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Tag: Book Pages

In Print: “End Tatters”

“Do you want this book published,’ he asked, ‘or just printed?” Said Angus Cameron (editor at Little, Brown) to J. D. Salinger upon learning Salinger wanted no advertising of his forthcoming “The Catcher in the Rye.” Particularly, and peculiarly, from the publisher’s viewpoint, J. D. wanted no author’s photo on the cover (Ian Hamilton, In Search of J. D. Salinger, 1988, Random House, p. 115).

How to launch a book? Advance review copies. Interviews. Author’s book tour. Live readings. Ads in trade journals. Book store displays. Billboards on Sunset Boulevard and in Times Square.

Like Salinger, though they’ve actually few if any other options, the indie writer/publisher eschews the traditional publicity stunts ahead of book store distribution for a blog post or two.

This is the second in a planned series of posts designed with the usual blog accompanied by tweet fanfare to launch, from the author of “Penina’s Letters,” a new book, titled “end tatters,” coming this week. Below, we see the front and back covers, and the back gives a brief description of what’s inside:

Fourth Notes: AWP19, Berfrois10

That title isn’t meant to sound like a sports score. The 19th annual Association of Writers and Writing Programs convention (AWP19) coincides with the 10th anniversary of the online site Berfrois, celebrated these last ten years for its “Literature, Ideas, and Tea.” Berfrois will be at the AWP convention with copies of its recently published books: “Berfrois: The Book,” and “Queen Mob’s Teahouse: Teh Book,” both published under the Dostoyevsky Wannabe Originals imprint of the British publisher Dostoyevsky Wannabe.

The two hard copy books are anthologies. They include writing by various writers that have written for either Berfrois or Queen Mob’s over the years and more. But the writing in these book print anthologies is new, entirely original, previously unpublished in any form. The writing has not been seen online, nor will it be (except of course for quoted material in reviews, etc.). The books represent a new effort by Berfrois editor Russell Bennetts to engage print, a formidable challenge in this age of Ewriting and Ereading in an Eworld.

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“Berfrois: The Book” opens with an interview with Eley Williams. A tone of humor amid chaos is established. There is something new about a Bennetts interview. The questions are creative and often playful and invite similar response.

A greener piccalilli, You must understand?

The greater the pucker caused by a pickle
The greater a succour becomes hot-tongue-tickled (21).

Speaking of green, author and translator Jessica Sequeira is included in “Berfrois: The Book” with “The Green Pickup: In honour of ST. ALBERTO HURTADO, lay brother of the Society of Jesus & his truck.”

As I wrote, the anecdotes of Hurtado’s story and his writings and my thoughts about him began to condense into the form of an object, the green pickup belonging to the Padre (78).

This is how I imagine an AWP book fair browser might engage with the books that will be exhibited at the Berfrois table, paging through, stopping here and there to take a closer look.

Probably some will stop at the very last piece, a short poem by Daniel Bosch, “Our Apps Demanded: after Hemingway” (387). I wonder if they will pick up on the original, published not quite a hundred years ago.

Imagine a hundred years of Berfrois, of AWP, and you begin to realize the importance of such things to our times and places and persons. Now think of a hundred years without them, a world barren of literary enterprise of any kind.

20190326_085952
berfrois tote bag and Seattle Mariners 1977 baseball cap

This is the fourth in a series with notes on AWP19 and the concurrent publication of the Berfrois and QM’sT books. I’m reading through the Berfrois anthologies this week and commenting on the writing and the conference as the week wears on.

Notes on “Pure and Faultless Elation Emerging From Hiding”

Pure and Faultless Elation Emerging From HidingPure and Faultless Elation Emerging From Hiding, by Lim Lee Ching, with Drawings by Britta Noresten. Introduction by Neil Murphy and Afterword by Jeremy Fernando. Poems Sequenced by Mary Ann Lim. Layout by Yanyun Chen. Paperback edition first published 2017 by Delere Press, Singapore.

 

In a December, 2014 interview with Sara Lau for Obscured, Jeremy Fernando talks about his vision for Delere Press: “We didn’t see the need to have a prescribed look for all our books – we recognize that we are a small boutique press, and we are probably going to remain that way in the foreseeable future. In the end, all we want to do is to create and publish something that shows the artists and the writers’ work in the most beautiful way possible.” “Pure and Faultless Elation Emerging From Hiding” is my second experience reading with notes intended for the Toads in response to a Delere Press work. Of particular note is the press’s intent “to provide a home for text and images that may not have a home otherwise, no matter what its geographical origins.” That the press attempts to do so with hard copy, illustrated texts, choreographed by literary troupe in our digital age is remarkable.

