Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Taste Matters: Why We Like the Foods We Do by John Prescott.

Taste Matters: Why We Like the Foods We Do by John Prescott. Hardcover book published by Reaktion Books 2012, 208 pages with a few black and white photographs.

The human tongue has somewhere up to 8,000 taste buds to inform us when some thing is sweet, salty, sour or bitter — or, as we usually think of it, delicious or revolting. Tastes differ from one region to the next, and no two people’s seem to be the same. But what is it that makes certain people love Roquefort cheese and others think it smells disgusting? How do our experiences of food as infants and even in the womb affect our food preferences? Are cravings for particular foods really a sign that we’re lacking the nutrients that can be found in them? And why, even when we are completely full, do we always have room for dessert? In Taste Matters John Prescott tackles these conundrums and more as he explores why we like the foods we do.”

Over the last festive week, all of my (up to) 8,000 taste buds have been extremely busy enjoying the holiday season, which is why i've chosen to write about this book at this point in time. Fortunately there was no sausage or cheese on sticks at any of the four celebratory dinners that I attended and indeed, I don't think I saw any tinned pineapple plattered out anywhere. There was though, a similarity between all of the meals of which I partook. All four had turkey, ham, roast vegetables and salads, followed by overly sweet desserts including trifle on 3 occasions. (For some unknown reason I didn't see any fruit mince pies on offer this year... very strange.)

The reason I've written about all of this is that this similarity in food between four unconnected meals (completely different groups of people) is obviously due to not only culturally and geographically significant festive eating rituals, but also a matter of taste. I didn't hear anyone complaining about any of the foods on offer, so I think I can safely say that everyone found the plenteous spreads to be tasty... or maybe everyone was too polite. This generalisation of taste appreciation covering all four meals is based on the joy felt by my own 8,000 taste buds on all four occassions.

So why did we all like it? I guess the answer is in this book. 

Wednesday, December 24, 2014

Monday, December 22, 2014

How Do You Get An Egg Into A Bottle?: And Other Puzzles by Edwin Brecher and Mike Gerrard.

How Do You Get An Egg Into A Bottle?: And Other Puzzles by Edwin Brecher and Mike Gerrard.  Hardcover book with pictorial boards (no dust jacket) published by SevenOaks 2011, 144 pages with black and white illustrations.

ASTOUND YOUR FRIENDS. IMPRESS PARTY GUESTS. ANNOY YOUR RELATIVES. This book is crammed with captivating scientific questions and answers - all of them based on real-world science. So you’ll learn why boomerangs come back, whether you can make a truck fly and of course how to get an egg into a bottle.”

I've got a sneaking suspicion that my friends wouldn't be astounded and my party guests wouldn't be impressed if I should happen to whip out this book and start annoying them all (not just my relatives) with these puzzles. This astute deduction on my behalf comes from the thought that if someone did this to me it would annoy me... a lot. I think this is due to my lack of understanding as to why you would want to get an egg into a bottle... that's an egg with the shell intact. Maybe i'm a party pooper. Maybe I'm a Luddite and prefer the old fashioned way of having eggs outside of bottles, not inside them. Why do we have to put eggs in bottles and what's wrong with the old fashioned egg carton?

In reality I am aware of what this book is about. It's about being a smarty pants in front of your friends... actually it's about learning interesting things about science in a fun way, and unlike the putting of eggs in bottles, I understand the overall concept of a book such as this. It's about getting the noggin ticking over... and putting eggs where they really shouldn't be.  

Thursday, December 18, 2014

Orwell: The Authorised Biography by Michael Sheldon.

Orwell: The Authorised Biography by Michael Sheldon. Hardcover book published by HarperCollins 1991, 497 pages with a few black and white photographs.

In his probing and revelatory biography of one of the great prose stylists of this century, Michael Shelden breaks new ground in the evocation of George Orwell’s personal life and in our understanding of his art. Based on original interviews, previously undiscovered letters and documents, and astute literary detective work by Shelden, Orwell is the major biography of one of the great yet elusive literary figures of our time. The Cold War helped make Orwell a successful author by turning him into an anti- Communist icon, but Michael Shelden’s biography renews our appreciation of his place in literary, as opposed to political, history. Few writers have had as exciting a life as Orwell’s. An Old Etonian and an officer in the Indian Imperial Police, he was also a dishwasher in a Paris hotel, a hop picker in Kent, an investigative journalist, a wounded veteran of the Spanish Civil War, a celebrated novelist, and—like Keats and D. H. Lawrence before him—a dreamer whose life was cut short by tuberculosis.

All literary biographies are equal, but some literary biographies are more equal than others.

A few years back I wrote about a biography of Eric's second wife Sonia.  I still stand by my comments regarding my experiences re the selling of second hand literary Biographies. They don't sell... not on line and not here in Clunes. So why have I picked up another one?

My relationship with Orwell goes back a long way. When I was in my teens my mother kindly and with great insight, bought me a book club edition of Animal Farm and 1984 in the one volume. It was a hardcover with the most boring book club dust jacket imaginable. Fortunately, the contents were of considerably more interest than the dust jacket and both stories were devoured with gusto. I'll be honest though, it was 1984 that really struck a chord with me. I enjoyed Animal Farm but 1984 with all it's bleak, oppressive, cabbage smelling darkness, was the true eye opener. Orwell's world is grim, so enticingly grim, that I have reread 1984 at least half a dozen times in the last 35 years. This may say more about me than it does about Orwell.

