Saturday, May 9, 2020

Stay-at-home shelfie #44

Just one book in this shelfie, but it's a biggie. This is the top of the bookshelf that's been featured in the past few snapshots. This dictionary (on this shelf/stand) had been at the house on Oak Crest Lane in Wallingford since I was a kid, and I inherited it. So now it's next to my bedroom desk. Everyone, even in the digital age, should have a dictionary the size of a small elephant in their house.

This is Webster's New International Dictionary of the English Language, second edition, unabridged. It was published in 1951 by G. & C. Merriam Company of Springfield, Massachusetts. The title page indicates that it "utilizes all of the experience and resources of more than one hundred years of genuine Webster dictionaries." The final numbered page is 3214. But there's also a printed note on that page that states, "Total number of pages 3393." It does not contain the nonword dord, which had been fully excised by Webster's by 1947.

V.K. Reiter raved about Webster's in this 2013 review on Amazon:
"Dictionaries come and go but the Webster's International Unabridged, Second edition, is the absolute king of them all and has remained so since the 1930s, when it first appeared. Later printings retained the quality of the original while adding new words and locutions as they took their place in the culture. The people at the OED may quibble about the Yankee tone of of the Webster's Unabridged Second Edition but it is as necessary to the flowering of our national literary culture and discourse as spring dew is to the flowering of the high desert."
When I inherited this dictionary, there were plants pressed between several of the pages. I've added to the things tucked inside, of course.

(Note: This one photo was taken at a different time than all of the other shelfies, as can be seen by the daylight outside the window.)

The joy of "Bookcase Credibility"

One of the consequences of the COVID-19 pandemic and the urgent need for us to remain home to help stop the virus's spread is that many of us now "exist" primarily through our Zoom and Zoom-like video chats. Hunched in front of our computers, we speak into the tiny camera that often captures us in unflattering light and environs. Cinematography, it ain't. But some have been quicker to catch on to production values and backgrounds, and that includes those who love books and also those who want us to think they love books. They hope to say something about themselves by where the camera is expertly aimed.

Bookcase Credibility (@BCredibility), a Twitter account launched last month, has the motto "what you say is not as important as the bookcase behind you" and provides witty commentary about the experts and celebrities who appear in news coverage alongside their home libraries. When your shelves are there for the world to see, there are no holds barred on the opinions.

Here are some of my favorite posts, preserved for posterity as screenshots.

Stay-at-home shelfie #43

The three volumes of These Are the Voyages, by Marc Cushman, are the most ridiculously detailed books ever about Star Trek: The Original Series. (And that's saying something, give the billions of words that have been written about Star Trek.) Writing for Gizmodo in 2014, Charlie Jane Anders noted: "These Are The Voyages goes through, episode by episode, and shows you the whole process from first draft to filming — and you get to see just how much this show was being made by the skin of everyone's teeth, and how incredible it is that the show actually survived out of its first year." These large volumes are also good books for tucking things away inside. I'm sure there are some Shatner tweets in there somewhere.

Playing at the World by Jon Peterson, a ridiculously detailed book about the history of the wargaming that eventually led to Dungeons & Dragons, was first mentioned on this blog in February 2013.

There are a handful of volumes from the BFI Film Classic series, including analyses of Night of the Living Dead and Nosferatu. And there's John Connolly's ridiculous attempt to write an entire book about the 1972 cult film Horror Express, which starred Christopher Lee, Peter Cushing and Telly Savalas. (Careful readers might remember that in Stay-at-home shelfie #17, I said we'd eventually get to this book.) In my three-star review on Goodreads, I noted that Connolly's book is "simultaneously the best and the most disappointing — the most complete and the most frustrating — book you will ever read that's devoted entirely to" this film. Others seemed to like the book more than I did, which makes sense, because why the heckfire would you read it if you weren't obsessed with the movie?

Speaking of movies, this might be the only bookshelf on Earth on which the script for Last Year at Marienbad is tucked between books about Horror Express and Manos: The Hands of Fate. Just imagine Torgo shambling through a sprawling, sumptuous, baroque, gloomy hotel, where one endless corridor follows another, silent empty corridors...

