Saturday, February 28, 2009

From a Little Golden Book

This was one of my favorites as a kid. It was a hot muggy unbearable summer day and I had walked to the local drugstore with my older brother. He usually saw his sisters as nuisances, so I don't know how I got to tag along. He called us all "Sis" as if we had no individual names. When we got to the store, I went to look at the metal book display and asked for this book. He was flirting with the girl behind the counter, and agreed to buy me a book, but when he saw it was a Christmas book, he told me to choose something else. It was stupid to get a Christmas book in August, he said. I said I liked the snow in the book and refused to put it back. He argued, tried to foist a Henry book off on me -- *Henry was a kid with a giant bald head who was obsessed with lollipops-- (as if!) and finally gave up. He thought I was stupid,and I didn't care what he thought. I thought he had no imagination if he couldn't think about snow in August.

*Later I looked at the Henry book and it wasn't horrible or anything--it just seemed so at the time.

Friday, February 27, 2009

Reading Here

Reading a Bestseller here ... can you guess what book this page is from?

Currently reading: a novella by Stephen King. English professor Wesley buys a Kindle, and gets a pink Kindle with special powers. Is this mutant Kindle an evil device? We shall see... A fun read so far. In this story Obama is President and Mickey Rourke is up for an Oscar. I hope King keeps this up, because it's fun.

The Kindle 2 arrived yesterday and is smugly superior to my Kindle. I'll post about it later.

Thursday, February 26, 2009

Books as Playthings

Yes, it's a book, of sorts.

I was given a pop-up book one Christmas, and at first it seemed fantastic, but it was more about the pop up than story-- interesting from a design standpoint but disappointing for a reader. Later when I took weekend jobs in bookstores I saw more and more toy books. Books as playthings, Books with wheels in the shape of a truck. Books that had to be more than a book to be interesting to a kid, especially a kid who disliked books and loved toys. Growing up I met plenty of kids who disliked the library, didn't like to read, that's nothing new--some had reading difficulties, some just preferred sports or toys. My own kids gave any toy books that came into their lives a quick once over and never bothered with them again. No matter how I tried to engage them with the toy books, they wanted the no frills real thing.

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Oxford Pockets

I found an Oxford Pocket Classic at a thrift shop. (Smaller than the Modern Library Classics --shown here underneath.)

This is a 1960 edition, and was priced at 7s 6d.
The s. must stand for shillings, ( and the d. for pence? ) I wonder what the equivalent pricing would be in 1960 in the USA?

I checked here, but was too lazy to do the math. Anyone?

By the mid 1980s Oxford had changed the book design. A bit cheaper and cheaper looking as well, but the books were the same size as the original pocket classics.

I haven't read Shirley yet. I did go through a Bronte phase years ago, and back then I preferred Ann's writing.

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

A Reading Annoyance

I bought a book of D.H. Lawrence short stories at a used bookstore and being distracted by a *bookslide that I may or may not have caused, I didn't really flip through it before buying. Normally I don't mind little notes in books, but this was too much! Just about every paragraph had a note, and most were undecipherable.

And the note jotter also underlined almost every sentence.

And yet I read the book, trying to just ignore the scribbles and underlining. Why? Because I needed to read it and didn't want to look for another copy of the book.

*I had touched a book in the back of the store and it was part of a huge jumble of overlapping stacks that almost reached the ceiling (like a book mountain) but I was in the front of the store when the slide actually occurred minutes later. I was the only customer but the owner told me that slides happen at odd times; that sometimes he opens the store in the morning and a slide has happened sometime during the night. I looked at the slide area and it was bad. I paid for my books and left.

Monday, February 23, 2009

News Tidbits

The Virtual Book Group has its very own blog which will be open to the public soon. I can pretty much guarantee that none of the *books pictured above will be chosen for group reading this year.

Our first book discussion will take place the last weekend in March ~ Out Stealing Horses by Per Pettersen.

Does anyone use book plates anymore? I rarely see them, but found this one in a young adult book about the Civil War.

