Friday, August 31, 2012

ANARE: Australia's Antarctic Outposts by Phillip Law and John Bechervaise.

ANARE: Australia's Antarctic Outposts by Phillip Law and John Bechervaise.  Hardcover book published by Oxford University Press 1957, 152 pages with black and white photographs throughout as well as some colour photographs and a few black and white maps.

ANARE is the acronym for Australian National Antarctic Research Expeditions.  This should give you a good idea of what this book is about.  And if you haven’t figured it out, it’s about freezing your butt off a long way from home… and about the work/research being done in Australia’s Antarctic outposts, before the invention of Polypropylene Thermals

It’s long been a dream of mine to one day visit Antarctica.  I’m not sure why this is, other than a fondness for H.P. Lovecraft’s novella, At the Mountains of Madness and for Apsley Cherry-Garrard’s, The Worst Journey in the World, both of which I can highly recommend if you haven’t read them.  This particular book is a little lighter than either Lovecraft or Cherry-Garrard in that there are no Aliens and as far as I can tell, no one dies.  I would even go so far as to say it’s quite a cheery book with some great photographs mostly in black and white but a few are in colour.

 I particularly like this fire breathing seal. 

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Business Card Psycho.

I’ve been searching around the interwebs for the last few days, looking for some Patrick Bateman quotes re business cards and have drawn a complete blank.  I even dug out my copy of American Psycho and had no luck with the quick flick through.  But I was able to find this clip on youtube:

When I think of business cards, I think of Patrick Bateman and his obsession with them (…he has a few other obsessions as well, but for the sake of keeping this reference relevant, I only wish to dwell on business cards).  Maybe I’m the only person who remembers this thing about fonts, paper stock, raised lettering etc... although, whilst searching the interwebs, I did find this.  It’s good to know that I’m not the only person who references business cards with fictional crazed serial killers.      
Recently I was in a situation where I needed to pass my bookselling details on to someone.  This was quite important as the someone concerned was another bookseller with whom I was conducting business with for the first and hopefully not the last time.  Without a business card I felt a little inadequate and to be honest, a little unprofessional, but I managed to not dwell on my inadequacy for too long which is what I have done ever since I began this crazy book selling business.  A week later and another bookseller shows me his brand new card.  I was a little envious… a bit like Patrick Bateman, but with less killing.  And still I didn’t think too much about my own card needs until a few days after that, when I was talking to another bookseller* about branding and signage and of course business cards became part of the conversation.  It then dawned on me that realistically if I want to be taken seriously as a bookseller, I need a business card.  I went home remembered the nice paper stock, the overall professional look and the cheap cheap price that my friends card had and finally took the plunge.  Yep, Vista Print.  So, after way too many years of scribbling my details on scraps of paper, I finally have a card.  No longer will I be the scrap of paper guy scribbling away in my difficult scrawl, now it’s serious…                                                                         
*Yes. I talk to a lot of booksellers.

Sunday, August 26, 2012

Pussycat Fever by Kathy Acker.

Pussycat Fever by Kathy Acker.  Paperback book published by AK Press 1995, 75 pages with black and white illustrations.  

In my younger, impressionable and adventurous years, I read a number of Kathy Acker books.  Starting with Blood and Guts in High School and finishing with In Memoriam to Identity, I remember these books as being difficult and somehow a little unfulfilling, which is why I ended my relationship with the works of Kathy Acker.  In other words, my reading of experimental punk post modern sex positive feminist writing, is no more. 

A few years back I bumped into an old acquaintance that I hadn’t bumped into for a number of years.  For some very strange reason in our brief 5 minute conversation outside a supermarket, he began excitedly telling me how reading Kathy Acker had changed his life.  I found the conversation a little uncomfortable as all I could think about was my current lack of enthusiasm for her works and how could I politely change the conversation… which I was unable to do.  Most importantly though, this confession of his reminded me of Kathy and her oeuvre which was something that I hadn’t thought about since Kathy and I parted ways.  She died in 1997 and this encounter with my old acquaintance was at least 10 years after the fact, leading me to the conclusion that despite my personal lack of enthusiasm, Kathy still has a fanatical fan base… of at least one fan… probably more.

This book was published a few years before she died, which was also the year that she toured Australia.  I know she toured Australia as this book has a ticket stub for the show, which at a guess was probably her reading from her works and talking about all sorts of stuff.  The original owner probably bought this book at the show as this copy is signed which was as good a place as any to buy a signed copy of Pussycat Fever particularly here in Australia.  Whenever I find a Kathy Acker title I always think of my acquaintance, which I guess is why I pick them up… also, they seem to sell.

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

The Platypus by Harry Burrell.

