Thursday, December 11, 2008

Over the past few months, I've been trying to learn the book collecting and bookselling business. It's been enlightening and overwhelming. Second state covers, remainder marks, boards, papers, F, VF, and countless other abbreviations. The list of new terminology has been truly impressive. I've been working in publishing for five years now and have been a bibliophile for about 18 years, but each day I find a new element of the book that I was unaware of.

When collecting and selling books, you have to become acquainted with some important factors before you begin. I never thought that determining if a book was a first edition, first printing would be so difficult. I always thought, if there was a full print line, then it was a first printing. Not so. There could be a full printing line, found on the Copyright page and usually read 10 9 8 7 6 5 4 3 2 1, but the book could be a Book-of-the-Month Club selection. Then there would not be a price on the inside front flap. Or if it was a hyper-modern book and Oprah had selected it as one of her books, her sticker would be placed on the cover of a first printing book. Easy enough, right? Nope. This cover would more than likely be what is called a second state cover. What I understand this to mean is that the first, say, 3,000 books are printed and distributed before Oprah selects the book. Then the first printing is stopped and the sticker is affixed to the cover. At the same time, an extra sheet of paper will be added to the front matter or some other minor change. Once this is done, the printing continues with the full number line. This is a 1st edition, 1st printing, second state cover. It's less valuable than a 1st/1st/1st. This is the case with my copy of The Story of Edgar Sawtelle by David Wroblewski.

I'm continuing my research even though I know it will take a lifetime to get a true understanding of the book collecting world, but I'm enjoying it. I've changed the way in which I shop for books, the places I shop for books, the way I store my books and the way in which I look for books. But one thing that hasn't changed is the way in which I think of books. I've always revered them and continue to look at them and hold them with amazement and it's been peaceful going to bed dreaming of books.

Friday, October 31, 2008

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Last Saturday morning after a nice breakfast at our favorite cafe, my wife and I went to the Malden Public Library book sale. I've been to library book sales in the past, but usually just bought any book I wanted, hardcover or paperback, good condition or bad. Not Saturday. My wife got a number of books herself, but I filled up two good sized bags with all books that I thought were good conditioned modern first editions. The past five days I've been beginning my catalogue of the books and trying to determine their value, if there is any. I think I found a number of great books and investigating their print number and edition has been more fun than I would have imagined. I'm learning a lot about the book collecting and book selling trade. Maybe tonight I'll get some more work done.

These are not all Very Fine condition, but they are Good to Fine. And they may not all be First Printings either, but a number of them are. That is why I have to continue my research. The adrenaline was rushing as I picked up all these great finds. May not be worth a fortune, but it was a great way to spend a Saturday morning. Here's my list...

Mark Helprin, A Soldier of the Great War, 1991 First US Edition
Robertson Davies, The Lyre of Orpheus, 1989 First US Edition
Anne Tyler, Breathing Lessons, 1988 First US Edition
Anne Tyler, The Accidental Tourist, 1985 First US Edition
Gore Vidal, Empire, 1987 First US Edition
Steven King, Misery, 1987 First US Edition
Steven King, Cujo, 1981 First US Edition (possible Book-of-the-Month Club)
Colleen McCullough, The Thorn Birds, 1977 First US Edition (but later printing)
Elmore Leonard, Freaky Deaky, 1988 First US Edition
Elmore Leonard, Get Shorty, 1990 First US Edition
John Fowles, The French Lieutenant's Woman, 1969 First US Edition
Margaret Atwood, Bodily Harm, 1982 First US Edition
Margaret Atwood, The Robber Bride, 1993 First Canadian Edition
Peter Ackroyd, Chatterton, 1988 First US Edition
James Carroll, Prince of Peace, 1984 First US Edition
Sebastian Faulks, Charlotte Gray, 1999 First US Edition
Alan Furst, Blood of Victory, 2002 First US Edition
Jeffrey Lent, In the Fall, 2000 First US Edition
John Le Carre, The Russia House, 1989 First US Edition
Don Delillo, Libra, 1988 First US Edition
Don Delillo, Underworld, 1997 First US Edition
Pat Barker, The Ghost Road, 1996 First US Edition
E.L. Doctorow, Billy Bathgate, 1989 First US Edition
E.L. Doctorow, The Waterworks, 1994 First US Edition
T. Coraghessan Boyle, World's End, 1987 First US Edition
Toni Morrison, Beloved, 1987 First US Edition (possible BOTM Club)
John Irving, The Hotel New Hampshire, 1981 First US Edition
Kazuo Ishiguro, When We Were Orphans, 2000 First US Edition
Kazuo Ishiguro, The Unconsoled, 1995 First US Edition
Kazuo Ishiguro, Never Let Me Go, 2005 First US Edition
Diane Setterfield, The Thirteenth Tale, 2006 First US Edition
Philip Roth, Sabbath's Theater, 1995 First US Edition
Arturo Perez-Reverte, Queen of the South, 2004 First US Edition
Arturo Perez-Reverte, The Nautical Chart, 2001 First US Edition
Tom Clancy, The Hunt for Red October, 1984 First US Edition (undetermined printing)