The big news around our house is not about this **old Kindle from last year, but the Kindle 2 that we ordered. Just got news that it will be delivered in March! We're looking forward to comparing the two gadgets.( I still haven't fully explored the capabilities of the old Kindle because I'm lax when it comes to reading instruction booklets.)

*To be fair I did skim two of the books pictured and was kind of (very) freaked out that Margaret Sanger, Margaret Mead and the others were lumped in with Hitler for being destructive. The Fulton Sheen book had a lot of fun tidbits like ... having a child is the cure for boredom. (Trivia: Actor Martin Sheen took his professional name from Fulton Sheen because he greatly admired him.)

**The old Kindle shown above has a page from King Coal by Upton Sinclair on the screen.


Sunday, February 22, 2009

Phrase Books

My collection of phrase books is not what it used to be. It topped out at over one hundred, but over the years has dwindled to a dozen. What appears to be James Joyce on my desk is really an old French phrase book that lost its cover long ago. To keep it from falling apart, I made a new cover for it, layering pages from a magazine with glue--and it worked out.

The Irish phrase book is one of a few that I have. I make my grocery lists out in Irish. caora finiuna, aran, seaclaid (grapes, bread, chocolate) forgetting weights and measures since that would require too much brain power.

I have several French phrase books. One devotes more than a page to books, which is impressive, and they all include very useful phrases like "Get out of my way! "You're a moron!" and "Leave me alone!" My favorite was "Ooh La La" which was translated as "Man Alive!"

Some Irish phrase books include poems that Irish school children learn. Important old sayings are included as well. "The windy day is not the day for scallops!" means don't start a new project in the midst of chaos. (scallops refers to thatching the roof of a cottage.) Don't ask your dad for a favor just after he's been fired from his job.

I once had a little Vietnamese phrase book ~ I picked it up because I was eating at a Vietnamese restaurant a lot, and was speaking to the owner more and more. She laughed bitterly at the phrase book as much as I did, since it included phrases like:
"Put your hands up in the air!" "Drop any weapons you have!" "Get down on the ground, quickly!" and "I am an American--Your friend!" There were many helpful pages for the American GI, for town or jungle.

Saturday, February 21, 2009

The Educated Man

This is an ad from the 1950s. Is it still true of the general public today? What will the future look like? It makes me wonder.

Friday, February 20, 2009

How About "Out?"

Barbara suggested reading the prize winning Out Stealing Horses by Per Pettersen for our Virtual Book Group. Tut Tut's library is holding a copy for her, and I have access. If we give everyone plenty of time to find a copy, should we choose this for our March read? Just to get the group going?

Also, should we be working on a list of books, one per month? I propose that Subtorp give some book suggestions for April, if we agree to one book per month. And should some months be dedicated to authors instead of one book?

Classics + Comics

So many people misunderstand classic literature (to me it's any book that stands the test of time, but that's just my view.) I had a very bad introduction to classic lit thanks to a girl who lived in our apartment building named Hopey Finkelstein. Her name was Hope but everyone called her Hope-y. It always bothered me a little that she actually liked being called Hopey (rhymes with soapy) and she would correct me when I called her Hope.

Anyway she was a whole six months younger than I was and one day started telling me about this book she'd read the day before called Wuthering Heights. She talked about Cathy and Heathcliff, and as fast as I could, I got to a library and checked out a copy. At the checkout desk the librarian assured me I wouldn't be able to enjoy that book and offered to help me find something more suitable. I was eight years old and I got a little huffy with her. (I was a bit conceited about my reading abilities.) I got the book home and my mom raised her eyebrows at my choice but said nothing. I struggled through the first chapter and gave up. My pride in reading "above level" was crushed. I was frustrated and thought Hopey must be a genius to breeze through this classic book in a day! I felt stupid-- classics were for intellectuals and I was obviously not one of those. I was just Hopey's friend, Dopey. I stayed away from Hopey for awhile, and soothed myself with some Little Golden Books.

Much later I discovered that Hopey's mom had sat down with her and a Classics Illustrated version of Wuthering Heights! But because of that frustrating experience I steered clear of both classic comics and classics. I thought that classic books were for brilliant people and the comic versions were for people like me who couldn't read the actual book. The whole thing depressed me.