Unlike Will Self I find Orwell's work to be far from mediocre and I know i'm not alone. Simon Scharma's enthusiasm for Orwell's The Road to Wigan Pier, lead me to track down a copy which I promptly read ahead of all the other books in the pile waiting to be read... which is the same pile I ignored earlier this year when I decided it was time to read 1984 once again. I don't want to sound trivial but I found that all of the stuff Orwell wrote about tripe in Wigan Pier to be just as horrific as Winston's encounter with the rat. Whenever anyone mentions tripe, I think of Orwell... not that this happens all that often, but it does occasionally come up in conversation.

It's a long story which I wont go into any detail about (if you really want to know click here), but whilst sitting in a lung clinic waiting room in London many years ago, breathlessly waiting to see a doctor, I noticed a sign on the wall with a list of all the famous patients who had visited this particular clinic... and there on the list was Eric Blair (George Orwell). Yep, George and I have something in common in that we both have had lung issues* and have both visited this particular clinic. OK, it was a few years apart, but I do feel a certain tenuous, breathless, respiratory connection with him all the same.

So along comes a biography of someone I feel is not just another hack writer, but someone who has left an impression on me... and has done this more than once in my life and I figure that a biography of this bloke can't be a bad thing. This is why I now have another literary biography for sale...

*No. I dont have TB.

Friday, December 12, 2014

Cocktails and Snacks by Andre Launay.

Cocktails and Snacks by Andre Launay. Hardcover book published by Ward Lock 1970, 160 pages with some black and white photographs and illustrations as well as one colour photograph.

COCKTAIL mixing has become a sophisticated art since its birth in the twenties. André Launay presents it here in its most modern form (1970), and in all its variety. The drinks he suggests range from simple to subtle ‘mixes’ for both pre-dinner and after-dinner drinking. Whether conventional or exotic, they all have a tang for the palate to enjoy. So have the snacks which he has devised to go with them. They are just as varied, and cover every kind of snack one may need, from simple sandwiches to luxurious titbits.

Here we are once again hurtling towards the holiday season. Yes it's that time of year when frenzied last minute book buying is followed by the eating and drinking of way too much of each... and this year it's your turn to feed the throng. Before anyone panics let me just say that if this is a problem, it is an easy one to solve, particularly if you are fortunate enough to have a copy of this book in front of you.

So many ideas and so easy to prepare... as long as you have a good supply of toothpicks and sausage.

Please note the peanuts on the tray... yes, vegans are catered for.

You want people to remember this meal and what better way than serving things that you normally eat and know taste good. Toasted sandwiches are easy... you can't go wrong.

… but if you to go the extra few inches, try Mussels with cheese. I personally haven't tried it... but I have eaten mussels and I have eaten cheese and they both taste good to me... so I guess...?

But really, you want to serve something that people will never forgot, something exotic, something special, something pineapple... and I think the Beef Sausage (...yes more sausage...) Open Sandwich is something people will talk about for years to come... that is if they ever talk to you again.

Beef Sausage Open Sandwich

Monday, December 8, 2014

Terry Nation's Blakes 7: A Marvel Monthly.

Terry Nation's Blakes 7: A Marvel Monthly. Various Magazines published by Marvel Comics. (10 issues)

Those of you who have been reading this blog for a while may remember my scribblings re: Terry Nation's Blakes 7, novelization by Trevor HoyleIt seems just like yesterday that I wrote about my appreciation for all things Blakes 7 and my excitement regarding the finding of a rare and valued hardcover novelization. Sadly, and with both feet now firmly on terra firma, the reality is that here we are 3 years after my first journey into Blakes 7 territory and I still haven't managed to teleport the book to a new owner.

In spite of a lack of sales in the Blakes 7 department here at Huc & Gabet, I was very pleased to find this bundle of Blakes 7 magazines. These were not something that I ever expected to find, particularly as I didn't even know that they existed. I guess it's one of those learning curve sort of things where once I didn't know about such things and now I do... which is probably less of a curve and more of a very steep incline. Hardcore Blakes 7 fans must be itching to get there hands on original merchandise such as this and it was with this thought that I eagerly picked up this collection of retro intergalactic telly nostalgia.

Now for the sad news. Unfortunately all of these issues besides being very loved (worn and aged), have had the wall posters removed, so they are all incomplete. I didn't realise this at the time of purchase and it wasn't until I landed back at Huc & Gabet headquarters and began inspecting my treasure, that this imperfection became knowledge. I'm not really sure how much this matters in the bigger scheme of Blakes 7 paraphenalia. It is a cult phenomenon and these magazines are not something that one causally finds for sale 30 years after publication and a missing poster may not deter prospective buyers... or maybe it will. The magazines with the posters would have been better, but that's not what I found. There is now the probability that the Huc & Gabet Blakes 7 shelf is going to get a little more crowded, but I don't care. I think these magazines will be an excellent addition to the portfolio of rare and interesting items that I have for sale.

Tuesday, December 2, 2014

Bonegilla Where Waters Meet: The Dutch Migrant Experience by Dirk Eysbertse and Marijke Eysbertse.

Bonegilla Where Waters Meet: The Dutch Migrant Experience by Dirk Eysbertse and Marijke Eysbertse.  Paperback book published by Erasmus Foundation 1997, 104 pages with black and white photographs and illustrations as well as a few colour photographs and illustrations.

