Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Japanese Railway Magazine September 2009

Railway Journal/Magazine September 2009 (No.515).  Magazine published in Japan 2009, 170 pages with colour photographs as well as a few black and white photographs, there is a small amount of advertising.

Railways have been around for a long time and rail fans (also known as: railfans, rail buffs, railway enthusiasts, trainspotters or gricers) have probably been around for as long as there have been tracks laid down for large things to move along.  As with most countries, the Japanese also have those who have an interest in the iron horse (ferroequinology) and this is the magazine for them… at least I think this is a magazine for them.  It’s the language thing.  I have no idea what the focus of this magazine is, other than what I can tell from the photographs.  I think it’s a magazine for trainspotters, but it might be an industry magazine detailing new developments in rail travel… or possibly it’s a bit of both.


What I like about this magazine is that this is not the sort of thing you see very often here in Australia.  As I mentioned above, there are those who are passionate about the subject and I can imagine the idea of a Japanese rail magazine with some nice pictures could entice a buyer.  Not that it has enticed any buyers as of yet, but it could.

Sunday, June 24, 2012

Country Cracks: The story of N.S.W. country tennis by Ron McLean.

Country Cracks: The story of N.S.W. country tennis by Ron McLean.  Hardcover book published by Ron McLean (no date, 1980s), 144 pages with black and white photographs. 

Tennis is a popular sport… maybe not everywhere, but here in Australia it is fairly popular.  The author of this book has had a long association with Country Tennis in New South Wales, both as a player and in administration.  I like the idea that someone who has been intimately involved has written this history, it gives the whole thing a certain amount of credibility.  The author is also the publisher and he has managed to take some time out from playing, administering, writing and publishing this book, to sign it as well.  The personal touch is a nice thing, considering how busy he must of been.

There are lots of great photographs which as a Victorian non tennis playing absolutely no interest in tennis person such as myself, can find quite interesting.  These people have been photographed at a point in their lives that was important to them and to those around them.  It is a proud history captured in the moment.  I’m tempted to write “forgotten history”, but I don’t know that the tennis clubs and tennis people of N.S.W have forgotten them.  If they have, then this book should rectify this issue.

So I’ve written some nice things about this book.  What I haven’t written about is how it hasn’t sold at this point in time and how I have very little confidence that it will sell.  A book that is so specific in its scope is also specific in its audience which may or may not be saturated with copies.  Also, this publication is from the 1980s and there is possibly a more up to date volume on the same subject, which sort of makes it a little obsolete (...the book, not the subject).  When I picked the book up, I thought that it was worth a go on ebay.  Here i am on the second ebay listing and all I’m thinking  is how my effort has been wasted and... whoops, I’ve made another mistake. 

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Cupcakes from the Primrose Bakery by Martha Swift and Lisa Thomas.

Cupcakes from the Primrose Bakery by Martha Swift and Lisa Thomas.  Hardcover book with pictorial boards (no dust jacket) published by Kyle Cathie 2009, 144 pages with colour photographs.

I seem to remember seeing a whole shop full of these little paper cup fulls of sweetness and joy (cakes that is… not the books).  It was quite a beautiful and tasty looking establishment full of colour and… ummmm… cupcakes.  It was somewhere in Melbourne’s CBD… hang on a sec… the interwebs can confirm that it was/is the Degraves St branch of Little Cupcakes.  Beautiful… and from memory, very tasty.

It doesn’t really seem that long ago that I embraced the cupcake and it seems like just yesterday that Cupcakes were the “in thing” and everyone was talking about, baking and eating cupcakes.  I can even remember having a conversation with Tim from Books for Cooks (hi Tim) regarding the sudden increase in interest re cupcake books.  So when this information regarding the interest in cupcakes was made available or rather, became extremely obvious to me, I of course began looking for cupcake books.  Well, here we are five years later and I finally find one.  Yep, this one.  Five years (approx) is how long it took me to find a cupcake book and now I can die happy in the knowledge that I have managed to track down an elusive cupcake book.  Here at Huc & Gabet we never give in.

Sunday, June 17, 2012

The Girl from the Fiction Department: A Portrait of Sonia Orwell by Hilary Spurling.

