Book Store Tales

I’m not asking about Life in Trump’s America, I’m asking about in your own, private, non-headline-news life. Because I have the least demanding life I know of (I, *cough* write for a living, at home with cats and plenty of tea, and I have zero kids so, really, I should have nothing to stress about ever) and still, I have to deal with bullshit on a daily basis.

One morning last week I stumbled into the kitchen at dawn for my wake-up cup of tea. While the water was heating up I checked my phone, which I usually leave on my desk in the den.  I discovered that someone had called and left a message the night before.

At 11:20 PM.

The message was from a woman I don’t know, calling about volunteering at the used book store that I manage out of the goodness of my heart for our local library.

I’m trying to be a better person these days. I’m trying to meditate and be compassionate and give people dignity (like it says in the book I’m reading) and to not assume everyone is an asshole whose purpose in life is to piss me off (like I do because I’m me). But who calls up a stranger at 11:20 PM to talk about becoming a volunteer bookseller?

An asshole, right?

So that pissed me off, and I hadn’t even heard the morning news about the latest Trump atrocity yet. And I hadn’t had my morning tea either. I don’t like to start the day like this, and it seems that I start a lot of days like this.

But I didn’t call this lady back and fill her in on how much I hate her, for two reasons: It takes too much effort, and I’m trying not to be a fight or flight kind of person who confronts every single instance of assholery in my life. I’m trying to send love from my heart to all those who annoy the crap out of me and thus become a more evolved and self-actualized person. Well, that’s what this meditation book promises. We’ll see.

But speaking of books, here’s this month’s most useless book that came in as a donation to the used book store that I manage for our local library here on the north shore of Long Island:

If you need a book in order to think of a name for your horse, maybe you aren’t smart enough to have a horse. I hear they are very intelligent animals and they require a lot of care. Naming a horse is the easiest part of having a horse.

It’s been a while since you’ve seen what a typical few days’ worth of book donations looks like. This is what I deal with every four or five days:

This pile of books was weirder than most because it contained some very specific tastes in reading. Such as:

Also, this:

Including this:

I don’t know. That seems like an awful lot of bookmarks for a book about polar bears.

In fact, all the bear books had little book marks stuck inside them, something I’ve only seen before in self-help books. Seems to me that these books about bears, mostly ones about polar bears, must have meant a lot to someone, obviously at some challenging phase in their life.

But no matter how lost you are, desperately grasping for meaning via polar bears, it would have been polite to remove those stickies before you made them my problem donated them to the library’s used book store.

Here’s a book that we in the used book store have absolutely no use for:

Not because sailboat racing rules are not a fascinating subject. It’s because, maybe as you can see in the photo, the book is, literally, filthy.

We can’t use this book (below) either (this time because the subject happens to be boring, sorry, Canada) but it had a killer cover and it made me happy, so I have to show it to you:

That’s enough of about books I can’t wait to throw out. Here’s the book about meditation that I hope will make me a better person:

This book comes highly recommended (by the Dali Lama, among others), and I’m determined to learn from it because in the near future I’m going to have a lot of free time on my hands and I can’t spend it being constantly pissed off. I need to find a way to have a spectacular Third Act, and I don’t want to read a lot of books about polar bears to find out how. I hope this one book will do it.

At this week’s board meeting of the Friends of the Library I turned in my notice. I’m closing the book store for the ChrisHanuKwanSolstice/New Year’s holiday on December 21, but I’m not coming back in January. I quit.

And it feels FANTASTIC.

In other news, our old cat, Lickety, is still with us, bless his darling little heart. I don’t know how he does it, since his cancer has made him skin and bones, but he is enjoying left over Thanksgiving turkey and, now and then, a sunbath in the back yard:
It’s hard for me, now,  to remember him as the cat he’d been for the 12 years before cancer:

Lickety is on my lap as I type this:

As weak and cancer-ridden as he is, Lickety is still as gentle and loving as he was when he was  fat and healthy . I think there is definitely something deep and meaningful about his life, and we could all learn from him.

But then, we all know that cats are deep and meaningful creatures:

Here are some more life thoughts to get you through the day”

 

Have a great weekend, everyone. And if telling us about an recent incident of bullshittery in your life helps you get the ball rolling on a joyful TGIF, please feel free to share in the Comments.

Here’s you political righteousness for the day:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I miss Obama more every single damn day.

 

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Thank you, Leeann at Can We Have A New Witch Please, Ours Melted, for letting me steal all your fab memes.

I’ve had a miserable week, Dear Readers. For three days in a row I have had to call the Apple “geniuses” to figure out why my iMac is possessed by demons. I’ve spent hours on the phone and all I know is that I now have, thanks to interventions with the “geniuses”,  three Apple devices that do not sync with each other, or, for that matter, the real world.

From what the Apple “geniuses” tell me, because I bought my iMac in 2012, I might as well be typing on a Selectric. And since I got my iPad the same year, I might as well be trying to download the YouTube app on a frying pan. My iPhone hasn’t fucked up yet, but that’s because I mostly use it as a phone.

Remember when, if you learned to read a newspaper — say, The Sandusky Register — in 1819, you could still use the exact same newspaper reading skill 200 years later to read The New York Times? Those were the days. Now, the stuff you learn to do on your devices becomes outdated every six months.

The Stromness Rock had a grand time in eastern Michigan with Dear Reader Jeanie last week, but I have not been able to bring the photos down from the cloud because it’s as if I am trying to lure Copper River salmon with magnets. (My computer is a magnet in this analogy and Jeanie’s photos are the salmon. FYI: You can’t fish with magnets. I’m pretty sure.)

I will write this post, and then I will do the dreaded full-scale OS update. If you can’t find me here next week it will be because that operation didn’t go well and I am in a coma.

But let’s get to today’s deep thoughts about life and art.

Maybe you know the fabulous work of artist Anne Taintor:

 

 

 

Born August 16, 1953, Anne Taintor attended Harvard University, from which she graduated in 1977 with a degree in Visual and Environmental Studies.

She moved back to her native Maine, and bounced around in different jobs, including as a waitress and a seamstress, and as a cartographer drawing maps for state atlases, while also working her way through a divorce.

In 1985, while at a garage sale in South Portland, Maine, Taintor came across an old Ladies Home Journal, which prompted her to begin creating what would become her signature work.

She founded Anne Taintor, Inc., which celebrates its 35th anniversary in 2020. Taintor’s work is available on her personal website and in thousands of retail locations across 25 countries.

Isn’t her story interesting?

I had to look up what the hell Harvard was getting at in its Visual and Environmental Studies — spoiler alert; it’s “a broad range of studio and theoretical studies”. So, I guess she graduated as an artist, and yet she found her calling at a garage sale, in a Ladies Home Journal.

Now, would she have been prepared to make art with that old magazine if she had not been previously trained in hoity-toity visual and environmental studies? It took her 8 years to find that Ladies Home Journal…without Harvard, would it have taken her 12 years? Or 2? We’ll never know, but I wonder about stuff like this.

I was not familiar with Anne Taintor’s work until last week, when we got a donation of books at the used book store that I manage for the benefit of our local library here on the north shore of Long Island. Inside a copy of a Terry Pratchett mass market paperback (Maskerade), I found a rather striking Anne Taintor postcard; this one:

However, just as Anne Taintor manipulates “found” images to make sarcastic and ironic commentary on women’s secret lives, the postcard that I found in the Terry Pratchett novel had been manipulated into another very personal message:

On the back of it, there was more writing:

For most of the past 15 years, I’ve been happily married. So,  have almost completely lost track of the person I was in my 20s when I could have written this myself — but I wouldn’t have, because I could never have been so raw and honest, so exposed, even to myself.

I wish I knew who previously owned this copy of  Terry Pratchett’s Masquerade. I would take her out for a drink and assure her that things work out, they do. They might not work out the way you think they should, but they work out just fine all the same. We have all been there, caught breathless in this existential panic, but hold on: Find something you love to do and do it. Get a pet. Make art. Dance a lot. Stay away from vodka on weeknights.

This is the exact same advise I give to myself these days, in this epically sickening era of Trump. If I let myself take it all in, I would be writhing in a seething pile of red-hot hatred for all Republicans alternating with a dive deep into an ice-cold pit of fathomless despair for the future of our democracy. And there are Democrats still rooting for Bernie Fucking Fuckwad Sanders?!?!?!?!

So, I try to do something I love at least once a week (daily joy is way too hard, right?). I take care of my cats, who make me laugh most days. I make *cough* art-adjacent things. And I dance.

Well, more accurately, I pound out three miles at 4.0 mph on my morning treadmill at an insanely fast dance beat. By the end I am exhausted and exhilarated and ready to face another dismal and shitty day in Trump’s America.

I start my day with this.

And that, Dear Readers, is K-pop, which if we had had when we were in our teens, we would totally have taken Korean in high school instead of French.

Well, that’s it for this week, Dear Ones.  Have a great weekend everyone, and remember:

And above all, Resist.

 

 

 

 

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Some times, when I look at the books that get donated to our charity used-book store here on the north shore of Long Island, I wonder why such a thing was ever published in the first place:

Well, color me stupid.