Bonegilla was Australia’s first and largest migrant reception centre in the post WW2 era. The camp was first home to 320,000 migrants from many nations. More than a million people can trace their origins to Bonegilla. The Dutch were one of the largest groups at the camp.”

Yes, I am one of the “More than a million people” that “can trace their origins to Bonegilla.” I wasn't with my family at the time as it was during my prehistory that they took the plunge and ventured away from the ancestral homelands to these welcoming shores. My mother doesn't speak very highly of her time in Bonegilla and I do know that my family left there as soon as they possibly could for elsewhere in Victoria, ending up close to a Ford factory and a job for my father.

The Dutch have a long history here in Oz and like many groups before and after them, have managed to mix, blend and finally disappear within the diaspora. It is for these people who can trace their origins to a devastated post war Holland and the upheaval of emigration, that a book such as this is written for. The migrant experience was very similar for all nationalities at the time and even though my family weren't Dutch this book seems to have the same themes and stories as my family and many others.

This book is pure nostalgia with history as it's base. I can't see that anyone who doesn't have a Bonegilla connection, including those of Dutch extraction, would have much interest in a book such as this. Fortunately there are plenty of us and them, who do have a connection, for whom this book should have some interest.

Thursday, November 27, 2014

The Rodents of Australia by C.H.S. Watts and H.J. Aslin (Australian Natural Science Library)

The Rodents of Australia by C.H.S. Watts and H.J. Aslin (Australian Natural Science Library). Hardcover book published by Angus & Robertson 1981, 321 pages with black and white illustrations and maps as well as a few colour photographs.

This is the first book to be published which deals solely with Australia’s rodent fauna. It provides a comprehensive study of both native and introduced rodents, drawing attention to a large section of the Australian mammal fauna which is often overlooked beside the more widely publicised marsupials.”

Once again it's the time of year when for various reasons (I think it has to do with weather) I find myself actively combating against an influx of house mice, and on at least one occasion, a brown rat, both of which are pictured in this book.

House Mouse

These are not native Australian fauna and are not welcome here at Huc & Gabet headquarters. Fortunately I have an active working plan that seems to succeed to varying degrees. ….and before anyone out there comments on my level of household and bookselling cleanliness, I will add that I am not alone with my rodent problem which is evidenced by anecdotal discussions with my neighbours and a sudden run on pest control products at all of the local hardware stores.

This book deals with both native and introduced rodents which is handy, as sometimes it is a little hard to figure out which is which. In some cases it isn't that hard and rather than looking at a small rodent with disgust or combative thoughts, one can appreciate them particularly if you are lucky enough to see them in the wild... that is those native rodents that haven't been eaten by feral cats or foxes.

There's a lot of detail in this book which is part of a series of informative volumes looking at Australian Natural History. I was recently visiting another bookseller and admiring a different volume in the series whilst wondering why I haven't found more of these titles.  And of course a week later I find this gem. I have noticed that some natural history books are slow sellers. Regardless of this sad state of book buying affairs, I still persist. This is because I like a good natural history book.

Monday, November 24, 2014

France Australe: A study of French explorations and attempts to found a penal colony and strategic base in south western Australia 1503-1826 by Leslie R. Marchant.

France Australe: A study of French explorations and attempts to found a penal colony and strategic base in south western Australia 1503-1826 by Leslie R. Marchant. Hardcover book published by Artlook Books 1982, 384 pages with black white illustrations and maps, as well as a few colour illustrations.

Professor Marchant spent over 25 years thoroughly investigating an untold story which he believes is worth telling. This book will revolutionize the teaching of the history of the exploration and foundation of Australia. Based on previously unused naval and other archival records in France, tells for the first time the fascinating history of French explorations and plans to colonize western Australia in the pre-British period from 1503 until 1826.

The French president Francois Hollande was recently here in Australia chatting it up with other world leaders at the G20 summit in Brisbane. This was the first time in over 25 years that a French president had visited Australia.*  I guess he didn't have much choice in the matter as he was expected, whether he liked it or not, to attend this gaggle of world leaders. The fact that it was in Australia meant that the 25 year embargo/snub/whywouldievervisitthatshithole was finally broken... and surprise surprise, he even managed to hang around for a few extra days... and even more surprising he seemed to enjoy our warm friendly Aussie hospitality. Fortunately there was no shirt fronting of Francois, so he may come back.  

There was a time when the French were a lot more interested in Australia than they have been in the last 25 years. Matthew Flinders (the first bloke to sail around the edges) encountered the French sniffing around prime real estate in 1802. Apparently it was a friendly encounter yet a little bit of a suprise. According to this book, our recently re embraced friends, the French, were keen on bits of Western Australia for quite a while before, during and after Matthews voyage. They sent a number of ships and expeditions down under to check it all out, yet managed to not call any bits of Australia “la maison”. And then, in 1826, the Brits annexed a large chunk of unannexed Australia (now Western Australia) which saw the French loose interest and look elsewhere for a home away from home. It makes you wonder if they had of been successful if we would have eventually become as bi-lingual as they are in Canadia.

*Radiation levels are now safe (?).

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Digital Electronic Music Synthesizers by Delton T. Horn.

Digital Electronic Music Synthesizers by Delton T. Horn. Paperback book published by TAB Books 1988, 259 pages with black and white photographs and illustrations.

