A Biblio Paradise

Imagine a room filled with leather-bound books, comfortable armchairs, daylight streaming in through large windows, wooden tables, and lamps throwing inviting pools of light. Imagine a treasure trove of tidbits about books, reading, bookstores, and book-buying experiences. Come and join A Biblio Paradise.

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Location: New York, United States

I publish under a half a dozen names in various genres, both fiction and non-fiction.

Saturday, May 13, 2006

Bookbuyer's Ramblings

Several weeks ago, the local Library held a “rare book sale” to benefit the library. I put the phrase in quotes, although it was not thus in the listings.

It seems that many of these books were not necessary rare as in, few copies exist in the marketplace. Rather, they were unusual. All of these books belonged to a particular individual, whose wish it was that the collection be sold as a fundraiser.

My friend J. and I rambled through the town’s main street, across the lovely village green, and into the room, where a half dozen tables were scattered, with appropriate signs such as “erotica” “$10” and “signed”. Of course, after flipping through some copies on the signed table, you have to ask, “by whom?” because it wasn’t necessarily by the author.

One of the most interesting things I discovered about this collection is that I already owned at least a third of the books offered for sale. This deceased reader/collector’s taste was as eclectic as my own.

I did end up purchasing two books (for $10 each, in case you’re counting). One was The Fiction Factory, or From Pulp Row to Quality Street, 100 Years of Publishing at Street & Smith, published in 1955. I am obsessed with juvenile series fiction from the turn of the century through the forties (okay, more like the seventies): Nancy Drew, Ruth Fielding, Vicki Barr, Beverly Gray, Judy Bolton, The Adventure Girls , etc., etc., etc. The Strathmayer Syndicate, which originated Nancy and the Hardys and the Bobbseys, Kay Tracey, etc., fascinated me endlessly. One of the best books I’ve ever read on the Syndicate is Melanie Rehak’s Girl Sleuth: Nancy Drew and the Women Who Created Her, which I’ve discussed in Ink in My Coffee, and may discuss in more depth as a “Reader’s Journal” entry.

I’m also enamored of the history of the story papers, penny dreadfuls and dime novels. They are prominent in my western serial The Widow’s Chamber (which ran for two years on Keep It Coming and is being adapted into a novel), and I’m also using this fascination as the basis for another project-in-process, which I’ve dubbed The Fun Project until I’m ready to unveil it properly.

Street & Smith was a primary mover and shaker in the development of the story paper and the penny dreadful. I had to have this book – it’s necessary to my research, my obsession, and not easily available.

The second book I bought day is called In Quest of Clocks by Kenneth Ullyett, published in 1950. It discusses in depth the history of the clock and the interior workings of each clock style. To me, the most intriguing chapter is entitled “Faking and Restoration.”

Do I sense the seed of a new idea? Will I get an idea for a character who creates fake antique clocks?

Both of these books were absolutely necessary to my well being.

Early last week, after an exhausting day spent performing frustrating research in a law library, I stopped at a chain bookstore (oh, horrors) to pick up a Mother’s Day gift for my mother. While there, I grabbed two intriguing books from the bargain rack: A Practical Guide to Buddhist Meditation by Paramananda and The Word Museum: The Most Remarkable English Words Ever Forgotten by Jeffrey Kacirk. The former will help me as I continue my involvement with 100 Days; the latter just looked like something fun and interesting that should sit on my shelf (shelves) of writing and linguistics books.

I also picked up Caleb Carr’s The Italian Secretary. I enjoyed his novel The Alienist enormously, and read it back to back with EL Doctrow’s The Waterworks, which was a wonderful foray into that period in the history of New York City. I was on my way out of the store and needed a book to read on my commute. Because I’m usually stressed during the commute, I want fiction rather than non-fiction, something in which I can lose myself, but not have to use too much analytical thinking. I saw Carr’s name on the cover, picked it up, saw the single word “Holyrood” on the back, and that was the deciding factor. As someone who loves Edinburgh and spends as much time there as possible, if there’s a book set there, I’ll read it.

And I’ve read it. I’ll share my thoughts on it in a “Reader’s Journal” entry on this blog.

