrence. 

The 4 books were published by Collins in 1980 and are all uniform hardcover editions... except that the authors name is not always in the same position on the spine . They have some wear but overall I think they are still in reasonably good condition.  

Maybe everyone’s forgotten the 2 boy detectives who were always on the go and partook in the solving of mysteries.  I personally would possibly have forgotten about them if I hadn’t found some of their books.  Saying that I’m not completely an ignoramus in regards to The Hardy Boys… I did read one once… It was a long long time ago and I don’t really remember any of the details (… this is a bad sign… if I have no nostalgia, why would anyone else?).

One of things I do remember about the Hardy Boys books is that they have been rewritten over the years.  This was done to modernize the story lines and content often changing things in a way that was more palatable (eg. less racist) for the audiences at the time of publication.  And how does Franklin W. Dixon feel about this?  Franklin doesn’t care because Franklin doesn’t exist.  All of the Hardy Boys stories were ghost written by various authors as were the Nancy Drew books.  Both the Hardys and Nancy were created by Edward Stratemeyer, an American publisher, who didn’t have time to write them as he was busy writing another 1,300 books and selling over 500,000,000 books (… not sure if this includes The Hardy Boys).  500,000,000... that’s a lot of books.  That’s a lot of Hardy Boys. 

So possibly there are a few million copies of these books floating around and maybe that’s the answer to the mystery of why my 4 Hardy Boys books haven’t sold. 

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Port Fairy Festival of Words 2011

Port Fairy Festival of Words 9th – 11th September 2011.

A few years ago whilst manning the Huc & Gabet stall at Clunes Back to Booktown, I was handed some information about that years Port Fairy Festival of Words, which is another book festival later in the year, here in Victoria (Australia).  My interest was aroused as sales had been reasonable and if this was achievable in Clunes well why not Port Fairy as well.  So Port Fairy was something that I began to consider.  So much so that I mentioned my consideration to a fellow book dealer who quickly poo pooed the event as being a waste of time having not sold that many books there a few years before.  So I stopped my consideration and considered the whole thing considered.

12 months later and following another Clunes Back to Booktown, I mentioned my previous consideration to another book dealer.  This time I received a different point of view.  No, the festival was not as big as Clunes or as $$$… BUT… the stall is free and you get one nights accommodation for free… and it’s a nice weekend away.  Some quick maths and I figure that this means there’s a saving of just under $400 when compared to Clunes.  You need to be there for 2 nights (Fri and Sat) so there’s still the cost of 1 nights accommodation and of course I would have to get there with all my stock (possible van hire and petrol costs).  All of this makes Port Fairy just that little bit more enticing.

So I decided to reconsider my consideration and considered that a casual visit and appraisal was required.  Last year that particular weekend of the Port Fairy Festival of Words, was the first time Clunes (which is where I live) suffered some flooding and I decided at the last minute to stay home and prepare to sandbag… which in the end was not required… but still it was a good idea to stay home.  So this year the weather forecast was good and I decided to take the drive and venture to Port Fairy for some serious consideration.

It was an early start as Port Fairy is a good 3 hours drive from here and I wanted to get there early.  So at 6 o’clock I started out and unlike last year, there was no rain.  It’s a lovely drive from here to Port Fairy through farmland and more farmland and very empty towns… but it was only 6 to 9 o’clock on a Saturday morning so it was not suprising that there weren’t many people out and about. 

I got to Port Fairy at pretty much 9 o’clock on the dot.  So as I’m driving into town, I get this horrible sinking feeling that I might have gone to all this effort on the wrong weekend and even after parking my car I thought that maybe I had stuffed up big time.  This thought was due to a lack of any indication that there was a Festival happening anywhere in Port Fairy on this weekend.  I didn’t expect a welcome committee or a banner saying “Welcome Huc & Gabet” but something/anything indicating a festival would have been good.  I did finally figure out that something was happening (I don’t how this happened, but it did)… but I couldn’t figure out what and where.  Now I don’t know about you, but i was thinking that this was all a little strange, if there is a festival anywhere one would assume that there would be some sort of indication that it was happening.  There was a small market and there were a few people around… I will give the organizers the benefit of the doubt and admit that it was still only 9 o’clock.

Anyway.  I figured that best way to get some information was to phone a fellow bookseller from Clunes (Book Fossicker) who was going to be there selling.  A quick look on my phone and I realized I didn’t have her phone number.  So I look up and there she is walking into a cafĂ© (Port Fairy is small enough for this to happen… but not small enough for me to figure out where all the action was).  A quick cup of coffee and we head to where all the bookselling action was. 