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

I started Birds of a Feather and I'm ready for another adventure with the ever ready Maisie Dobbs. There's one problem. A strange one, but not an important one. I don't know if I've read this book yet. The first few pages sound familiar, but the story is unfamiliar. I guess the truth will come out in a little while, probably during lunch or as I call it, my reading hour.

Last night, before House started and after we made an apple crisp, I finished Lawrence Block's Burglars Can't Be Choosers. It was my first Bernie Rhodenbarr book and I enjoyed it thoroughly. It was much more fun than I thought it would be. I read it in about 2 1/2 hours and finished wanting more. This was the first in the series and I look forward to the development of the bookish burglar over the next 9 books in the series. Bernie is one of the more likable "criminal" protagonists I've ever read. He makes no excuses for his criminal activity and he puts up with the punishments that follow his burglaries when he is caught. A fatalistic bookish burglar. I hope my library is well stocked with Block's novels because these are going to be fast and fun. The Burglar in the Closet is up next.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

I just saw this on Yahoo News:

LOS ANGELES (Hollywood Reporter) - Castle Rock has picked up "Book of Shadows," an action-adventure pitch from Zoe Green.

The story follows a young man who must embark on the perilous journey of first love and face many trials of maturity while on the dangerous quest to close a mythical tome called "Book of Shadows" in order to restore balance to the world.

Castle Rock principal Rob Reiner will direct for the Warner Bros.-based studio. Reiner was in a general meeting with Green and told her of an idea on which he had been working. Green picked up on that and ran with it, fleshing it out.
I answered a meme the other day and one of the questions asked if I had ever "give up a book halfway in." How prescient. When I answered the question last week, I couldn't remember the last book I stopped reading. I do now. The Poe Shadow became tedious and boring. Two death blows to reading. I became uninterested in the search for the truth of Poe's death. And Quentin Clark, the protagonist was a weak character. He seemed to be misplacing his anger over his parents' death into finding out what really happened to Edgar Poe in the days leading up to his untimely death. Clark is searching for answers to death and since he couldn't find out what happened to his parents or why they had died, perhaps he could determine what happened to Poe. But 200 pages in and I'm giving up on his quest. I haven't picked up the book in a about four days and that tells me something.

At least it had this bookish passage. "It seemed as I read that God was dead to me, Quentin. Yes, it's that other world that I worry about for you-that world of books and bookmen who invade the minds that read them. That imaginary world. No, this is where you belong. These are your class, serious and sober people. Your society. Your father said that the idler and the melancholy man shall ever wander together in a moral desert."

If that is true that let us wander.