The Platypus by Harry Burrell.  Hardcover book published by Rigby 1974, 226 pages with some black and white photographs as well as a few colour photographs and a few black and white illustrations.

“Although the platypus is probably the most fascinating of all Australia’s native mammals, the full facts about its body structure and life habits eluded scientific observers for many years. More than one hundred years passed after the first sightings before a naturalist was able to prove conclusively that the animal did lay eggs and suckle its young; even today there are many details of the animal’s life and habits which are not fully understood.  Few men have made a more intensive study of the platypus than the New South Wales naturalist Harry Burrell, who spent more than twenty-five years observing the animal in its native habitat and in the laboratory and was the first man to successfully keep platypuses in captivity.  Burrell’s book, the culmination of his study, has been widely praised for the new information it brought to light and for its absorbing account of the animal’s discovery and early theories concerning its curious combination of mammal and reptile-like features. Chapters deal with the body structure of the platypus, its nervous system and sensory perception, distribution, nest, burrow and breeding habits, the role of the poison spur and its life cycle.”

Yes, the male Ornithorhynchus anatinus has a poisonous spur* on its hind limbs.  In other words, don’t touch. This is good advice regarding any wild animal and as a rule is something that I personally adhere too as much as I possibly can.  You’re probably thinking that the likelihood of encountering a crazed attacking Playtypus in the wild is a very slim prospect, which for most people here in Australia and overseas is indeed the case, but you never know.

Here in rural Victoria where I live, we do of course have varying amounts of wildlife in the… ummmm… wild.  This is something that pleases me whenever I encounter it.  From the frogs in the creek, to the blue tongue lizard living in my backyard, to the Swamp Wallabies living a few hundred metres away, I enjoy their company.  Recently I have been made aware of a spot where Platypus (Platypi? Platypuses?) are easily viewable, not that far from town… far enough to require transport, but close enough for a quick visit.  So myself, a fellow bookseller (James from Black Duck books, here in Clunes) and another local (Geoff) ventured out one cold and wet Sunday afternoon to see what we could find.  We found the spot easily enough but the Platypus were not so easy to locate.  The creek where they abide was a torrent due to heavy rain, and we all agreed that our timing was probably a little too early in the day.  Undeterred, we have vowed that we will go back when there is a little less pervasive moisture.

So a few weeks later i find this book about the Platypus.  Fresh in my mind, the subject matter immediately grabbed my attention and my purchase.  This is a subject that people are interested in and I feel confidant that this book will easily sell.

Whilst writing this blog entry I did a quick search of eBay to find my listing of this book and was very pleased to find that it is the only listing of this title at this point in time on eBay.  It’s always disappointing to find multiple copies, sometimes slightly cheaper, available for sale.  A single listing of a title is always preferred… especially if it’s mine.

* Whoops. Apparently the spur is Venomous not Poisonous.  

Monday, August 20, 2012

The History of St. Kilda: From its First Settlement to a City and after 1840 to 1930 volume 1 by John Butler Cooper.

The History of St. Kilda: From its First Settlement to a City and after 1840 to 1930 volume 1 by John Butler Cooper.  Hardcover book (no dust jacket) published by Printers Propriety Limited 1931, 405 pages with some black and white photographs and illustrations as well as a few colour illustrations (one coloured photograph).

When I spotted this book I knew immediately what it was as I had seen a copy of it previously.  The weird thing is I can’t remember where I’ve seen it.  I know that I’ve never owned a copy before I bought this one and I’m fairly certain that I saw it for sale somewhere for big $$$, possibly at a rare book fair… in other words it was a book that has caught my eye previously… somewhere.  It’s fairly distinctive so it wasn’t hard to pick out from a shelf full of other books.  Here’s a dodgy photo of the spine which doesn’t really give a good indication of how easy this book is to spot… but maybe you can get the general idea:

St Kilda is a suburb of Melbourne, Victoria and is probably one of it’s most well known suburbs both nationally and internationally for both the right and wrong reasons.  It’s also one of Melbourne’s oldest suburbs which makes this history “of interest”.  Particularly of interest are some of the early photographs… and I guess some of the later photographs as well, as the book was published in 1931 so everything in the book is now historic.  

 Looking westward from Balaclava Railway Bridge.

… and it’s volume 1 only.  Does this concern me?  No.  Yes, two volumes would have been nice, but this volume was a lone wolf and a vintage lone wolf at that.  It’s not as if it’s two volumes of a three volume set of Don Quixote (…currently sitting on my shelf with me not knowing what to do with them) and as a single volume it contains episodes of history as apposed to a continuous narrative (… like Don Quixote).  So I believe the book has a few things going for it which should help sell it despite being a single volume.

Thursday, August 16, 2012

The Invisible Harry Gold: The Man Who Gave the Soviets the Atom Bomb by Allen M. Hornblum.

