Saturday, February 26, 2005

Night now. Foggy, the fog not quite reaching the second floors of neighbor buildings, so that when I went for coffee a few minutes ago I could look up through the drifting vapours and see the yellow moon. Posted by Hello
Sale of the Week

The Erotic Bondage Handbook and A Career Guide for Creative and Unconventional People.
Wednesday, February 23, 2005
Stop Me If You've Heard This One Before...
(verbatim from the ABE dealers-only message board):

"Sort of reminds me of the bookseller who won $22 million in the lottery. He said, 'Guess I'll just keep selling books 'till the money runs out.'"
Tuesday, February 22, 2005
Someone writes to ask why Hunter Thompson's worth memorializing.

I wouldn't want to preserve much of HST's post-80s work, and admittedly have a hard time untangling HST the writer from HST the Ralph Steadman caricature. HST as drawn by Ralph is one of my favorite cartoon characters ever, all bugged-out eyeballs and little floating clouds of intoxicating bubbles, the cigarette in its holder projecting like a knife from under his lower lip. The Ralph portrait of Dr. Gonz I posted yesterday makes me smile every time I look at its dripping suitcase and stealthy soft-shoe out the door.

I think Hunter's large-living media persona has tended to obscure what a good writer he was as a young man. The letters collected in The Proud Highway repay repeat reading; so too do Hells Angels and The Rum Diary.

The Air Force discharge letter collected in The Proud Highway ("Airman Thompson...") is a fine, fine piece of work; any initial doubts Hunter had about his writing career must have instantly evaporated upon receiving it.
Monday, February 21, 2005

A pristine hardcover copy of W.L. Heath's 1957 noir extravaganza Ill Wind arrived in the mail on Friday, courtesy online dealer Robert Hoban. The book was described as "Very Fine/Very Fine," (unlike the VG-, heavily soiled and edgeworn copy pictured here) and I, somewhat incredulous but still willing to be surprised, mailed a money order off to the States. Surprise indeed: a beautiful cream-white copy, the uncoated dust jacket showing not even a trace of soiling, the book inside flawless. A pleasant reminder that online bookselling theoretically provides just as many good experiences as bad ones.

What's an uncoated dust jacket, and why should I care?

Most modern dust jackets are paper covered in a layer of shiny varnish that provides a measure of protection against coffee, finger oils, pipe smoke, cat vomit, & etc. Uncoated paper -- seen to good effect on Black Sparrow's textured paper wraps -- looks good from an aesthetic and graphic design point of view, but easily retains signs of soiling and handling. A coated jacket will (usually) stand a cleaning with a Windex/water solution or with lighter fluid. Any fluid application to uncoated paper, on the other hand, will leave a distinctive tideline, doing permanent damage to the book. Uncoated jackets are thus fragile, easily soiled and destroyed, even in the course of carefully handling or reading a book, and consequently uncommon in nice condition.

Who's W.L. Heath, and why should I care?

An important noir author reprinted by Black Lizard's classic crime line. In my experience, many collectors simply read the line's highlights -- David Goodis; Jim Thompson; Charles Willeford; maybe Harry Whittington -- and then stall out. Other, more thoughtful readers realize that Black Lizard's editors chose their line-up with great care, and that authors like Heath, Peter Rabe, and Horace McCoy, while lacking the hipster cache of their more famous peers, are equally good, and in some cases stylistically more accomplished writers. It's also demonstrably harder to find books in good condition by writers like Rabe, Heath and McCoy than it is to order a "mint" (read: overpriced and overgraded) Thompson or Willeford PBO from a sharpie online dealer. Posted by Hello
Shotgun Golf

Dr. Thompson and Bill Murray in latenight conversation:

HST: "Are you ready for a powerful idea? I want to ask you about golf in Japan. I understand they're building vertical driving ranges on top of each other."

BILL (sounding strangely alert): "Yes, they have them outdoors, under roofs ..."

HST: "I've seen pictures. I thought they looked like bowling alleys stacked on top of each other."

BILL: (Laughs.)

HST: "I'm working on a profoundly goofy story here. It's wonderful. I've invented a new sport. It's called Shotgun Golf. We will rule the world with this thing."

BILL: "Mmhmm."

HST: "I've called you for some consulting advice on how to launch it. We've actually already launched it. Last spring, the Sheriff and I played a game outside in the yard here. He had my Ping Beryllium 9-iron, and I had his shotgun, and about 100 yards away, we had a linoleum green and a flag set up. He was pitching toward the green. And I was standing about 10 feet away from him, with the alley-sweeper. And my objective was to blow his ball off course, like a clay pigeon."

BILL: (Laughs.)

HST: "It didn't work at first. The birdshot I was using was too small. But double-aught buck finally worked for sure. And it was fun."

Ace climber and SF novelist M. John Harrison waxes characteristically philosophical near the end of a Guardian book review on the "midget climbing plumber":

"Like many a good climbing book, one of the things The Villain does is to underline the sheer ferocity of the sport. It prompts us to ask why anyone would do this to themselves. As Perrin says, in a lyrical final chapter, as mere business, as 'the job,' climbing has a black and pointless air. The places we choose to explore, the style in which we choose to explore them, 'act as an objective correlative to our own states of mind.' What we bring to a climb - and more importantly, to a life - decides to a considerable degree what we are going to take away. One of the strengths of this exhaustively researched and beautifully written biography is that while Perrin makes the point repeatedly, never allowing our attention to drift from it as a structuring principle, he leaves us alone in the end to contemplate it."


"Thompson, whose works included Hell's Angels, Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas and Fear and Loathing: On the Campaign Trail '72, which chronicled the race between Richard Nixon and George McGovern, was a well-known firearms aficionado who took frequent target practice in his backyard. In 2000, he slightly wounded an assistant while trying to shoot a bear on his property." Posted by Hello
Sunday, February 20, 2005
Today, for the first time so far this year, the sinking sun cleared the side of the Lee Building and shone in through my windows. 7 minutes of Vitamin D, the windows' big vinyl letters reflected, distorted, against the far wall.

Russell Gunn's astonishing live version of Bill Evans' Blue in Green (Ethnomusicology v. 4) on the deck in counterpoint.
Iain M. Banks -- sprawling, stylish space opera, and, page for page, far superior to any of his last half dozen "mainstream" novels. I'm about a third of the way through The Algebraist, which, despite obviously being science fiction -- a gas giant and its moon on the cover! -- was inexplicably shelved in the trade fiction section at Corporate Bookstore, along with other Nebula-winning luminaries like Maeve Binchy and Sophie Kinsella.

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