“Pure and Faultless Elation Emerging From Hiding,” is a collaborative effort to book a collection of poems by a particular writer that becomes more than a sum of its parts. We have, maybe, become too familiar with books of hidden poetry. They line the shelves like butterflies pinned under glass. A poem does not begin like a fallen leaf pressed between pages of a book for bibliographical preservation. A poem begins as a particle, a photon, a piece of light that lands in the reader’s hands, a single note that enters the ears with a breeze, something that bugs the skin with an itch, as in, “something just bit me!” A book cannot preserve that piece of light except in fossilized memory. We may never hear that note again; it has joined the sound ocean waves make. The bug has lit, and we are left the proof of a small rash of the bed bug or lice visit. We jump into a bath of prose to escape the itching.

When I say “to book,” I mean that pinned collection of specimens organized for study. To book is to create a model to look. The helpless reader must imagine the specimen fluttering in a heat of flowers. A poem may try to evade its predators (its digital critics) by hiding in the book:

“Even as it might be chuckling, perhaps always
laughing

                                            le rire du poeme

A laughter from elsewhere,
one that we perhaps cannot yet hear.
Much like the silence of the sirens. Always perhaps
already there,
awaiting us.”

That is from Jeremy Fernando’s “Et tu…A Prayer for Lim Lee Ching,” an afterword to “Pure and Faultless Elation Emerging from Hiding.” Other parts of Lim Lee Ching’s book of poetry include an introduction by Neil Murphy (“Lim Lee Ching: Bounded by Beauty”) and eight drawings of birds, spread throughout the book, by Britta Noresten. We are told the poems were sequenced by Mary Ann Lim and the layout composed by Yanyun Chen. All of those collaborators are called “contributors,” and they are given end-space so they too might become familiar to the reader. What becomes larger than the sum of the parts is that collaborative effort that creates emergence. What emerges is poetry from hiding, raising elation, poetry unshackled, flown like paper birds from the garret into a community, a society. Poetry is a question of community more important than mere self-expression.

“The path is not tongue-tied,” Lim Lee Ching says. The path is there and people will walk it. The invitation, the invocation, is clear. But who are these people, these walkers (readers) of the path? “That perhaps is not so much the question, but quite certainly a question,” Fernando says, and “Keeping in mind Paul Celan’s beautiful, haunting, reminder that la poesie ne s’impose plus, elle s’expose. One might even say it opens itself” (93). Opens itself to itself, it’s self-same intuitions, which are its conventions, if you need “criteria” to read by, if mere light proves insufficient. We are on a path.

When I first read “Quick Guide” (48), I thought I was to pick words from the text box on page 48 and insert them into one of the blank lines in the text on pages 49 through 51. I thought the path had come upon a Mad Lib.

“Sometimes a show can be too new for its own good” (49), I suggested to myself, my choices being “first blue dark ripe new fast.” “Mad” is a choice farther down the list, and “sad,” and “bad,” if you want to rhyme. But now I’m not so sure. All the words in the text box are one syllable. There are 78 words in the text box, and there are 60 blank spaces in the text on pages 49 through 51. This is analysis. Am I analyzing a joke here? Is this humor? Of course it is! Let’s get the reader really involved!

“It quickly becomes clear that part of the idea is to use humour to send up some of the ____________ attitudes still dominant in the art world. So, the pleasures of discipline are extolled, the players get their turn and pretentiousness gets a ____________ kicking” (50).

Poetry comes without directions, or it should. Critics may provide some directions, using a kind of rear view mirror to describe the path now behind them. The critic’s notes may prove useful maps; then again, the reader may feel just as lost.

The Poems:

Beginning with “Ode to Everman” [sic], we hear repetition and a counting (accounting of things): cadence, marching, peace and piece, music piece, measured. Every man [who has ever marched, marching in a line, in a poem, to a tune, attuned]. Circumstance, the silence of Beckett (a ringing in the ears). Military “boom time,” “armed,” “beating” (12:13).

Warren Beatty? How’s that for a surprise? Repetitions (‘One at a time”), words connected by sound: “cravat advocate” (14).

