Tuesday, October 31, 2006

A Grave Affair-

It's Halloween and the book elves are in fine fettle, rigging Foggygates up as a Haunted House. As they pointed out, we had the advantage that the
place is a 100+ year-old Victorian that's full of spiders, squeaky doors and dark corners already, and since we never get around to dusting we don't have to buy fake cobwebs this year. And then there's the resident ghost... but before they rigged up the 1,500-watt speakers on the porch roof and put Bobby Pickett's "Monster Mash" on an endless tape loop, they finished our latest printed catalog, on an eerily relevant topic-

"A GRAVE AFFAIR", a catalog featuring 154 books and other items about gravestones, epitaphs, cemeteries, funeral and mourning customs, how Society deals with death, and related topics, is now posted on our 'A GRAVE AFFAIR' website-.

The new website also features a bibliography of 500+ books on graveyards, gravestones, epitaphs, cemeteries, mourning and funeral customs, and related topics, a links page, and some surprises...

While you're there you can also sign up for our 'Grave Matters' email list, where we announce website updates, and will be running catalog-related specials this week.

Please email us if you would like a printed copy.

Have fun, and have a Happy Halloween!

oh, and um...


Sunday, October 29, 2006

R.I.P. Red-

what a long and wonderful trip it was...

Saturday, October 28, 2006

Time Tunnel-

I love old postcards. We're still unpacking boxes from the move a year ago, and today I found a stash of postcards from my old office drawer. It's like looking into a Time Tunnel (remember that show?).

The Japanese Garden at Boston's Museum of Fine Arts, around 1910-

"Mrs. Jack Gardner's Venetian Palace", now the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum in Boston's Back Bay, on a postcard postmarked 1908-

This card is addressed to a "Miss Anne Hitchcock" of Utica, New York and has an interesting inscription- "I still want you but am going away in July. Will write a letter soon, Love FBS". You have to wonder...

Here is the Esplanade in Boston along the Charles River on a 1923 postcard. Today Storrow Drive's ugly four concrete lanes go right through ths scene-

Tuesday, October 24, 2006

Did you hear an odd cracking sound??

Right next to the house we have two huge, 250-year old sugar maples. One of them, by far the larger, lost its main trunk some years ago, but the right half of the tree remained, with three 50+ foot long, very thick limbs/trunks going off at about a 30-degree angle from the main trunk. I had always marvlled at how the old trunk supported all that weight...

Well, on Friday afternoon a cold front came through with 50-mph winds, and right in the middle we noticed a huge crack start to open up in the main trunk, working down from the top. As the winds blew the entire remaining part of the tree went back and forth and we could see the crack get bigger and then smaller, bigger and then smaller. Suddenly several tons of sugar maple were hanging on by an increasingly small thread...

The tree guys took one look at it yesterday morning and shook their heads. So down it cames, before it came down on its own and took out (depending on which way it fell) the carriage house, the kitchen or the porte cochere, removing, whichever way it went, "Thora Birch", which stands directly underneath it.

It's a big, complicated job to get the tree down without smashing things underneath it, and they've been hard at it for two days now.

The episode has inspired some psuedo Haiku-

Storm winds make the big tree sway
and wave -how graceful...
What was that odd cracking sound?????

Big tree falls down and goes BOOM!
uh oh... Say Goodbye to
recently re-roofed carriage house.

Storm winds crack the giant tree-
Tree surgeon tells wife-
"Christmas in Bermuda this year!"

Friday, October 20, 2006

There were these two cows, see...

a new twist on an old joke-

-You have two cows.
-Your neighbor has none.
-You feel guilty for being successful.
-Barbara Streisand sings for you.

-You have two cows.
-Your neighbor has none.

-You have two cows.
-The government takes one and gives it to your neighbor.
-You form a cooperative to tell him how to manage his cow.

-You have two cows.
-The government seizes both and provides you with milk.
-You wait in line for hours to get it.
-It is expensive and sour.

-You have two cows.
-You sell one, buy a bull, and build a herd of cows.

-You have two cows.
-Under the new farm program the government pays you to shoot one, milk the other, and then pours the milk down the drain.

-You have two cows.
-You sell one, lease it back to yourself and do an IPO on the 2nd one.
-You force the two cows to produce the milk of four cows. You are surprised when one cow drops dead. You spin an announcement to the analysts stating you have downsized and are reducing expenses.
-Your stock goes up.

-You have two cows.
-You go on strike because you want three cows.
-You go to lunch and drink wine.
-Life is good.

-You have two cows.
-You redesign them so they are one-tenth the size of an ordinary cow and produce twenty times the milk.
-They learn to travel on unbelievably crowded trains.
-Most are at the top of their class at cow school.

-You have two cows.
-You engineer them so they are all blond, drink lots of beer, give excellent quality milk, and run a hundred miles an hour.
-Unfortunately they also demand 13 weeks of vacation per year.

-You have two cows but you don't know where they are.
-While ambling around, you see a beautiful woman.
-You break for lunch.
-Life is good.

-You have two cows.
-You have some vodka.
-You count them and learn you have five cows.
-You have some more vodka.
-You count them again and learn you have 42 cows.
-The Mafia shows up and takes over however many cows you really have.