Brand-new on the electronics scene a few years ago, music synthesizers quickly became standard equipment for every musician. Now the introduction of digital synthesizers has re-revolutionized the industry. It’s almost too good to be true that the tremendous sound advantage of digital music can also be had for less money! Digital Electronic Music Synthesizers—2nd Edition explains just what synthesizers are, what they do, and how they have revolutionized the music industry.”

I know i'm not the only bookseller synthesizer enthusiast in the world. There is at least one other in Paul Perry of Allsorts Books in Northcote (Melbourne, Victoria) who is very authoritative on the subject. I've encountered a local book buyer who besides being a book buyer, was also into the fetishistic world of synthesizers. He even bought a book on the subject from me at one stage, which goes to show you that there is a market for books on this subject. Sadly, he recently passed away, but i'm sure there are others out there who once they have stopped twiddling their knobs, will realise that there are books on the subject as well.

I still own a few synthesizers. A couple of vintage digital numbers that don't make it into this book, and even a few older vintage analog monsters that sadly don't get used as much as I would like them to be. But they are precious enough to me to not get rid of them... yet.  

Friday, November 14, 2014

A History of Road Trains in the Northern Territory 1934-88 by John Maddock.

A History of Road Trains in the Northern Territory 1934-88 by John Maddock. Paperback book published by Kangaroo Press 1989, 176 pages with black and white photographs and a few black and white illustrations. EX LIBRARY.

Road trains are unique to Australia, and in the outback where there are no rail lines people depend almost entirely on the services provided by this remarkably efficient transport medium. As camel trains began to fade into the background of transport in this country the first road train made its appearance in the Northern Territory. It was Government-owned and served remote stations and settlements throughout the Territory. The post-war period, especially the 1950s and 1960s, saw dramatic development of road train operations, as hauliers progressed from the use of sturdy ex-defence force vehicles to modern powerful British and American marques.” 

There is a lot of nothing out there in the remoter parts of Australia. When I write the word “nothing”, I am referring to human habitation and influence as there is quite a bit of something other than “nothing” out there. On both of my rather brief visits to central Australia, I was amazed at how much “something” there actually is. Maybe it's just me, but for some reason I thought all those empty bits marked with the word “desert” meant lots of sand and nothing else. How wrong was I, there's heaps of stuff out there... including Road Trains.

Road Trains are part of the scenery in outback Australia. It's a long way to the coast where most people live and road trains are used as an economical way of transporting goods both ways too and from the remoter less habited parts. There's a certain romanticism about these juggernaut behemoths of the outback and it is this romantic idea of conquering distance and the harsh elements that a book like this one taps into. A history of this conquering can only be a good thing.

 Road trains surrounded by something

(Good) Books on trucks can be popular with the book buying public and a book such as this about a very specific function of trucks in a specific area, is a bit of a find... at least I think it is. Unfortunately the book is ex library and being an ex library paperback, this means lots of library markings and unremovable clear contact (plastic) to the cover. When selecting books for sale, I tend to avoid this sort of thing as I believe it's not really something that most of the book buying public wants. A second hand book which is close to new is more desirable than a book that is clearly secondhand and obviously ex library... unless the book is on a subject that is desirable... such as trucking history in the Northern Territory. 

Saturday, November 8, 2014

The Sincere Christian Instructed in the Faith of Christ From the Written Word Volume 2 (by George Hay).

The Sincere Christian Instructed in the Faith of Christ From the Written Word Volume 2 (by George Hay, no author listed). Hardcover book (vintage leather bound)(no dust jacket) published by Dublin P. Wogan No 23 Old Bridge 1801, 396 pages.

George Hay (1729 – 1811) was a Roman Catholic bishop and writer who served as the Vicar Apostolic of the Lowland District in Scotland from 1778 to 1805. He published the first English Catholic Bible printed in Scotland; but the work which secured his own reputation as a religious writer was his cycle of Catholic doctrine entitled The Sincere Christian, The Devout Christian, and The Pious Christian, published 1781–86.”

(I know i've written about this issue previously, but here I go again...)

This is volume 2 only. Usually I pick up lone wolf volumes by mistake and from what I can gather this is not an uncommon thing for booksellers to do in the heat of the moment. I've seen bookcases full of lonely volumes out the back of other booksellers premises, pining for their partners (…the books, not the booksellers), waiting patiently for the happy reunion that realistically will never happen. During a frenzied book selection process, it can be hard to carefully consider each book as carefully as they probably need to be considered. It's usually only when you get home and start sorting through the haul/treasure/dreck that you realise the mistake you've made (again) and then vow (again) to be more thorough when selecting under pressure. These errors can include unseen damage, faulty items, etc etc. For many of us it is hard to admit the mistake and move on, hence bookcases full of single volume multivolume sets.

A single volume pining for it's partner

I recently found this book with a whole lot of other vintage volumes that unfortunately were not as vintage as this one... and fortunately at the time, I did realise that it was volume 2 only. This means that when I got home and began my sorting process, I was not surprised/disappointed/pissed off, at another book buying error. This time I knew what I had done. It's not that I knew the title, was excited by the subject or had an idea of it's $$$ value. No, this was purely a textural appreciation of a fine, very worn, vintage volume. It was this feel and overall visible aura of vintageness which included the paper stock, the font, the language contained within and the sense of time, that attracted me to it. Sometimes we make mistakes, I don't think I have this time around. This is a beautiful book.