The Girl from the Fiction Department: A Portrait of Sonia Orwell by Hilary Spurling.  Hardcover book published by Hamish Hamilton 2002, 194 pages with some black and white photographs and a few black and white illustrations.

I’m not really a fan of the Literary Biography and over the years I’ve learnt the hard way that these titles don’t really sell that well on line.  A bit like fiction, which as much as I can, I try to avoid listing on the interwebs.  I’m not sure why they don't sell and of course there are exceptions to my negative take on Literary Biography and Fiction.  I guess I’m writing from personal experience and that experience has lead me to the conclusion that “they don’t really sell that well on line”.

So here is a biography of a literary persons wife… sorry, second wife.  Yes, Sonia married Eric Arthur Blair, also known as George Orwell, three months before his death from tuberculosis.  There’s a whole heap of debate about this three months of marriage business and then him dying which I wont get into here.  The author of this book, Hilary Spurling, was a friend of Sonia’s and wrote this book “to set the record straight”.  Good on her.  I’d like to think that there’s a Hilary Spurling out there who one day would set the record straight in regards to myself.

After Eric/George passed away, Sonia married Major Michael Augustus Lane-Fox Pitt-Rivers and this is where things get really interesting.  Michael Pitt-Rivers was involved in a very public trial for buggery.  He ended up in prison for 18 months.  She also had numerous affairs with various prominent British painters including Lucien Freud but always said that the French phenomenological* philosopher Maurice Merleau-Ponty, was here true love.  During her busy and eventful life, Sonia was a fierce protector of Orwell’s Estate and helped set up the George Orwell Archive at University College London.  Which sort of doesn’t really go along with the opportunistic implications that a three month marriage could imply.

All I can say is that Sonia was a busy woman and definitely a woman of interest.  Yeah, the Orwell connection was probably Sonia’s most famous claim to fame, although anyone into phenomenological philosophy or buggery** may disagree with this assertion.

** The court case that Michael Pitt-Rivers was involved in led to the Wolfenden Report, “which in 1957 recommended the decriminalisation of homosexuality in the United Kingdom” (Wikipedia).

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Kryal Castle by Kenneth Stepnell and Esther Stepnell.

Kryal Castle by Kenneth Stepnell and Esther Stepnell.  Hardcover book with pictorial boards (no dust jacket) published by Rigby 1976, unpaginated (approx 31 pages) with colour photographs throughout.

(Kryal Castle is an Australian replica medieval castle located on a foothill of Mount Warrenheip at Leigh Creek, just north of Dunnstown and 8 km east of Ballarat. It was built in 1972 and opened to the public in 1974 by Keith Ryall, who gave the castle his namesake, having made his fortune selling body armour.  This book contains mostly photographs of the castle and the activities that went on there in 1976.)

A few years ago a cousin of mine from foreign lands visited me here in Australia.  As a good host should, I made sure that we got out of the big cities and saw some of the wonderful Victorian countryside including some of its excellent smaller towns.  Heading towards Ballarat we were about to pass the Kryal Castle turnoff when I made a spontaneous decision to detour via this spectacular tourist attraction. 

I like a bit of adventure and I like to surprise people, so I deliberately did not explain where we were going or what we were about to see.  So we’re chatting away and all of a sudden he stops talking and is staring at:

…which in retrospect is what I would expect from anyone who had no idea that a medieval castle replica is sitting here in Victoria not far from Ballarat.  I should also add that it is full size, in other words, it’s big.  Anyway, we pull up out the front, probably where those cars are parked in the picture above, and his jaw has seriously dropped.  He then laughs and exclaims how weird the whole thing is.  30 seconds later we were back on the road to Ballarat.

The reason I mention this rather brief yet insightful visit, is that every time I pass the castle (it’s not that far from where I now live) or when I find a book about it (this is the only one I have ever found), I think of his reaction and I must add that I have had pretty much the same reaction whenever I see it or read about it or think about it (which is not very often)… or write a blog entry about it.  

Let’s be honest here, there’s a certain amount of absurdity to the whole thing.  I get the whole idea of the tourist trap thingy and people having an interest in all things medieval and I even get it that someone had the idea to make money from the fascination, but to have a castle plonked out there in a field just outside Ballarat… it’s a little weird. 