As the Crow Flies by Melanie Gillman is a short graphic novel about friendship and acceptance.

The number of volumes of Roger Ebert's reviews that I've had at any given time has fluctuated over the years. This is the only one I have at the moment. I grew up devouring the reviews in the 1988 edition of his Movie Home Companion. I might track that one down some day for nostalgia's sake. And I'd like to have his four volumes on The Great Movies.

Friday, May 8, 2020

Stay-at-home shelfie #42

Yes, it makes me itchy that this photograph is slightly cockeyed. But we'll have to live with that. The hardcover on the left is Habibi, a hefty graphic novel by Craig Thompson. Patrick LaForge, who has had a long career at The New York Times1 but before that was at the York Daily Record (though we never overlapped), calls Habibi "a beautiful, strange and savage graphic novel, exploring the shared myths of judeo-christian-islamic tradition." And author Nnedi Okorafor raved that it was "THE Best Book of 2011." Joan gave it 4 out 5 stars in 2017.

I've read all nine volumes of Saga by Brian K. Vaughan and Fiona Staples, and now we just miss it, because nobody knows when it will return from its hiatus. Mister Miracle was Tom King's storytelling-in-12-issues followup to Vision. There's a graphic novel by Mari Naomi, who was mentioned two posts ago. The brownish graphic novel near the middle with no title on the spine is Minna Sundberg's Stand Still, Stay Silent, aptly described as "a light-hearted journey of friendship and camaraderie, with elements of Nordic mythology and some horror." Stand Still, Stay Silent started as a webcomic in 2013.

I read Thi Bui's autobiographical The Best We Could Do, about a family's escape from Vietnam to the United States, last year and found it wonderful, sad, hopeful, enlightening. Five stars. Also excellent is Sarah Glidden's Rolling Blackouts: Dispatches from Turkey, Syria, and Iraq, about 21st century journalism.

To the right are a bunch of fun Marvel characters: Doctor Strange, Sub-Mariner, Luke Cage, Mockingbird. Somebody should consider making some movies or TV shows about these superheroes. I bet they'd be popular.

1. Trivia: LaForge was essentially the originator of the phrase "Retweets are not endorsements" on Twitter.
2. I also highly recommend Naomi's Turning Japanese.

Thursday, May 7, 2020

Stay-at-home shelfie #41

Full disclosure: I pulled these books out for their snapshot because they were stacked atop each other on the shelf, due to their height. Yes, I have to occasionally discriminate against books based on their height. The Edgar Allan Poe book was my grandmother's and contains one of her cool bookplates. Vision is a heartbreaking 12-issue tale about the titular Marvel character written by Tom King and published in 2015-16.

The Ladies-In-Waiting by Santiago García and Javier Olivares, is fantastic graphic novel that introduced me an artist (Diego Velázquez) and an iconic painting (Las Meninas) that I had very little knowledge of beforehand. I was entertained, became better-educated and finished thirsty to learn more.

Getting Started with Color Basic, which vaults me back to my 1980s computer class at Madeira Beach Middle School in Florida, is probably the volume here that needs to go onto the ever-lengthening list of future Papergreat posts.

Wednesday, May 6, 2020

Stay-at-home shelfie #40

On to a bookshelf that's filled with numerous volumes of collected comics and graphic novels, plus some books related to movies, TV and games. Let's focus on just one of the books in today's snapshot: My Favorite Thing Is Monsters by Emil Ferris. I read it (absorbed might be the better word) over a month during the summer of 2017. I could have sworn I wrote about it somewhere upon completion, but I can't find anything. Suffice to say: I can't recommend it highly enough. Nor can fellow graphic novel author Mari Naomi (another favorite of mine), who raved: "This might be the best book I've ever read."