“Unloading pomposity one at a time” (14), and again “…your / Penchant for pomposity” (22). Where “Iowa” is monosyllabic: “Impossibility of authenticity” (22).

Numbers as poetic concern, things counted, measured, “Halved too far” (15).

“Cull” illustrates the poet’s task. The poet fishes, on a perch, for a perch. But who are the “armed men”? Look how quickly we can move from river to city:

“Waiting and baiting on the narrowing perch,
The centre holds them still.
A trunk, a branch – of streets and lanes,
Of skinny legs and weathered shoulders” (17).

Suggesting weathered soldiers, readers. Again, a military, a line: “Of fight, of fright, / And frenzied feeding against stained walls” (17). Desire is impotent. Who will teach that?

Then we turn the page to a drawing of a bird, not quite but almost black and white, but more, the feeling of a bird in flight, perhaps in the night, or a fog, or over a grey sea. We resist the impulse to anthropomorphize. But it’s clinging to a small branch. Building a nest? Very few birds fly solo. What a world this must be, to a bird. In any case, to cull is to pick, peck, at words.

“Only the facts remain” of Ryan White, who picked up a “Contagion.” Only our germs remain. You build yourself a bomb shelter against the fallout, but you are yourself a germ, a bug, rising, falling. So much fear. “Only the facts remain” (20). Facts survive. If we’ve lived for any length of time in a refugee camp, we have germs. If we’ve lived any length of time in a bungalow in Des Moines, we have the same germs. We are emergent, emerging – emergence, as writer merges with reader, something more. Is that pompous? Is poetry a contagion? After the poem, what remains?

“Bookmarks” is a longer poem, of which there are several in the book, prose blocks, not non-lyrical, but not lyrics. But not prose, and not blocks, scrolls. We keep to the first word of each line capitalized, giving the line that authority accustomed poetry, but the lines are not necessarily sentences, not in the usual sense:

“Only the words remain to be spoken, the writing to be sung
Of happinesses witnessed and tongues tied
In full contemplation of the idea of ideas” (24).

Who inhabits the space of an idea? “…not…king, colonel or clown, / Nor the realm of whisperers seeking to please” (24).

An idea (ideology is not ideas, Trilling said: Ideas malleable, suitable for poetry; ideology fixed). Idea of order in things (Key West shells, beaches, cocktails, dandy diamond Wallace Stevens). “Not ideas about the thing, but the thing itself,” Stevens said. No idea except in things (Williams, Paterson, Book I):

“—Say it, no ideas but in things—
nothing but the blank faces of the houses
and cylindrical trees
bent, forked by preconception and accident—
split, furrowed, creased, mottled, stained—
secret—into the body of the light!”

I’m in “Bookmarks,” and I’m reminded of Blake (where I left plenty of bookmarks), “Proverbs of Hell.” “Adagia”? Erasmus’s collection of proverbs. In any case, Lim Lee Ching says:

“The source of ignorance may well be reluctant pursuit.”

“The cult of stability and singular meaning
Diminishes ascendant beauty, delight and breath-hope.”


“Persistent therefores are fallacious,
They bind while unleashing the gateward push” (25).

Prayer, cadence, repetition. Whose tongue is tied praying, writing, reading poems? The scat of the song ruins the stutter, but the poet’s many tools are not obtrusive:

“Whispery songs of woven trances,
Of ancient wisemen oozing” (27).

Cadence as old steps (“the fragrance of remembrance”) might lead to disappointment, even depression: “Accord each a place in abjection” (27).

But isn’t time directionless? What does it matter if we are moving forward (in desire, in anxiety) or backward (in memory, in loss). For-word. Back-word. The poet spends time in a backworld, where the citizens speak backward.

“Penance is the province of princes, not poor men” (28), which brings us to T. S. Eliot:

“Here lies the awakening
Of the dispensation of an age,
Dismissing the certainty as one in many
[where]
The faces put on meet the faces within” (29).

Ideology is a “contagion.” Is poetry the antidote?

And again birds, before a song breaks the spell of the litany. Something lonely about the bird drawings. The birds are not in nature, or even in the city, but alone, each its own poem, each drawing its own poem, saying the same thing, but in different expressions. Where do we see these birds? In sky that is like a sea: grey-green; blue-grey; slate; cliff chalk white.

“Song” (34): Blake of the Songs – song, rhyme, cadence, hope, safe, heart, metaphor for what? Can the reader, too, be one of the “players of the heart”? (35).