The Invisible Harry Gold: The Man Who Gave the Soviets the Atom Bomb  by Allen M. Hornblum. Hardcover book published by Yale University Press 2010, 446 pages with a few black and white photographs.

I was always under the impression that Fuchs “gave the Soviets the Atom Bomb”, yet here’s a book about a  different guy “who gave the Soviets the Atom Bomb”.  How many bombs were the Soviets given?  I personally have never received a bomb, but bombs were obviously being thrown around left, left and left at the Soviets.  On closer inspection (… a quick read of the blurb) this book is about the guy that Fuchs gave the bomb to, who then technically, “gave” it to the Soviets.  In other words, the middle man, Harry Gold.

I’d never heard of Harry.  Maybe it’s a US thing… I’m not sure.  Apparently, Harry was a nice guy, so nice that he only served half of his 30 year prison sentence.  Unlike Fuchs who opted to emigrate to East Germany after being released, Harry stayed in the US and began teaching in a Hospital where everyone thought he was a nice guy despite his dodgy past.

All of this was a long time ago and I’m not really sure how interested people are in the Cold War or in the history of the Atom Bomb.  I personally have a slight interest in the whole thing, but that’s me and I assume with these sort of books that I’m not the only person interested.  Obviously the author and publisher thought there was some interest in the subject matter or else they wouldn’t have written and published the book.  Cold War history is something I don’t usually pick up as from experience it’s not a big seller here in Australia.  The Atom Bomb was something we never had… although one of our Prime Ministers (Menzies) was so keen on getting one that he let the Brits blow up bits of our desert in the hope of getting one handed over afterwards.  This didn’t happen…   Maybe he should have spoken to Harry Gold.

Monday, August 13, 2012

Booksellers of Clunes Book Sale 12th August 2012: The aftermath.

…. “I can at least say, we gave it a go.”

Yep, it was a fizzer.  The weather wasn’t that bad and the sun was seen for a few moments at various points during the day...  but when the sun went and the wind blew, it was disgustingly cold, which in this part of the world can deter the casual day tripper and obviously the majority of book buyers.  It was also the last day of the Olympics and it is football season and and and and… I could make excuses all day, but in the end the hard reality was that the numbers were barely there and takings were disappointing.  Don’t get me wrong, it was still better than a $7 day and overall other than a few hours of extra work, I haven’t really lost anything and neither have the other booksellers in town who all put in the effort and also didn’t reap the big rewards. There were a few keen customers, which was nice and upon interrogation they informed us that they had seen our advertising and had been tempted enough to freeze their butts off away from the telly. 

Now the big question is “What’s next?”  There are a few suggestions floating around for another attempt at a sale and we’ll probably have some sort of meeting to discuss this and any other mega bookselling ideas.  Interestingly though, I came home from the sale to find an on line order from Books & Collectibles… which leads me to think about my priorities. 

Here are a few photos when the sun was out.

Thursday, August 9, 2012

Booksellers of Clunes Book Sale 12th August 2012.

A number of months ago a few of us local booksellers were discussing the joys and benefits of our annual bookfair.  We all agreed that as wonderful as this one weekend of the year is, there are 51 other weekends in the year that in regards to $$$, range from miserable to reasonable.  Unfortunately for most of us, the miserable weekends can outnumber the reasonable.  (Last Saturday, my total shop takings were $7.  It is Winter and the weather has been fairly miserable.)

For the past few years, I have been proposing a book sale weekend other than Back to Booktown, which is a concept that had gotten nowhere due to a lack of interest.  The idea was that we invite only Clunes booksellers, including on line sellers, to band together and have a sale.  I was selling on line at the time and since then there have been a lot of changes, probably the biggest now being my direct involvement in a shop and there is now new management in a few of the other shops.  Anyway, I once again mooted the idea and this time, the book sellers of Clunes have gone for it.  

The concept of the sale is to have a large number of books at incredibly cheap prices ($1 to $5)… and only advertise locally.  We have all noticed that a large proportion of our small clientele during the year, are local or nearly local, so we figured we should aim for this market.  We have done some advertising as far a field as Ballarat and Daylesford (both ½ an hour drive from here) and hopefully people will get the message.  We devised an advertising budget which between the 6 booksellers means that it is dirt cheap for each bookseller to be involved ($18 each).  All the shops will be selling from their own premises which means that people coming to town for bargains will learn where the shops are and will possibly be encouraged to purchase something other than a $5 book.  If they don’t, it doesn’t matter.  At least we got them here and now they know we are here.  If they knew that already, then this sale should remind them that we are here and hopefully encourage further visits.  If they don’t come but see the advertisements then hopefully they’ll be reminded that we exist not only at Back to Booktown but all year round… and will visit soon… hopefully.