In middle school I was forced to read Great Expectations and that book changed forever the way I felt about classics, because I could understand and enjoy it! Hooray! I used to think classics were dull period pieces or just dull, but I soon figured out you could learn an awful lot about people and life in general from writers like Balzac and Zola and a good classic is timeless and enthralling. I remember being in my twenties... putting down *La Bete Humaine with awe ... and being in shock for a few moments. Now that's a good story. Same thing with Hardy's Jude the Obscure. Page turners by Mark Twain and Daniel Defoe... I was hooked. But timing is important too. I can't force myself to read on if I can't get into a book after 30 pages or so.

I found a Classics Illustrated version of Great Expectations at the library, (top photo) and I can honestly say, as much as I love both comic books and graphic novels, it didn't do all that much for me--maybe because I already knew the story so well. ( I'm not giving up on CIs though, I'll find one to enjoy.)

There are plenty to choose from.

* Important: If you plan to read La Bete Humaine, don't read any reviews, as there are spoilers. It's an intense psychological thriller and most reviews give away all of the shocking bits.

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Theme Thursday: A Library in a Small Town

Perfect building, (former church) friendly & helpful librarians, good children's room and a lot of good books. What more can one ask of a library? The town of Sloatsburg, NY is nothing fancy, as any Sloatsburger will readily admit. But they have two things that feed the soul: Harriman State Park and a good library. I don't live close enough to visit often, but it's always a treat.

Sloatsburg was once known as the Village of *Pothat, so here is a hat tidbit from poet Carl Sandburg.

*A friend insists it was once called Pot Cheese Gulch but I refuse to believe it.

Trivia: George Washington definitely slept in Sloatsburg during the Revolutionary War.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

More Odds and Ends

I bought this old book last week. South Wind by Norman Douglas. It will hang around on my bookshelf until I find time for it.

Took this one out of the library because I can't resist a venn diagram.

The John Lennon Bio (of my earlier post) went downhill fast after rock & rollers & women entered the picture. The author really loathes certain rock musicians, and spoiled many descriptions by being so biased. It's obvious he had low opinions of certain Beatles, as well and a very high opinion of one wife (Yoko.) while telling the reader that "Nobody liked Cynthia." I can't enjoy a biased biography. The author also likes gossip and speculates a lot about people, maybe this happened, that might have happened, maybe... John's mother Julia wanted to have sex with John because she took naps with him sometimes, Yoko was incredibly good at reading tarot cards and seeing the future. John was (!?) possibly the reincarnation of Yoko's famous grandfather. I was really disappointed. I feel everyone should be given a fair shake. (The author was quite good at poisoning the well while claiming to be unbiased.) I like Yoko and her artwork very much, but the author ranks her as one of the best artists on earth. He really kisses her bottom big time in this book.

Update on the Brautigan book of an earlier post: I liked it, and wish my personal journals were as interesting.

Has anyone seen this book? How to Talk to Girls --I'm a little curious.

One great thing about my town is the many thrift shops. For $1.25 I brought home these books and a nice mug from the Queens Library.

I used to live in Queens (briefly) but at that time I worked every weekend at a book shop, so I rarely used the library. I was also commuting to Manhattan every weekday and worked very near the Main Library on 42nd Street. The nearest library to my apartment in Queens was the Elmhurst Library built in the 1960s. Elmhurst was the biggest Melting Pot of maybe the entire world. (?) Over 100 different languages were spoken there with regularity by the residents. The library had multilingual staff and some volunteer interpreters to handle more than 60 of the languages. I lived near a Geeta Temple and had neighbors from all over the world.

Monday, February 16, 2009


A page from the Oliver Sacks book I'm reading now. At first Sacks discusses people who hear music in their heads and are able to write it down and play it on piano, then there's the amnesiac who claims he knows nothing at all about music, but the instant he sits at the piano he can play all sorts of classical music. There's the man with Parkinson's Disease who can't stop his violent jerky shaking until he puts his fingers on the piano--then his entire body calms down and he plays Brahms beautifully. Then there are people who live with too much music in their heads, too loud. It's an interesting read.