This is a first edition copy of a book that was re-issued in 2014 by NYRB Classics (that is, the hoity-toity New York Review Books). This book got a review on NPR (the same people who did a review of my first book in 2009 and saved my career) and here’s the last paragraph:

In many ways, On Being Blue is less a book to read than an experience to be had. It’s essentially a rant, a riff, poetry, music, art, all of that. But it isn’t apologetics. There’s no scientific argument, no clear-cut hypothesis to be found. It’s not a treatise on the nature of man and his place in the universe. Gass is more interested in getting across a passion for language, and the way the words look and sound on the page. Blue is life and love, it becomes quite easy to believe. But wait for it, because in the end, “everything is gray.”

Oh, sure, this is a book beloved by the intelligentsia, but lordy, if there’s one thing I can’t stand it’s a rant, a riff, poetry, music, art, all of that in book form. This book sounds tedious, and I have enough problems of my own, thank you, to have time for deep thoughts about the color blue.

We also got this:

It’s a big, coffee table-sized book and inside were pages and pages of wonderful illustrations:

 

In my favorite book about being a used-book seller, The Diary of a Bookseller by Shaun Bythell, Bythell noted that books about trains — even vintage train schedules — sell very well in his store. Well, sure, I thought to myself, But Shaun’s in Scotland where transpotting is a national sport, but will this sell here on the north shore of Long Island?

I priced it at $2.00 and it sold in an hour.

This looked like a dreary children’s book with a message about life, and I loathe “message” books . . .

. . . but it was redeemed by this on the inside free end paper:

I wish I knew who this nephew was, so I could call him and tell him to treasure this note from his aunt.

Moving on: The only thing worse than actually being IN the Peace Corps. . .

. . . would be reading a book ABOUT the Peace Corps.

I flipped through this book and a chapter describing the application process caught my eye. I remember my application process, back in 1980, and my hour-long interview, and how ernest I was about doing my part to bring about world peace. I cringe to think that I was ever that naive.

In the 1960s, an applicant needed EIGHT references to attest to their worthiness to being Peace Corps Volunteers. “Generally,” the author notes, “they [the references] tend to be candid and reliable evaluations.”

Here’s a sample of what people had to say about possible future Peace Corps Volunteers:

“About emotion, he can take it or leave it.”

“If dropped into an alien culture, he [the applicant] would be accepted by the culture rather than eaten.”

“I have seen her react favorably when her hand was mashed in a car door.”

“Even patrolmen that have arrested him in the past years stated they liked him.”

Note to RPCV Steve: Did you know that Morocco was in the region that the Peace Corps called NANSEA? It’s the most diverse PC region, covering Morocco, Tunisia, Libya, Turkey, Iran, Afghanistan, Nepal, India, and Ceylon. What say you and me go back in time and volunteer for Afghanistan? Or Iran. Cool, huh?

Moving on. . .

I got complete bound copies of Gourmet Magazine for all of 1972, 1973, and 1974.

I thought they might have some interesting travel journalism in there along with icky recipes but they don’t, and there’s hardly any color photography (food magazines have come a loooong way since the ’70s). I don’t have any hopes that we have a customer for these, but I’ll give them a chance on our Odds and Ends shelf.

For the past two years, one of our most loyal customers buys coffee table art and photography books from us for his collage art, a hobby of his in retirement. Last Sunday he had an exhibit of his works at a library far up on the north shore of Long Island and I went to see it.

This one is called “Trinity”.

Each piece is a 12-inch x 12-inch square, the same size as an LP cover. That’s a shape that we Baby Boomers are very conversant with, and I think it’s a smart choice.

Title: “Once Upon a Time there Was a Hat”. I asked, but No, it wasn’t about Sondheim.

I was pleasantly surprised that his work (he had about 30 on view) were so formally composed because that’s not what I expect from collage but then, he has always struck me as a linear-thinking kind of guy. I think he might have been a math teacher, or an engineer.

Title: “Doubt”.

I do like his work, but I think they would benefit from better titles. Something a little enigmatic, or hintingly narrative, or in juxtaposition, if you know what I mean.

He called this one, “There Goes The Neighborhood”.

Take this one, above. I like it a lot. the use of that copper-colored sky is very effective, and I like the coyote looking over his shoulder, and I even don’t mind the old people (altho, for the record, I’d rather not look at old people in art).

But wouldn’t it be a better piece if it had a different title? Like, for a random example, “A Slow Walk in the Forever Fields”?

Discuss amongst yourselves.

I happened to see the artist again at the bookstore today when he came in to look at the books I’ve been putting aside form all Summer. He sold two pieces on opening day of the exhibit, and he’s gotten calls about several others. (He bought 4 of the 5 books I’d set aside for him.)

I didn’t buy one of his work because they are outside my collecting parameters. I collect thrift shop art, and I’ve got some beauts.

This hangs above our fireplace in the living room. I got it 15 years ago. It’s large, 32 inches x 44 inches, and I think it’s the most wonderful painting in the world:

This was the first piece of thrift shop art that I ever bought, about 20 years ago, before I got married:

This is 16 x 20 inches.

My heart pounded with joy when I came across these two, together, waiting for ME to give them a good home:

Each is also 16 x 20 inches.

I love it that the person who did these paint-by-numbers pictures signed them.

Last week I was in our local Salvation Army thrift shop and I came across a canvas (16 x 20 inches) that I tried not to buy, because, well, look at it, but in the end I couldn’t leave the store without it:

And now I love it, and spend about fifteen minutes a day looking at it, happy that its weird exuberance and hauntingly inept draftsmanship are MINE. I have half a mind to call this one, On Being Blue.

And that brings us full circle, Dear Readers, for this week.

Have a splendid weekend, everyone. October is the Coyote Month, and this year the trickster has impeachment on his mind!

 

 

A college professor put this sign up on his office door as a warning to his students:

It made me think of this guy:

 

But let’s not let that be the last word, not when there’s this:

 

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This is what Burn Out looks like:

I was at the used book store on my day off, the charity store that I manage for our local library here on the north shore of Long Island (USA), and I was greeted by four bags and four boxes of books on the doorstep, which some unknown “donor” or “donors” had left overnight. Which made me say “Shit!” in a rather loud voice, while I stood in full sight of an open-door meeting of librarians at an adjacent conference room. I wish I hadn’t, but I was pissed.

I could tell at a glance that this was nothing but crap, and I had just spent the whole month of August de-crapping the store.

Some of you, Dear Readers, are no doubt book lovers, and you’re thinking, “Oh come off it, Vivian, it can’t be that bad.”

Oh, it. It is.

As the French say, Regardez-vous la merde:

Need I say that this is a self-published book? It was self-published in 1995, long before self-publishing had any kind of “indie” sheen to it. This is a vanity project, pure and simple, a very, very creepy vanity project. I’d show you the author’s photo but you would accuse me of author-shaming.

I’m showing you anyway. Call me vain, but if I were posing for an author’s photo, I don’t know… I would at least put my dentures in.

I don’t even want to touch this book, let alone stock it in the store.

Sigh.

More samples of crap, crap, crappity crap:

You’ll note that one book was already previously purchased in a used book store, and still has the “used” sticker on the spine. I’ll have you know that I run a classy used-book shop and I don’t do twice-used books. And that Updike; just, no.

And then there were these, also destined for the dumpster for obvious reasons:

Although it looked to me that Jumping Simplified had been used less as a book and more as a coaster, I had to take a look inside. (Great title, by the way. I was hoping for something adorably quirky. The History of Jump Ropes How Jumping CanBring World Peace, that kind of thing. I overlooked the Ronald Sports Library logo.)

Here is Step One in an illustrated guide to. . .

. . . Step Two, wait for it. . .

. . . Step Three, and Yes! We did it!

We learned the correct way to semaphore the phrase, “A priest, a pastor, and a rabbit walk into a bar…”, simplified. (The horse is thinking, “Wait. Was it a ribbit??”)

This, below, was part of an entire box of books — old, musty, creepy, boring books — about the maritime provinces of Canada:

And rounding out your tour of Books So Boring They Might As Well Be The New Jersey Turnpike, I give you these:

Oh, thanks a lot, Mari Kondo. I refuse to let my book store be used as a dumping ground for every book that does not spark joy.

Too bad that these photos don’t show the spiders. Some of these books were definitely the winter homes of spiders.

We postponed the grand re-opening of our used book store here on the north shore of Long Island after our August hiatus for September 18. I am trying to muster up enthusiasm to finish the year out, to hang in there until December, but o, lordy…days like this, I just want quit second-hand retail and take up plane spotting full time.

The reason I was at the used book store on my day off was because I’d arranged to meet a charity that agreed to take seven boxes of carefully vetted YA books that I had collected the past six moths (we don’t sell YA), and I was grateful to clear out seven boxes from a corner of our store.

And then someone stopped in with a “donation”, and handed me eight boxes of “art books”. I know this donor, and her stuff is usually OK, but she she told me (too late for me to say No) that she’s cleaning out the bookcases of her father (who hasn’t purchased a new book in the past 70 years)…and now I have eight boxes of ratty, damp, boring, sad books about avant garde art of the last century and the treasures of the Vatican and old museum guides for eastern European art galleries. In black and white.

Sow what do you do when you’re in a rut of your own devising?

Me, I go see the kittens next door:

I get to feed them lunch this week, and these kittens jump when they hear the opening of a can of Fancy Feast sounds like:

And so on.

