Thursday, February 27, 2014

Philip K. Dick: Exhilaration and Terror of the Postmodern by Christopher Palmer.

Philip K. Dick: Exhilaration and Terror of the Postmodern by Christopher Palmer. (Liverpool Science Fiction Texts & Studies series)  Paperback book published by Liverpool University Press 2007, 259 pages.


“Once the sole possession of fans and buffs, the SF author Philip K. Dick is now finding a much wider audience, as the success of the films Blade Runner and Minority Report shows. The kind of world he predicted in his funny and frightening novels and stories is coming closer to most of us: shifting realities, unstable relations, uncertain moralities.  Philip K. Dick: Exhilaration and Terror of the Postmodern examines a wide range of Dick’s work, including his short stories and posthumously published realist novels. Christopher Palmer analyses the puzzling and dazzling effects of Dick’s fiction, and argues that at its heart is a clash between exhilarating possibilities of transformation, and a frightening lack of ethical certainties. Dick’s work is seen as the inscription of his own historical predicament, the clash between humanism and postmodernism being played out in the complex forms of the fiction. The problem is never resolved, but Dick’s ways of imagining it become steadily more ingenious and challenging.” Publishers Blurb.

I can’t remember which was the first P.K. Dick book I read.  I can remember reading another one soon thereafter… but I can’t remember what that was either.  I know that after my early readings, I bought and read as much as I could possibly find, which even back in the 1980s here in Australia, was not a lot, particularly as I had a preference for second hand copies.  Over the years my Dick collection has grown and now I have a considerable number of mostly ratty looking classics.  First editions? Nope.  Hardcovers?  2 or 3, just whatever I could find.   

  These are from the personal collection. (Not for sale)

A few years back I found this excellent website which has a detailed bibliography and much more information about Dick.  It's the sort of website that this fan could easily get lost in… and occasionally does.  Interestingly a quick look through their list of non fiction titles and I can’t see this book.

I don’t know that I would ever rate any of his books in my top 10, but I would probably rate him as one of my all time favourite writers.  There’s something about his work that sticks with you and in a way it’s more about an atmosphere and place than a narrative.  Don’t get me wrong, they all have a narrative, some of which are truly wonderful and exciting in that crazy, paranoid way that few others can even get close too.  For me though it’s about something else.  I think it’s this something else that has helped to keep the works of Philip K. Dick alive and relevant with todays readers (… and film goers) in a way that a lot of other writers of the same ilk haven’t. 

I have a few customers, both young and old, who are always on the look out for anything Dickian that I can lay my hands on. Whatever I get in stock, tends to not be in stock for very long and like myself, people don’t seem to mind if these books are worn and beaten up.  In some ways it adds to the Philip Dick experience in a way that it doesn’t with other writers.  Again this might have something to do with the Dick world, where often things aren’t quite right and a little worn around the edges.

Monday, February 24, 2014

Cheiro's Guide to the Hand by Cheiro.

Cheiro's Guide to the Hand by Cheiro.  Hardcover book with embossed pictorial cover (no dust jacket) published by Herbert Jenkins (no date, fifteenth printing), 128 pages with some black and white illustrations.

Cheiromancy.  Now there’s a word you don’t here or read that often.  It’s another word for Palmistry or Palm reading, which is the art of fortelling the future based around the lines on someone’s hands.  That is the lines that we are all born with and can’t really change… So Cheiromancy is the interpretation of our future based around our hands… ???  Sorry, I’m just having a little bit of difficulty in understanding this concept.  Surely there are other factors involved in our futures.  Maybe where we live, our economic backgrounds, our education, our star signs*, random luck (or lack of it)… aren’t there thousands of factors that go into our big pictures? Surely this all can’t be under the control of the lines on our hands… the lines that I never ever pay any attention to?