Besides watching Book TV and finding more and more news shows giving books reviews and interviewing authors (especially RTE and BBC news programs) I also find a lot of book news in various papers. This caught my eye. A dad who lives far away reading to his kids! I was read aloud to a lot as a child, and one of the memories I have is of being on the lap of the person reading to me. That was part of the experience. This seems so odd to me, but then I hardly ever use Skype myself (except when talking to a friend in the DR who is a technology freak and loves to use Skype.) It is kind of fun to use, but it feels weird too.

I never knew anything about his childhood, or that he was half Irish. This is my fun reading for the week.

I have no idea

I read the Ved Mehta book about building a dream house in Dark Harbor Maine. I found it pretty interesting. It was my first time reading Mehta, and I plan on reading all his memoirs in the future.

Sunday, February 15, 2009

Soul & Romance

Soul by Tobsha Learner
One of the books I just finished. Interesting idea. Parallel stories of Julia and her ancestor Lavinia who both find themselves abandoned by the men that they adore. Booklist calls it a steamy page turner. Not my usual cup of tea, but it was good, and it was new fiction, which I had vowed to read more of this year.

I saw a report on personalized romance novels on The Today Show last week. One couple had honeymooned in Pittsburgh, but were discussing in detail their book version honeymoon in the Caribbean. The husband had ordered a romance novel by filling out a questionnaire for the authors but requested the locale for the honeymoon be changed. They put together a book which his wife reads over and over again.

Blogger's Book Club (Part 1)

The foyer of our virtual book club looks kind of shabby, but we can fix it up later.

Please leave your books club suggestions and/or questions here.
Tut Tut suggested The Poisonwood Bible, which looks good, but is a lengthy book.


1.Should we start with a short book?
2.Should we just all read some work of a prolific author and discuss the author as well?
3.How much time should we have to read the book?
4.How often should we check in?
5.Should the book club posts be during the week or weekend?
6.Should we explore new fiction or all types of fiction?

Saturday, February 14, 2009

Book Titles (Part 1)

It's very important to take care of your dinghy. Even if you're not using it much, try and keep it in good shape.

No one likes being fully grown and only 2 feet tall, trust me on this one.

Too late for Theme Thursday.

Never ever be your own lawyer. This book has probably done some damage, turning jerks who think they can be their own lawyers into bigger jerks with some knowledge of the law.

This would probably be a good book to read if you just want to learn something about the trial process, (even though you have no intention of representing yourself.) It might be a good book to read if you have trouble standing up for yourself in general.

Have you ever been in a courtroom where some jerk has decided to be his own lawyer?
It's sheer torture.

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Like Candy & Update on 109

Book advert in a 1952 paperback.
Prices ranging from 25 cents to 75 cents.

Rack of paperbacks today.
Prices ranging from $6.99 to $10.85.

Often as a kid I'd pass up candy for books.

The problem was, you'd have to save your pocket change for awhile and then go to a special store to get a book. Candy was everywhere, and it was cheap. Candy was always available, always sweet, waiting to trip you up and make you spend some of your savings.

What I'm reading now. I love Oliver Sacks, and the blogger known as JGH actually met and spent time with the man. She got this signed copy for me! Thank you JGH!

***Update on the Richard Brautigan pg. 109: it seems the bug up ass reader of the previous post chose to call attention to the almost last page of the book. (there was another half page.) I hate reading towards the end of the book --spoilers may be back there!!! I was a little put out at having to go back there to look at page 109.
And guess what?-- all she did was quote the author, who, being depressed, was calling his own book crap. What do you think of that? I was disappointed, and thought it was kind of mean to use his own words like that. I checked the book out and it's sitting here beside me, waiting to be read and appreciated.

Trout Fishing in America

Jumping Trout by Winslow Homer

For Theme Thursday I decided to post about the book Trout Fishing in America by Richard Brautigan.

La La La ... off to the library and pick up a copy. On my way I stopped at an old friend's house and she decided to walk with me. It dawned on me at some point that she had introduced me to Brautigan's works many years ago! (Okay that was weird.)

"It would be interesting to re-read him now..." she said.

At the library there was only one Brautigan book -- An Unfortunate Woman, A Journey.