Now reading:
Lawrence Block Burglars Can't be Choosers

Friday, October 17, 2008

I read an article yesterday in the TLS about a new book about the role of religion in Dostoevsky's work titled Dostoevsky: Language, faith and fiction. Author and biogragpher, Rowan Williams, wrote that Prince Myshkin, from the Idiot, was a "‘good’ person who cannot avoid doing harm”. I had always read Myshkin as an innocent figure, Christ-like in his forgiving nature, that remains too good to be true. I had never thought of him as simply a 'good man who cannot avoid doing harm.' I wonder if I had read Myshkin as innocent and near perfect because I thought I was supposed to. Reading Williams quote makes me rethink my perception of one of my favorite literary characters. If I'm willing to rethink my strong opinion based on a single quote, I can only imagine what would happen if I read Williams's book on Dosty. It may be time to read my first critical work on Dostoevsky.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

What was the last book you bought? Two Kerouac books from eBay. A 1976 First Edition Paperback VISIONS OF GERARD and a 1966 First Edition Paperback SATORI IN PARIS.

Name a book you have read MORE than once. On the Road, Moby Dick and Gilead. Three of my favorite novels. I hope I keep having the motivation to reread them year after year. They're my bibles.

Has a book ever fundamentally changed the way you see life? If yes, what was it? On the Road changed my life. Kerouac was from Lowell, MA, only a half hour from where I grew up and to read a novel like that and know that someone that I could have grown up with (or my grandparents could have) could write the way he did, made me look at literature differently. Literature wasn't only for 19th Century Russians anymore.

How do you choose a book? e.g. by cover design and summary, recommendations or reviews?I used to read Beat Generation writers. Then I found out who influenced them and I began reading Thomas Wolfe, Dostoevsky and Spengler. Now I search the blogs and take recommendations from bloggers and writers whose opinions I respect. But a good cover design always makes me pick up the book and at least consider it.

Do you prefer Fiction or Non-Fiction? Fiction, but non-fiction has always had an important place for me. I find the stories of non-fiction more fascinating than anything someone could create. But it's in fiction where language shines and the truths not told in history emerge. Shelby Foote, David McCullough and Bruce Catton make history come alive and read like brilliant novels. They have the gift of genius.

What's more important in a novel - beautiful writing or a gripping plot? No matter what I'm reading, the writing is most important. The writing keeps me reading, a good plot only makes it better.

Most loved/memorable character (character/book). Most lovable character? John Ames from Gilead. And then I'd say Myshkin from The Idiot.And actually, anything with E.B. White in his own essays.

Which book or books can be found on your nightstand at the moment? A Gentle Madness by Nicholas Basbanes, Raymond Chandler's letters and non-fiction and One Good Turn by Kate Atkinson.

What was the last book you read, and when was it? Just finished People of the Book by Geraldine Brooks 5 days ago. Almost finished with Ross MacDonald's The Name is Archer.

Have you ever given up on a book halfway in? Of course. I can't remember the last one I stopped reading, but the day I realized that no one was grading my reading habits, I began to enjoy reading even more than I had before. If I don't like a book, I quit. No questions asked.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

BookMooch is taking over my life. But since I've been using brown paper bags to wrap the books, at least it's not killing me financially. I sent out 9 books last week and 6 yesterday. I still have 17 books to send out this week and next. I started with 58 books in my inventory and once these 17 books are out the door, I'll only have 23 remaining. In three short weeks I'll have said good-bye to a number of my close and personal friends (and a few of my wife's.) I rearranged our bookshelves so BookMooch books would be housed on the bottom shelves and removed accorrdingly and the shelves are looking bare. We have a few books coming in this week, The Brotherhood of the Holy Shroud, The Angel of Darkness, The Passion of Artemisia, and The Kalahari Typing School for Men.

I also have two Kerouac novels coming in from eBay. A 1966 first edition paperback of Satori in Paris and a 1976 edition of Visions of Gerard. So the bottom shelves won't be bare too long as we'll be introducing some more friends to the family in the next few days.

I deleted yesterday's post, by accident, on my quick review of People of the Book. I'll try and get another one up tonight. I didn't like that post anyway. I shall do better.