Moving along.  Cheiro (William John Warner) obviously took his name from his art, the art he acquired in India from ancient texts written in gold on human skin (… I think the skin was no longer attached).  He then became a famous palm reader in Europe and America and had many famous clients.  The guy obviously had some sort of skill as he did have a successful lengthy career expounding this malarkey upon the world.  What that skill actually was, I’ll leave to your imagination.

But I haven’t written about Cheiro and his book to attack his skills or craft... even though that is what i have just done.  What I want to write about is the wonderful binding on this particular volume.  It’s hard to tell from the scan but the front cover is a real eye opener in book design.  This has something to do with the graphics, the colours and the fact that the whole design is slightly embossed.  Put simply, this book is beautiful and a real joy to behold.  It’s obviously a vintage binding and has held up extremely well over time.  I wonder if this longevity was something that Cheiro saw in his own palm? 


Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Toast: Homage to a Superfood by Nick Parker.

Toast: Homage to a Superfood by Nick Parker.  Hardcover book with pictorial boards published by Prion Books 2002, 109 pages with colour photographs.

“Why don’t we all just admit it? We don’t give a toss about sun- dried tomatoes or seared tuna. What the nation* really craves is toast.  More toast is eaten in this country than any other food, yet it has been shunned by recipe books and ignored by history TOAST is here to set the record straight.  Funnier than Delia Smith and with more recipes than Longitude, TOAST tells you everything you could possibly want to know (and a few recipes more) about the nation’s favourite fast food… With toast recipes and some of the finest food photography this side of Sid’s cafe, TOAST takes a satirical and long overdue look at our fondness nay obsession with the greatest of fast foods.”
*Great Britain

Toast.  I’ve eaten a bit over the years.  When I think hard about how much toast I’ve eaten, my brain starts to hurt.  Looking back, I think I grew up on the stuff, the best days of my life were spent eating toast.  This might have something to do with how easy it is to turn a piece of not so fresh bread into a fresh piece of warm mouth watering toast… with lots of butter… and, because I’m Australian, with a generous amount of Vegemite spread across it.  The butter melting through and the salty yeasty delight of Vegemite combined with the crispy sweetness of a piece of freshly toasted white bread… yeah.

Toast is a universal food eaten by most people around the world.  I’m sure the Inuit would have eaten it if they had of had something other than seal and whale to make bread out of.**  I know Indians like a bit of toast as I’ve eaten more than a few omelettes on truly tasteless small thin bits whilst travelling through the sub continent.  The author of this book points out that most gourmet chefs as of 2002, seem to have ignored the whole toast issue. Yep, Nigella and Jamie don’t mention a crumb about toast, although I’m sure that since the publication of this breadbreaking volume this issue has been fixed…

And here is a book… yes, a whole book… with history, observations, anecdotes and some excellent recipes, including a recipe for cheese on toast (page 94).  This book is for any chef wanting to fill that hole in their cookbook collection.

** I’m sure that toast is now a staple food in most Inuit communities as it is the world over.  I wonder what Seal on toast tastes like?

Saturday, February 15, 2014

Of Bridles and Burnings: The Punishment of Women by E. J. Burford and Sandra Shulman.

Of Bridles and Burnings: The Punishment of Women by E. J. Burford and Sandra Shulman.  Hardcover book published by Robert Hale/St. Martin’s Press 1992, 240 pages with black and white illustrations.

“Of man’s inhumanity to man there are many chronicles, but his inhumanity to those he is supposed to love and cherish has been less well-recorded. In remedying this deficiency Of Bridles & Burnings relates a tragic history of punishment which should have been documented long ago.  The authors describe how and why over a thousand years, by both law and custom, British women were pilloried, executed and transported and made to undergo a host of savage humiliations contrived by masculine ingenuity. In tracing the roots of these punishments and the ancient prejudices against women they reveal why man chose to inflict such suffering on those without political or economic power, whose ‘crimes’ often resulted from society regarding women as mentally and morally inferior.”

