Saturday, May 23, 2020

Stay-at-home shelfie #57

Hey, look! It's shelfie #1 off to the far right. We truly are coming full circle.

Today's shelfie features a modest little set of Shakespeare books. Because if you have the Complete Works of William Shakespeare in a single volume, you're pretty much good to go, right? Folk-lore of Shakespeare is a delightful 1884 volume by the delightfully named Rev. T.F. Thiselton Dyer, M.A. Oxon. He was mentioned two years ago in this post and that other book of his, Strange Pages from Family Papers, is shown in shelfie #28. The first sentence of Folk-lore of Shakespeare is: "The wealth of Shakespeare's luxuriant imagination and glowing language seems to have been poured forth in the graphic accounts which he has given us of the fairy tribe." Chapter titles include Fairies, Witches, Ghosts, Birds, Animals, Plants, Folk-Medicine, Rings and Precious Stones, Dances, Punishments, Proverbs, Fishes and Sundry Superstitions. The owner of this book from long ago bent down several dozen page corners.

To the right of Folk-lore of Shakespeare is Tales from Shakespeare, which is "designed for the use of young persons." It was first published in 1807 and it was actually written by Charles Lamb and his sister, Mary Lamb. But Wikipedia notes that "Mary did not get her name on the title page till the seventh edition in 1838." Alas, her name isn't on this 1865 edition.

The Collected Jorkens is a three-volume set of short stories by Lord Dunsany (aka the delightful but also silly "Edward John Moreton Drax Plunkett, 18th Baron of Dunsany") The set was issued by Night Shade Books in 2004-2005 and can now be rather hard to find. The stories are fantastic tales that involve the character Joseph Jorkens and are an important part of the subgenre of "club tales." As Wikipedia notes: "The Jorkens stories are usually told in the 'frame' of a gentlemen's club in London, to which the narrator is invited in the first story, and of which he becomes a member. In general, Jorkens is sitting, and his attention is caught by someone else trying to tell a story, whereupon he provides a better story, in return, before or after or both, for whiskey."

Stephen King uses this form for some of his short stories, but with an appropriately creepier setting. As the Stephen King Wiki notes: "This unnamed Club has been located at 249B East Thirty-Fifth Street for longer than any of its members can remember. ... Stevens has been the butler for countless years. The primary purpose of the club is alluded to by the inscription on the main fireplace's keystone: 'It is the tale, not he who tells it.' Most nights, one or more of the members will share a story with the others. The Thursday night before Christmas is traditionally reserved for a 'tale of the uncanny.'"

Additionally, according to that Wiki: "The library at 249B East Thirty-Fifth Street is notable for its collection of works that do not strictly exist in this world — written by nonexistent authors, published under nonexistent imprints. Stevens associates this with the 'many rooms' upstairs, and the many entrances and exits thereof."

Long Room Interior, Trinity College Dublin, Ireland
Photo by DAVID ILIFF. License: CC BY-SA 3.0
Diliff / CC BY-SA

Thursday, May 21, 2020

Stay-at-home shelfie #56

Getting in just under the wire with today's shelfie. So much for blogging a few days ahead, as I was earlier in this series. (It's been a long work week.) In big news, we have arrived at the Last Bedroom Bookcase™. The end is within sight! Whatever will I do for content when this series is over? Perhaps I'll blog my sock cabinet. (Yes, it's a cabinet.) Then again, this isn't called FootwearGreat.1

Longtime readers know that I love old textbooks, right up through the 1970s. I've blogged about many of them over the years under the School Days label (a good rundown can also be found here). But I haven't actually kept most of those old school books. For collecting, it just seems like another Category Too Far.A

These are some of the really old school books that are still on my shelves. I have a real soft spot for geography textbooks, so they are well-represented. There is also a civics textbook and a couple other U.S. history textbooks (as written by the winners, of course). Also: a two-volume history of the Rhine and the absolutely gorgeous 1888 book Visits to Remarkable Places by William Howitt*.

Literal footnote
1. Domain names that are available as of the writing of this footnote:,,,,

A. Featuring Lex van Delden as the Oberscharführer.

* Howell was also the author of The Rural Life of England and The Literature and Romance of Northern Europe: Constituting a Complete History of the Literature of Sweden, Denmark, Norway, and Iceland, and the co-translator, with his wife Mary, of The History of Magic, To which is added an Appendix of the most remarkable and best authenticated stories of Apparitions, Dreams, Second Sight, Somnambulism, Predictions, Divination, Witchcraft, Vampires, Fairies, Table-turning, and Spirit-rapping. So there.

Wednesday, May 20, 2020

Stay-at-home shelfie #55

It's an Unnecessary Dramatic Angle (UDA) for the second Mostly Sociology shelf. Some of these might be better fits over on the nonfiction/history bookshelf (shelfies #29 through #36), but that's the fun of Perpetual Shelf Sorting (PSS). One is never finished sorting.

Essayist Rebecca Solnit is the clear winner for most books on this shelf. I'll just list out the other authors present: Jia Tolentino, Kameron Hurley, Sharmila Sen, bell hooks, Suki Kim, Matt Haig, John B. Judis, Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, John Crowley, Alvin Toffler and James Herriot.

