Saturday, April 25, 2020

Stay-at-home shelfie #29

Now we slide over to the nonfiction/history bookshelf, which also has wide shelves that will require two photos apiece. The top shelf is mostly United Kingdom history, appropriate for my Somewhat Welsh Heritage™1

In the top photo, the four slim volumes on the left are part of the Britain in Pictures series and — you guessed it! — I have that on my list of future posts. There are more than 130 books in the series. Ian Mortimer's "Time Traveler's Guides" are fun reading. When I was a kid, one of the books on my parents' shelf that always caught my eye was the circa 1970 hardcover edition of Antonia Fraser's Mary Queen of Scots. It just kind of stood out amid the other books around it. So, partly out of nostalgia and partly because it sounds interesting, I now have a paperback copy. To the right of the Fraser book are a bunch of slim, staplebound volumes from the 1970s Viewing Wales Series. I've mentioned Welsh Ghosts and Welsh Castles, Gardens & Ancient Houses in previous posts.

In the bottom photo, Attention All Shipping relates directly to a post I wrote in August about BBC Radio's Shipping Forecast. Then there some great books about walking and, to an extent, psychogeography. The Country Walks series by London Transport has a storied history; these are 1970s editions. 1962's The London Nobody Knows details many places we can no longer know at all, except through the pages of a book. Shell Guide to Reading the Irish Landscape, The Shell Book of the Home in Britain, How to Read a Village, Shell Guide to Reading the Landscape and Lost Villages of Britain are all fine titles, don't you think? Many of these aforementioned volumes, and also A Walk Around the Snickelways of York, are mentioned in this 2016 post. (Related great link: Mackenzie Crook's love of English landscapes)

* * *
I've been writing most of these shelfie posts one-to-three days in advance. But I'm doing this one live on a sunny Saturday morning, after chores. Here are this morning's headlines on The Washington Post's website:
  • Healthy people in their 30s and 40s barely sick with covid-19 are dying of strokes
  • VA health chief acknowledges a shortage of protective gear for its hospital workers
  • Short on cash, scared of coronavirus, Georgia businesses grapple with reopening
  • U.S. officials scramble to warn against bogus cure floated by Trump
  • Trump says he will block aid for Postal Service if it doesn’t hike prices immediately
  • People are ‘coming from everywhere’ to visit California’s beaches this weekend amid heat wave
  • U.S. coronavirus deaths top 51,000, with fatalities expected to climb


Friday, April 24, 2020

Victorian advertising trade card featuring a bird

This undated Victorian advertising trade card is for The Great Atlantic and Pacific Tea Co. and features a bird that might be some kind of warbler, or perhaps it's supposed to be a tyrant flycatcher, since the bird is, indeed, about to gobble down an unsuspecting fly.

The Great Atlantic and Pacific Tea Co., I was surprised to learn, is actually A&P, which was founded in 1859 and was the largest grocery retailer in the United States from 1915 through 1975, as iconic as McDonald's or Walmart in its day. Its day officially ended with bankruptcy and liquidation in 2015.

The back of this trade card lists all of the company's "branch houses" at the time it was published, likely in the late 19th century. Locations included Akron, Atlanta, Baltimore, Chicago, Harrisburgh, Kansas City, Lancaster, Philadelphia, Pittsburgh, Reading, St. Louis, Syracuse, and Washington, D.C. There were 24 stores just in Manhattan, plus four others in Brooklyn. The "Principal Wareouse" was on a stretch of Vesey Street in New York City.

Stay-at-home shelfie #28

We've reached the bottom of the Fairy Tale and Folklore Bookshelf. There are some mysterious books down here. And maybe it's more fun if we just leave some of them mysterious, for future Home Library Historians™ to obsess over like those academics who spend their lives psychoanalyzing Shakespeare's sonnets.

In the first photo, we have another volume by Italo Calvino. Why isn't it next to the Calvino book one shelf up? Should that make me itchy? Then there are more folk-tale collections tied to various geographic regions. I would have sworn that I'd blogged about Sandman's Rainy Day Stories at some point, but apparently I have not. Maybe I dreamed it. This copy was once the property of Elinor F. Rogers of Melrose, Massachusetts. She graduated from Melrose High School in June 1933, on a night when Miss Margaret Chandler was the valedictorian, according to The Boston Globe. And no, I don't think that Chandler is part of my family tree, but wouldn't it just be the nuttiest thing you ever heard if she is?

Then there's a collection of recent books on folk horror, a topic that ties in a bit with psychogeography. Mix in some magic, some fairies, and some cryptozoology, and this shelf is a wonderful hot mess. A 10-year-old back in my day would have had a great time if he or she got to secretly browse a shelf like this. Dragons, Fairies and Fun, by Dora Broome, is another book that Amanda Jones of Wales introduced me to. And I was inspired to track down The Evil Eye after this 2017 post.