Dear Reader Jeanie wondered how we got through Hurricane Dorian last week here on the north shore of Long Island…and I have to say, it was terrible. AWFUL. We got battered like Alabama. The drizzle lasted many many minutes, one right after the other, for what seemed like forever if, by “forever”, you mean an hour, and the gloom — O! The gloom was tragic, positively medieval — I mean, it felt as though we were living through the Black Death, if by “Black Death”, you mean “overcast”. I am still traumatized. O, the horror.

Lickety —

— keeps amazing us by hanging in there, chowing down his breakfast, lunch, and dinner, and by insisting on sleeping in the middle of the driveway. For a dying cat, he seems to be having a whale of a time.

Top Cat had to jet off to California last Saturday, something to do with the fate of the earth, so I was left alone for the whole weekend. I’ve only been married for 15 years, but being alone in the house for a weekend feels alien, and wrong.

So on Saturday evening I took a train into Manhattan to watch the sunset in Times Square. The train route that serves my part of the north shore of Long Island is the same train line that takes Long Islanders to Shea Stadium and to the Billie Jean King National Tennis Center at Flushing Meadows. On this Saturday night, the Mets were at home and Serena Williams was playing the finals of the U S Open. The train was packed.

I must say, for a stay-at-home type who wants to venture out into the big city once in a while, I couldn’t have chosen a better evening than this fine, warm, clear September twilight. The train ride was a hoot, ands when I got to Penn Station and waded through the humanity that swarms mid-town Manhattan and then navigated the throngs that pile into Times Square on a Saturday night, I thought to myself, “Jesus — this is a freak show, and isn’t it wonderful??

Of course, I forgot my camera, because I went temporarily insane and forgot that I was a blogger and that my life is content, so I’m sorry not to have any photos to show you. But I was so jazzed up by the experience, that I decided that for my encore I want to go to Walmart at 2am.

Sadly, there is no WalmartSuperstore here on the Isle of Long. So this week I am flying to Fort Myers, FLA, where I will  haunt the aisles of the 24-hour Walmart on Colonial Ave, in the wee hours, and bring you back tales.

And the camera is already packed.

Have a great weekend, Dear Readers. And take heart.

I think, at this point, all we have to do is sit back and watch der Drumpf as he twists himself slowly, slowly in the wind.

 

 

 

 

 

P.S. I’ve put $100 against whatever Democrat runs against Collins. I made the contribution right after she endorsed the shit-eating-grinning Kavanaugh.

Next week, pix from Walmart and a How To for Ghoulish Bonsai.

XXOO

 

 

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Advance copy from the newsletter of The Bryant Library for September 2019:

In 1919 local author Christopher Morley published The Haunted Bookshop.
In 2019, figments of imagination from Morley’s one-hundred year-old bookshop will be on display at The Bryant Library, starting Sept. 28 until October 31.
Don’t miss this once-in-a-century exhibit.
Warning: Judge these books by their covers. They are very creepy.

 

My current “fun” project is making bits of things for an installation that I will be putting up in our local library inspired by a 1923 copy of the dreadful book by Christopher Morley that we got in as donation at the used book store. Some of the bits that I am making are scary little bonsai that erupt from tatty books.

I know. I have to work more on making with the “erupt” part. I thought that having the tree’s roots creep out from inside the book would be, well, creepy, but it’s not. It’s barely noticeable. Back to the  drawing board mat knife.

P.S. The editor of the newsletter gave me two days’ notice about getting a blurb ready, so I wrote this in about ten minutes and I  took a photo of the only finished piece I have so far.

Officially, the used book store is closed for the month of August, but I still have to show up a few hours a week to meet with crack pot hoarders donors and to process their stinking shitty trash donations. On Thursday, I had scheduled to meet with three separate donors at the used book store, so there I was, at 1 o’clock in the afternoon until 2 o’clock in the afternoon, as per our arrangement, dutifully keeping myself busy while I waited and waited and waited. . .

. . . NONE of the pissant purveyors of filthy paperback crap donors showed up!

Jesus. My time is very valuable and I am not to be trifled with. From 2:00 until 4:30 I was in a murderous mood, resentful of all the good work I do for an ungrateful community yadda yadda yadda.

At 4:31 I remembered that it was only Wednesday.

So today (being the real Thursday) I was back at the used book store, taking in boxes of garbage. I should have known: the old couple who called saying that they “want to get rid of some books”, and with whom I very carefully went through the list of books that I will not take. . . still brought in four boxes of old, moldy, beat up religious and text books.

They also brought a few books of collected short stories from mercifully forgotten writers. Such as this, from 1955:

It seems to me that Anne was not all that sure that this book was Harry’s cup of tea. So, Jesus, girl — go get him a book that you know he would like!

A woman brought in about 25 children’s books, of which a good 16 were acceptable. Among them was this, my new favorite book in the whole world:

And something that has never happened before, happened today.

With the third donor, a young boy just graduated from college who was giving me all his old space books (he called them “space” books, so I had to ask, “Do you mean astronomy?” and he agreed that yes, they were about astronomy, and I had to wonder, good lord, what the hell kind of college did you go to??) included some general reading materials, along with the “space” books.

He gave me a copy of Wonder, without the dust jacket — exactly the same book, in the same sans-dust jacket condition, as I got from the woman who gave me the children’s books. I can’t remember which copy of Wonder was which, but one was the 40th printing, and the other was the 70th.

SEVENTY PRINTINGS!!  5 million copies sold in 29 languages and it was made into a film that starred Julia Roberts.

I have never heard of this book! Or the movie! (It’s a YA novel about a 10-year old kid with severe facial deformities.)

So here’s one example of how working at the used book store has brought me up to date with the culture around me. Which is a good thing, about 80% of the time.

In other zeitgeist news:

In August, the world flocks to Edinburgh (Scotland) for a theater and comedy festival that is the European Sundance of theater and comedy. It’s a very big deal, worth about 250 billion pounds to the Scottish economy and has been responsible for such break out stars as Peter Cook and Dudley Moore (a long time ago), Alan Rickman, Rowan Atkinson, Sasha Baron Cohen, Steve Coogan, and Billy Connolly (who is crazy famous and beloved in the UK and not so much in America ).

Every year, the festival awards a prize, called Dave (ha ha) for the funniest one-liner. This year, a Swedish comedian who goes by the name Olaf Falafel (I think he’s trying too hard, with that name) won the Dave.

He took the title with the gag: “I keep randomly shouting out ‘Broccoli’ and ‘Cauliflower’ – I think I might have florets”.

Well. There has been a broo-ha-ha about this joke. A lot of people don’t like it because it  makes a “joke” at the expense of sufferers of a much-misunderstood neurological malady. It’s also not funny.

Suzanne Dobson, the chief executive of Tourette’s Action in the UK, told the BBC: ”Humour is a great way of educating people – but not only is it not funny to poke fun at people with Tourette’s, it’s not even that funny a joke, is it?”

Tourette’s Action has now urged Olaf Falafel and Dave to apologise and try to see things from the perspective of someone with Tourette Syndrome, according to the BBC.

If you make a pun in my presence I will go all wild wolf on your ass.

I didn’t know why this dumb broccoli joke won the award until I read up in the competition. Some of the other contenders are just as bad, but a few are actually funny. Here is a sample (from The Edinburgh International Festival 2019):

“I can give you the cause of anaphylactic shock in a nutshell.” Gary Delaney 

“I saw a documentary on how ships are kept together. Riveting!” Stewart Francis 

“I waited an hour for my starter so I complained: ‘It’s not rocket salad.” Lou Sanders 

“Crime in multi-storey car parks. That is wrong on so many different levels.” Tim Vine

“I picked up a hitch hiker. You’ve got to when you hit them.” Emo Philips 

“As a kid I was made to walk the plank. We couldn’t afford a dog.” Gary Delaney 

“I was watching the London Marathon and saw one runner dressed as a chicken and another runner dressed as an egg. I thought: ‘This could be interesting.’” Paddy Lennox 

“I’m sure wherever my dad is; he’s looking down on us. He’s not dead, just very condescending.” Jack Whitehall

“I’ve given up asking rhetorical questions. What’s the point?” Alexei Sayle 

“I have two boys, 5 and 6. We’re no good at naming things in our house” Ed Byrne 

“I wasn’t particularly close to my dad before he died… which was lucky, because he trod on a land mine” Olaf Falafel

“Whenever someone says, ‘I don’t believe in coincidences.’ I say, ‘Oh my God, me neither!”‘ Alasdair Beckett-King 

“A friend tricked me into going to Wimbledon by telling me it was a men’s singles event” Angela Barnes

“As a vegan, I think people who sell meat are disgusting; but apparently people who sell fruit and veg are grocer” Adele Cliff

“For me dying is a lot like going camping. I don’t want to do it” Phil Wang

“Why is it old people say ‘there’s no place like home’, yet when you put them in one …” Stuart Mitchell​ 

I often confuse Americans and Canadians. By using long words.” Gary Delaney

“Why is Henry’s wife covered in tooth marks? Because he’s Tudor.” Adele Cliff

“Don’t you hate it when people assume you’re rich because you sound posh and went to private school and have loads of money?” Annie McGrath

“If you’re being chased by a pack of taxidermists, do not play dead.” Olaf Falafel

“I’ve written a joke about a fat badger, but I couldn’t fit it into my set.” Masai Graham ****( see end of post)

And my favorite:

“Trump’s nothing like Hitler. There’s no way he could write a book” Frankie Boyle

And that’s the blog for this week. But before I go, I want to alert you to a situation that Top Cat and I have been tracking for most of this Summer.