And if that's not the first time that Alvin Toffler has been mentioned in the same sentence with all those others, I'll eat my hat.

I could have linked out to everyone named above, but if you are interested in learning more about any of these folks, you can certainly do the Googling and surfing yourself, right? That's the fun of it ⁠— letting the links lead you on a journey to discover new authors, ideas, books....

If you've been reading along with these shelfies and haven't yet added any "new to you" books or authors to your to-read lists, then one of us is doing it wrong.

Tuesday, May 19, 2020

Stay-at-home shelfie #54

It's Mostly Sociology on this nonfiction shelf, as we continue to wind our way down a narrow black bookcase. (I have put bookcases in every nook and cranny where they'll fit in the bedroom.)

1993's Stonewall by Martin Duberman is a historical narrative through the eyes of some who experienced the 1969 Stonewall riots, violent demonstrations by members of New York City's LGBT community that helped to serve as a catalyst for the gay rights movement. My son, Ashar, is transgender and so, yes, I do have several books on the topic — to better educate myself and also because Kate Bornstein and Sarah McBride, among many others, are terrific writers who are well worth reading.

Chanel Miller's Know My Name and Jaquira Díaz's Ordinary Girls are two well-reviewed books that were published last autumn, which seems like a million years ago. Holding Our World Together: Ojibwe Women and the Survival of Community is a 2012 book on Native American history that was written by a Native American woman, Brenda J. Child.

Dear America: Letters Home from Vietnam, edited by Bernard Edelman, was published in 1985 and features the letters and photographs of Americans who served in the Vietnam War. Perhaps some of you remember the 1987 documentary, produced by HBO, that features some of the book's content. There are numerous illustrations in the book, including 13 pages featuring the handwriting of Air Force Capt. Edward Alan Brudno. After being forced to eject during a mission over North Vietnam in 1965, Brudno endured 2,675 days (nearly 7½ years) as a prisoner of war, undergoing unfathomable torture at times. The book features some of the few letters Brudno was allowed to send home to his family during his captivity. His writing is small, tight and precise.

Brudno was released from captivity on February 12, 1973, and during the week before he returned home, according to the book, Brudno penned his Dream Sheets, "lists of things about which he had been dreaming at the time." There are nine of these sheets printed in Dear America: Letters Home from Vietnam. He writes of contacting friends and family, places he wants to visit (Library! he wrote, with an exclamation point), his educational interests to explore, his clothing and grooming, and so much more. So many lists detailing his plans for freedom.

Less than four months after his release from captivity and one day before his 33rd birthday, on June 3, 1974, Brudno took his own life. In a 1998 essay for Newsweek, his brother, Robert J. Brudno, wrote this: "Suicide never has simple causes, but his story reveals some unfinished business from the Vietnam War. ... Years ago, I tried to get my brother's name added to the Vietnam Memorial wall. I was told that I could not, because the wall was for servicemen who were killed in Vietnam or died later from wounds received there. Technically, I guess, Alan Brudno was mortally wounded back here."

Air Force Capt. Edward Alan Brudno's name was finally added to the Vietnam Veterans Memorial on Memorial Day 2004.

His name will be forever on that list: PANEL 5E, LINE 2 OF THE WALL.

We should remember his other lists, too.

Monday, May 18, 2020

Stay-at-home shelfie #53

At last, we return to the alphabetical-by-author fiction, which we paused with shelfie #25 back on April 21. These last 1½ shelves take us from O through Z. I guess that's a little bit of a surprise, being able to finish up with so little space. But I have a dearth of R's, S's and T's — popular letters! — in this category.

After leading off with the wonderful Flannery O'Connor, authors here include Tommy Orange and Helen Oyeyemi (Whose Goodreads bio is: "Helen Oyeyemi is a British novelist. She lives in Prague with an ever-increasing number of teapots, and has written eight books so far."). There's The Overstory by Richard Powers, which I'm anxious to get to. Matt Ruff's Lovecraft Country has been adapted into an HBO series that will debut this summer.

Other authors here (some of whose works have been translated) include Iraq's Ahmed Saadawi, South Korea's Ha Seong-nan, Sweden's Karin Tidbeck, China's Can Xue, Chile's Alejandro Zambra, Serbia's Zoran Živković, and Pittsburgh's Anjali Sachdeva.

Alison C. Rollins' powerful poetry volume Library of Small Catastrophes is described this way on Goodreads: "Drawing from Jorge Luis Borges’ fascination with the library, Rollins uses the concept of the archive to offer a lyric history of the ways in which we process loss."

Partially obscured at the end of the first shelf is Lucy Woods' unsettling collection of short stories, Diving Belles.

Leslie Jamison's well-reviewed 2019 book of essays, Make It Scream, Make It Burn, doesn't belong with the fiction, of course. I guess you can call it a preview of what's coming next...

Sunday, May 17, 2020

Stay-at-home shelfie #52

This is a Mostly Ghostly adjunct shelf, a vertical pile and a sort-of thematic continuation of the books from way back on shelfie #1, which, looking back upon, I provided absolutely no commentary for.