Now before I go any further.  I should say that according to the festival programme there were many events happening over the weekend.  I wasn’t there for the events, I was there to check out the selling of books.   So we walk around the corner and up the road and there is a sandwich board outside an old cinema… I think this was the signage I had been looking for.  So Joan (Book Fossicker) mans her stall whilst I peruse the other stalls.  The thing that struck me immediately was the smaller number of booksellers than Clunes.  This Cinema was "it" for booksellers.  There were no other hidden locations.  So I now understand that when people say this festival is small, they mean small

Here’s a few photos:

... and that's pretty much all of it.

So my opinion?  Well Port Fairy is a long way from Melbourne (large population centre) which means that there are less people book hunting and book selling than at a book fair like Clunes, which is an easy day trip.  Port Fairy is just that little bit further and requires a bit more effort on behalf of both buyer and seller.  My information is based on my observations during a few hours in the morning of the Saturday.  I’m willing to admit that there was possibly an afternoon rush or that Sunday is really “THE” day, but it appears to me that there were not the masses of people one would hope for at a book fair if one were selling books. 

All things considered, I’m still not sure whether to take the plunge next year.  Maybe the idea of a weekend away will finally persuade me. 

… also... those quiet towns, were just as quiet on my way home.

Saturday, September 17, 2011

Garabandal: Apparitions of the Blessed Virgin Mary as "Our lady of Mount Carmel"

Garabandal: Apparitions of the Blessed Virgin Mary as "Our lady of Mount Carmel" 1 From beauty to truthfulness. More than 400 pictures testify in favor of a most important prophetic perspective for the good of all mankind as it advances in the Third Millennium by Jacques Serre and Beatrice Caux. Paperback book published in 2001.

Garabandal is a small village in Spain.  So small that it was nearly forgotten, until 4 girls saw something there from 1961 to 1965.  Of course when you see “something”, everyone else wants to see it as well and Garabandal became a bit of a hot spot for the seeing of the girls… seeing.  They saw so much that it kept Kodak in business for many years, which is how a book like this one can be easily compiled after all this time.  The something they saw was not, or could not, be photographed… mmmmm… The photographs were all of the girls and the people watching the girls who were looking at the something.  The idea was/is that we can see that they are seeing something by their actions and the looks on their faces.  Here are a few of the photographs:

Except for this last picture they look like they were having fun. 
There were messages as well. They didn’t just see stuff they were told stuff. 

“We must make many sacrifices, perform much penance, and visit the Blessed Sacrament frequently. But first, we must lead good lives. If we do not, a chastisement will befall us. The cup is already filling up, and if we do not change, a very great chastisement will come upon us.”

“As my Message of the 18th of October has not been complied with, and as it has not been made known to the world, I am telling you that this is the last one. Previously, the Cup was filling; now, it is brimming over. Many priests are following the road to perdition, and with them they are taking many more souls. Ever less importance is being given to the Holy Eucharist. We should turn the wrath of God away from us by our own efforts. If you ask His forgiveness with a sincere heart. He will pardon you. I, your Mother, through the intercession of St. Michael the Archangel, wish to tell you that you should make amends. You are now being given the last warnings. I love you very much, and I do not want your condemnation. Ask Us sincerely and We shall grant your plea. You must make more sacrifices. Reflect on the Passion of Jesus.”

Wow. There’s some pretty powerful messages in there and there have been many interpretations over the years as to what this all means.  The Catholic Church remains a little ambiguous about the whole thing yet many Catholics (others as well) still flock to Garabandal possibly in the hope of reliving some of the seeing of things and message receiving and this is despite the fact that the Catholic Church doesn’t in this instance, sanction or approve of such behaviour.  I guess reading between the lines they don’t want people’s attention to be brought to Priests “following the road to perdition”…

I like this book, it just all seems so strange and bizarre.  I particularly like the fact that this is an Australian edition of a French book about something that took place in Spain in the 1960s.  People have obviously not forgotten the 4 girls and the people that saw them seeing something… or maybe they have forgotten and that’s where this book comes into the picture. 

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Plans for Caravans, Trailers, Boats etc by Keith Winser.

Plans for Caravans, Trailers, Boats etc by Keith Winser.  Paperback book published by Motor Manual 10th edition 1964-5.

Ever wanted to design your own caravan? 
Me neither. But obviously in 1964-5 this sort of activity was taking place and there was a demand for this sort of book.  I do know that people are into vintage caravans, which is why I snapped up this title.  I’ve blogged about one of Keith’s other fine publications here and it seems to me that the guy was obviously into the whole outdoorsy stuff.  I can see a logical progression from one to the other and from what I can gather Keith was THE guy at the time who wrote about the whole outdoor activity thingy.