“faithful” (37), religious or spiritual, sound but abstract images, nothing of the kitchen full of dirty dishes or the toilet in the bathroom in need of cleaning. Not Bukowski here. And I’m still hearing Blake of the Songs. Which is lovely, lyrical, song. I try to remain a faithful reader.

We’ve had our song, now the “Road Rises” as the reader falls. Mix of pop culture with “village.” The “tenderizing songs” of Elvis. And “Plastic Jesus” – the perfect image on the dashboard desires deconstruction, a theory to explain its presence, or disappearance.

Then again I’m reminded of Frank O’Hara, Kenneth Koch, but not Stevie Smith or Marianne Moore. Not a statistician. Enjoys punctuation that helps, not simply follows some rule. Writing as accretion, addition. I find something interesting, a two word form, in “Shallowbreath”: “ribboned arches…winded depths…cobbled many…meddled few…celebrated warmth…allayed smokememory…displaced upon…hounded the highroad… …warmed eyes.” We could be in London or Singapore or Dublin. Joycean, that “smokememory.”

A short, lyrical, litany ends, “And then there is you.” Do birds prepare for flight? Always at the ready, never slack, like cats, never napping in clear sight. Are birds keen to fly? “On the station platform prayer beads change hands” (57). Partnerships.

“A Gazal” (58). What gets rhymed, and why, and what gets repeated, and why? For song, for the sake of song in which we have something to keen. Poetry gives form to the broken. What is unbound cannot be broken again.

The poems seem to call on a kind of philosophical muse, hard thought. Yet that thought’s softness comes through in poetic style, the form and shapes, the lines, the breath, the flows repeated and measured. The writing seems logical, in the same way that Kafka may appear logical, or Borges, without dismissing the nonlogical. The first person is not paramount. Others are. And when I appears, it’s Meng Jiang (61). If we continue to break what is broken what do we become? Minerals? Salts?

Little poems of “love and faith” (65). What more can a reader ask for? The reader comprehends the poetry without necessarily every line understanding it.

Nijinsky appears (66). The last time I saw Nijinsky in a poem was at El Camino, around 1969. Stephen Jama passed out a poem he had written, typewriter print on colored paper. Some students got a green sheet, others a yellow, others blue or grey. Never white. “And the world dies, Adonis on its lips,” I think I recall, at the top. And Nijinsky was “dancing a band”? No, dancing I forget what. And there was a “tousled laugh.” I wish I could remember that poem. It’s lost now. I don’t think it ever made it into a book. I wonder who still has their copy. I kept mine for years, then one day without reason tossed them all, along with a box of my own stuff. I was knee deep in the red dust by then, cleaning out the basement, lost in the dust. Maybe it’s poems “belong only to the night” (67). Jama’s assignment was for us to read the poem and then to write a response. Birds in flight.

“What I have written, I have written,” Jeremy Fernando says in his afterword. Would that were true of what I have written. But what I have read, I have read. Fernando attempts to connect writer to reader: where does poetry, that space of water we seem to want to cross, a crossing, from the shore of sleep to the loading docks of day – poetry the ferry full of readers unbound from one shore, paddling for the opposite – what path leads down to the ferry launch? When the poem laughs, is it the reader laughed at? That is a cynical view many hold.

To read is to experience. Any attempt to make some other sense of that experience is a different matter:

“… every try, any trying, perhaps even trial, is not just haunted by misreadings, over-writings, one cannot even underwrite it with the certainty that reading has taken place, that one has even read” (77).

Gerard Reve: “The Evenings”

The Evenings Day job workers share in common evenings. Time off, free time, leisure time, time-wasting, occupy the evenings. What to do? The question often haunts office and factory workers (workers clutching daytimer calendars are bothered by another version of the question). The evening absorbs the question of what to do like a fountain swallows wish thrown coins. The equity of time off beggars everyone. Free time hours can’t be saved, must be spent. On what?