Like “Fifty Shades of Grey”, this book is part one of a series of volumes. George Hay, the author, was notable for some hard core catholic publications including the first English Catholic Bible (…he didn't write it, he just published it). This particular edition is from 1801 and I believe it's not a first... but who cares, it's from 1801, that's 213 years ago... and it is very rare. Rare enough for me to not regret picking up this wonderful and beautiful single volume of a 2 volume set. ...and like Fifty Shades of Grey, I can't see myself reading it... although if I had to make a choice between the two...!

Wednesday, November 5, 2014

Caravan Chef 2: Around Australia with 30 Ingredients by Eva Stovern.

Caravan Chef 2: Around Australia with 30 Ingredients by Eva Stovern. Hardcover book spiral bound with pictorial boards (no dust jacket) published by Explore Australia 2009, 127 pages with colour photographs.

Caravan Chef 2 takes you travelling around Australia with just 30 ingredients! Whether you’re travelling in a caravan or campervan, camping in a tent or holidaying in a cabin, Caravan Chef 2 makes cooking on the road a breeze. All you need is seasoned traveller Eva Stovern’s 30 essential ingredients, some basic equipment and utensils, and you’re off!” 

30 ingredients, that's it. I've been in a camping type situation where food access was a little limited. There were 5 of us and we had supplies... maybe not as many as we would have liked... and I don't seem to remember there being 30 different bits, but I do remember that some fresh veggies and a bit of fruit was something that would not have gone astray in the wilds of Central Australia.

There was a sardine incident on the edge of Lake Eyre. Unfortunately the lake was a lake at the time (it's normally salt... and void of sardines) and from where we could see it, there was a lot of mud between us and the water. The tin of sardines was opened with considerable difficulty as the opening mechanism had broken and we didn't have one of those important ingredients that every camper should have... a can opener. But we did manage to get it open... with a lot of mess... oily fishy mess. The sort of mess that you want a plentiful amount of water and soap to wash your hands with. As I mentioned, there was water on the other side of the mud.  It was unreachable and salty... possibly a great 31st ingredient. So close, but so far. Yes, we did have water with us, which didn't really seem to be enough to get rid of the oily fishyness which then moved with us from the fly infested oily fishy outdoors into the close confines of our very full oily fishy station wagon. The joys of roughing it in the wilds of central Australia, have never been as good as this!!!!

This book if for people who are a little more prepared than us city slickers ever will be. 30 ingredients and you can eat like a Masterchef judge covered in flies. Looking at the list of the 30 ingredients and picturing from memory the grocery shelves at the Oodnadatta roadhouse, I don't seem to remember fresh tomatoes, lettuce, capsicum, zucchini or cauliflower being readily available. I do remember the Oodna Burger though, a speciality of the Oodnadata roadhouse... it was a little disappointing. Maybe things have changed.

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

The Magic-Beano Book. (1943)

The Magic-Beano Book. Hardcover book with pictorial boards (no dust jacket) published by D.C. Thomson (no date, 1943?), 127 pages with black and white, and blue and red illustrations. (PLEASE NOTE: This book has been repaired.)

The Beano Annual celebrated 75 years of publication in 2013. It's had a few different names over its plentiful history and for a short period it was known as The Magic Beano which had something to do with another publication called “Magic Comic” and Second World War paper rationing. This particular volume is from 1943. As with many vintage books there is no date mentioned, but fortunately due to an avid fan base and wikipedia's quest to have all manner of useful(?) information at the world's fingertips, there are enough clues for me to figure out when this volume was published:

1943. Big Eggo and Koko the Pup are having a three-legged race with all the other characters running behind them.” Wikipedia

In 1943 there was a war going on and i'm fairly sure not very high on everyone's list of priorities was the publication of a large quantity of well bound copies of The Magic-Beano Book. Paper was rationed and the overall quality of binding, paper, ink etc of many books from this era was of a lower standard when compared to pre and post war (…this is a generalisation). This inferior quality, combined with The Magic-Beano being a childrens book probably published in smaller than usual print runs but probably enjoyed and loved by just as many children, means that a book such as this has been through the ringer more than a few times.

“This book is in poor condition. The cover is in poor condition. There is wear to the edges (scuffing, creasing, small chips) and corners (chips and scuffing). The spine has been repaired with binding tape. Part of the original spine has been stuck to the new spine. Some of this original spine has now come loose from the new spine (easily repaired). There is shelf wear overall including scuffs, marks, scratches, creasing, dints, etc. The cover is very worn. The book itself is in poor condition. There is wear to the outer edges and to the corners. The front and back endpapers have tape repairs to the spine hinges (it looks like the hinges split and required repair). The front endpaper has a name and address written on it and there is a hole on the opposite page.  There is some colouring in to the title page as well. The front endpages and the back endpaper, have extensive wear to the edges including scuffing, creasing, rips and chips. There is noticeable foxing in the book. There are a few rips and chips in the book and there is some creasing (mainly to the top right hand corner of the pages). There is yellowing of the pages. Overall a poor copy. PLEASE NOTE: If you prefer new looking vintage books, please DO NOT buy this one (it is very worn).” My ebay description.

Yes, this book has seen the war and managed to survived. There was some surgery done at some stage and the scars are still visible... but it is still here, unlike most of the other copies of the 1943 edition.  

Saturday, October 25, 2014

Troubled Waters: The Changing Fortunes of Whales and Dolphins by Sarah Lazarus.