Now there are some of you out there probably wondering why I’m writing about this book.  Well you can stop wondering… this book is genuinely interesting.  How many caravan design books for 1960s caravans written and published in the 1960s have you seen recently?  Yep that’s right, these sort of publications are as rare as free camp sites and as I mentioned there is a subculture of collectors and DIYers who would be itching for this sort of first hand source of information.  A quick look around the interwebs and I find that there are no copies of this book for sale (other than this one), but what I do find is lots of references to Vintage Caravans… see, I told you it was popular.

Saturday, September 10, 2011

The Respiratory Physiology of Animals by James N. Cameron.

The Respiratory Physiology of Animals by James N. Cameron.  Hardcover book published by Oxford University Press 1989.

I don’t want to dwell too much on the subject matter of this title.  This is a very technical book obviously intended for veterinary people and/or those that are interested in the subject matter… which I guess would be mostly veterinary people.  Personally it’s not a subject that I have any interest in at all being more concerned about my own Respiratory Physiology (… it’s a long story, I wont bore you with it now… you can breathe easy). 

So why am I writing about this book?  Well neatly stashed away in a pocket in the back of the book is that extra little something containing bits of information that you can put onto your computer thingy and expand your understanding of the subject.  If it’s on a screen it’s bound to be of more interest and value (?).  I haven’t looked at the information but you never know, there may extra bits or more detailed stuff.  Hang on… the disc indicates that it contains “Computer Programs” so it’s obviously intended to be a bit interactive.  Unfortunately the disc will only work on IBM PC and… the Tandy 2000.  

 The Tandy 2000… with a guy called Bill.

 The disc that should fit into the Tandy 2000.

Unfortunately this floppy disc won’t fit into my computer… or anyone elses computer*.  And even if it did, would the programs actually work?  This ancient (1989) technology is obviously problematic.  The publishers have included the disc as it was considered important at the time.  But if there is important extra information on the disc how do we access it now?  This is a much bigger question than just for this copy of this book.  I was recently talking to a friend about this issue in relation to library collections.  Many libraries invested heavily in groundbreaking 1980s technology to find that 20 to 30 years later it is totally worthless… unless you can maintain a vintage computer system that can handle this sort of information.  The question is how relevant is the information on the disc and is it really worthwhile having a Tandy 2000 on hand to access this disc? 

Fortunately this book is also a book and it does have a book full of information.  The disc in the back?  Maybe contact this guy and ask him what to do with it.

*that I know.

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Spain Betrayed: The Soviet Union in the Spanish Civil War

Spain Betrayed: The Soviet Union in the Spanish Civil War, edited by Ronald Radosh, Mary R. Habeck and Grigory Sevostianov.  Hardcover book published 2001.

A few years ago I read Antony Beevor’s “Battle for Spain” which is another Spanish Civil War book (not this one).  Antony is a great writer and I have enjoyed (if “enjoyed” is the word) reading his epic military histories.  His books on Stalingrad and Berlin were books that I found incredibly interesting.  Indeed I had trouble putting them down and looking back they have left a powerful impression of these events and the history of the Second World War.  So it was with great excitement that I read his book on the Spanish Civil War.  Oh boy… I found this book, and I guess the subject matter, to be incredibly complicated and involved.  When I finally put the book down I had more questions than answers and to be honest… and it might be just me… I don’t know that I really understood what happened.

What I do remember is that the Soviets were not always doing things in the best interest of the Spanish and that they were mainly concerned with… the Soviets.  The Germans weren’t much better (they were on the other side) and again from memory it appears that they were more concerned with testing equipment and strategies (mmmm… I wonder why). This book is made up of a collection of documents highlighting Soviet policy and action in Spain during the civil war. I haven’t read this title, but from my little knowledge of the subject matter, this is an incredibly complex and interesting subject and should be of interest to anyone interested in the Spanish Civil War.  The big question though is anyone else interested in the Spanish Civil War? 

Sunday, September 4, 2011

Children of the North Pole by Ralph Herrmans

Children of the North Pole by Ralph Herrmans.  Hardcover book published 1963.

Another wonderful children's book, filled with strange looking pictures that have somehow grabbed my attention and captured my imagination.  I think it's partly the colours that have been used in the printing that make the book sort of otherworldly.  The landscape is of course a great help in creating this otherworldliness... but i gotta tell ya, the subject matter is pretty strange as well.  Recently i wrote about "Making a Transistor Radio" published by Ladybird and pondered the ability of children to actually make a Transistor Radio.  In this book, set in Greenland, the children are actively hunting.  Yep that's right, the looking for and killing of animals for food.  Sort of makes a Transistor Radio look like childs play.  Fortunately, or unfortunately depending on which side your on, other than sucking a few eggs, they don't succeed. 

Here are some of the images.  I've deliberately not put in any of the text as i think some of the images are text enough... without the text.  The Seal that they are lovingly playing with is dead and was killed by someone else.