Frits van Egters, the main character of Gerard Reve’s “The Evenings” (first published in Dutch in 1947), works an office day job he considers so boring he barely mentions it. His attention is focused on his evenings, how they might be spent, how they pass, what he might do with his free time, and what he does do. Frits lives with his parents when in December of 1946 we are invited to spend his evenings with him as they pass from around Christmas thru the new year. He talks to himself, has bad dreams, tells horrible jokes, thinks about the evening hours passing, goes out and about, visits friends, is condescending toward his parents, alienated, sarcastic, cynical. It’s freezing outside. Inside there’s the coal stove, a radio with a classical music and a news station, books, food, his bedroom. One night he goes out and drinks too much and gets sick. By the next evening he’s recovered enough to be able to go out again. He sees a film, rides a tram, crosses canals, walks along a river. He owns a bicycle, but it breaks.

The layout is dense, the dialog embedded in paragraphs, and the book is meant to pass as slow as an evening might, and to mean the same thing, which is nothing, which is to say, everything. Often, Fritz’s thoughts during a conversation are spoken to himself and interwoven with what he actually says and hears. His dreams are related in a similar way, so that the reader may not immediately realize when a dream, or the memory of a dream, has begun or ended. The writing is clear, though, the descriptions appealing to every sense. The home meals, the food, for example, are described with local, specific detail – texture, smell, look, feel, taste. You can even hear the meal cooking, eaten. The clothes, weather, walks also all described with realistic detail, a pleasure to read. There is no television, no devices to distract or synch. “The Evenings” is a book, a perfect way to pass an evening.

The Evenings: A Winter’s Tale, Gerard Reve, translated from the Dutch by Sam Garrett, Pushkin Press, London, 2016.

“Saltwort” Book Launch!

saltwort-front-cover“Saltwort” is selected poetical writings by Joe Linker, author of “Penina’s Letters,” “Coconut Oil,” and “Scamble and Cramble: Two Hep Cats.” Forward by Salvador Persequi. Includes 109 pieces.

US readers may participate in a paperback giveaway:

  • Winner: Every eligible entry has 1 in 4 chance to win, up to 4 winners.
  • Requirements for participation:
    • 18+ years of age (or legal age)
    • Resident of the 50 United States or the District of Columbia
    • Follow Joe Linker on Amazon

Follow this link for a chance to win a paperback copy of “Saltwort.” https://giveaway.amazon.com/p/739df558f09931bf NO PURCHASE NECESSARY. Promotion Ends the earlier of Feb 20, 2017 11:59 PM PST, or when all prizes are claimed. See Official Rules http://amzn.to/GArules.

  • Saltwort
  • Paperback: 222 pages
  • Publisher: CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform; 1 edition (2017)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1542768977
  • ISBN-13: 978-1542768979
  • Dimensions: 6 x 0.6 x 9 inches

Deconstruction & Design

Scamble and Cramble Cover DesignIn the process of deconstruction we discover new ideas. We need not start with a design in hand. We don’t necessarily need a plan. Unless, of course, there is some destination we are particularly interested in, we need to get to. If that’s the case, we’ll usually find ourselves on the wrong path, wrong way on a one way street, people barking directions at us, flipping us off. But if we begin with deconstructing that destination, we often find we discover interesting things along the route we end up taking we would have otherwise missed. There will be constraints. Fences and gates. Do Not Enter signs. No Solicitors. Beware the Dangerous Critic!

At the same time, we shouldn’t be afraid to ask for directions, listen to our critics, gather advice, ask for consent, patience, forgiveness of our trespasses. That the severe critic may be lurking behind the next corner, hiding in a recessed alcove doorway, spitting sunflower seed shells from an open second story window, pulling us over to ask for license and registration – that the severe critic lurks in the shadows of our path is a good thing. The critic keeps us awake when we might otherwise fall asleep, and reminds us of our responsibilities to audience, sense, time, and place, direction, design, and deconstructions.

Coming Soon!

Common keyboard signs and punctuation marks become characters in this experimental children’s book for readers of all ages. Scamble and Cramble are two cats observing, interpreting, and commenting on daily events. Other animals come and go, too, changing with text and form and story. “Scamble and Cramble” may work best for independent middle grade readers. Younger children may enjoy perusing the book with an older guide. The book’s Concrete Poetry techniques use standard keyboard symbols and readily accessible font types and sizes. Readers may be encouraged to explore more the world of concrete poetry.

  • Paperback: 108 pages
  • Publisher: CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform; 1 edition (June 24, 2016)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1533501084
  • ISBN-13: 978-1533501080
  • Product Dimensions: 5.2 x 0.3 x 8 inches

Scamble and Cramble
Two Hep Cats
and Other Tall Tales

Literary Influences

Stack of paperbacks from high school.Count up 12 books from the bottom in the pic to the left (a stack of books mostly from the mid-60s) and you’ll find “The Fall of the House of Usher,” a book of short stories by Edgar Allan Poe. I spent a 9th grade weekend copying out longhand Poe’s tale “The Pit and the Pendulum.” Never mind why, but it was a punishment I rather enjoyed.