Troubled Waters: The Changing Fortunes of Whales and Dolphins by Sarah Lazarus. Hardcover book published by CSIRO Publishing 2006, 210 pages with some black and white photographs and illustrations as well as a few colour photographs and one colour illustration.

I've only ever gone to see whales the once. It was part of a 3 day whirlwind trip around Victoria incorporating the Grampians for some Grampian action and then down to Port Fairy and Warrnambool for some Whale action. Whales are a bit fussy and only visit Warrnambool from late May till August and my visit was timed early in the season to accommodate the busy whale schedule with a week to spare... I sort of figured it would be a good idea to watch whales when they were fresh and not worn out by all the human watching.

Upon arrival I thought it might be best to consult with the local tourism office re the best spots for the perusal of whales as I felt fairly sure that going down to the beach and staring at the ocean with no point of reference regarding what were the best viewing spots, was probably not a good idea. This was a fortuitous thing to do as I was politely informed by the tourism advisor that they (the whales) were running a bit late that particular year. Yes, what was to have been the highlight of a quick jaunt around Victoria, ended up being a bitter disappointment. To this day, I haven't seen a whale in the wild. I would like to.

Troubled Waters: The Changing Fortunes of Whales and Dolphins” looks at the relationship between humans and whales and dolphins over the last 1,000 years. Humans have appreciated whales and dolphins in many different ways over time.  A small amount of that time has been in a positive way and most of it in not so positive a way. I have only appreciated them from afar and only in a positive way. This book looks at the subject from all angles and doesn't end with me walking away from the Warrnambool tourist office head down, feeling sad. There is some hope...

Monday, October 20, 2014

Pressure Cooker Cookbook: Tasty, economical recipes for busy Australian cooks by Lisa Loveday.

Pressure Cooker Cookbook: Tasty, economical recipes for busy Australian cooks by Lisa Loveday. Paperback book published by The Five Mile Press 2011, 167 pages with colour photographs.

A hearty soup in three-quarters of an hour? Roast chicken in 30 minutes? A sinfully sticky pudding quicker than you can imagine? Yes, all this — and a whole lot more — is possible with the new generation of pressure cooker. No longer to be feared, these days pressure cookers are safe, sleek stainless steel devices that can cook just about anything in no time at all.”

For many years now I have been carefully considering the purchase of a Pressure Cooker. It's one of those purchases that can't be made willy nilly, it needs to be considered and thought through carefully. The last thing I want is the wrong Pressure Cooker that will leave me with bits of food as my new kitchen décor. The publishers blurb on this book refers to “safe, sleek stainless steel devices”. Yeah, sure. I'm not convinced that they are all safe. All that pressure. All that food. All my walls and ceiling.

Recently I met an enthusiast... Yes, that's right, a pressure cooker enthusiast. This guy had amassed a collection of over 20 pressure cookers and was on the look out for more. Some people collect stamps, this guy collects Pressure Cookers. I thought all my holidays had come at once, he had the knowledge and was keen on sharing it and share it he did... and forget his shared knowledge I promptly then did. Damn it!!! I had it and it's now gone.

In the mean time I have found this imaginatively entitled Pressure Cooker cookbook and it has got some fantastic recipes that make me salivate and realise that I really should move towards the pressure. Pressure Cooker collector, if you're reading this, I humbly ask for your advice once more... and this time I wont forget.

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Hard Choices by Hillary Rodham Clinton + In My Time: A Personal and Political Memoir by Dick Cheney

Hard Choices by Hillary Rodham Clinton. Hardcover book published by Simon & Schuster 2014, 635 page with some colour photographs.

In My Time: A Personal and Political Memoir by Dick Cheney.  Hardcover book published by Threshold Editions 2011, 565 pages with some black and white and some colour photographs.

"HILLARY RODHAM CLINTON'S INSIDE ACCOUNT OF THE CRISES, CHOICES AND CHALLENGES SHE FACED DURING HER FOUR YEARS AS AMERICA S 67TH SECRETARY OF STATE, AND HOW THOSE EXPERIENCES DRIVE HER VIEW OF THE FUTURE. All of us face hard choices in our lives, Hillary Rodham Clinton writes at the start of this personal chronicle of years at the centre of world events. Life is about making such choices. Our choices and how we handle them shape the people we become. In the aftermath of her 2008 presidential run, she expected to return to representing New York in the Unites States Senate. To her surprise, her formal rival for the Democratic Party nomination, newly elected President Barack Obama, asked her to serve in his administration as Secretary of State. This memoir is the story of the four extraordinary and historic years that followed, and the hard choices that she and her colleagues confronted."

"In his enlightening and provocative memoir—a stately page-turner with flashes of surprising humor, remarkable candor, and powerful resonance—former Vice President Dick Cheney takes readers through his experiences as family man, policymaker, businessman, and politician during years that shaped our collective history.  Eyewitness to events at the highest levels, Dick Cheney brings to life scenes from past and present: He chronicles his coming-of-age as a high school athlete in Casper, Wyoming, and courting homecoming queen Lynn Vincent, his future wife. He describes driving through the White House gates just hours after the 1974 resignation of Richard Nixon, to manage the Ford transition. He portrays his response to the national crisis of 9/11, when he conveyed orders from the White House bunker to shoot down a hijacked airliner if it would not divert."