Thursday, April 23, 2020

Higgins' German Laundry Soap,
Part 2

This Victorian advertising trade card pairs with one I featured nearly five years ago, for Higgins' German Laundry Soap. On the back, once again, are the results of U.S. presidential elections, plus a note that in 1824, it was the U.S. House of Representatives that ultimately determined that John Quincy Adams would be president, bringing to a conclusion the Era of Good Feelings. (We could use an Era of Good Feelings II, right?)

In the 2011 book, Black Gotham: A Family History of African Americans in Nineteenth-century New York City, by Carla L. Peterson, the author discovers this historical tidbit about Higgins' German Laundry Soap in an 1887 issue of The New York Freeman:
"Each cake of German Laundry Soap is wrapped in a blue wrapper, and printed on each is the name of Chas. S. Higgins's German Laundry Soap, encircling a trade mark, 'Colored Woman at Washtub.'"
Peterson then states: "It's hard to keep from wondering what the 'Colored Woman at Washtub' looked like. Was she the laundress version of Aunt Jemima? A more virulent caricature? A more benign image?" Peterson's book is very well-reviewed, by the way, if you want to consider tracking down a copy.

Stay-at-home shelfie #27

It's the middle of the Fairy Tale and Folklore Bookshelf. The brown book, second from left, is a handwritten version of "The Dragon of the Well" that Joan gave to me as a Christmas present in 2008. Some of my other favorites include Russian Fairy Tales, by Aleksandr Afanas'ev, and Norwegian Folk Tales by Peter Christen Asbjørnsen and Jørgen Moe; I called both of those volumes desert-island picks in 2016, and that sentiment stands.

Csenge Zalka (link to her dandy blog) is one of my favorite modern storytellers. Her books here are Dancing on Blades: Rare and Exquisite Folktales from the Carpathian Mountains (my 2018 Goodreads review) and Tales of Superhuman Powers. Told Under the Green Umbrella was featured in a post way back in 2011. Encyclopædia of Superstitions was the subject of a Christmas 2017 post featuring a skittish Mr. Angelino.

Wednesday, April 22, 2020

Stay-at-home shelfie #26

Now it's the Fairy Tale and Folklore Bookshelf, where the shelves are wide enough that it takes two pictures to display each one adequately. Some of these are among the oldest books in the room. The two-volume set at the far left is the Encylopædia of Superstition, Folklore, and the Occult Sciences of the World. That's the short title, anyway. The longer one is one of those that fills most of the title page. This is the 1971 Gale Research Company facsimile reprint of the 1903 edition.

Up next is Alice Bertha Gomme's somewhat confusingly titled two volumes. The spine, as you can see, reads Dictionary of British Folk-Lore Part I. Traditional Games Vol. I. The title page, however, states The Traditional Games of England, Scotland, and Ireland (with, again, a much longer subtitle), in two volumes. Vol. I, published in 1894, is Accroshay through Nuts in May. Vol. II, published in 1898, is Oats and Beans through Would You Know. Parents stuck at home with children during this pandemic could probably use some of the ideas from these books. For example, there is "Chinny-mumps," a schoolboys' game "consisting in striking the chin with the knuckles; dextrously performed, a kind of time of produce." Umm. On the other hand maybe just give them the iPad.

As any good folklore collector should, I have a few Grimms' Fairy Tales (or Grimms' Household Tales) volumes. None, however, is the 1900 Ward, Lock & Co. edition that I wrote about in 2012; I gifted that one. In its place, there is a 1915 volume translated by Margaret Hunt (orange), an 1885 volume translated by Lucy Crane (green), and a 1900 volume translated by Beatrice Marshall (blue).

Also on this shelf are Legends of the Rhine; Wonder Tales from China Seas, which figured in this oddball 2013 post; Albanian Wonder Tales; and the gorgeous A.L. Burt edition of Jack the Giant Killer and Other Stories. Finally, there are two academic volumes about the wonderful Baba Yaga and her place in folklore.

Tuesday, April 21, 2020

Stay-at-home shelfie #25

This shelf is sponsored by the letters K through N.

The Frangipani Hotel is a wonderful story collection by Pennsylvania native Violet Kupersmith. The tales are infused with Vietnamese folklore.

Count Valeria Luiselli's Lost Children Archive among the novels I am really looking forward to reading. (Having to shelter in place hasn't led to a big increase in my available time for recreational reading.) Luiselli has also written the nonfiction Tell Me How It Ends: An Essay in Forty Questions, which I have somewhere. I can't remember if I left it at the LNP | LancasterOnline office when I packed up for the final time more than a month ago.

