Saturday, April 18, 2020

Stay-at-home shelfie #21

Today we move to my nightstand, where we find the books I'm currently reading. For easy access, the book on the bottom is 1975's The People's Almanac, which has been my go-to browsing book for many months now. It's the lesser-remembered predecessor of The Book of Lists, and it's a truly fascinating tome. I've marked about a dozen things inside that I'd like to write about some day, but that will indeed have to wait for another day. In the meantime, this excerpt from a 2009 Goodreads review might whet your appetite:
"A perfect a snapshot of the remains of the American counterculture in the mid-1970s. The Almanac was compiled to be a one-stop source for the informed, progressive citizen's informational needs, and in that spirit covers basic facts about world history and geography. But reflecting the expansive, slightly paranoid tenor of the post-Nixon era, it's also full of psychic predictions, conspiracy theories, alternative history, analyses of contemporary events, book excerpts, lists of mail-order resources and notable trivia."
Here's the top of the nightstand, which by the way is a piece of oddball family furniture that dates to my great-grandfather.

These are, generally, the books I was reading when I snapped all of the Stay-at-home shelfies in one fell swoop on March 29. And, yes, I staged them to make the pile a little more tidy for the photograph. I was in the middle of reading Jonathan Safran Foer's We Are the Weather: Saving the Planet Begins at Breakfast when the COVID-19 pandemic went full bloom. So, full disclosure, it's been hard to go back to that depressing nonfiction book in the midst of this stressful moment.

Instead, I regressed into my childhood. Since about 1979, M for Mischief had been a book I was fascinated by but never actually read. As an elementary school kid, I was intrigued by its promise of making magic from everyday objects. So I read it in a day-and-a-half this month. It's fine. But I would have found it more magical as a kid living in New Jersey in the waning days of the disco era.

Are You in the House Alone? is another browsing book, a fun compendium of made-for-TV movies from the 1970s through early 1990s. William Shatner, for one, made a lot of TV movies, including one, Pray for the Wildcats, that essentially features villainous Andy Taylor chasing Mike Brady and Captain Kirk through the desert on dirtbikes. The 1970s, man. What a time!

So that was March 29. Here's what the top of the nightstand looks like today. I am thoroughly enjoying Bryson's book on Shakespeare.

Mystery RPPC: Girl holding a cat

Here's a mystery real photo postcard (RPPC) in which the image is just a small oval on the front of the card. Not the best use of available space! It's an AZO real photo postcard that dates to between 1904 and 1918.

It was never addressed or mailed. Years later, someone wrote this on the back in pencil:

1- Atlantic - Brayton, IA.

The 1 was likely the price of the card, $1, in a store or at trade shows. I'm not sure what "Atlantic" refers to. And I'm guessing that someone, based on other available information, knew that this postcard originated in Brayton, Iowa. It's a very small city, so maybe that's enough of a clue to help a future researcher identify the little girl who is pictured.

Brayton has never had a large population. It was 137 in the 1910 census, which is the approximate era of this card. It peaked at 244 in the 1920 census. And it was estimated at 117 in 2016.

Named after a railroad employee, Brayton sits along the East Nishnabotna River in western Iowa. Its claim to fame might be a tree in the middle of the road. On it is written that "a Cottonwood tree ... has become a landmark in Audubon County. The story is when the county lines were being established the surveyor placed a green cottonwood stick into the ground at the exact point where the lines crossed and grew into the present tree."

The current mayor of Brayton is Cally Christensen and the city's website lists this as its Business Climate: "Good location for Interstate access. County incentive programs are available and the City of Brayton will aggressively help assist business startups or expansions." Brayton had an Easter egg delivery event on April 12.

Here's a closer look at the girl holding the cat on the old postcard...

If you're interested in more mystery RPPCs, here's a dandy place to start.

Friday, April 17, 2020

Stay-at-home shelfie #20

Here's the final and bottom shelf of the Ruth Manning-Sanders Bookcase. There are more of her titles, including some children's books (such as Grandad and the Magic Barrel and Stumpy). There are country- or culture-themed folk tale anthologies such as Gianni and the Ogre, Damian and the Dragon, The Glass Man and the Golden Bird, and The Red King and the Witch. There are biographies she wrote about Hans Christian Andersen and Margaret Catchpole.1 (I told you she was prolific!) And there is Festivals, which contains "The Christmas Crab Apples," a tale I have been sharing since 2014. There are two different editions of Festivals, but I haven't yet mustered the energy to do a post comparing and contrasting them.