Lickety in 2018

Our dear sweet Lickety was diagnosed with a mass on his liver about 8 weeks ago.

Lickety in Summer of 2019

He is still a very loving and personable kitty, hanging out with his buds on the patio and glomming onto us any time we sit on the Adirondack chairs, but his days are dwindling as surely as the Summer light.

I have a feeling that we will be making that final visit to the vet’s soon, maybe as soon as this coming week.

So have a wonderful weekend, Dear Readers, and do something extra special while it’s still August, while the sunshine is still like powdered gold and the Summer still trembles like a butterfly.

***** Dear Reader and Stromness Rock Tour Guide Angel: I’m so sorry! I know you’re not a badger — you’re a wolverine!! I got Michigan and Wisconsin mixed up like I’m from the UP or something, and I send you my deepest apologies. Statehood for Superior!

 

 

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Some time ago, this small (palm-sized) little book came in as part of a donation to theused-book store that I manage for charity here on the north shore of Long Island:

Harper’s Family Library No, 29: The Court and Camp of Bonaparte, printed in 1833.

I didn’t think much this boo. I saw that it was very old and very shabby, so I put it with my secret stash of “Creepy Books”, the collection old books, in fair to poor condition, that I am storing up for use in a “Haunted Bookshop” installation I want to do for Halloween this year, using my neighbor’s book, The Haunted Bookshop as inspiration (Christopher Morley, 1890 – 1957,  used to be a very famous American writer whose old h ouse was a little up the road from where I now live, and there’s a huge public park named for him about half a mile away and one of his books was The Haunted Bookshop, a dreadful book in spite of its awesome title).

So I was going  those Creepy Books again this past week and I picked up Harper’s Family Library No, 29: The Court and Camp of Bonaparte, printed in 1833, and I just happened to open it to check out the free end papers and I found this:

What the hell, I thought, I might as well google this name.

It turns out that James B. Fry is this guy:

Photo credit: Matthew Brady, c. 1864. Public domaine, the Library of Congress.

Here’s who this guy is:

James Barnet Fry

Feb. 22, 1827 – July 11, 1894  (67 years)

James Barnet Fry was a West Point graduate and artillery specialist who served briefly in the Mexican-American War (1846 – 1848).

Fry came into repeated contact with President Abraham Lincoln from the beginning of the Civil War, when he came to Washington DC in the winter of 1861 to protect the government during President Lincoln’s inauguration.

Fry’s conduct impressed the White House staff. Presidential aid John Hay wrote in his diary: “Fry is the firmest and soundest man I meet…He seems to combine great honesty of purpose with accurate and industrious business habits and a lively and patriotic soldier spirit that is better than any thing else, today.”

Fry served as General Irvin McDowell’s Chief of Staff during the First Battle of Bull Run (July 1861) and was the Chief of Staff of the Army of the Cumberland in its operations in the Western Theatre (which included the Battle of Shiloh in 1862). He was then appointed Provost Marshal General of the entire Union Army, in which capacity he served until the end of the Civil War.

Effective on March 15, 1865, Fry was brevetted to the ranks of colonel, brigadier general, and major general in the Regular Army in recognition of his service at the First Battle of Bull Run and the Battle of Shiloh, and for “faithful, meritorious and distinguished service as Provost Marshal General during the war.”

After the Civil War, Fry continued his military career until 1881, when he turned his talents to writing books about the army, including New York and the Conscription of 1863.

So what I have is a book that James B. Fry obviously bought second-hand some time after March of 1865 for his own private library and held  in his own hands. I wish he had signed the damn book because his signature is going for $296.00 on eBay. (Above: It looks to me as though this was torn out of one of General Fry’s other books, right?)

So I’ve got that short bio of General Fry (above) and I got a beautiful, sharp print of the Matthew Brady photo from the Library of Congress, and along with the book I’ll sell the whole package as a ready-made holiday gift for the Civil War buff in your life, here in our little used-book store here on the north shore of Long Island. I think $30.00 is the right price.

My co-manager of the used book store that I manage for the benefit of our local library here on the north shore of Long Island thought I was a genius for discovering this little treasure. But she’s got me all wrong.

The only reason I found this provenance in this old, battered book was because I was considering cutting it up for my “art”. Oh, yes; I would gladly have cut up this 186-year old tome with nary a dust mote of guilt because, to be honest, I am getting to be a person who sincerely loathes books.

It would be different, maybe, if I were selling antiquarian books for personal fun and profit, but I’m working as a volunteer for a charity used-book store and dealing with random people’s filthy and cheap cast-offs FOR FREE. I want to kick myself.

It’s another story when callers say, “I have some nice books to donate because we are moving/downsizing/de-cluttering.” In this case, there’s a 50% chance that only 80% of their books will be trash.

But more and more I’m getting callers who say, “I have books I want to donate because it’s so hard to throw out books.”

When I hear those last seven words I already know that they are going to be handing me trash, pure junk, and are using me as their garbage valet.  And I resent it, and their books.

I was working in the book store for two hours this week, and I took in two donations. This is what I threw out:

This is about 80% of what was bequested to us. It’s TRASH. I load these boxes and bags into the trunk of my car, and then I drive home and let the trash sit in the trunk of my car overnight. Then I drive Top Cat to the train station the next morning so he can catch the 6:49 to Manhattan and then I drive to the library when the library is closed and the parking lot is empty and I can back up the car to the library’s secret trash bin. And then I unload this crap myself and hoist over the edge of a five-foot tall dumpster. It is not fun.

And then I drive to the gym and work out so, yeah, I guess unloading trash can be as aerobic as pedaling a stationery bicycle but I still don’t like it.

Here is a close up of the kind of books that I throw out:

I want to punch the person who donated these books, AS IF they would be appropriate for sale in a nice little book shop on the north shore of Long Island.

Ugh: This is a tiny book(below)  (that’s my s6 iPhone for scale). No way, nope. I don’t want any book in my store that contains the words “in utero”:

Also, No:

Other stuff:

I found the laminated photo of a little girl inside a paperback biography of Teddy Roosevelt (the book passed muster and is now in stock at the store), and the train ticket from Livorno to Florence from March, 2009, I found inside a paperback novel, on page 25. Someone didn’t like The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time very much.  I feel you, Italian train traveller. I didn’t like that book at all.

We already have 2 copies of The Curious Incident, so I threw out the one that had the train ticket in it.

To elaborate a bit on last week’s blog post, about me being bored, I now must confess that when I wrote last week’s blog I was on Day 14 of a diet. You see, a couple of months ago I had my yearly physical and I learned that I had gained 4 pounds since last year’s physical, on top of the 4 pounds I had gained the year before. It doesn’t take a genius to spot a worrying trend there.

So I put myself on a 1200 calorie / 45 grams of protein a day diet. I also joined a new gym and I work out an hour every morning on exercise routines devised by my personal trainer, so, La Di Da for me.

It’s easy to start a diet. It’s exciting to be on the road to good health! It’s empowering to know you have finally got off your ass and are DOING something!

By Day 14 you have lost the will to live. No nice thick slice of ciabatta toast in the morning (whole wheat bread instead…boring), no fabulous homemade gourmet pizza on Friday (chick pea pasta with marina sauce instead…boring). And forget about greek yogurt — there is no way I am eating greek yogurt. Salmon, in any way shape or form: Nope. Six almonds as an afternoon  “snack”? ARE YOU KIDDING ME? Whoa –No cheese enchiladas??

I’m a girl who keeps a photo of my favorite cheese enchiladas on my computer’s desktop because I AM IN FREAKING LOVE WITH CHEESE ENCHILADAS:

Lunchtime enchilada special at Little Mexico in Westbury, Long Island.

And the most absolute, horrfying, life-sucking WORST OF ALL : I have to cut my wine consumption by half.

I don’t know if you’ve recently experienced a day in Trump’s America while totally sober, but it is torture.

So my friend sent me this (NSFW):

I mourn my lost wine-drinking days because I have recently discovered a  fantastic pinot grigio that is only $6.99 a bottle so, as any reasonable person would do, I recently went to Total Wine and bought three cases of the stuff. I was in line at the check out desk, behind a stall, stocky, mid-30s, blue-collar looking guy who is buying a dozen bottles of an Australian red wine called 19 Crimes.

19 Crimes, the story behind the label: On August 20, 1865  one James Wilson, an Irish nationalist who enlisted in the British Army to avoid arrest for the battery of a police officer, was court martialed for desertion and mutinous conduct and sentenced to death, a sentence later commuted to life imprisonment with hard labor. On October 12, 1867 he was placed aboard the Hougoumont, the last convict ship to sail to Australia. The wine, a blend that is brooding with richness, is like the wine rations served on convict ships in that every sip deserves to be savored.

So, yeah, I’m in line behind a big bruiser who is buying 19 Crimes wine and I’m loading my many bottles of cheap white wine onto the conveyor belt, and the bruiser ahead of me accidentally lets go of his trolly and it ever so lightly rolls backwards, into me.

“Oh!”, the guy says, “I’m so sorry, darlin’!”