Now reading:
The Poe Shadow by Matthew Pearl
A Gentle Madness: Bibliophiles, Bibliomanes, and the Eternal Passion for Books by Nicholas A. Basbanes

On deck:
I'll have to go to the TBR pile

Listening to:
Weei Sports Radio

Thursday, October 09, 2008

I've been thinking about getting an eBook reader. My investigation into the Kindle and Sony's reader (there's a new version that just rolled out for $399) seems to lead more toward the Kindle than the Sony, but even at $359, it's a little expensive. Does anyone have one? I'd take any advice my fellow bloggers and readers can give.
"Never once did her father open the door for Reuben to the glory that swirled in the dark ink. Her own mind was incandescent with it. Any tiny letter was a poem, a prayer, a gateway to the splendor of God. And every letter its own road, its own special mystery." (Ruti from People of the Book)

When I wanted to go to graduate school for journalism, an undergrad professor of mine said that he didn't know if I was cut out for journalism because I didn't bleed ink. He said that most reporters bleed newspaper ink. They write for the high school paper (I did not,) they write for the college paper (I did not,) they intern at a newspaper (I did not,) and they're always interested in the news (I was not.) It didn't stop me from going to graduate school for journalism and my life would not have been the same if I didn't go to Emerson College and roam bars and bookstores of Tremont and Boylston streets. Maybe my professor was right. After I graduated, I only lasted one year as a journalist. But he was wrong in one significant way. I do bleed ink. Just not newspaper ink. Like Ruti in People of the Book, I'm mesmerized by the ink of a book. Each word, the skill and craft that goes into the setting of the type; the depth of meaning each letter and word carry. Since I was a kid, I was spellbound by the art and mystery of the written word. And yes, I could have figured all this out without spending $45,000 on a graduate degree I don't use, but I never would have met my wife.

Tuesday, October 07, 2008

I'm reading Geraldine Brooks's People of the Book. I had read so many rave reviews this past year, that I knew I had to finally read it. Though the story is interesting and it's written well, through the first 150 pages, I can't determine what sets it apart from similar books. Maybe I 'misremember' the reviews, but I thought they said this book belonged in the top of the class. I don't see it yet. Michael Gruber sits atop this sub-genre (literature/art based mysteries) in my estimation. Gruber's The Forgery of Venus and Book of Air and Shadows are two of the best written and entertaining along with Carlos Ruiz Zafon's The Shadow of the Wind. I'm going to finish People of the Book over the next couple of days and I hope I'm surprised along the way. Maybe the novel is like a train and it's finally getting up to full steam. In that case, I'll make sure I enjoy the ride.

Now reading:
People of the Book by Geraldine Brooks
Name is Archer by Ross MacDonald

On deck:
The Invention of Everything Else by Samantha Hunt

Listening to:
Lester Young with the Oscar Peterson Trio

Friday, October 03, 2008

I've been having a reoccurring dream recently. Nothing scary, just odd. Due to my compulsive mystery reading, I've been having dreams of a book I would like to write or see written. The premise is old, but the characters could be interesting. There are a lot of characters and series based on the Holmes and Watson sleuthing team. Mine involves Kerouac and Allen Ginsberg with Ginsberg in the Watson role. It would be Ginsberg's role to keep Kerouac on the straight and narrow as they search the side streets, alleyways and bars of Greenwich Village in the 1950s. Kerouac would keep on getting distracted, speaking in French, getting pulled into parties and staying out all night with women. And instead of cocaine being his drug of choice, Benzedrine keeps him going as the he slides in and out of bars and consciousness. Ginsberg's neurosis would make him an expert at picking up small clues and understanding all the minutiae of an investigation.

Herbert Huncke could be their "go to" informant on the streets, Burroughs the elder investigator/writer/historian who they visit in his old, comfortable parlor with the fireplace burning a small piece of wood and Lucien Carr would be the journalist that pounds the pavement and always has the scoop. The burgeoning grime and noveau art of The Village would be the quintessential backdrop for a modern take on the Victorian crime novel.