Or take this summary from Lily Hoang, writing in the Los Angeles Review of Books:
"My praise for My Favorite Thing Is Monsters may seem hyperbolic, but I promise you that to call the book a masterpiece, a magnum opus, a work of genius is in fact to undersell it. We need bigger words of praise. We need to go in search of monsters. Young Karen Reyes’s world may be unfair and full of pain, but My Favorite Thing Is Monsters is resplendent. It shatters its categorization as a 'graphic novel,' and becomes literature, pure and simple (although not so pure, not so simple)."
And the fact that this work even exists is a bit of a miracle, as noted in The New York Times and this excerpt from NPR:
"If this sounds like a wild story, so is the tale of how Ferris came to write it. She was a 40-year-old single mom who supported herself doing illustrations when she was bitten by a mosquito, she contracted West Nile virus, became paralyzed from the waist down, and lost the use of her drawing hand. Fighting chronic pain, she taught herself to draw again, then reinvented herself as a graphic novelist, spending six long years creating what's clearly an emotional autobiography."
The long-awaited sequel is tentatively scheduled for September 2021. It will be worth the wait. And if for whatever reason it is never published, Ferris has left us with an incredible and emotional accomplishment within the art and form of the graphic novel. And literature.

Tuesday, May 5, 2020

Stay-at-home shelfie #39 (sort of)

Another "not actually a shelf." On the floor between two bookshelves, there's a vertically stacked pile of books1 that I call "To Be Blogged." Books just sit there awaiting their possible futures as Papergreat posts. I scooted them all out for a moment and posed them side-by-side, as properly "shelved" volumes, for this photo. I won't go into detail about any of them, because I don't want to spoil future posts. (And in most cases I haven't started the online research.) Fun trivia: Two of these have been in the pile since the very beginning of Papergreat.

I have so many future posts to do! Here are the other topics on which I've promised posts just during this series:

  • Dangerous Island
  • Mrs. Piggle-Wiggle books
  • Various books with Robin Jacques illustrations
  • Non-fiction children's books by Maud and Miska Petersham
  • My grandmother's house in Rose Valley
  • Edna Albert's book, Little Pilgrim to Penn's Woods
  • Bryan Walsh's End Times
  • Ruth M. Arthur and her juvenile fiction
  • The folklore books of Geoffrey Palmer and Noel Lloyd
  • 1975's The People's Almanac
  • My grandfather in The 84th Infantry Division in The Battle of Germany

1. "Symmetrical book stacking. Just like the Philadelphia mass turbulence of 1947."

Monday, May 4, 2020

Stay-at-home shelfie #38

New shelf. Mostly magazines on this one. And most of those are the past couple years of Picture Postcard Monthly, a UK magazine that has ceased publication as a result of advertising losses during the COVID-19 pandemic. There are also some issues of The Atlantic, National Geographic and Fortean Times, which I think represents a fairly "on brand" mixture for me.

The books are mostly about photography. Paul Nash ties back to Questions, answers & mysteries with Hookland's David Southwell (Part 1, Part 2) from 2015. There's a biography of Vivian Maier (1926–2009), who was an amateur street photographer, mostly in Chicago, who remained unknown and didn't even develop much of her film during her lifetime. You can learn more at

Folklore Myths and Legends of Britain was first published in 1973 and is a highly praised and deeply detailed compendium of exactly what it claims in the title. It has a rousing 4.57 stars (out of 5) rating on Goodreads and a nearly unheard of 4.9 stars (out of 5) rating on Amazon. Best of all, perhaps, it includes some illustrations by Robin Jacques. Its oddball size is the main reason it's not over with the folklore and fairy tale books.

Sunday, May 3, 2020

1973 advertisement for Roach Studios T-shirts

This colorful full-page advertisement appeared in the December 1973 (Volume 1, No. 15) issue of Marvel's "The Tomb of Dracula". Roach Studios, through mail order, offered both iron-on designs and T-shirts with those designs already ironed on. These were a huge fashion fad in the 1970s, allowing customers an unprecedented ability to have shirts showing off their groovy and/or nerdy fandoms. Comic book and cartoon characters were a big part of the fad, so it made sense to advertise in comic books. (Note, too, the iron-on for Budweiser's Bud Man and a lot of motorcycles and dirt bikes.)