This Sunday the 12th of August is the sale, which we have given the title of “Booksellers of Clunes 1st Annual Book Sale”.  There are a few other things happening in town involved with the Words in Winter festival and hopefully this will encourage people to visit us and them.  I’m a bit nervous about the whole thing, what if people don’t show?  I’m not expecting thousands of people, but a few hundred would be nice.  Although if no one shows up, I can at least say, we gave it a go.  It’s better than waiting around in the cold for a possible $7.

Anyway, you’re all welcome to come along even if you aren’t local… 

I’ll do a post next week with a full report. 

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Below and on Top by Edward Dyson.

Below and on Top by Edward Dyson.  Hardcover book (no dust jacket) published by George Robertson and Company 1898, 327 pages with black and white illustrations.

As a patriotic resident of Clunes, I think the most interesting thing about this book is that Dyson was born and grew up not far from where I now sit.  Apparently he worked here in Clunes and in a number of the other towns in the area, during his teens.  The “Below” in the title refers to mining and more than likely he was here in Clunes working in one of the gold mines… That’s not a definite as there were other jobs around here other than gold mining, but gold mining was an occupation that Edward did do for a while and gold mining was something that still happened in Clunes at the time he was here.  

Apparently Dyson based a lot of the characters in his stories (this book is a collection of short stories) on childhood acquaintances and not having read the book, I can only wonder if any of the stories are based on people from Clunes.  I love the idea of this book being full of local character and interest, as other than the Lindsay family who were from Creswick (36km away) there aren’t that many local literary connections that  i'm aware of.  Dyson at some point did befriend the Lindsay’s, but I’m not sure if this friendship was something that began locally or was a later Melbourne thing. 

There haven’t been any new editions of this book in the last one hundred and fifteen years, but it is currently available as a “Print on demand”.  For those of you who don’t know what this means, it’s a copy of the book cheaply printed and bound in a print run of one.  In other words, you order it, they print it and then they post it to you.  I find this interesting as for some strange reason I can’t imagine Below and on Top being a popular title or that people would be that interested in Edward Dyson.  On further reflection, I guess that’s why it’s print on demand.  If there’s no “demand”, there’s no “print”.  Maybe I’m wrong.  Maybe Dyson does have a cult following and there’s a photocopier/printer somewhere in the world, whipping up hundreds if not thousands of copies of this title as I write these observations.  Unfortunately none of these people have realized that they can get an original first edition from me… or maybe it’s the price difference that has deterred any budding buyer from forking out the big $$$, choosing instead to get a fresh copy whipped and shipped.

Thursday, August 2, 2012

On the Beach by Nevil Shute.

No Highway by Nevil Shute.  Hardcover book published by Heinemann 1961, 269 pages.
Beyond the Black Stump by Nevil Shute.  Hardcover book published by Heinemann1956, 297 pages.
Slide Rule: The autobiography of an Engineer by Nevil Shute.  Hardcover book published by Heinemann 1955, 249 pages.

Earlier this year I was manning the shop when a customer enquired whether we had any Nevil Shute titles other than On the Beach.  Confident that we would have something other than On the Beach, I strode over to the appropriate part of the shop and found… three copies of On the Beach.  Yep, three.  One was mine and the other two belong to the other person involved in the shop.  This is a little embarrassing. Three copies of one title and no copies of any of the other fine titles penned by Nevil Shute is a disaster for a bookshop trying to establish a reputation… I guess having 3 copies of On the Beach is a reputation, but not the sort I’m looking for.  So my remedy for this was to begin looking for other books by Nevil… and removing my copy of On the Beach from the shelves and placing it comfortably on the $5 bargain table.  Now all of this took place before our Booktown festival in May and I couldn’t help but notice that all four copies still remain in their positions, despite the books being on offer to the 18,000 people who visited this town… and yes, there are now four copies of On the Beach in the shop (2 on the table, 2 on the shelves).

So here we are 4 months later and after much searching (emotionally and spiritually), I finally find a number of hardcover Nevil Shute titles that are not On the Beach, in what I consider to be good condition and suitable for the shelves.  Nevil has been on my mind during my recent expeditions and I have been looking with enthusiasm and fervour.  Indeed, after my searches I can confidently write that there are nearly as many copies of On the Beach out there as there are copies of the Da Vinci Code*, which is interesting as it’s been a while since Nevil Shute was a best selling author.  I have resisted buying any further copies of On the Beach (not quite in the same way that I have resisted buying copies of the Da Vinci Code) as I believe 4 unsold copies is enough.  It will be interesting to see if anyone is interested in these new titles or if the person mentioned above, should ever revisit the shop despite our previous poor performance.

*Actually there are a lot more copies of the Da Vinci Code, but I think you get my point.