I don't know if it would be a comedy or be more serious, but I'm interested in the premise. I'm sure it will make for some interesting sleeping this weekend.

Reading now:
People of the Bookby Geraldine Brooks

Thursday, October 02, 2008

I know I've said it before and I'll say it again. I'm coming back to the blogging world. I've been slowly reading the usual suspects again and now I've gotten the itch.

I joined BookMooch today. I posted about 40 books and already I've had 14 mooch requests. I'll send out 9 tomorrow, but I have to put off the other 5 until next week.

Books going out: Proust Was a Neuroscientist by Jonah Lehrer, The Island of the Day Before by Umberto Eco, Maynard & Jennica by Rudolph Delson, The Gospel According to Jesus Christ by Jose Saramago, The Happy Isles of Oceania by Paul Theroux, Huge Dreams by Michael McClure, The Joy of Coffee by Corby Kummer, Paul Revere's Ride by David Hacket Fischer and Henry Adams and the Making of America by Garry Wills.

Books coming in: The Raymond Chandler Papers

I already know that BookMooch is going to be addictive. Damn you internet and intelligent people!@#$% Stop coming up with new ideas that keep me away from reading and doing constructive things with my life.

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Oh, for the love of weekends and bookstores. I sometimes feel like a lil old school marm when I think and write about my Saturdays (at least Saturday mornings) at bookstores. I've been good lately. I've been trading in books as much as I've been buying them. This past Saturday I traded in about six or seven books, Michael Cox'sThe Meaning of Night, was one of them, but I came out of Hand-It-Back Bookstore, I had some great buys. Jacqueline Winspear's Pardonable Lies, Michael Dibdin'sBlood Rain, Robert Wilson's Blind Man of Seville, Robert Louis Stevenson's Dr. Jeckyll and Mr. Hyde, Joseph Conrad's The Secret Agent and a great Modern Library paperback of Vanity Fair and an older, but perfect Penguin paperback of Middlemarch.

I've been on a mystery kick these past 12 months that started with Andrea Camilieri's Inspector Montalbano series. Now all I want to buy, touch, look at, think about are mysteries. Historical mysteries especially, but really anything will quench my thirst. In less than 24 hours I finished Dibdin's Blood Rain. It was my first Aurielo Zen mystery and I loved it. The ending blew me away and I had never read anything of his before. And though it's a series, I've never been one that cared enough, or felt the need to, begin a series with the first installment. Now I'm going to read all of Dibdin's Zen novels. They're quite similar to Camilieri's Montalbano series, but without the sense of humor, but that's not a bad thing. Dibdin was able to articulate the intricate workings and mechanisms of the Sicilian mafias. Crime families paying each other back with atrocious murders, cops getting killed by explosives and detectives risking their lives to get at the truth...whatever that is. And, the language is brisk, brusk and perfectly noir.

"Outside, the sky was falling. As yet it was just a light dust which appeared on Zen's coat like mist. It seemed to be pink. He walked back along the bridge, pausing at the same spot as before to light a cigarette. A gentle aerosol, soft yet solid, had soaked the night, thickening it and covering every surface with a patina of reddish dust."

Now reading:
Jacqueline Winspear Pardonable Lies
William Makepeace Thackery Vanity Fair

On deck:
Robert Wilson The Blind Man of Seville

Thursday, February 07, 2008

I enjoy writing late at night. Well, not late, but after 10 p.m. or so. I actually turn down most, if not all, the lights, flip open my well worn, well used iBook and begin writing, my hands illuminated by the glow of the ever bright screen. No books open, television on as background noise for comfort and countless words coming to mind. None of the words are original. They're normally words, sentences or plots that I had read earlier in the day. I don't worry about this. I find solace in this. At times. At other times I fear for my loss of creativity, if I had ever had any to begin with. But it's the words in my books that spark my imagination and excite me every time I crack open a new book and fold over a new cover, flip through the yellowing pages and begin my newest challenge. It's dark and quiet in my apartment. The light from the t.v. acts as my lamp, but my books light my way.