To the right, stacked vertically, are all of my Manning-Sanders research materials and notes. If I ever publish a magazine article, book or screenplay about her, it pretty much had its genesis in this stack.

1. Catchpole has a superb opening line on Wikipedia, which describes her as "an English adventuress, chronicler and criminal."

Thursday, April 16, 2020

Stay-at-home shelfie #19

It's the "A Book of..." shelf of Ruth Manning-Sanders volumes. These are the folk- and fairy-tale books that most readers associate with the author, as they grew up with these volumes in the 1970s or 1980s. I started my collection around 2001 with A Book of Wizards. That was the book that jogged my memories from my childhood and launched me into a quest to collect them all. It took a long time, and eventually expanded — as you can see — into collecting her other titles, fiction and nonfiction. Here's generally the same shelf, about nine years ago.

There are two copies of A Book of Giants because one was accompanied by an original line drawing by Robin Jacques, which is now framed and on my wall. And there are two copies of A Choice of Magic (and a couple other volumes) because it's always good to have to spares on hand to give away — helping perhaps to ignite a love of Manning-Sanders in a new generation. (See the bottom of this 2015 post for one of my happiest gift-giving moments.)

Also on this shelf: Works of art I made in, from left, third grade and either fifth or sixth grade. (Probably fifth. In sixth grade I made a godawful ugly metal lamp that I kept for far too many years.)

Wednesday, April 15, 2020

Stay-at-home shelfie #18

We have spun around and arrived at The Ruth Manning-Sanders Bookshelf™. My favorite author. I won't bombard you with her life story, because there are more than 60 other posts in which I've done that over the past decade. And I'll save any new essays for future posts.

Before Manning-Sanders veered into collecting fairy tales, much of her early work consisted of poetry and novels aimed at adults. For the most part those are the books on this shelf. The novels include Elephant, The Twelve Saints, Adventure May Be Anywhere, The Crochet Woman, Hucca's Moor (but not a copy with the amazing and disturbing dust jacket) and the wonderfully titled Pages From the History of Zachy Trenoy: Sometime Labourer in the Hundredth of Penwith.

Also on this shelf are some of her history books: The River Dart, The West of England, and The English Circus. Laying across the top is a more recent but rare volume: A Forgotten Prodigy — Joan Manning-Sanders and Her Circle. It contains some new-to-me biographical material about the family that will inform future posts.

Bonus picture

This shelf is close to the door, so it becomes an spot for piling other books. When I took this shelfie, these books were in front of the Manning-Sanders books shown above. Three books I have borrowed from Kaitlyn in our Household Book Swap: Nuremberg, Fool and Carter Beats the Devil. Now all I have to do is read them!

Tuesday, April 14, 2020

Stay-at-home shelfie #17

Let's do a 2-for-1 to finish off the International Culture & History shelf. Swedish Life in Town and Country (1904) is among two or three books I acquired that were formerly part of the library of Joseph A. Sadony. We know that because his name is embossed on the title page. So add that to the list of topics I must blog about in the future. Most of these history volumes were written in recent times, with modern interpretative lenses used to examine the past. The Silk Roads by Peter Frankopan is one I'm particularly looking forward to.

Clearly I deserve OCD points for getting 1491, America in 1492 and 1493 lined up in chronological order. And I'm probably the only guy in Dover, Pennsylvania, with two volumes about the history of the Trans-Siberian Railway. (Related: It'll be a good while before we get to the book about Horror Express.)

Voices from Chernobyl: The Oral History of a Nuclear Disaster by Svetlana Alexievich served as research material for the well-regarded 2019 miniseries Chernobyl. Alexievich has also written War's Unwomanly Face, an oral history of Soviet Union women in World War II.

Monday, April 13, 2020

Stay-at-home shelfie #16

And we've arrived at the International Culture & History shelf, one of my more successful attempts at organizing books thematically. Being a top shelf that's right inside the bedroom door, however, this is a prime landing area for new and unsorted material. Hence the three books on top, two of which came from the York Emporium (which now has an online shop) in one of my final visits there before the stay-at-home order. The Collector of Leftover Souls has the subtitle Field Notes on Brazil's Everyday Insurrections; it came to my attention during the American Dirt controversy, as writers and readers championed lesser-known books, fiction and nonfiction, that contained more authentic voices.