Mankind as a whole has been discriminatory for as long as mankind has been.  Whether it’s been restrictive laws and conditions against minorities, institutionalised racism or full scale wars against neighbours, people are often not very nice to those that are not the same as they are.  More recently things haven’t improved and let’s be honest about this, they probably won’t be getting better soon. 

When I saw this book, I nearly didn’t pick it up.  There’s so much nastiness in the world that I don’t know that we really need to be reminded about how nasty we once were to half of our own society (societies), although if you read the news it’s fairly obvious that this is an on going problem… maybe not to the extremes or as often as presented in this book, but on going nevertheless.   After much ummminng and ahhhing I finally relented and picked it up when I realised that this is probably the only book on this subject that I have ever found and therefore a book “of interest”. 

The chapter titles will give you a fair idea on the details contained therein:
Burning and Drowning
Ducking stool
Stocks, Pillory, Thew and Cage

Grisly.  So who is going to be interested in the way men mistreated women in England in days gone by?  I’m not tempted but I reckon someone will be.

*“A scold's bridle, sometimes called a brank's bridle or simply branks, was an instrument of punishment used primarily on women, as a form of torture and public humiliation. The device was an iron muzzle in an iron framework that enclosed the head. A bridle-bit (or curb-plate), about 2 inches long and 1 inch broad, projected into the mouth and pressed down on top of the tongue. The curb-plate was frequently studded with spikes, so that if the offender moved her tongue, it inflicted pain and made speaking impossible. Wives who were seen as witches, shrews and scolds, were forced to wear the branks, locked onto their head.”  Wikipedia

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

That's the Joint!: The Hip-Hop Studies Reader, edited by Murray Forman and Mark Anthony Neal.

That's the Joint!: The Hip-Hop Studies Reader, edited by Murray Forman and Mark Anthony Neal. Paperback book published by Routledge 2012, 760 pages.

One of the joys in life is discovering new stuff.  By “stuff”, I’m referring to anything that we can discover such as books, art, food, people, music etc.  To me there is nothing better than unearthing some little gem that is genuinely “of interest” in both the small scale and the bigger picture. 

A number of years ago, a friend suggested I read “Lords of Chaos: The Bloody Rise of the Satanic Metal Underground”, which i promptly did.  It was amazing.  A true insight into a subculture that I had only a very limited knowledge and understanding of.  I learnt so much from reading this book that it is bench mark in my music book reading life.  Since then I haven’t burnt any churches, killed anyone in a Satanic ritual, bought any Norwegian Black Metal CDs and I dare anyone to claim they have seen me wearing satanic face makeup.  The book was amazing, the events and the music portrayed weren’t.  It just wasn’t my thing.  I would recommend it though, to anyone… and I mean anyone… interested in music subcultures.  It is truly a great read.*  

The title of That’s the Joint, is a reference to the Funky 4+1’s excellent 1980 track of the same name… at least that’s where I think the title comes from.  I know this track quite well as I have it on a few Sugarhill Records compilations.  Yes, I listen to Hip-Hop or Rap or whatever you want to call it, probably not as much as some people do and not as much I once did, but it is something that is on the radar here at Huc & Gabet.  I guess this is why a title like this attracted my attention.

That’s the Joint is more of a scholarly look at the genre as apposed to some of the less informed fan type books that abound.  Many of these books are not on the Huc & Gabet radar as they often appear to be churned out promotional picture books intended for short term appreciation and lacking in depth… Yes that’s a judgement call on my behalf, but I’m the person who has to sell these books and if I think badly of them, I assume most (or many) other people would also think the same way.**  This book at 760 pages, is not lacking in depth.  References are listed and amazingly there are no pictures of strutting rappers with gold chains and baseball caps.  This book is the real deal and is intended for serious research and discussion on the subject at hand.

One of the reasons I eagerly read Lords of Chaos all those years ago was because it was nearly a complete unknown to me.  That’s the Joint is less of an unknown as some of the subjects covered are familiar or vaguely familiar.  It does look like a great read though and you never know, I may even be tempted if my Hip Hop CDs start to spin once more. 