I ordered, this week, from Strand Books, one of my favorite bookstores in the world, my friend Chaz’s book The Bridge of Dreams (available only in the US, although he is based in the UK) and Gail Godwin’s journals The Making of a Writer. I’m in search of a good and well-priced copy of The Age of Conversation, but haven’t found it yet.

This rainy weekend, needing something a bit different from my fictional forays of my WIP, I shopped my bookshelves and picked up a book called England My Adventure by Ethel Mannin, published in 1972. She’d been a published writer for 50 years by then, with a heck of a lot of books listed in the front. I like her writing and I want to track down more of her books. I felt as though I was having a conversation with her as I read the book, which is exactly the mood I sought. This book, too, will be discussed in depth as a “Reader’s Journal” entry.

According to the flap of the book, I picked it up for two quid in 2001 somewhere in the UK. For the life of me, I can’t remember which bookstore. In 2001, my only trip to the UK was to the southwest of Scotland, although we landed in London and drove up through the Lake country, doing an overnight in Keswick. I still wear the skirt I bought in Keswick, and I remember both “meeting” the original Chitty Chitty Bang Bang and visiting the teapot museum. I have no memory of a second hand bookshop. Was that the year we visited Wigtown, and meandered in and out of all those old bookshops? I remember buying brown yarn in one shop, and have the sweater from the trip. But I don’t remember any particular book purchase. Or was it in a shop into which I wandered in Ayr or Glasgow?

I’d have to look it up in my diary from that trip. I usually write down which books I purchase from which shop.

It’s odd, because I often remember exactly where I was standing in a shop when I make the decision to purchase a book.

Today, in between meetings, I climbed through a Revolutionary War recreation on the Village Green to get the library. The horse was not in the least bit startled when the soldiers fired their muskets. I nearly toppled one of the tent poles.

My mission – and it was a mission – was to comb through the book sale shelves and find old guidebooks as reference material for both the current WIP and other projects.

There weren’t any, as luck would have it (shopping when Mercury is Direct is never as useful as when it’s in Retrograde. Everything else is a problem for me during a Mercury Retrograde, but thrift shopping is paradise).

Instead, I bought A French Affair: A British Family at Home in Southwestern France by Michael Kenyon (who’s written something called the “Inspector Peckover mysteries”, which just sends my mind in directions it probably shouldn’t); Calendar: Humanity’s Struggle to Determine a True and Accurate Year by David Ewing Duncan; Had Enough? A Handbook for Fighting Back by James Carville; and a mystery by an author I know and therefore should have bought at full price in hardcover. Grand total: $5.50.

I am utterly convinced that each and every one of these books will better my life, if only for a few hours. Some will provide reasearch, some motivation, some simple enjoyment. However, it is an awful lot of books to bring in to the house in a short period of time. Especially since in March, on my birthday, I indulged myself at Sandwich’s Library Sale with 17 books (grand total $3.50).

And I’m wondering why I keep having to buy bookcases to keep the books off the floor.

Why Another Blog?

My dream library is much like the one at Felbrigg in Norfolk, England. It runs the entire length of an upper floor. There are enormous windows, letting in plenty of daylight. There are floor-to-ceiling shelves, beautifully carved, with leather-bound books. Comfortable chairs, wooden tables, and lamps throwing out round pools of inviting light.

It is a paradise for someone who loves books, reading, and writing.

And it is in use.

I decided I needed an online reading room so to speak, where I can talk about my favorite bookstores, authors, books, and book-buying experiences.

I hope you will visit my other blogs:

My blog on the writing life: Ink in My Coffee

My poetry anthology (open to submissions): Circadian Poems

The Thirteen Traveling Journals Project, a project of traveling creativity

The Scruffy Dog Review and its blog, an online literary magazine, where I am an associate editor and write a column entitled "The Literary Athlete".

My websites, DevonEllingtonWork and Fearless Ink (currently moving webhosts and offline -- sorry). The former has information on my work; the latter is my business writing site.

But even if you never visit any of these, I hope you will stop by here occassionally, read a bit, rest a bit, and enjoy A Biblio Paradise.

Many thanks and welcome.

Devon