So, first, let's rectify that. Here is the retroactive play-by-play for shelfie #1:
The top shelf includes two novels by Charlie Jane Anders, two books that journalist and Pennsylvania native Harry Warner Jr. (1922-2003) wrote about the history of science fiction fandom (All Our Yesterdays and A Wealth of Fable)1, and some works by Neil Gaiman (The Ocean at the End of the Lane has surpassed Neverwhere as my favorite Gaiman novel). There are also some mid-century anthologies of science fiction edited by Groff Conklin.

The second shelf contains the start of the Clifford Simak novels (which continue on shelfie #2), some Hans Holzer paranormal paperbacks, and then a bunch of other purportedly nonfiction books about ghosts and hauntings, mostly within the United Kingdom. I have featured several of them in past posts, including A Ghost Hunter's Game Book, Haunted Houses, Haunted England, and Haunted Britain.
And so that brings us to today's shelfie. Most of these are books by Susy Smith (1911-2011) — Widespread Psychic Wonders, World of the Strange, Ghosts Around the House, Prominent American Ghosts, Haunted Houses for the Millions, The Conversion of a Psychic, Confessions of a Psychic, Today's Witches. They're still entertaining to read (taken with the requisite spoonful of salt) and, as I've mentioned before, I have deep nostalgia for the paperbacks by Susy Smith, Hans Holzer and their ilk that we had around the house when I was a kid. This is my semi-permanent staging area for a future big post on Smith.

1. I would have sworn I had a Papergreat post about Harry Warner Jr. Sigh. Add it to the list.

Book cover: "The Flower People"

  • Title: The Flower People
  • Author: Henry Gross
  • Cover photographer: Robert Nemser
  • Photographer for 16 pages of East Village photos: Larence Shustak (1926-2003). (Larence N. Shustak was his birth name. He also went by Lawrence Shustak and Larry Shustak, according to this website.)
  • Publisher: Ballantine (U6128)
  • Cover price: 75 cents
  • Year: 1968
  • Pages: 180
  • Format: Paperback
  • Back cover excerpt:
    "'I'd rather be an independent garbage collector than, you know, number twenty-seven in some mammoth corporation.'

    "What does it mean when thousands of middle class young Americans run away from home every year, kicking the comforts and security of the Great Society to wander through derelict ghettos, living on handouts, blowing pot and watching the world drift by?

    "In these extraordinary interviews the 'Flower Power' generation speaks out on what they left behind and what they have found in the new underground."
  • Dedication: "The author wishes to express his appreciation to all the hippies whose kindness and openness made this book possible. And special thanks to Lori, Brian, and Sally."
  • First three sentences: "Of all the interviews I conducted during the preparation of this book, the shortest may have been the most illuminating. 'Where're you headed?' I asked the long-haired hippie type thumbing a ride along the side of the road. 'Anywhere, man,' he replied — and that conluded the interview."
  • Last sentence: "Think about that."
  • Random sentence from the middle #1: "And there are trinkets galore: oddly shaped bits of glass and stone, God's eyes, candles, strings of beads, prisms, kaleidoscopes, moiré patterns, and a pair of colored eyeglasses with beehive lenses that tint and multisect the outside world into a land of magic that only one who's stoned out of his mind can truly appreciate."
  • That's a nice sentence: Yes.
  • Random sentence from the middle #2: "He masticates a mouthful of frankfurter."
  • That's an unnecessary sentence: Yes.
  • Random sentence from the middle #3: "Soda cascades wantonly through his throat, producing the keenest of quenchings; then he valves off the flow with a swallow, emits an Epicurean 'Ahh,' inhales briskly, and picks up his story on the exhale."
  • That is a ... sentence: Yes.
  • Glossary: The back of the book features a glossary for folks who want to know more about the world of The Flower People. Terms include Acid Funk, Bhang, Commune, Crash Pad, Freak, Fuzz, Groovy, Guru, Head Shop, Innerspace, Karma, Owsley Blue, Zap and Zonked.
  • Total ratings or reviews on Goodreads or Amazon: Zero.
  • Review excerpt from the blog Olman's Fifty: "It's actually a pretty cool historical document. The author is a bit heavy at first with some of his framing, but the vast majority of the interviews are just the various people speaking and it's really fascinating."
  • Review excerpt (plus some interior photos) from Awful Library Books: "It is so funny to think that this group is now talking about Medicare and retirement. Can you dig it?"
  • If you like this book: Ballantine's marketing division did a good job with the "More Ballantine Books You Will Enjoy" rundown opposite the title page. These books are very "on point" with the audience:
    • The Essential Lenny Bruce, edited by John Cohen
    • I Couldn't Smoke the Grass on My Father's Lawn, by Michael Chaplin (Charlie Chaplin's son)
    • Bob Dylan: Don't Look Back, by D.A. Pennebaker
    • The Leader, by Gillian Freeman
    • Hell's Angels, by Hunter S. Thompson
    And the last page of the book is an advertisement for Ballantine's paperback editions of The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings. Natch.