* Interestingly I have never found a secondhand copy of this book.
** They are great presents.

Thursday, February 6, 2014

The Lasting Impact of Waverley Riding School: The amazing Irving Sisters Marjorie, Kay & Pippa by Ann L. Robertson.

The Lasting Impact of Waverley Riding School: The amazing Irving Sisters Marjorie, Kay & Pippa by Ann L. Robertson.  Hardcover book published by Ann L. Robertson 1994, 421 pages with black and white photographs as well as a few colour photographs and a few black and white illustrations.

“The Lasting Impact of Waverley Riding School’ tells the fascinating story of the Irving sisters Marjorie, Kay and Pippa. This saga initially covers episodes of their early life on a mallee property with enlightened parents who arranged they were well-educated (in the 1920’s). Such foresight enabled the sisters to extract the family from financial disaster. Thus it was, in 1933, the sisters started the Waverley Riding School in Melbourne with six horses and a weatherboard house on 20 acres purchased with borrowed money. A riding school which grew to become Australia’s premier establishment.  The hundreds of people, young to elderly, who rode at Waverley were a privileged group. It was joy, fun and adventure.”

Talk about obscure.  This book still shocks me every time I look at it.  It’s not that I find the subject matter distasteful or anything like that, it’s the obscurity of the subject matter that shocks me and the fact that I actually have a copy of this book here on my shelves….  There is of course reasoning as to why this book is sitting on the Huc & Gabet shelves which has something to do with being so obscure that it therefore must be of interest… to someone.  There are lots of obscure books out there that aren’t of interest, but this one, well, it’s got everything going for it.  There’s the horse thing and the history thing combined with the horse thing, leading to a perfect nostalgia hit for anyone ever involved in horse riding at the Waverley Riding School.

It could be my conservative and sheltered taste in books (?) that leads me to this conclusion and wonderment at the obscurity… or it could be that I am completely wrong about the whole thing and Marjorie, Kay and Pippa are still household names around the aged members of the Melbourne horse riding community.  To be honest, I have no idea what the story is behind this book, except that the story is beyond my non riding school knowledge of the history of Melbourne. 

Anyone wishing to comment or to enlighten us all as to the wonders and "Lasting Impact", your comments would be welcomed.

Saturday, February 1, 2014

Model Jet Engines by Thomas Kamps.

Model Jet Engines by Thomas Kamps.   Paperback book published by Traplet Publications 2005 (third edition), 107 pages with black and white photographs and illustrations.

As most of you are probably/hopefully aware, I sell books through a number of websites on the interwebs including my own.  Most of my sales and therefore income, still comes from ebay which obviously due to the $$$ is where I focus considerable attention.  There are many different theories and methods of selling things on ebay and of course we all have our own theories as to which of these is the best way of achieving maximum sales.

Ebay allows sellers considerable information re how often items are viewed and also how many people are ‘watching’ each item that is listed.  Which brings me to this book.  This is the second time I have listed this particular title and as of yet, it hasn’t sold.  This in itself is not that unusual as… yes, as hard as it to believe… not all of the books I list on ebay, or elsewhere, sell… at least not at first.  What is of interest is the amount of people that have looked at this particular book each time I have listed it.  For me to consider that there is an interest in a book on ebay, anything above 10 views means that there is some sort of interest.  Because I sell most of my items as ‘buy it now’ there are often not that many views or watchers on the more popular items as anyone seriously interested in a book tends to ‘buy it now’.  Both times I have listed this book I have had around 100 views of the item and only a few watchers.  So why hasn’t it sold?

There is obviously some sort of interest in it as a lot of people are looking at it.  I’ve double checked the price and my copy of this book is the only copy on ebay Australia at the moment, so the price is… well, it’s the price… (I have lowered the price on the second listing).  This is one of those weird ebay mysteries that I don’t have an answer for.  I don’t even have a theory on this one.  Any ideas?