-You have all the cows in Afghanistan , which are two.
-You don't milk them because you cannot touch any creature's private parts.
-You get a $40 million grant from the US government to find alternatives to milk production but use the money to buy weapons.

-You have two cows.
-They go into hiding.
-They send radio tapes of their mooing.

-You have two bulls.
-Employees are regularly maimed and killed attempting to milk them.

-You have one cow.
-The cow is schizophrenic.
-Sometimes the cow thinks he's French, other times he's Flemish.
-The Flemish cow won't share with the French cow.
-The French cow wants control of the Flemish cow's milk.
-The cow asks permission to be cut in half.
-The cow dies happy.

-You have a black cow and a brown cow.
-Everyone votes for the best looking one.
-Some of the people who actually like the brown one best accidentally vote for the black one.
-Some people vote for both.
-Some people vote for neither.
-Some people can't figure out how to vote at all.
-Finally, a bunch of guys from out-of-state tell you which one you think is the best-looking cow.

-You have millions of cows.
-They make real California cheese.
-Only five speak English.
-Most are illegals.
-Arnold likes the ones with the big udders.

Wednesday, October 18, 2006

Something Hot's on the Stove...

Good news for Top Chef fans- that annoying Katie Lee Joel is gone, along with her baby-doll lace belly shirts. She's being replaced as host by Padma Lakshmi, who is actually a cook, as well as being Salman Rushdie's wife. Apparently she's also a supermodel... I'm sure that had nothing to do with it.

The new season starts tonight at 11 on Bravo, right after the finale of Project Runway.

We'll have to watch. Suddenly I feel all, uh, "culinary"...

PS- I'm starting work on a new State of Denial series for the elections today.

Monday, October 09, 2006

Censorship on Parade-

From the New York Times this morning, more bad news for authors- it seems that writing a book critical of a Conservative pundit can cost you your job. The Times reports that Reuters financial editor Joe Maguire had obtained permission from Reuters to write a book about Ann Coulter (not for Reuters, but on his own, but he still needed their permission, which is also screwed up, but never mind...), but that once it was done and turned out not to be complimentary, Maguire was told that his services at Reuters were no longer needed. Reuters confirms that Mr. Maguire was fired (though they refuse to use the word) and, as the Times notes- "When asked what changed once the book was ready, a company statement pointed to Reuters’ principles of “integrity, independence and freedom from bias.”

Now I'd really like to give Reuters the benefit of the doubt here, but one has to wonder why Reuters seems to be so certain that anything critical of Coulter must, apparently by definition, lack "integrity, independence and freedom from bias"? Sounds as if Reuters is the one lacking integrity, independence and freedom from bias to me...

Friday, October 06, 2006

The Dangerous Side of Bookselling-

A reminiscence from our last Italian trip...

In Florence it always rains at night in September.

It can be cozy - or murderous. I dodged maniac scooters and cars as I ran down the narrow cobbled streets with lights glinting off them like slivers of ice and ducked in for the 8 pm seating at my favorite neighborhood trattoria. A little vino, a dish of white beans in tomato sauce, maybe try the sole, some sambuca.

A companion...

She was tall and dark and slender, her eyes flashing with centuries of Florentine pride and passion. She moved as smoothly and naturally as a river running swiftly between rocky banks, and when she walked into a room everyone would turn and gaze. It was another of her talents that she could slip out of a room without anyone noticing, just the soft scent of perfume, a swift rustle of silk and she would be gone. She was my main contact in this city of brick and stone and soot-stained art, and I had no reason not to trust her. Sure, her last contact here had come to a bad end in vat of boiling rotini, but that was five years ago.

We opened a bottle of Chianti -not the kind you buy back in the States for $5 a bottle, the good stuff. The waiter came with a plate of porcini quickly grilled and drizzled with a little olive oil. She made small talk, asked about my flight, pushed the plate toward me and I reached out with my fork...

Something about the glint in her eye set off an alarm in the back of my mind. The Chianti was working, but there was still that danger flag. I hesitated and she frowned and reached for something in her purse. I wasn't looking, not really, but I saw the cracked leather spine of a small book in there. Faded guilt lettering stamped on the red spine label told me all I needed to know -it was the mushrooms.

I reached for the purse and she struggled with me for a moment, then gave up and went limp. I took the book and handed the purse back to her. Everyone in the trattoria was frozen, watching us. I knew better than to make a move. She gave me a quick, wry smile and got up and walked quickly out the door. No point following. I knew I'd never see her again. I finished off my Chianti and left. I've kept that little 18th century book on poisonous mushrooms for a dozen years, but now I'm going to sell it.

I'm a bookseller.

That's my job.

Monday, October 02, 2006

Book Pricing Strategies-

There's been a lot of confusion over the years as to how booksellers price their books. In order to bring some transparency to the situation, we are going to begin being really, really honest and including a key at the back of every catalog we issue-

* -priced by guess & by gorry

** -priced by dartboard

*** -priced while drunk

**** -priced so as not to sell

***** -price on request: will be priced according to our estimate of the potential customer's ability to pay

I think that's fairly clear. And folks say selling old books is complicated...