That hardcover edition of The Last Picture Show was featured in a September 2019 post about the embossed book stamp inside.

Slade House by David Mitchell is a creepy sort-of epiloque to his 600-plus-page The Bone Clocks, which I found enjoyable but uneven. It's nice to have works by him to look forward to. His Utopia Avenue, about the "the strangest British band you've never heard of," is supposed to be published in early summer.

I continue to like how some of these alphabetical combinations worked out; it's appropriate to have David Mitchell and Haruki Murakami on the same shelf. I reviewed Murakami's The Strange Library in 2016.

It will be a while before we return to the alphabetical-by-author fiction. There are a few other shelves in between. (I need to stick with doing these posts in the order I shot the photographs, or I will get very lost and confused.)

Monday, April 20, 2020

Stay-at-home shelfie #24

This shelf is sponsored by the letters E through K.

Kimi Eisele, author of the critically acclaimed The Lightest Object in the Universe, and I went to Penn State at the same time and worked together on the staff of The Daily Collegian. I've lost track of how many other former classmates and colleagues of mine have published books. It would be a fool's errand to try to list them all, but I'll do it anyway: Larry Alexander, Buffy Andrews, Ted Anthony, Mike Argento, Alisa Bowman, Joan Concilio, Dan Connolly, Bridget Doherty, Megan Erickson, Andrew Ervin, Leigh Gallagher, Mike Gross, Dennis Hetzel, Tom Joyce, Bill Landauer, Lauri Lebo, Caroline Luzzatto, James McClure, Rissa Miller, Isabel Molina-Guzman, Dana O'Neil, Gregory Scopino, Leslie Gray Streeter, Beth Vrabel, Michael Weinreb and Laura Wexler. This is absolutely not a complete list! I will come back and add those I missed.

This is a fairly eclectic shelf. Exit West by Mohsin Hamid, published in 2017, is a short novel that will stick with you. It's probably worth a re-read, too, for a different kind of relevance in these quarantine times. Another incredible short read is Signs Preceding the End of the World, Yuri Herrera's novel, as translated by Lisa Dillman. The translator's coinage of "anglogaggle" is one of the best new words I've come across, and I'm not alone in that thought.

I discovered MacKinlay Kantor's Spirit Lake during a long browsing session at The York Emporium. What sold me on it were the dust jacket blurb and the inscription on the first page, which I wrote about in February, which seems like a million years and a different planet ago.

Sunday, April 19, 2020

Stay-at-home shelfie #23

Continuing with the alphabetical (by author) fiction, this shelf is a little overbalanced toward male authors. We have Jorge Luis Borges, Richard Brautigan, Dino Buzzati, Italo Calvino and John Cheever, among others. Look how small, though, the legendary Octavia Butler's name is on the spine of Bloodchild and Other Stories.

I do have an exception to the ordering of the fiction. I thought it was thematically appropriate to place Ianthe Brautigan's memoir about her father, You Can't Catch Death, next to two of his titles.

A Dino Buzzati side note: One of his novels, Il Segreto del Bosco Vecchio, was made into a movie by Ermanno Olmi, an Italian filmmaker who made one of my favorite films: 1961's Il Posto. The book and 1993 film, Il Segreto del Bosco Vecchio, concern a man who wants to chop down a forest, but the ancient spirits within the woods attempt to counter him. The film received mixed reviews, especially compared to Olmi's other masterpieces, and it is not easily available in the United States. Also, getting back to Buzzati, if you can find his collections of short stories, Restless Nights and Catastrophe and Other Stories, I recommend them highly. They are surreal and sublime.

The skinny green book with no title on the spine is Felicity by Susan Budd, a lovely and strange novella that is appropriately on the same shelf as Brautigan's works. And the orange book on the right that's mostly hidden from view is Joan Didion's Play It As It Lays. Sheesh, this is not just a good shelf for giving proper prominence to women.

Stay-at-home shelfie #22

The first part of this shelf contains some hardcover editions of the works of J.R.R. Tolkien.1 Included are the Russian-language edition of The Hobbit that was published in the Soviet Union in 1976. I can't read a word of it, but the illustrations by Mikhail Belomlinsky are fabulous. Smith of Wootton Major is my favorite piece of writing by Tolkien, which is saying a lot.

Then, starting with Atia Abawi's A Land of Permanent Goodbyes, it's the beginning of the alphabetically organized modern fiction. That's what we'll be seeing on the next few shelves. If it's not clear by now, my shelves feature a mishmash of organizational techniques. The best part is that I can always decide to do things differently, leading to fun hours of Sort The Books™.

1. Previous Papergreat posts on Tolkien: