Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Garlic and Friends: The History, Growth and Use of Edible Alliums by Penny Woodward.

Garlic and Friends: The History, Growth and Use of Edible Alliums by Penny Woodward.  Hardcover book published by Hyland House 1996, 248 pages with colour photographs, black and white illustrations, and some monotone illustrations.

Edible Alliums… yeahhhh…

What’s an Allium?  

OK. It “is a monocot genus of flowering plants, informally referred to as the onion genus” (Wikipedia).  Now I know something I didn’t know a few minutes ago.  Despite not knowing what Alliums are, I do know what garlic is and I have more than a casual relationship with various types of onions. Garlic and I are on good terms and I have been known to go through a fair bit of it here at home.  I probably don’t use as much as is being used on the pigs in this clip,

but I would certainly like to.  It’s because of my fondness that a title like this one is something I can’t leave behind.

Last winter I bumped into a friend here in Clunes and they noticed that I was a little under the weather and barely functioning.  A few hours later they dropped around with a garlic soup made using a Richard Olney recipe.  I don’t know if it cured me, I do know that it tasted great.  Garlic is often considered to be a sure fire cure all.  I personally figure that it’s always worth a go and if it doesn’t work as a cure, it will taste great regardless and will therefore make you feel better.  I’ll also mention another friend of mine who grows her own garlic and very kindly gave me some a while ago.  This was an awesome taste experience and a true delight for this fan of the edible Allium.  It was so good that I managed to get some more from her a few months later after making sure she knew how much it was appreciated the first time around.  It was tasty.

This book covers many aspects of Garlic and other edible Alliums including descriptions, how to grow them and how to cook them.  Each plant has it’s own section and overall the book seems to be detailed with enough information to entice even a casual garlic fan to broaden their appreciation.  This title is not one that I have seen previously and this was part of my reasoning for picking it up. It’s a book about garlic. It will sell.

Saturday, May 24, 2014

The 10 Bushcraft Books by Richard Graves.

The 10 Bushcraft Books by Richard Graves.  Hardcover book published by Dymock's Book Arcade (no date, possibly 1950s or 1960s), various pagination with black and white illustrations and a few black and white photographs.

“An enthusiastic bushwalker, skier and pioneer of white-water canoeing, he (the author) foresaw how a knowledge of bush- craft could save lives in the Second World War. To achieve this end, he initiated and led the Australian Jungle Rescue Detachment, assigned to the Far East American Air Force. This detachment of 60 specially selected A.I.F. soldiers successfully effected more than 300 rescue missions, most of which were in enemy-held territory, without failure of a mission or loss of a man. An essential preliminary for rescue was survival, and it was for this purpose that the notes for these books were written. These notes were later revised and prepared for a School in Bushcraft which was conducted for nearly 20 years. As far as is known, “The 10 Bushcraft Books” are unique. There is nothing quite like them, nor is any collection of bushcraft knowledge under one cover as comprehensive.”

When the Zombie apocalypse arrives, it’s a book like this one that will save lives.  Bear Grylls won’t necessarily be around to help you extract moisture from fish, anchor a peg in sand or snow, or make a lobster trap. Yes, this is the book that answers all of these hard questions.  How do you make a fire without smoke?  How do you make a bark canoe?  How do you make a clothes peg?

I like the WWII connection that this book and these skills have.  It lends the information contained within, an authenticity that is now hard to get.  The book was written here in Australia and I assume it was mostly for Australian conditions, but somehow I think that if you squeeze the right fish anywhere in the world, you’ll get water (…or a lot of squashed fish).  The big question is how relevant is this book to today’s busy busy world of large uncompromising metropolises.  The answer is, not very… that is… until the Zombie apocalypse  arrives.

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

Classic Tractors in Australia by Ian M. Johnston.

Classic Tractors in Australia by Ian M. Johnston.  Hardcover book published by Kangaroo Press 1999, 168 pages with black and white photographs and illustrations as well as some colour photographs.

Living in the rural hinterlands of central Victoria, it’s not often that I don’t see a tractor at some stage during the week.  Usually they aren’t vintage and often they are new (or newish), extremely large and hired for a short period of time only (harvesting).  There are a few classic machines about, but nothing as nice as some of these beauties.

Just before Christmas one of my neighbours… lets call him Dave… informed me that he was going to be purchasing a restored vintage tractor.  I live close to the centre of town, as does Dave and his block of land is probably big enough to park a tractor, but not big enough to drive or use a tractor.  So my big question was why.  Apparently it has always been a dream of his to own and drive a tractor and when this one came up for sale he couldn’t resist.  My immediate reaction was a bit sarcastic and I made a bit of a joke about the whole thing.  Seriously, the guy works in IT (I think).  It was only on further reflection on Dave’s Tractor owning adventure, that I realised what a great thing it was that he was taking the plunge and living the dream.  I let him know this the next time I saw him and apologised for the sarcasm.

Unfortunately it is now 6 months later and Dave is still Tractorless.  He assures me that it is still on it’s way, albeit a little slowly.  Let’s hope it’s not hindering traffic on the Western Freeway.  In the meantime I must point out this book to him and maybe it will temporarily quell his Tractor owning ambitions.

Wednesday, May 14, 2014

Tearing Down the Wall of Sound: The Rise and Fall of Phil Spector by Mick Brown.

Tearing Down the Wall of Sound: The Rise and Fall of Phil Spector by Mick Brown.  Hardcover book published by Alfred A. Knopf 2007, 453 pages.

To this day the Phil Spector Back to Mono box set of CDs, is one of my prized possessions.  From the opening bars of “To know him is to love him” you just know that you are listening to something very special.  Check this one out:

The woman up front (Ronnie) ended up marrying Phil and later wrote an eye opening autobiography which contained more than a few interesting stories about this troubled genius.  There are other biographies as well and if half of what you read about Mr Spector is true, then the guy was/is seriously disturbed… and a genius.  From lots of gun stories to weird possessive behaviour, to just plain weird, Phil Spector has always been on the eccentric side of music stardom… and a genius.  People have tried to copy his unique Wall of Sound recording skills, but the truth is that no one has ever done what Phil could do*.

… and then many years later after living as a recluse and out of the public eye, the guy shoots and kills Lana Clarkson, wears the craziest wig you could imagine at the murder trial and ends up in prison.  You couldn’t make this sort of story up.  Mick Brown (the author of this book) interviewed Phil shortly before he was arrested in what was his first major interview in 25 years (Phil, not Mick).  There was even talk before the downfall of a comeback.  All of this put Mick Rock in an excellent position to write this book and write it he did.

* Yes, I am a biased fan.

Saturday, May 10, 2014

Setting the East Ablaze: Lenin's Dream of an Empire in Asia by Peter Hopkirk.

Setting the East Ablaze: Lenin's Dream of an Empire in Asia by Peter Hopkirk.  Hardcover book published by John Murray 1984, 252 pages with some black and white photographs.


“Lenin’s Dream of an Empire in Asia. ‘Let us turn our faces towards Asia,’ exhorted Lenin when the long-awaited revolution in Europe failed to materialise. ‘The East will help us to conquer the West.’ This book tells for the first time the story of the Bolshevik attempt, between the wars, to set the East ablaze with the heady new gospel of Marxism. It is an extraordinary tale of intrigue and treachery, barbarism and civil war whose echoes continue to be heard in Afghanistan and elsewhere today. Lenin’s dream was to liberate the whole of Asia. But his starting point was British India, the richest of all imperial possessions. He saw Britain, then still the foremost imperial power, as the main obstacle to his grand strategy of world revolution.  ‘England,’ he declared in 1920, ‘is our greatest enemy. It is in India that we must strike them hardest.’ If, by means of violent revolution, India could be wrested from Britain’s grasp, then no longer would she be able to buy off her workers with the cheap raw materials and sweated labour of the East. Economic collapse — and revolution — would follow at home. But that was merely a beginning. With trained agitators carrying the torch of Bolshevism throughout the East, the revolution on which Lenin had staked all his hopes would begin to blaze its way across Europe. Needless to say, the British and their allies were equally determined to wreck Moscow’s plans. Peter Hopkirk’s book — the last in his trilogy set in Central Asia — tells the story of the shadowy, undeclared war which followed. Among the players in this new Great Game were officers of the British Indian intelligence services and the professional revolutionaries of the Communist International.”