Inside were these notes. I didn't notice the mention of page 109, or I would have looked at it. I was in a hurry to take the picture, and leave. I should have taken the book out of the library, but I was still hoping to find a copy of Trout Fishing... at the bookstore. (No luck there either!) I don't know about you, but I think the first remarks were made by someone with a bug up her ass. Maybe it was my ninth grade English teacher... she always tried to ruin books for me before I had a chance to read them.

I love inconclusive fragments -- my whole life has been built on them.

Not page 109, but another page from the book, An Unfortunate Woman. I think I need to read it so I can remark on it myself. Maybe we should all read it, create a group remark, and I'll write it in and get a photo of it.

My fish post sort of fell through. And what about page 109? This post needs a sequel.

My Classic Fiction Book List -Partial List

  • Austen, Jane: (Complete Works)
  • Balzac: Cousin Bette/ Eugenie Grandet / Cousin Pons
  • Best Russian Short Stories
  • Boyle, TC: Short Works
  • Brennan, Maeve : Short Works, 1 Novella
  • Bronte, Emily, Ann, Jane (Complete Works)
  • Brookner, Anita ( Complete Works)
  • Cather, Willa (Complete Works)
  • Chekov: Short Works
  • David Copperfield (Dickens)
  • Dickens:A Tale of Two Cities
  • Dickens:Great Expectations
  • Dickens:Nicholas Nickelby
  • Dickens:Our Mutual Friend
  • Dickens:The Old Curiosity Shop
  • Doyle, Roddy (some novels, memoir)
  • Drabble, Margaret (4 Novels)
  • Drieser, Theodore (Complete Works)
  • Fitzgerald, F.Scott (Most Novels & short works)
  • Hardy, Thomas (Complete Works)
  • Hemingway, Short stories
  • Hemingway: The Old Man in the Sea
  • Hemingway: The Sun Also Rises
  • Hugo: Les Miserables/Hunchback Of ND
  • James, Henry: Daisy Miller
  • James, Henry: In The Cage
  • James, Henry: Portrait of a Lady
  • James, Henry: The Golden Bowl
  • James, Henry: What Maisy Knew
  • James, Henry: Wings of a Dove
  • James, Henry:The Ambassadors
  • James, Henry; The Bostonians
  • Kerouac: Dharma Bums
  • Kerouac: On The Road
  • Kerouac: The Subterraneans
  • Kerouac: Tristessa
  • Lardner,Ring:Short Works
  • Larsen: Quicksand
  • Lewis, Sinclair: Arrowsmith
  • Lewis, Sinclair: Free Air
  • Lewis, Sinclair: Main Street
  • Lewis, Sinclair: The Job
  • MacGill, Patrick (Complete works)
  • Mackin, Walter (novels)
  • Maupassant: Short Works, novels
  • McGahern, John (novels of)
  • McNulty, John (Short Works)
  • Norris, Frank: McTeague
  • O'Brien, Edna (3 Novels)
  • O'Donnell, Paeder : Novels of
  • O. Henry
  • Potok, Chaim (4 novels/1 non fiction)
  • Salinger, JD : Nine Stories
  • Salinger: Franny & Zooey
  • Salinger: Raise High the Roofbeams
  • Salinger: The Catcher in the Rye
  • Sinclair, Lewis: Dodsworth
  • Sinclair, Lewis: Elmer Gantry
  • Sinclair, Upton: King Coal
  • Sinclair, Upton: The Jungle
  • Steinbeck, John: Sweet Thursday
  • Steinbeck: Winter of our Discontent
  • Steinbeck: Cannery Row
  • Steinbeck: East of Eden
  • Steinbeck: The Grapes of Wrath
  • Theroux, Paul (3 Novels )
  • Toibin, Colm: (Novels of)
  • Tolstoy: Anna Karenina
  • Tolstoy: Short Works
  • Turgenev (2 novels)
  • Twain: T Sawyer, Life on the Mississippi
  • Vonnegut: Early Works (1950s-60s)
  • Wharton, Edith: Novels of/Short Stories
  • Women & Fiction (Edit. Cahill)
  • Zola, Emile ( 10 novels)