 Some of the fun activities at Kryal Castle

In recent years the Castle was up for sale and at one stage the only serious prospective buyers were some brothel developers from Melbourne.  The idea was that the castle would make an excellent themed brothel/resort.  The owners (who apparently live next door) declined the offer.  I believe there are now new owners and Kryal Castle will be reopening later this year.  In the meantime anyone wanting a fix of medieval absurdity in the Victorian countryside may have to do with this book.

Sunday, June 10, 2012

Sindh Revisited: A Journey in the Footsteps of Captain Sir Richard Francis Burton: 1842-1849: The India Years by Christopher Ondaatje.

Sindh Revisited: A Journey in the Footsteps of Captain Sir Richard Francis Burton: 1842-1849: The India Years by Christopher Ondaatje.  Hardcover book published by Harper Collins 1996, 351 pages with colour photographs and maps.

Richard Burton (not the actor… the other one) spent some of his early years in India as an enlistee in the army of the East India Company.  It was here that he mastered many things including various languages, religions and disguises, all of which helped him later in life.  This book is a look at Burton and the places he visited during that time, mainly in Sindh, which after partition is now in Pakistan.

I’ve assumed a lot of things in this first paragraph.  No.1 is that you know who Richard Burton is, in particular, “not the actor” Richard Burton.  No.2 is that you know which time period I’m referring to, not only within Richard Burtons lifetime, but also within the lifetime of the “army of the East India Company”. No.3 is that you know what Burton did later in his life and No.4, you know what “partition” was.  If you know what all of these things are then this book should/will have some appeal.  If you don’t know then… well… it’s of very little appeal at all.  Maybe that’s a bit harsh, but realistically I can’t imagine any reader who doesn’t know who Burton was getting excited about this book. 

The book has been written as a history/biography (Burton)/travel book of this area, beginning in Bombay (India) and then via Pakistan down to Goa (India).  It’s obviously written for the Burton aficionado, of which there are some of us still in existence.  Yes, I’m a fan.  Ever since reading Personal Narrative of a Pilgrimage to Al-Madinah & Meccah many years ago, I have considered Burton one of my favourite historical persons.  He was a genuinely interesting guy and as far as I’m concerned, someone who understood what adventure was all about.  I wont get into all the details of what happened to Burton later in his life, but lets just say that if you don’t know who this guy is and have some interest in history, exploration, religion, the use of the bayonet or sex (many other subjects as well), then this guy could be of interest to you.  The painting below is of Burton later in life and has nothing to do with this book.  The barely discernible scars on his check were from a spear wound.

So what’s this book like?  This edition is very glossy and has some wonderful photographs of the area’s traveled by the author retracing Burton.  It’s a pity that there aren’t any historical photographs, but that’s not really what the book is about.  I guess it’s more of a travel narrative with Burton as the emphasis.  Maybe the lack of historical photographs is the authors and/or publishers attempt to give the book a more contemporary feel and less of a boring historical tone.  There’s nothing wrong with this, I’m just the sort of guy who likes old photographs in books. 

I haven’t read the book and the question is, would I read it?  Yes. 

Friday, June 8, 2012

One Hundred Years of Solitude by Gabriel Garcia Marquez.

One Hundred Years of Solitude by Gabriel Garcia Marquez.  Hardcover book published by Jonathan Cape 1970 (first British edition), 422 pages.

When I first started selling books all those years ago (it seems like a lifetime ago), I thought how wonderful it would be to have a hardcover copy of One Hundred Years of Solitude to sell… maybe even a first edition… but any hardcover would suffice.  This was a nice thought and in hindsight a little strange as I’d already been looking around for a hardcover of this classic for at least a dozen years before that, to no avail.  So I knew it wasn’t a common book.  In the last 9 years I have found zero copies.  It’s not a title that I actively seek out or anything strange like that,  it’s just a title that I occasionally think of and wishfully hope that one day I will find a copy of.