I did not expect that.

Then he notices my inventory of white wine and he says, “Wow, somebody’s going to have a great night tonight!”

I follow his gaze to the evidence of my immodest lust for wine and I say, “Winter’s coming.”

Which was true. Who doesn’t stock up on wine when it’s August and you start degrading the cold, dark mornings and the cold, dark nights of November? But I had not meant to quote Game of Thrones. It slipped out.

So the guy laughed really hard and wished me a Good Winter when he rolled out of the store, and  now I wish everyone would call me “darlin'” instead of “ma’am”.

As of today, Day 20 of my diet, I have lost 3 1/2 pounds, so I’m not as bored as I was last week. And if I budget my calories just right, there is enough left over for a glass or two of wine now and then, and on one of those happy evenings recently, Top Cat and I went for cocktails at an open-air restaurant that has a fantastic view of The Long Island Sound.

At sunset there was a lot of thunder and lightening in the air, and we watched a huge storm roll across the waters of the Sound and engulf Manhattan on the far shore:

Behind the storm came this:

It was so exhilarating to be out in all that weather, watching this blessed Earth do her thing, and when the rain came pouring down on us it was warm and exciting, and life should always be like this. Because life on earth can be so wonderful. But it’s a lot better with wine.

Other news: The Stromness Rock is setting out on its ramble around America this weekend, and all you lovely volunteer tour guides will be receiving an information package later this week.

Candy has begun her annual walkabout, which happens every August when she deserts her favorite napping spots in the house and lives outside for one or two or three months. We don’t know why she does it. But she does come back noticeably thinner, so maybe there’s the answer.

Candy, Day One of Walkabout. The raccoons dug up the paving bricks in the background, looking for cat food kibble that spilled out of their bowl that is usually on that top step. I think that’s cute.

Have a great weekend, Dear Readers.

See you here next week.

XXOO

 

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In November 2016, Donald J. Trump was elected president because it’s the 21st century and Congress has STILL not gotten rid of the  Electoral College and while we’re at it, we should get rid of fucking Iowa too.

In November of 2016 I knew these were going to be dire times, Dear Readers, dire. Miserable. Calamitous. Wretched. Depressing. Sickening. Etc.

I knew I was going to need something other than/in addition to copious amounts of alcohol to not let Trump and his sniveling lying cheating stupid evil family and friends get to me during the next horrible four years. So,  in January 2017, I made a New Year’s Resolution that I would keep a Gratitude Jar, which is totally against my personality but, desperate times, desperate measures.

For those of youth might not know what a Gratitude Jar is: A Gratitude Jar provides a simple way to cultivate the habit of being mindful of the good things in your life. Each day, you write a note about one thing for which you’re grateful, and you put it into the jar where they collect as a reminder of the good things in your world.

Vivian’s Gratitude Jar (Mr. Bibs included for scale. My jar is as big as a cat!)

As I type this on Thursday July 25, Trump has been in office for 915 days, the same number of days that I’ve been keeping a Gratitude Jar.

My Gratitude Jar has 2 notes in it.

And now, having listened to the Mueller testimony to the House Judiciary and Intelligence committees yesterday, 2 notes in 915 days of Trump seem like a lot. I know we say this all the time but, just when you think things can’t get any worse, THEY DO.

And now I hate Bob Mueller in addition to everything else I hate about America right now.

The best thing I can say about the Mueller hearings was that the Democrats seemed to be very organized. They couldn’t ask Mueller questions (since Mueller wasn’t saying diddly squat), so they read into the record of the proceedings all the damning findings of the Mueller Report (since Mueller wasn’t saying diddly squat). Made me think of a problem I am having at the used book store (that I manage to benefit the local library). I keep asking the wrong questions and, as we discussed last week, everything depends on asking the right question.

People call me up and say, “I have books that I want to donate.”

I act like this is the best thing that’s happened to me since February 4, 2017 when I heard If You Could Read My Mind by Gordon Lightfoot on the radio, a song that I had not heard in 9 years (thank you, Gratitude Jar).

And then I ask, “What kind of books do you have?”

You would think that this is not a tough question to ask of someone who collects books. But in my experience, people seem to be surprised by this question.

Here are some of the answers I have received to this question, “What kind of books do you have?”:

All kinds of books.

I have hard books and soft books.

Nice books.

The usual kinds of books.

Books from my house.

And my favorite; Books for reading.

I got a call this morning, and the woman says, “I have books that I want to donate.”

I ask, “What kind of books do you have?”

And she says, Two big garbage bags of books.

I was not in the mood. So I tell her exactly what is on my mind. I say, “Well, I’ve been doing this a long time and I know from experience that when a person puts books in garbage bags it’s because they aren’t very good books.  [Tip: People who really love their books take the time to pack them in boxes.]

And she says, in an insulted tone, My books are really good books. There’s some text books, there’s a thesaurus, I have baby books, and some paperback fiction!

So I tell her that we don’t accept text books, reference books, child raising books, and the fiction has to be in excellent condition. No sound coming from the other end.

“I think you can just throw those books out, guilt-free,” I say.

She responds: Thank you for your time but I’m sure I’ll find a library in the city that will accept them, and she hangs up on me.

Hint: Libraries don’t want your raggedy-ass text books either.

But I have to find a better way of asking people to tell me about their books. Anybody got any advice?

We got a donation at the used book store (that I manage to benefit the local library), an item that was so depressing that I didn’t want to show it to you Dear Readers but, since we’re all depressed anyway (Mueller testimony), I think it’s the right time to bring it out:

This is a small pamphlet published by the New York State Civil Defense Commission in the early 1050s.

Caption: Ball of fire one second after burst.

These survival tips are so ludicrous . . .

. . . could anyone have believed that any of this stuff would actually work?

The guy on the left, the one with his head under his briefcase, makes me laugh every time:

Right: When your city has been hit by an atomic bomb, you want to put on a nice clean frock and tie an apron around your waist and find a cushion to kneel on before you scrub the radioactive particles off your kid.

A while ago we got in a slew of mid-century books:

They were interesting to me because of the author photos, from a time when authors were important people and their likenesses took up the entire back cover of their books:

Note the similarity of the far-Away expressions. The pipe is a nice touch, n’est-ce pas?

Hortense Calisher got an obit in the New York Times:

She wrote a lot of novels about women’s lives, none of which I care to read.

When this book came in, it proved to me that some people are using our used book store as a handy book-removal service:

Is there anything about this book that does not scream TRASHCAN????

If you are in the market for a 30-year old almanac I’m sorry, this one is already in the dumpster:

This too:

THIS one, however, is going into my personal library, for obvious reasons:

I wish I could read that dog’s mind.

This is another book that I want to own, but I don’t want to read:

Human Destiny, by Leconte du Nouy, no dust cover.

I found a treasure tucked inside this book, Human Destiny:

Cute vintage card from 1950, called And So To Bed by the well-known illustrator and fairy artist, Molly Brett. This post card is very collectible these days, going for about $10.00 on eBay, but it’s the message on the back of it that makes it priceless:

It looks like sweet Douglas never sent this to Mr. Noel, whose last name I’ve had to erase because a quick Google turns up info about Mr. Noel  being a big deal at the United Nations directly after the war (WWII) for many years, and with the French government, whose 1996 New York Times obit says he had no wife or children who survived him. Gee. I hope Douglas and Mr. Noel got a lot of face time, so that sending the post card was not necessary. That long dash ———— is worth a thousand words.

My next book also has a French connection:

First Edition, The Last Time I Saw Paris, by Elliot Paul, no dust jacket.

Sample of Paul Elliot’s writing: “The rue de la Huchette, in time and place, had a beginning, a middle, and an ending.” I AM NOT MAKING THIS UP.

This book is too damn boring to read, but too cute to throw out. What a dilemma. Like that’s what I need more of in my life these days, dilemmas.

 

Speaking of Nazi-esque immigrants from Eastern Europe who married Trump for a green card, remember how Melanoma Trump’s hometown in  Slovenia honored the First lady with a statue of her?

Turns out, the sculptor of this homage is a time traveler, and he made this likeness of Melanoma to show us what she will look like in the future! No joke!

Because look what was in St. Tropez last month — the first Mrs. Trump, with the face that she deserves:

Ivanka, are you paying attention? This is what you get for being a Nazi.

Am I petty just because ugly Trumps make me happy?

Me and a friend were drinking the other day and we decided that it was time for a revolution in America. They did it in Puerto Rico! Why can’t we do it here?!

Trouble is, neither of us know how to start revolution, but, since our combined age is 148 years old, we’re pretty sure we can figure it out by the weekend.

And when we do, I’ll let you know.

Have great weekend, Dear Readers. Remember, a good scrubbing after the news cycle will remove all those nasty Trump cooties. I can recommend a pinot grigio exfoliant.

XXOO

 

 

 

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I’m used to getting weird phone calls from people who want to donate books to the little used book store that I co-manage for our local library here on the north shore of Long Island. But still, when the phone rang last Tuesday evening I was surprised, because it was the first time in about five days that I’d had to answer it .

And it’s a guy, explaining that he and his wife are empty-nesters and down-sizing, so they loaded up her car with all their unwanted books — lots of good adult and children’s fiction, hundreds of books, the car is stuffed full — and she’s been driving around to libraries in the area all day but all those libraries have refused to take their donation, and that’s how he got my number from the people at the library that I sell used books for.