Someone asked me a while go which titles I look for in my book searching escapades.  This is of course a can of worms question as a secondhand bookseller can sometimes look for years for particular authors or titles, to no avail.  In other words, you can look but that doesn’t mean that you will find.  I of course do have certain authors and titles that I look out for and sometimes, but only sometimes... and even then rarely..., I find them.  Peter Hopkirk is one such author and when I found this title, my heart raced and I did not hesitate.

I read a number of Peters works many years ago, including Trespassers on the Roof of the World.  From what I know, he tends to write about Central Asia and something known as The Great Game.  Both Trespassers on the Roof of the World and The Great Game as a subject, have had a lasting influence on my reading agenda.  It’s interesting that I can pin point an author such as Hopkirk as the starting point of a long list of books of interest that I have read.  One of those books that came after reading Hopkirk was written by AbbĂ© Huc of Huc & Gabet… the French missionary Catholic priest and traveller, famous for his accounts of China and now the inspiration for my bookselling business name “Huc & Gabet: Books of interest”.

If you read the publishers blurb above, you will probably notice the Afghanistan reference.  This is referring to the Soviet war in Afghanistan during the 1980s and we know what happened after that debacle. This book whilst historical in content is still relevant to todays geopolitical landscape and in the past I have found Hopkirks books to be constantly relevant and fascinating when related to todays current affairs.  Hopkirk is always worth reading.

Tuesday, May 6, 2014

A Collection of the Xinjiang Uighur Folk Cap Designs

A Collection of the Xinjiang Uighur Folk Cap Designs, edited by Zhang Hengde, Han Lianfen, Xie Kai et al. (Text is English and Chinese).  Paperback book published by Xinjiang People's Publishing House 1983, 149 pages with black and white and colour illustrations and some photographs. 

“Well-known for its songs and dances, the Uighur nationality has a long history and a brilliant culture. It is extremely rich in the industrial arts. Delicate artware can be seen everywhere in daily life, of which the folk cap is one of the kind. It is a convention for the Uighur people to wear caps. No matter which season it is, the Uighur people, men and women, old and young, on both the northern and southern sides of the Tianshan Mountains, always wear caps. The folk cap is not only a daily necessity, but also a kind of artware with a strong national flavour. Whenever people hold wedding and parties or visit relatives and friends, they decorate themselves with caps. Mass meetings and bazaars are simply exhibitions of caps, where various kinds of caps are so many and beautiful as to dazzle the eye and beggar description. etc”

I recently purchased a large collection of books on Chinese culture, history and art.  Within the 24 boxes of varying condition and varying “of interest” books and pamphlets, was this gem.  I was amazed and intrigued that something so specific and relatively obscure was ever published.  Maybe I shouldn’t be so amazed as folk cap design is a relatively harmless way for the Chinese government to promote this region of China.  The designs are very folky in a very international style of folkiness.  I look at these images and I don’t immediately think of Western China and being a novice in the world of folk art, I would even say that some of them remind me of Eastern European folk art designs.  

1983 (the year this book was published) was a relatively quiet period in regards to Xinjiang on the world stage.  In recent years things have been a bit noisier in the region with there being quite a bit of publicity regarding an active separatist movement.  In the last few days there has been another attack (one of many) by Uighur Separatists at a railway station. This book is a great reminder that Uighur culture is more than just attacks at railway stations.