Now reading:
Jon Fasman The Geographer's Library

Now watching:
Henry Louis Gates Jr.'s African-American Lives 2

Monday, February 04, 2008

What's going on? I'm half way through Perez-Reverte's The Painter of Battles and I can barely get through it. Maybe I'm being finicky, but it's just not working for me. I get the idea of it. The premise is a war photographer, Andres Faulques, retires to a drab castle-like house on the coast of Spain. Instead of taking photographs, he begins to paint a mural of the history of war on his outside wall. With the sound of water crashing against the castle wall, the painter of battles (Perez-Reverte uses Faulques's name, but I enjoy writing and hearing 'the painter of battles') contemplates his color options, like using siena and blue to make black instead of using black itself. Then one day, a stranger appears. The painter of battles doesn't recognize this stranger, yet it is a man he photographed years ago. The photograph won a prestigious award and garnered the painter of battles fame and recognition. However, the photo sent the other man's life in a downward spiral. He appears and confronts the painter of battles and tells him he is going to kill him. They then spend evenings talking about life, death and the power of art. All the while, the painter of battles knows this man wants to kill him, but still he does not react to this. Is he withdrawn, resigned to his fate? It's like a Jim Jarmusch film. Two people in a cafe smoking cigarettes and speaking about their philosophy of life. It's just not enough to excite me. Blasphemy, I know. I'm not looking forward to my train ride tomorrow morning. Lunch is suddenly not looking too appetizing.

Sunday, February 03, 2008

Friday night we went to Barnes and Noble for a coffee and to browse some books. Families, couples and friends, ran among the aisles, blocked magazines and waited impatiently in the cafe line...and I loved it all. We've begun to visit Barnes and Nobles when we have downtime on the weekends. It's how we both relax and make our next plan of attack. Friday night my fiance bought two books and though I left empty handed, I had countless ideas for my next purchase.

So when we were out Saturday I made sure I made our parade of errands took us to Cambridge so I could go to one of my favorite bookstores, Lorem Ipsum. Ok, it may not be my favorite bookstore, but I do have over $150 in store credit there. How did this happen? When I moved in with my fiance, we rented a beautiful, but small apartment. New stove, new refrigerator, new chandelier, no space...for my books. Of my 400 or so books, at least 225 were sold to Lorem Ipsum for well below what was paid for them in the first place. Its sort of like the college bookstore market of $.25 on the dollar. I don't want to cry again right now, so I'll move up to the present. At Lorem Ipsum, I was able to walk out with three books (and my fiance got another) and only $25 against our credit. I wasn't thrilled with the selection yesterday, but of course I was able to find a few stragglers. A mass market copy of James Ellroy's White Jazz, Kevin Baker's Paradise Alley and Jon Fasman's The Geographer's Library. But they'll have to wait a few days so I can spend some time with Arturo Perez-Reverte and The Painter of Battles.

Now reading:
Arturo Perez-Reverte The Painter of Battles

Just read:
Michael Gruber The Book of Air and Shadows

Now watching:
Sunday Morning with Charles Osgood

Friday, February 01, 2008

It's been awhile and I've been out of touch the past year, but I haven't stopped reading. Far from it. I've found some new friends...John Dunning, Anthony Burgess, Andrea Camillieri, Ross King and Michael Gruber to name a few. Yes, I know they have all been writing for years, but that's one of the joys of literature, right, finding a writer for the first time. "Ocian in view! O! The Joy!" Each reader has the opportunity to discover what others know, but had previously been unknown to the Pacific to William Clark and Merriweather Lewis.

It's going to take awhile for me to get this blog up and running at full steam, but I'm prepared to begin. Since I last wrote, I've gotten engaged, set a wedding date, moved in with my fiance and booked a honeymoon. And with that, I will get my thoughts together as much as possible and try to post again this evening.

Currently reading:

John Dunning The Bookman's Promise

On deck:

Arturo Perez-Reverte The Painter of Battles