Six books from the bottom is “The Time Machine,” H. G. Wells’s forecast for long term care for the human race.

Eight books up you’ll find Jerzy Kosinski’s “The Painted Bird.” I was in 10th grade Home Room class sitting behind a friend who was reading furtively in a paperback I didn’t recognize. I asked him what he was reading. He gave me the book, but asked that if caught with it I would not tell where I got it. We didn’t know one another that well, though later we became good friends. He had substantially more stock with the authorities, was a genius. But he seemed concerned that I might be traumatized by the reading experience. Some critics now suspect that Kosinski was traumatized by the writing experience.

I wrote a paper in 10th grade arguing that Melville’s “Pierre, Or the Ambiguities” contained more social insight than “Moby Dick.” Unfortunately, I can’t fine my 10th grade copy of “Moby Dick”; fortunately, though, I can’t find the 10th grade paper I wrote, either. I still have the Rhinehart edition of “Moby Dick” we used at Dominguez Hills.

That Sherlock Holmes “Memoirs” used to have a partner, “The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes.” It’s a mystery what happened to it.

I remember first reading “The Spy Who Came in from the Cold” in high school, but I can’t remember what grade. But I remember wondering about a scene where Leamas is shaken by a near miss on the highway. Is he less shaken by the near miss than by the recognition that the near miss has shaken him?

I can’t find my 9th grade copy of “Two Years Before the Mast.” I can’t imagine anyone wanting to borrow it. In fact, a couple of weeks ago, we were moving some things around, sort of spring cleaning, impatient for spring, and we wound up with a couple of bags of used books we decided to take down to Powell’s. They took about half of them, but I was surprised they took as many as they did. Do literary influences wane over time? What else can’t I find? All the Steinbeck books gone, but I know where they went. All four original Salinger books not to be found, though three have been replaced. The early “Walden,” “On the Road,” but also replaced.

I don’t suppose anyone reads Asimov’s “The Human Body: Its Structure and Operation” anymore. If we want to know something about the human body, we google it. But who thinks of the body as an operating system? It’s like talking about books as physical objects, and as if their mere presence might have an effect on us, like a gravity, the experience of influence.

Related Posts: Reading influences and Henry Miller: more on reading influences.

Anything Read: 4 by Peter Mayle

Peter Mayle books.“Anything Considered” (1996) was purchased at an estate sale toward the end of last summer, along with a framed print of a dragonfly. I promptly found a place on the wall over the back room piano for the dragonfly, but I didn’t get around to reading my first Peter Mayle book (the author of, as the book covers repeat, “A Year in Provence,” which I’ve not read) until the holidays. I liked “Anything Considered,” and on a Powell’s run before Christmas found three more Mayle books in good used condition. The four read are what might be loosely described as mystery books, crime fiction, though the plots are not hard-boiled, not even soft-boiled, but over easy, poached, or sunny side up.

Indeed, the sun is a character in the southern French settings where Mayle’s mysteries are cooked, the  plots as convoluted as French cuisine. Typically, the main character is a self-imposed outsider, disaffected with bourgeois standards, but not hostile to its spoils, inveigling his way in and out of capers involving an array of likable and despicable characters, though these labels don’t always identify the good and bad guys. Femmes arrive, though not of the fatale type, after a spell, and the plots are continually interrupted by structured meals with plenty of cheeses and wines. The writing is full of atmosphere created by descriptions of weather and water, food and drink, furniture and clothes, structures and landscapes. Much of the action takes place outdoors. The tone is often sarcastic, in places ribald. The plots move the characters out of Provence, to London or Paris, and the contrast has everyone, reader included, wanting to get back into the sun.

Of the four read, “Anything Considered” is the longest and most detailed, and contains the most sinister villain. I then read “Hotel Pastis” (1993), the funniest of the four, slapstick, even, with a primary dual running plot that weaves around and up and down like a bicycle ride through the countryside – actually, that is part of the plot.  “Chasing Cezanne” (1997) adds art to the cheeses and wines, and “The Vintage Caper” (2009) adds a Hollywood flair to the mix.