So me, being the helpful and saintly person that I am, I tell the guy: I’m sorry, but fiction does not re-sell, so GOOD NEWS! You can throw it all away without guilt!

But the guy on the phone does not want to hear the GOOD NEWS because he is operating under a common delusion known as the Endowment Effect (it’s a real thing. you can look it up) so he’s thinking that because these are his old books that the mere fact of his ownership makes his old books unlike anybody else’s old books and much much more valuable than other people’s old books. Phone Guy is shocked at my advise to throw his books in the trash and he can explain why his old books are a cut above your average old books that have already been rejected by every library in the land.

Well, Phone Guy says; Two of my children went to Harvard, so they were reading really high quality fiction.

He says: Can’t I drop them off with you anyway, and your people can sort through them and throw out what you don’t want?

In other words: Can’t I make this filthy load of useless old books that everyone else has rejected your problem now?

And what’s with this “your people” shit?

Oh, no, I say; I can’t ask my volunteers to do that kind of dirty work and I can’t do it myself because, actually, I’m in Scotland right now.

I can literally hear the sneer in Phone Guy’s voice as he says, Well dear me, I wouldn’t want to bother you in Scotland, and he hangs up on me.

Yes, Dear Readers, it’s the truth. I went to Scotland for ten days in late May/early June and if you read the headline to this week’s blog post, you already got the gist of it. . . Top Cat and I agree that it was the worst experience that we’ve ever had in our favorite foreign country, and is quite possibly, in general, the worst nine out of ten days we’ve ever had in life.

You’ll have to read all about it next week because I’m here, today, to tell you about the one out of ten days that did not chomp down on our last nerve like a ravenous vulture feeding on a rotting raccoon carcass and then puke it back up all over our hopes and dreams of a nice get-away from the cares and worries of every day der Dumpster’s America.

That’s right, Dear Readers. Top Cat and I drove on Scotland’s narrowest, foggiest, scariest, slowest piddly back roads all the way to the southwestern uplands of Scotland, a part of “the Borders” called Galloway. The area became a popular destination for young lovers after the Marriage Act was passed in 1754 in England, which outlawed marriages without parental consent if either party was under 21, but you were good if you could make it to Scotland because the marriage laws there were much more lenient. Galloway is just over the northern border from England and a cruel, horrible 95 miles south of Glasgow.

I was in Galloway because I wanted to see (as the sign says), Scotland’s National Book Town.

This is Wigtown, Scotland’s Book Town (population 982), on a good day:

We were not there on a good day:

We stayed at a BnB and our room was over the Shoots and Leaves Vegetarian cafe:

To get the lay of the land, Top Cat and I climbed the tower of the County Building:

The body of water in the distance is a slice of The Irish Sea:

From our overlook I noticed something interesting in one of the back gardens:

Bunny! Please note the fur on this pet rabbit. It will become almost unbearably too cute at a later point in this story:

I had come to Wigtown, Scotland’s Book Town, because of a book. This book:

Shaun Bythell (it’s pronounced exactly the way it’s spelled) owns and operates the largest used book store in Scotland. I came across his book a few months ago in one of the donations that came in to the used book store that I co-manage for the local library here on the north shore of Long Island. IT IS FABULOUS. Shaun Bythell is cranky, funny, smart, and open-minded about the oddities and peculiarities of people. He observes and records friends, rude customers, incompetent employees, villains (Amazon), and famous writers with the same deadpan amusement. Even if you do not co-manage a used book store, you will adore this reading experience. I guarantee it.

This (above) is the American hard cover version of his book, published by Melville House in Brooklyn in September 2018. It was originally published by Profile Books in Great Britain in 2017, when it became a huge best seller in the UK.

Since I got my copy of the book for free, I felt honor-bound to buy a copy from Shaun’s bookshop and this is the UK  paperback cover:

Look carefully at both covers. They have something crucial in common.

Shaun has a book store cat.

Shaun’s cat is named Captain and his comings and goings are one of the recurring sub-plots in the book and I had to meet this cat.

I stopped in at Shaun’s book shop — it’s called The Bookshop — and I asked about Captain and was told that he’d just been let out for his morning ramble. What a disappointment.

Anyway, I looked around The Bookshop, bought my copy of Diary of a Bookseller, and wandered next door to the children’s book shop, called Curly Tale Books, in search of the vintage illustrated children’s books that I like to cut up and make into castles and miniature golf courses. I rummaged for half an hour.

And then this happened:

Me, in love.

Without a doubt, these were the happiest moments of my Scotland vacation. Captain is huge, by the way, and very cool. He moseys around town and likes to drop in on other booksellers, as you can see, and make himself at home:

Captain, having surveyed his realm and deduced that all was well in Wigtown, departed Curly Tale Books and headed back to Shaun’s place:

There’s a reason for the bench in this picture (above) being painted this way. Although you might not have any idea how to find Galloway on a map of Scotland, I think you might be familiar with one of its most famous namesakes:

The Belted Galloway is a traditional Scottish breed of beef cattle. It derives from the Galloway cattle of the Galloway region of south-western Scotland, and was established as a separate breed in 1921. It is adapted to living on the poor upland pastures and windswept moorlands of the region.

Belted Galloways are primarily raised for their quality marveled beef, although they are often kept for ornament.

Thanks, Wikipedia.

Now, take a quick back track to that bunny rabbit I spied hopping around the back garden. I’ll wait here while you take in that rabbit’s fur.  And now we’ll both go SQUWEEEEEEEE!!!! HOW CUTE IS THAT!!!!

Back to our story: So Captain walks a few feet and then pauses, taking in his options:

These two West Highlanders were soon banished from the streets of southwestern Scotland and here is Captain, doing his mind-meld with whoever is on the other side of the door, to let him in:

Spoiler: It was me.

Now I can give you a quick tour of Shuan’s book shop. It has over a mile of shelving, where 100,000 books hope to one day find their forever homes.

Yes, it was as dark as it looks in these pix. I asked the young girl at the wrap desk about this and she told me that Shuan was away for the weekend and he had left her in charge and she didn’t know where the light switch was. Once you read Shaun’s book, you’ll understand that this is pretty much how The Bookshop usually works.

The wee sign says, The Littlest Antique Shop in the World. It’s in an old fireplace.

This is one of the reading areas and it quotes Terry Pratchett on the mantel: Build a man a fire, and he’ll be warm for a day. Set a man on fire, and he’ll be warm for the rest of his life.

Doesn’t every book store have a stuffed badger? You can buy reprinted antique maps from the drawers of the bureau. I was in the shop for ten minutes when a neighborhood guy came in and showed the young girl in charge where the light switch was.

People from around the world like to send Shaun postcards with bookish messages:

I had brought my copy of Diary of a Bookseller from the north shore of Long Island in hopes of getting Shaun to autograph it but he was out of town and besides, it was only the second-most important thing on my Wigtown To Do List. I’d met Captain — I’d held Captain — and that love-fest would do fine as my Wigtown Fantasy Fulfilled.

I had a lengthy chat with the neighborhood guy who had bestowed light upon The Bookshop and I learned a lot about what Shuan has been up to since his book was published. He also assured me that Shaun’s “bark is worse than his bite.”

This is the UK hard cover of his book, in which the cat is too small and looks like a dog:

And this is my 11 0’clock at night photo of the same, Scotland’s largest used book store:

In late May and early June the sun sets in Scotland at 10:09 PM but it takes a looooooong time for the last rays of light to fade from the sky. And then, at 4:11 AM it comes blasting in through the window and you think Holy Shit, how do people sleep in these conditions??

It was Saturday night in Wigtown and we were at the pub watching Liverpool beat Top Cat’s Tottenham Hot Spurs for the Champions Cup. In case you don’t know, it’s soccer. And the game was played in Madrid. It was a huge deal over there.

Top Cat (in the green shirt) talking to his new Wigtown friend about driving down on the A82 from Inverness. Oh, the horror.

Half time:

Pink Gin Venom is a good name for a drink but I’ll stick with a glass of Pinot Grigio and bitter memories, please:

One last thing that you must know about about Wigtown is its world-famous Bed and Breakfast called The Open Book:

The Open Book is the brainchild of Shaun Bythell’s ex-girlfriend, an American from LA. Her name is Jessica Fox and she wrote a memoir about taking a vacation in Galloway and falling in love with a tall, red-haired owner of the largest used book store in Scotland. She published her book first, and encouraged Shaun to write his, so we have her to think for Diary of a Bookseller and for this genius BnB.

Jessica Fox’s book is called Three Things You Need to Know About Rockets and it is horrible. I bought it in Wigtown and I hated reading every page of it. Save yourself. Don’t buy it. I don’t have the energy to tell you why it is so very repugnant but when I get my second wind (I’ve only had two days back from the worst nine out of ten days of my life) I might do a full review for you — I noted all the most whiny, dumb, egotistical, self-flattering, and unlikable bits.

But I can’t take away the fact that her idea for The Open Book is wonderful.

The deal is, you rent out the BnB upstairs for a week and you get to operate the book store below, however you want. It’s been an enormous success, and the place is booked up until 2025. You can read a New York Times article about it here.