A few years back I read an article by someone who was a lot more in the know than I was/am about this book and i learnt how rare (and $$$) it actually is.*  It’s a little disheartening when you discover that something you aspire to is probably next to impossible to find.  So when I did finally find a copy, I was a little gobsmacked.  There it was sitting on a shelf, waiting for me to buy it.  There were lots of other books sitting next to it, that weren’t waiting for me to buy them, it was only this one that was waiting.  At first I thought I had made a mistake… yeah I know, this is hard to believe, but this does happen.  On closer inspection, but without removing the treasure from the shelf, I was able to confirm, that it was a hardcover One Hundred Years of Solitude with dust jacket.  I stood there a little bewildered, shocked and scared (yes, scared).  Finding a book like this is not something that normally happens to me.  Lights started flashing and heroic music started playing… I then pulled the book off the shelf in slow motion and holding it with both hands, waved it around above my head, all the while grinning from ear to ear.  …. At least that’s how I imagine this event will be portrayed in the biopic of my life, as it didn’t happen like this at the time. 

Looking around the interwebs, it’s actually the American first that is slightly more desirable as apposed to this British first.  But who cares, I certainly don’t.  I have achieved what I consider the nearly unachievable… at least I have achieved what I have never achieved before.  Life of course will never be the same after this… at least my book hunting adventures wont be the same… except of course if I were to find the few Celine titles that I’m missing from my own personal collection… or if I find any of the other millions of books of interest out there, that are sitting on shelves, waiting for me to buy them.

*I can’t remember who wrote it.  Possibly Gekoski?  Any ideas?

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Blast the Bush by Len Beadell.

Blast the Bush by Len Beadell.  Hardcover book published by Rigby 1967 (first edition), 212 pages with some black and white photographs and illustrations.

Before I began my wonderful and adventurous life as a bookseller, Len Beadell was a complete unknown to me.  One day I stumbled on a few of his titles and I found out pretty quickly that they sell.  Not that I’ve ever made enough to retire on, but Len’s books tend to turn over and a small profit is able to be made on second hand Len Beadell books.  Hardcovers, softcovers it doesn’t really matter, people love this guy.

So who was Len Beadell?  The simple answer is that he was a road worker… actually he was a surveyor and roadbuilder.  The slightly more glamourous answer is that he was a later day Australian explorer who opened up vast areas of the Australian outback between 1947 and 1963.  He did this by building a network of outback roads, also known as highways, across Australia.  There’s a great map and more information about Len and his work here.

This particular book looks at Len’s adventures locating and developing the site for the testing of Britain’s Atomic Bomb here in Australia.  He was obviously the man for the job and from all accounts he did a great job.  He was even responsible for the town survey for Woomera, which was the town that was built to support the Woomera Test Range… and this is where this particular copy of this book, gets interesting.  Len signed it.  Not only did he sign it but he wrote an inscription in it as well.  It reads:

Mollie & John Donaldson.
With many thanks for the first aid instruction at the Woomera hospital which helped us survive in the outback.
Best wishes
Len Beadell
May, 1967

I find this sort of inscription exciting.  It’s not just to “Mollie & John”, Len has taken the time to explain within the inscription, why he has inscribed the book to “Mollie & John”.  He obviously thought enough of them to do this.  This also says something about Len himself.  He could of written something a bit simpler, but decided not to.  Finding a book like this is all part of the adventure of bookselling.  I love it.

Saturday, June 2, 2012

Brush Up Your Russian by Anna Semeonoff.

Brush Up Your Russian by Anna Semeonoff. Hardcover book (stiff boards) with pictorial boards (no dust jacket) published by J.M. Dent and Sons 1942, 101 pages with black and white illustrations.

I’ve recently tackled French and Esperanto, it’s now time for some Russian.  It’s 1942 and the good people of J.M. Dent decide it’s time to publish a refresher course of Russian.  In 1942 the Russians were the friends of the British… well sort of… and what better way of creating harmony than a book exploring the Russian language through the visit of some rather rich looking people to Mother Russia.

I particularly like the way the book has the story in both English and Russian, reprinting the excellent illustrations with each of the languages.  Just look at these beautiful people and their joy at the prospect of re visiting Russia (apparently they had lived there previously).  

Mrs. S. Listen, Victor, when are you taking your holidays this year?
Mr. S. In August; why do you ask?
Mrs. S. I’ve just been reading in the paper that there are so many excursions to Russia.  Why shouldn’t we go too?

So they're planning their trip for August… mmmm… August 1942*… Russia.  They would be visiting just in time for the beginning of the Siege of Stalingrad.

*The book was published in 1942.