The art of the political memoir is an art that I have very little appreciation for (... i have read none). I remember when Julia Gillard became prime minister of Australia and she revealed that her primary reading pleasures were political biographies. Upon finding this out I was as dumbfounded and shocked as I was watching the The Red Wedding. How could she? This revelation of hers nearly lost her my vote, until I realised that my prejudice was... a prejudice, and that as with most things in life, we all have different tastes and appreciations on everything and anything, including political biographies.

So why do people write political memoirs/biographies? Is it the money? I can't imagine Hillary or Dick being short of a few quid... and i'm fairly sure Julia, who has also put pen to paper, gets some sort of pocket money. I believe it's to do with historical footprints. You know, making sure people understand what you did and why you did it, which is why Dick Cheneys book needed to be written as i'm sure there are many people all over the world who are as perplexed as I am by Dick. Saying that, I personally don't want to read his justifications. Hillary probably also wants to make sure that people understand what she did, particularly as there are a few contentious issues re her time as Secretary of State that she probably wants to clear up before she makes a run for the top job. I'm also not tempted by Hillarys book.

Like Julia Gillard there are many people out there who eagerly consume political memoirs. I don't know Julia but I do know a few people who eagerly await the publication of new memoirs... even memoirs by foreign politicians... maybe not all foreign politicians, just the interesting ones. The big question is do these books sell? Yes and no. There are some politicians who remain a fascination and interest in the eye of the public long after their 15 minutes and there are those who you wonder who the hell are they? and why is there a book about them? Hillary and Dick are both people that have remained “of interest” for a lot longer than most and even if their books are here in a foreign country, both of them are big enough recent historic figures to be “of interest”.

Wednesday, October 8, 2014

Specimen Types: Suitable for Both Book and Display Printing. Issued by Jarrold & Sons Limited, The Empire Press, Norwich & London.

Specimen Types: Suitable for Both Book and Display Printing. Issued by Jarrold & Sons Limited, The Empire Press, Norwich & London. Hardcover book published by Jarrold & Sons (no date,probably 1940s or 1950s), approx 39 pages with examples of type (fonts etc) in black and red and with a few tipped in colour illustrations.

This little book is intended to supplant the vast and bulky portfolio of 'specimens' that so many printers are forced to carry around with them; and to give in the space of a few pages a synopsis of the more important types stocked by Messrs. Jarrold & Sons Ltd., and some idea of the manner in which these types can be handled. The frontispiece and illustrations at the end of the book show the various subsidiary processes which can be handled at Norwich—colour, half-tone, offset, and so on.”

Before the computer and way before the interwebs, people would look at hard copy printed examples of fonts/type. Yep, it's hard to believe that there was once a need for a book of type such as this, but there was. This was an era when there was no font option in a box at the top of a computer screen and there were no font websites where you could download as many crazy fonts as your hard drive could store. It was a different world back then and printers (… these were people who printed things) would actually print examples to demonstrate their fonty dexterity.

Recently i've found a few of these catalogues (?) and I do like the look and overall ambiance that these pages create. It's sort of like printing on it's best behaviour as generally speaking these specimen catalogues tend to show off a printers outstanding abilities with type, ink, layout and paper. The people at Jarrold & Sons are no exception to this generalisation and they did manage to put out this lovely catalogue. 

Saturday, October 4, 2014

Geometrical Drawing For Art Students by I.H. Morris.

Geometrical Drawing For Art Students by I.H. Morris. Hardcover book (no dust jacket) published by Longmans, Green and Co 1941, 228 pages with black and white illustrations and a few black and white photographs.

“This little book has been prepared to meet the wants of those students who only require the Geometry necessary for the Art Student’s course. The book contains over seven hundred figures arranged in a convenient form, and a very complete and exhaustive collection of exercises. The chapter on Solid Geometry has been made unusually full, as the Author’s experience is that one of the student’s chief difficulties is the want of sufficient variety of examples in this important branch of the subject.”

I'm not sure if art students or even fully qualified card carrying artists (?) still use geometry in their work and if they do, do they study it with the same detail as is in this book. I don't want to sound derogatory or negative about modern art, (I actually prefer the new to the old) but for some reason I can't imagine Grayson Perry trying to figure out how “To divide a triangle into any number of equal parts by lines drawn from a point in one of the sides.”* Has Damien Hirst ever considered how to “construct a regular hexagon on a given line, AB (special method)”**? Somehow I don't think he has.*** I'm sure there are artists out there who do consider these and other pressing questions of Geometrical drawing and it is a book like this that should answer all their questions... as long as some of those questions are in inches.

*Page 104
** Page 38
*** ... based on uninformed guess work.

Sunday, September 28, 2014

Knots and Crosses by Ian Rankin.

Knots and Crosses by Ian Rankin. Hardcover book published by The Bodley Head 1987, 169 pages. FIRST EDITION.

A murderer is on the loose in Edinburgh and the city is horrified; murder is not part of the image of Scotland’s elegant capital. But beneath the surface of city life lurks a dark underworld of crime and twisted violence. The murderer’s victims are all young girls, and all have been strangled. The police are baffled, and none more so than Detective Sergeant John Rebus. Rebus is not the most popular man on the force, having been shuffled into the CID after leaving his crack SAS unit under very mysterious circumstances. He is also being plagued by anonymous letters, accompanied by pieces of knotted string and little crosses made from matchsticks. To cap it all, his wife has left him, taking their daughter with her.”