Syrian Yankee was discussed in a post almost exactly a year ago. The boringly titled Historical Atlas comes from Oak Crest Lane and was published under the Barnes & Noble imprint in 1956. It has several maps and other things tucked away inside. And let me be clear: Many of the books in these shelfies have things that have been tucked away inside by yours truly. My gifts to future book lovers. The Enchantment of Africa books were originally in the Wrightsville Elementary School library before being pruned for newer material and ending up in the Book Nook Bonanza annual sale, where I picked them up, because two things I can't resist are books from the 1970s and old school library books. I might donate them to a Little Free Library sooner rather than later, though, in the hopes that some young minds might find them interesting.

And then there are volumes about Libya, Iran, Syria, Peru and life in the Ottoman Empire. Because it seems appropriate that a guy named Otto should have at least one book about the Ottoman Empire. And finally there are some books that might be in line with stressed Americans' recent desire to be gettin' hygge wit it. (Sorry.)

Sunday, April 12, 2020

Little houses for you and me

Continuing with the curbside haul, here's a very random Polaroid of, well, I guess you could say it's a little house (or church) sitting in the corner of a room in a bigger house. What purpose did it serve? Was it purely decorative? Was it a playhouse for ferrets? Was it an architectural model of a human-sized facility? (If so, the doors seem way too big.) I don't reckon we'll ever know.

Speaking of little houses, Wendyvee of the Wendyvee's Roadside Wonders introduced me last week to a topic I was unaware of: Huldufólk houses. Huldufólk are the "little people" in the folklore of Iceland and the Faroe Islands. They are woven into the fabric of four separate holidays in Iceland, including Thirteenth Night and Midsummer Night. Their folklore is also interwined with the geography of Iceland, with its volcanic rocks and other awe-inspiring natural phenomena. It is believed those are the places where the little people live. Which can be a problem.

"The widespread belief that elves and huldufólk live within the rocks and mountainsides of Iceland sometimes complicates things for non-Icelandic organizations trying to set up shop," Michael Sallustio reported for The Portalist. "Sometimes, new construction will be halted by concerned Icelanders who wish to protect the habitats of elves and huldufólk."

There is another solution for making sure the huldufólk have proper habitats: making tiny dwellings for them. I don't want to post anything here that might violate copyright, but here's a gander at what you can find if you do your own Google image search:

So enjoy diving down the rabbit hole of huldufólk houses! I know I did.

But we need cozy homes for humans, too. I watched F.W. Murnau's Sunrise: A Song of Two Humans last night, and it featured a wonderful rural village full of cozy-looking dwellings. This screenshot doesn't do it justice, but you get the idea.

I bet one of those houses has something like my favorite movie bedroom ever, which was featured in a (very) different Murnau film.

Found curbside: A postcard and a bookmark

"Joan's and Kaitlyn's Curbside Ephemera Haul," which sounds like a pitch for a Hulu series, also included these two items: an unused Curteichcolor postcard of the beautiful waters off the Florida coast and one of those plastic-clip bookmarks you can use to mark the pages of a Bible or other treasured book. I paired them to create a little bit of collage art for Easter. I guess we should also note that those two anglers are not six feet apart, but if they're from the same household I reckon it's probably okay.

Previous Papergreat Easter posts

Stay-at-home shelfie #15

Here's a little collection of books for traveling from the comfort of your reading chair (velvet jacket not included). There's another volume from Robert Macfarlane, who a book in the previous shelfie. A Forest by Night by Fred J. Speakman was the subject of a fairly recent Papergreat post. The Big Roads and On the Map were both Christmas presents from Joan.

Blue Highways by William Least Heat-Moon is a classic and it's the one I always recommend to folks who are seeking suggestions for offbeat travel writing; I'm still surprised by how many had never heard of it. In 2015, Ashar and I read Maphead: Charting the Wide, Weird World of Geography Wonks, by Jeopardy! champion and Omnibus podcast co-host Ken Jennings and thoroughly enjoyed it.

And it's been over a decade since I first read Alan Weisman's The World Without Us. I recommend it ... but maybe not right now. (I did, however, write this in a November 2011 footnote: "I had never heard of the Białowieża Forest until I read Alan Weisman's fantastic book The World Without Us, part of which takes a look at the environment in parts of the planet that are mostly untouched by humans.")