When I was in Wigtown, one week ago (May 31 and June 1), The Open Book was being “managed” by a nice 9th-grade school teacher from Oklahoma:

She brought paint chips from Muskogee (really):

This was from some Italian “managers” a few weeks ago:

And with that, we must close the shutters on The Open Book and start counting the hours until it’s five o’clock somewhere.

My darling Top Cat is the best husband a co-manager of a used book store could ever have. He took me all the way from the north shore of Long Island to Wigtown, in the remotest far nether regions of Scotland, all because I wanted to meet a cat and he still loves me and I haven’t even told you about dragging him to the opposite end of outer limits yet.

P.S. I was in Scotland when the Friends of the library met to discuss the Odious Wednesday Volunteer’s “issues”, however I got a full report and it was as petty as expected. You and me, Dear Readers, let’s meet here next week and I’ll fill you in on that, as well as why you should never go to Orkney and Wigtown on the same trip, and why you should definitely never go to Glasgow. I fucking hate Glasgow.

Have a great weekend, everyone. 75 years ago the world was united against evil. We will overthrow evil once again in 2020.

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I was laying on the love seat in the den, hatching plans to take charge and rid the world of stupidity once and for all  as I am wont, and I had the best view of Taffy’s toes:

If you look carefully, you can also see Bibs’ toes, and Candy’s lumpy butt, and Lickety’s sweet dreaming face. More cats, fewer people, is the best I can come up with when it comes to putting a halt to idiocy. I have met some dopey cats in my day (in fact, Lickety isn’t all that stellar in the brains department) but their lack of intelligence isn’t evil, unlike the imbeciles in the Alabama Republican party who combine their low I.Q.s with a profound malevolence that makes democracy unsafe for all thinking people and cats. I cannot help but believe that another civil war is inevitable and I am sorry that I will not be young enough to go hand-to-hand with the mouth-breathing/pea-brained/in-bred/slack-jawed/road-kill eating/Christian Taliban.

Well, until the righteous uprising comes and defeats stupidity (if not once and for all, maybe for another 150 years), I might as well make myself useful and go to work at the used book store.

This is sweet:  last week at the used book store that I co-manage for the local library, I found a little gift that had been left on the shelf:

It is an exquisite little flower pot and daffodil, a piece of expert-level origami if ever I saw one. Thank you, anonymous origami artist, for making the day a tad more magical.

I know you all want to know what was in those 25 boxes of books that I got in at 10 o’clock at night last Wednesday:

Although the donor assured me that they were “very high level books” because her children were lawyers who read only the best. . . this donation was 90% crap.

There was a lot of horror and sci-fi from the 1970s; a LOT of mass market paperbacks of popular fiction of the kind that we don’t (because nobody buys it) sell; a lot of World War II histories and outdated sociology books; paperback copies of classics that no-one reads any more (Greek philosophers and minor 19th-century American novelists);and almost all of the books were in deplorable condition. Only the more recent hardback thrillers were in good enough state that we would accept them for sale in the store, if we had customers who would buy contemporary thrillers, which we don’t.

I felt sorry for the donor. She had gone to the trouble of renting a van so she could schlepp the books in from Connecticut, and she had packed the boxes very carefully, almost lovingly — she lined them with plastic trash bags (to keep out the morning dew?), and she’d taped them all shut (to safeguard them from raccoons?) which made the boxes that much more odious to unpack. It was, for the most part, dismal work.

EXCEPT.

Yes, there were some exceptions. I did pull about 30 books from this haul that I could put out on the shelves — some decent nonfiction about higher math (which sold almost immediately), some popular physics (which also sold out that weekend), and some biographies. And surprisingly, there were about 15 childrens’ books in very fine shape that I was quite happy to put into stock.

Among the books that I did not throw out, which I had a feeling about, was this:

It’s a sense you get, when you’ve handled 10,000 books, about what might be valuable. This is a paperback in almost new condition from 1984. Harlan Ellison is one of those fantasy/sci-fi writers whose fame and influence is such that I know of him even though I have never read his stuff. He was one of the writers of what is often cited as the best episode of the original Star Trek — The City on the Edge of Forever. Harlan Ellison died last June, which does wonders for an author’s collectibility. My feeling about this book paid off.

This little paperback is worth about $40.00. Yay!

I also had a very good feeling about this first edition from 1988:

This book has a peculiar publishing history. The first American printing of the first edition of A Brief History of Time came with a silver (not blue) dust cover and had to be recalled and scrapped because Hawking complained that it was “full of errors, with misplaced and erroneously labeled photographs and diagrams.” It also did not have a table of contents, and lacked a dedication to Hawking’s wife.

The book was corrected and re-issued with this blue dust cover, a table of contents, and a dedication to Jane, along with a new introduction by Carl Sagan. That edition is known as the second state first edition.

The second state first edition is the only edition that has this introduction by Carl Sagan because Sagan copyrighted it, and all subsequent editions had to be printed without Sagan’s intro. That is not to say that you can’t have a 19th printing of the second state first edition, which would still have Sagan’s intro; but all later iterations will not ave the Sagan intro. So, Yay so far — we have a 1988 second state first edition with the Sagan intro!

This book has sold over 10 million copies and has been translated into 35 languages and was on the London Times best seller list for five years, so to find a first printing of the second state first edition would be FABULOUS and worth some nice coin.

If I am holding a true first printing of the second state first edition here, it would be worth about $150.00. Whoo-hoo!

And then I take a good look at the inside dust cover:

Cue the sad soundtrack.

Whomp whomp.

It’s usually a dead give away that, when the dust cover does not have a price printed on it, you have a cheapo book club edition that is only worth pennies. It might still be a first printing of the second state first edition, but it’s a book club first printing of the second state first edition which is a whole other animal.

It took me almost an hour on the internet to finally find proof that A Brief History of Time did indeed have a second state first edition book club printing, and of course, that’s what I had. And you can buy it from me for $2.00.

And then things got weirder.

This was one of the two comic books that came in, and of course it’s the second printing of a classic 1993 Superman comic, worth about $8.00. If it had been a first printing it could be worth up to $180.00

Jeeze. Did these people ever buy anything hot off the press? Did they always buy the literary equivalent of hand-me-downs??

The other comic book was porn, the kind where women have sex with monsters, but not in The Shape of Water way. . .

Not like this.

I thought there was a name for this genre of comic book so I tried looking it up in the internet so I could report to you, Dear Readers, on this strange sub-cult, and also hey, if the comic was worth big bucks I would look for a buyer no matter how distasteful the item.  But my porno comic book is not worth anything and now I could smack myself. Because now the internet knows of my search and now it thinks that I am interested in making whoopee with monsters and I’ll be slammed with all kinds of creepy ads for comic book porn that makes me sick. All because I am SUCH A SAINT when it comes to raising money for the local library A FUCKING SAINT. (See Mr. Pudding’s query about last week post’s in last week’s Comments re: the difference between regular saints and me, a FUCKING SAINT.)

You might think that things could not get even more weird, but yes, yes. . .  they did.

Do you see the book, in the photo below, sticking up on the far end of this crate, the fat tome covered-up in anonymous orange tape?

I pick it up and  I flip it open, all unawares, to the title page, so I can see what Im dealing with.

And it’s this:

I’ve read that every used book dealer comes across this book at least once in their career. So this is my initiation into being a real used book dealer.

Before its copyright expired in 2015, Mein Kampf was a hot potato. Most conscientious book dealers in the world wouldn’t touch it. Although 12 million copies were published in Bavaria before WWII, it has been prohibited to print or sell a copy of it in Germany since 1945. And now it’s in the public domaine and available everywhere, so it’s not surprising that I would come across a copy. This one happens to be a real antique. But still. Ew.

Stackpole Sons published this Mein Kampf in the US in 1939, as a way to make this filth available to Americans without paying one penny of royalties to Hitler. Hitler’s authorized publisher was Houghton Mifflin, who sued Stackpole for copyright infringement. The case was not decided until late 1941 in Houghton Mifflin’s favor but by then, the US was on the brink of war with Germany, and so Hitler’s royalties vanished into Houghton Mifflin’s account books.

Stockpile sold 12,000 copies of its Mein Kampf before it had to recall its print run while the court case was being argued. When Stackpole lost, all the remaining stock was destroyed.

I am sure that our donor, and her children, are not Nazis. Along with Mein Kampf, there was a lot of holocaust denial literature with many other books about denying holocaust deniers, and a lot of books on Judaica (which we also don’t sell) and a lot of WWII histories. So I think this reader was informing him/herself of the enemy by going to the source of evil, and I applaud the intellectual bravery this takes. But still. Ewwwwwww.

P.S. I did not know that Mein Kampf was such a long book. This copy runs 668 pages. I have not the slightest desire to read it. I don’t even want to touch it. So I will call the donor and ask her to take this book back.

BTW, the orange tape was easy to peel off, and this is what was underneath it:

So as you can see, this donation can be summed up in one word: dispiriting. Because time and again, this would happen:

O, sweet little ordinary orange book, what fresh disappointment do you bring?

First edition, 1978, cult classic.

With dust cover, worth about $40.00.

WITHOUT DUST COVER: worth $1.00.

So when I pulled this out of a box, I was sure that this, too, would be crap:

But Lo, and Behold — this is a First Printing/First American Edition from 1977  with in-tact dust cover. It even has the map, in pristine condition, that came with it:

Great balls of fire, how did this happen?? Why is this book not beat to hell, with it’s dust cover ripped off and the map illustrated with school boy graffiti?

This book redeems the whole 25 boxes, the 10 o’clock rendezvous, and all the gross outs.

It’s worth $350.00.

All I have to do now is find a buyer.

And that brings us to the end of this post, Dear Readers.

But hold on there, Vivo, you are thinking; You haven’t explained today’s headline about the people you meet in line at the grocery store.

Right you are. So here’s the uplifting story of the day:

The guy in line behind me at the grocery store accidentally rams his shopping cart into a display of muffins perched perilously close to the cash register and knocks a 6-pack off the shelf and onto the floor.

The guy scoops up the muffins — they were corn muffins — and puts them back into their package, and hands the muffins to the cashier.

“Here,” he says; “You can throw these out. I’ll pay for them because I knocked them onto the floor, but I don’t want them.”

I turned to him and blurted, “Oh, no, don’t throw them out! You can feed them to the raccoons!”

The guy was clearly annoyed with himself for knocking over the muffins, although it wasn’t all his fault because they really were stacked too close to the cash register, so he kind of scowls at me and says, “You feed raccoons??

“Yeah,” I said. “It’s their world too.”

I’ve read about this in books, but I’ve ever seen it happen: his face went from “highly miffed” to “somewhat interested”. In books, it’s written: His face softened.

And the guy stares at me for how ever many seconds it takes for a person to wonder whose turn it is to talk or did I just say something stupid or why is there this hush all of a sudden, and then he takes the muffins from the cashier and hands them to me and says, “Here. This is for your raccoons.”

I thank him profusely and take the muffins, and for the rest of the hour I had a really good feeling about the fate of mankind.

The raccoons devoured the muffins later that night.

And now we are really at the end of today’s blog post. As I type this, Old Wednesday volunteer (read all about her odious self in my blog of May 2, I Got Cat Class and I Got Cat Style) has been making trouble again in the small world of the Friends of the Library, and needs to be smote once and for all. I will tell you all about it next week.

Have a fabulous weekend, Dear Ones.

Be kind to your local raccoons and, maybe, cut someone a break today. Chance are, they could use it.

XXOO

 

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. . .  How Much Have You Let Yourself Go?

This is a Family Feud [TV game show] question, asked by Steve Harvey last week.

(Top Cat and I flip channels to watch The Family Feud when Jeopardy! goes to commercial, that’s how I know.)

I forget what the #1 answer to that question was; I was laughing too hard to pay attention to the contestants.

I want you to ask yourself this question: “On a scale of one to ten, how much how you let yourself go?”

Is that not the most perfect, most succinct way to get real about how you’re doing in life? To smack yourself in the head and go, Duh! I’m just a 4! And I wasted all that money on therapy! 

Because “4” is fixable. It’s a very short  To Do List, now that your vague but persistent and gnawing feelings of inadequacy have been quantified by such a harmless little number. Nobody is afraid of a “4”! You can be back on track, lickety-split, if all you have to right-size is a “4”!

But Vivian, (I hear you ask):  Suppose my answer is “10” and it fills me with despair?

My answer is: It’s still just a number! It’s still just a To Do List, albeit a longer one than if you were at “4”, but it’s a number that you can handle! One digit at a time!

Start by knocking it down to a “9” for a start.

Only then do you do what you gotta do to take it to “8”.

Keep chipping away until you’re at “7”.

Before you know it, you’ll be rounding it off to a “4”, and that’s Kelly Clarkson territory!

All she needs to do is get rid of those sleeves and she’d be at “2”.

But there’s this, too: suppose your answer to that question is, “10”, but suppose you can hear yourself say that to yourself and you get a charge out of how liberated that makes you feel — unburdened by society’s expectations and free to set your own notions of propriety and attractiveness and to hell with your stupid “2s” and “4s”!

Well, then, Go For It.

Taffy is a “10”, too, and his favorite T-shirt says:

Know your number, is all I’m saying; and be good with it or not, but know your number.

And if your number is “0”, then you should write a Guide to Gracious Living and get stinking rich. Everybody wants to be a “0”.

Top Cat, if he is reading this, is wishing I would stop here (he thinks my blog posts are too long), but I have more:

I went to a writer friend’s book event last week, in Manhattan of all places. You see, even though I live a mere 15 miles from Times Square, I think it’s been over year since I have ventured into The Big Apple.

Sidewalk outside Penn Station, with Madison Square Garden (the round building) in the background). And yes, some guy is getting a hair cut on the sidewalk.

New York City is a trip. When your daily life is all about managing a used book store and riding herd on 8 house cats, NYC is bigger, busier, weirder, and gaudier than anything you are used to laying your eyes on.

Film crew on 36th Street.

 

Everybody’s favorite film crew member.

 

Throw me the ball! Throw me the ball!

I gave myself a few extra hours to walk around and get a good look at city life.

This isn’t a dry cleaner any more; it’s a dress shop. But that sign is SO COOL that I wouldn’t get rid of it either.

I saw this on the downtown C train:

I think he’s got a QUIDDITCH trophy.

Also on the subway:

This is how they advertise dry shampoo in NYC. It made me nostalgic for when I lived in NYC and my Happy Hours would turn into All Nighters, which they never did, so I must have lived all wrong.

Not pictured: I saw a middle-aged African-American guy, conservatively dressed in a shirt and tie and khakis, walk down Greenwich Avenue carrying a surf board.

Not pictured: I had a cup of tea at the Starbucks on West 4th Street win The Village and the place was packed with NYU students on laptops, and I did not overhear anything the least bit interesting. Kids these days. They are boring. And they all have hideous vocal fry.

Any way. My writer friend’s book event was held in a gorgeous brownstone on Washington Square, in the heart of the NYU campus. There were a lot of arty types in attendance, but it never fails. There’s always one person in the audience who uses the Q&A to talk about her own (unpublished) work, and how she can’t figure out if it’s memoir or  if it’s a novel.

I’ve run into this person many times, in my own book events and at the writer workshops I am often asked to lead. There’s always one person who does not know what he/she is writing, because they do not read (books, that is; or  book reviews, ever, in their life) and are not up to speed with the difference between fiction and non-fiction.

This person always asks, If I use a real event — say, the destruction of the World Trade Center on 9/11 — but my story about my characters experience of 9/11 is made up, does that make it real? Or fiction?

Sometimes the confusion is over real people: If I use my mother as a character, but I make up her life…is that memoir? Or not?

And there’s this: What is it, if I write about Coney Island, because I’ve been to Coney Island, and I write about the people on the beach, because I’ve watched the people on the beach at Coney Island, and I’m the main character but I make up the other characters, is that fiction? 

Before I get the chance to tear my hair out, there is usually an enabler in attendance who will elaborate upon this person’s ignorance of writing’s fundamentals by claiming that there is a new literary genre that combines fact and fiction, so therefore it’s possible to blend then together to write a nonfiction novel.

No. NO. NO NO NO NONONONONONONOnoononononono.

I do not have enough life left in me to educate these kind of people, who should not be writing books in the first place. Thankfully, my friend is an experienced enough author to not let an audience member de-rail his book event, so we quickly moved on. . . but this lady bugged me so when I got home I did a little digging.

The confusion over the nonfiction novel began with Truman Capote.

I LOVE this look!

When he wrote In Cold Blood in 1966 it was the first time that a first-class creative writer had stooped so low to use his skills as a storyteller to produce long-form (novel-length) journalism. Journalism — the mere reporting of facts — was “hack” and “low-brow”, but In Cold Blood was an enthralling nonfiction reading experience in the style of a novel, in that it fleshed-out the killers and the victims of the 1959 murders of four members of the Herbert Clutter family in the small farming community of Holcomb, Kansas.

Nobody knew what to call this new kind of writing.

George Plimpton, famous journalist, wrote about the book in January 1966, and introduced In Cold Blood to readers of the New York Times as a work that was

“remarkable for its objectivity–nowhere, despite his involvement, does the author intrude. In the following interview, done a few weeks ago, Truman Capote presents his own views on the case, its principals, and in particular he discusses the new literary art form which he calls the nonfiction novel.”

Plimpton wasn’t stupid, and neither was Capote, but they were stuck in their times and they were inventing a new voice for American literature. Nonfiction novel was the best they could do, under the circumstances.  Since then, however, this style of writing has caught on fire and we now call it narrative nonfiction.

Some people call it creative nonfiction but that only makes things worse.

Finally (the end is almost near) we had our May board meeting of the Friends of Bryant Library two days ago. It did not go well, in that Old Wednesday Volunteer did not say a word so I didn’t have to unleash the flying monkeys. Damn. I was itching’ for a fight.

So instead I got shitty with the president of the Friends because her latest fund-raising idea is to sell $10 book plates to put in library books in honor of National Teacher Appreciation Month (which is May, so, as usual, it’s too little too late), which is something a damn Girl Scout could do, and do better than a bunch of old fart white ladies, and she emailed afterwards that she was insulted and that we have to talk. I doubt this will ever happen.

Can I tell you all about this?  Next week? The stupidity of the world has worn me out today, so I need to find a quiet place to sit with my cats and watch the clock until it’s 5 o’clock, here or somewhere.

Have a great weekend, Dear Readers. Whatever your number is, I hope you make it prime.

 

 

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