But if I’ve not interested readers in the Mayle books, perhaps the dragonfly will satisfy:

Dragonfly

This is Portland for Christmas

I asked Eric if for Christmas he might like a couple of books. It was a busy week, with the Christmas baby on her way, and so Susan and I found ourselves in Powell’s on Hawthorne two days before Christmas looking around for things we thought Eric might find interesting, not an easy chore, since we have trouble usually identifying things that even we might find interesting. It’s not easy finding the right book at the right time for someone. Choosing a book is like picking a campsite. But Susan’s a genius at this sort of thing, and found Nick Hornby’s 31 Songs, perfect, and Nickel and Dimed: Undercover in Low-wage USA, by Barbara Ehrenreich (the perspicacious reader will pick up on the perfect pairing these two books make).

Then, waiting in a long Powell’s last minute Christmas line with a hundred other Portlanders on Hawthorne, I spotted what appeared to be a little, homemade paperback, This is Portland: 13 Essays About the City You’ve Heard You Should Like, by Alexander Barrett. Three of the essays are only one sentence long (illustrated, to give them a bit more heft), and I liked that he still called them essays, and that you could read an entire essay standing in line at Powell’s on Hawthorne and that by the time you got to the counter, you could finish the book, and if you didn’t like it, you could just put it back. But I did like it, and I thought Eric would dig it, and the essay that cinched the deal (two pages long, still standing in line), was “Hawthorne V. Belmont,” about the supposed value clash between the two alt-commercial Portland East-side strips.

The author of This is Portland had only moved to Portland eight months before the writing of his book, but the book’s undated, which we find a bit weird, but Portlanders are supposed to value weird, so there you go, but a bit of Toads sleuthing and we came up with an on-line version of the book ($5 at Powell’s, but we’re more than ok with that, see below), and not only that, but we discovered (ok, this was actually pretty easy, the sleuthing part, since Alex the brief essayist included his website address at the end of his book) an amazing website devoted to himself, the Portland essayist, apparently hosted by his parents.

About being ok spending $5 for something available on-line for free: obviously, emailing somebody a link doesn’t make for much of a gift, but beyond that, we continue to support hard copy whenever we can, and Alex’s little hard copy book has already been shared and read by at least six others, folks dropping in on Christmas day to visit and share-alike. It’s a wonderful Portland.

Related: “Portlandia“; “Portlandia Portraits

The Eutobiography of Benjamin Franklin

CP377 Signet Classic 60 cents c 1961

What would Benjamin Franklin, electrical experimenter and founder of our first public library, have thought of today’s electronic readers? 

Of his first attempt at building a public library, he says, “…reading became fashionable; and our people, having no public amusements to divert their attention from study, became better acquainted with books…” (90), and he claims strangers noted the effects. 

Having successfully completed the kite experiment, he invents the lightning rod (234-236), but he doesn’t seem to know when he’s having a good time: “Reading was the only amusement I allowed myself. I spent no time in taverns, games, or frolics of any kind” (91). Apparently, flying a kite in a lightning storm with one’s son is not frolicsome. 

Early he had been turned into a practical person: “I now took a fancy to poetry and made some little pieces…They were wretched stuff, in street ballad style…,” but “the first sold prodigiously”; nevertheless, “my father discouraged me by ridiculing my performances and telling me verse-makers were generally beggars” (27). 

The first library consisted of collective contributions – electronic books could not have been so shared. Nor printed, nor borrowed: “This bookish inclination at length determined my father to make me a printer…Often I sat up in my room reading the greatest part of the night, when the book was borrowed in the evening and to be returned early in the morning, lest it should be found missing or wanted” (26-27). 

Franklin thought men most satisfied when employed, and best employed when able to handle their work independently from start to finish. He wrote of cleanliness, but lived, as we always do, in a time of muddiness. EBooks can’t be loaned or borrowed or returned. No foxing of the pages, no crimping, no dog-eared dirty garage sale wet basement copies. EBooks can’t be gifted, dedicated to someone we love, later to be second-handed at the local book sale, the dedication a fiction within a fiction. EBooks are to print books as cars are to walking, as the transistor radio is to live music, as a televised game is to the loose frapping of the ballpark. 

We’re not sure what Franklin the scientist and printer would have preferred: book or electronic reader. “A book, indeed, sometimes debauched me from my work” (79). But for such debauchery, acoustic or electric should work.