“Knots and Crosses” was the first Inspector Rebus novel written by Ian Rankin. It wasn't the last and the Inspector Rebus books have gone on to become a very successful series of novels closely followed by a television series, all of which (in my opinion) are worth reading and watching. Yes I have read and watched more than a few Rebus stories and those that I haven't read are in the pile next to my bed, waiting to be read. Like a lot of people I enjoy reading about the crims and crimes of Scotland. It's not that the Scots are particularly or exceptionally criminal in their criminality, it's the way that Rankin manages to spin his yarn within an increasingly familiar context. When you have read more than one Rebus book, the next one is like visiting a troubled friend who lives around the corner.  I think this is why these books have become so popular.

When Knots and Crosses was published in 1987 and Rebus was a complete unknown, Rankins publishers probably wouldn't have had the foresight to publish large quantities of this the first edition, due to the financial risk of the unknown and a publishers fear of the remainder. As with many other books or series of books this means that the first edition of the first book becomes a rarity due to the smaller print run*. Rankins later books were and are published in larger numbers as he is a best selling author.  This generally means that the later books in this (and other) series don't have the same rarity and $ value as the first edition of the first volume.  Finding this book was a bit of an eye opener as I hadn't previously considered or sought after any of Rankins work within the context of “rare and valuable”. This was obviously an error on my behalf.

*This is of course a theory, but it does explain why this book is worth big $$$ on the interwebs.  

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Stanley Kubrick: A Biography by John Baxter.

Stanley Kubrick: A Biography by John Baxter. Hardcover book published by Harper Collins 1997, 399 pages with some black and white photographs.

Over the years I have developed a taste for Stanley's films and many of his masterpieces have received multiple viewings by yours truely. I would even go so far as saying that I am a fan and I do pay attention to things Kubrickian (eg. trivia, documentaries, interviews etc). Kubrick is one of those directors that can continue to amaze, delight and shock me time and time again. I have a number of favourites and not so favourites, but I have also found that some of his films after multiple viewings have left me with a completely different opinion to the last time I saw them.

The first Kubrick film I ever saw was Barry Lyndon. I think I was 12 or 13 and I saw it at a cinema in Dandenong. 12 or 13 is not a great time to be seeing a lumbering period epic where it takes a long time for anything to happen. My mother (the person who had dragged me along) thought it was great, I thought it was ok. With further viewings over the years Barry Lyndon has become one of my favourite Kubrick films and i'm not alone.

At this years annual Clunes book festival I was fortunate to have a vintage hardcover copy of Thackeray's Barry Lyndon sitting on the shelf waiting for someone to eye it and bye it. It was not a first edition, but it was a lovely worn vintage copy circa 1890s... and reasonably priced. Anyway, a young man possibly 12 or 13 walks into the shop and starts carefully perusing my rare and vintage portion of the shop. Suddenly he gasps and asks if that is really a copy of Barry Lyndon. I affirm this and casually take the book off the shelf and pass it to him to consider. He started to very carefully flick through the book when I asked if he had ever seen the film by Kubrick. His answered with a resounding yes and then continued to tell me that it was one of his all time favourite films. I was gob smacked. This was not what I was expecting from a 13 year old. He purchased the book and then very quickly left the shop without another word. As I sat there contemplating what had just happened, a few of the customers still in the shop having overheard our brief conversation started to actively discuss amongst themselves what had just taken place. I was not alone in my disbelief and awe.

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Nazi Dreamtime: Australian Enthusiasts for Hitler's Germany by David Bird.

Nazi Dreamtime: Australian Enthusiasts for Hitler's Germany by David Bird. Paperback book published by Anthem Press 2014, 448 pages with a few black and white photographs and illustrations.

“Nazi Dreamtime is the story of extreme-right, ultra-nationalists in Australia before and during the Second World War. Some native-born Australians were attracted to the ideology of Nazism, believing it to be applicable to Australian political and cultural life. The ‘German revolution’ was a European experiment that Australians ought to learn from, and to an extent emulate. These Nazi enthusiasts and their fellow travellers were charitably described by one renegade amongst them as ‘well-meaning dreamers’.”

This isn't the first time i've written about Australian Nazis* and somehow I think it probably wont be the last. There's something about the combination of the words “Nazi” and “Australia” that seems a little out of place, yet here is a another book that not only has “Australia” and “Nazi” joined at the Kangaroo, but also the concept of “Dreamtime” blended in with the whole thing.

“Many thought that Aboriginal concepts of dreaming could be merged with national-socialism to form a ‘blood-and-soil’ white dreaming— a Nazi Dreamtime under the Southern Cross.”

This wasn't something that had all Australians trading in their red white and blue shirts for brown, but there was enough support that this stain on our history ( of the many) deserves a book to be written about it. Even Menzies commented that the ''modern abandonment by the Germans of individual liberty and of the easy and pleasant things of life has something rather magnificent about it.” He was wrong.

...But it wasn't just Menzies, there were other notables, some with a literary bent, who dabbled in, and on the fringes of National-socialism. The index of this book indicates that there is quite a bit in it about Miles Franklin, Xavier Herbert and Manning Clark to name but a few and not having read the book, I can't verify how involved they were in the whole Aussie Nazi thing, but from what I can gather, involved to various degrees they were. By 1945 most of them had fortunately dropped out of Goose step practice and realised their mistakes... at least I hope they had. This Australian enthusiasm for dodgy foreign politics is not something that ended in 1945. Even today we have people who believe and are participating in some extremely crazy stuff not only here, but in foreign lands as well. Not the same crazy stuff as before, but just as misguided.