On the blog Long Island 70s Kid, author Eric remembers those times fondly:
"Most malls had a store that specialized in iron-on transfers, their walls lined with dozens, or even hundreds of options. ... The most popular rock bands of the day were all represented, as well as automobile logos, sports teams, television and movie celebrities, and plenty of humorous and risqué messages. ... Of course, you would soon learn that the process wasn’t exactly permanent. With every wash of your beloved creation, no matter how much care you exercised, the t-shirt decals would inevitably start to peel and crack. A few months down the road and you might not even be able to read what the shirt once said."
Roach (or RoAcH) Studios started in 1962 and is still around, now doing business on the internet. It offers vintage designs, including a "Disco Sucks" T-shirt.

On it history page, Roach details its rise ($20 million in gross sales in 1978) and its fall (bankruptcy and closure in 1987). Its downfall was licensing:
"Licensing was not a part of the business in the early days. Most companies just saw the T-shirt as a good bit of free advertising. As that changed, Roach changed with them. The problem was the iron-on transfer did not allow for the licensors to control the apparel business. The iron created more problems for the licensors than it solved. Soon the business had a real problem. With no licenses for hot TV shows, movies, bands, and other popular subjects, Roach's core customers started to loose [sic] margin and have inventory problems."
But the company was revived in 2010 after a "deep sleep" and is back in business.

You could say it rose from the dead, like Dracula.

Speaking of Dracula, this panel from that 1973 Marvel issue sure seems prescient...

Stay-at-home shelfie #37 (sort of)

These don't technically count as shelfies, because they aren't on shelves! Having reached the bottom of the tall bookshelf that began with United Kingdom history, we find that the floor beneath the shelf has some neat piles of books.1 No proper practitioner of tsundoku would have more shelves than books; there must always be some overflow. Thus, these books are currently in a bit of limbo. Some are recent acquisitions. Some were displaced during the latest round of sorting and reshelving and haven't yet found their new spots.

In the first photo, we have the random volume Hippie Food: How Back-to-the-Landers, Longhairs, and Revolutionaries Changed the Way We Eat and some compilations from Mmuseumm, which I mentioned in a post last autumn. There's a small stack of books about the fear of nuclear armageddon and the "strategy" of mutally assured destruction during the Cold War; I picked those up last year at the York Emporium during a rush of minor intrigue about the topic, but, in our current moment, it's no longer a slice of history I have a huge reading appetite for. It's more like The Stand season, right?

The Television Culture Section has been relegated to this spot, too. There are books with "Good" in the title about Carol Burnett and Fred Rogers, which seems appropriate. The David Bianculli and Robert J. Thompson books were read years ago, when I was devouring anything about St. Elsewhere. Bianculli's Dictionary of Teleliteracy, from 1995, is a particularly good browsing book, though we've had a quarter-century of milestone viewing moments since it was published.

In the second photo, there are numerous books about antiques, which were displaced when I was making room for the Ruth M. Arthur and Geoffrey Palmer/Noel Lloyd books. There were 2018 posts about From Witchcraft to World Health and Sold to the Lady in the Green Hat. And there are two 2014 posts about A Dictionary of American Antiques; if you read this one, it will also link you back to the first one. I could probably be talked into parting with a couple of these books about antiques; if you're interested, drop me a line at the email address at the top of the page.

The final pile contains a Carl Sagan book that belongs with the science volumes, more computer-related books — including Nick Montfort's Twisty Little Passages: An Approach to Interactive Fiction (lots of Infocom stuff in that one) — and a book that might or might not have once belonged to THE Dan Rather. I also declare that this is the only pile anywhere that includes both a book about American actress Maude Adams and a book about Gef the talking supernatural mongoose. So there.

(Is it just me, or are these shelfie posts getting longer and longer?)

1. Related recent headline from BBC News: "Coronavirus: Library books rearranged in size order by cleaner."