Friday, August 26, 2016

I Accuse

I Accuse
Irving Werstein
1967 Julian Messner. Pub

I purchased this older book from a library sale, it had come
from a high school library donation box. Unfortunately it did not
have a dust cover. I learned that after getting it home that no one had ever
checked it out... Since 1967.

That's forty nine years. I know this because that's how damned old I am. How many teenagers browsed past this slim tome during those years? Sad, it was, in it's limited scope, a very interesting read.
As a reader of history had heard tangentially heard of the Dreyfus case. But,
had no idea of the details.
Apparently it was, the most important legal proceedings in the history of France.
Well, I was curious.
To summarize, a Jewish artillery officer was falsely accused of selling military secrets to the Germans. At the time, France's Army had been disgraced and the entire country was languishing in an economic crisis, the blame was placed of course on the Jews.
This poor man who's only sin was to be a tad focused on his career, not
particularly gregarious, and, oh yeah, he was Jewish. He was framed, drummed
out of the Army by a Kangaroo court, and sentenced to life on Devil's Island.
DEVILS ISLAND for Christ's Sake! This telling of the story was entertaining,
and read like a spy novel. I really sympathized with Dreyfus and couldn't wait
to find out what happened. It does have a fairly happy ending though. Had I
been born in France I would have known the story. I finished the 189 pages
in a day, and enjoyed it immensely. This book is no longer in print.
It had an index, but no troublesome footnotes and such. Now, when I go back
and finish Barbara Tuchman's 'Proud Tower' I will know what she was
referring to. Let me know if you want to borrow it or buy a copy here.

Monday, August 22, 2016

Essays Old and New

Falling in love is the one illogical adventure, the one thing of which we are tempted to think as  supernatural, in our trite and reasonable world. -Robert Louis Stevenson

Essays Old and New
Harcourt, Brace 1957

'Essay' is a somewhat broad term meaning ' a short personal writing on one

subject'. This could apply to many forms of media that we consume today.
Magazine articles and Blogs are some examples. I run across essay
collections frequently in my travels. What I enjoy most about them are that
they are short, cover a wide arrays of subjects and you get to discover new
to you writers. When in doubt, check out the table of contents.
I can't remember for sure where I got this one but it contains essays by:
Francis Bacon
Washington Irving
Ralph Waldo Emerson
Mark Twain
Robert Louis Stevenson (on Falling in Love)
Winston Churchill
Elmer Davis
William Faulkner (Nobel Prize Acceptance Speech)

Occasionally I will find a collection of essays by a single author who's other writings I am familiar
with. The most recent finds include:
E. B. White, Joseph Heller, Denise Levertov, Isaac Asimov, Aldous Huxley, Barbara Tuchman, Kurt Vonnegut, and Ayn Rand.
If I could, I would recommend that you read one essay, put the book aside and read or do something else for a bit. Like a book of poetry, I think an essay collection by a single author loses a bit if you read it straight through. Enjoy!


Saturday, August 20, 2016

Why Read Lovecraft?

"The most merciful thing in the world... is the inability of the human mind to correlate
all its contents."

It's 2016, why should we still read Lovecraft?
To be certain, some of his beliefs should make you cringe. But, you could say that about most of his contemporary's.
I've been reading a lot of Orwell and Conrad of late. Hey, they had wrong opinions about people who's skin was not the same color as theirs as well. Should we just chuck their books into the trash as well?
H.P. Lovecraft could tell a scary story better than anyone else. His prose is evocative and imaginative. And, most importantly he is responsible for an entire genre of amazing spine-tingling terror, Cosmic Horror

We are all just tiny bugs in this Universe, the unknowable can squash us anytime it wants to. Pay no attention to the sky and the dreams that come from the depths. Anything you learn will just drive you insane.
I hope that he has found the peace in the beyond that he did not have
in life.

Friday, August 19, 2016


Unlike many book collectors, I don't mind loaning my
books to my literate friends. Of course, I also forget to whom I
loaned them. Fortunately a partial solution exists.
The Bookplate.
A year or so ago I started bugging the Big Local Bookstore
about stocking bookplates. There is hardly any room on the
shelves with all that 'Duck Dynasty' shit, I get it. I did finally
track some down. They're OK, but not personalized. I do
realize that it affects the value of my books, but I do not collect
them for their monetary value.
Recently I have found some pretty awesome bookplates in tomes
I have added to my collection. I sent a scan of my favorite to
a purveyor of bookplates called Bookplate Ink  They can re-
produce them and personalize with my initials. That may be a
purchase for another day, but it may be something I must do. Feel
free to touch my books, but just bring them back, Please.

If you would like to learn more or just see some awesome
pics,check out this website:
American Society of Bookplate Collectors and Designers.

Monday, August 8, 2016

The Nose

The Nose,
Victor Gogol
Melville House

"On the 25th of March, there took place in Petersburg a most extraordinarily strange occurrence."

While enjoying a breakfast of bread and onions (yum) the local barber, Ivan Yakovlevich, finds a nose in the bread. Of course, he recognizes the
nose. It belongs or belonged to one Collegiate
Assessor Kovalyov, whom he shaved every
Wednesday and Sunday. His lovely wife thinks that he cut off the nose while snookered. Of course, like you do, he tries to get rid of the evidence. Not as easy as it sounds, actually.
Well, it gets weird after this, we find that a nose can have a mind of it's own. If you can track this fun story down, I recommend that you do. It's delightfully absurd, and pokes fun at the bourgeois society of the time.
I am very partial to the Melville House, Art of the Novella edition.
Melville House publishes single editions of just one Novella for a great price as part of an overall project, called the Art of the Novella.
Here's a special review series on their webbie about the 'Nose'. Including a cool retro cartoon based on the novella.
What a great idea. I can't tell you how many collections I have bought just to get one story that I really want to read. They are beautifully printed and are reasonably priced. Each are colored a different color, and when I get more than two, I'm sure they will look great on my shelf.  

Buy the 'the Nose' at Melville House

Tuesday, August 2, 2016

Cat's Cradle

Cat's Cradle
Kurt Vonnegut Jr.

It's been at least twenty years since I first read 'Cat's Cradle'. I find KVJ's black humor entertaining, and it jives with my outlook on life.
Basically he believes that people do stupid things when they organize into large groups, the major religions are based on the worship of the penis, and war is the slaughter of the innocents.
KVJ's writing is certainly influenced by his WWII experiences. The futility of human struggle against his neighbors and the insanity of  Nuclear Weapons is a central theme in this book.
The spectre of the Cuban Missle crisis looms only a year behind 'Cat's Cradle's' publication.
Younger readers, including myself, have little context to compare to how terrifying that was . The slow and nebulous Global Warming threat and Terrorism are not even in the same ballpark.
It is hard to imagine how close humanity came to wiping themselves out for seemingly petty issues. Is that fear good for us. Did we learn anything. Certainly we've slowly ramped down the cold war rhetoric. If you asked most young people today I think the spectre of Mutually Assured Destruction would rank pretty low on their list.
Everything would be much better if we just sat face to face with the soles of our feet touching as opposed to having our hands around each others throats. (See book for the fictional religion, Bokononism)
Before I began writing this review I did a very bad thing, I went online and read the Wikipedia entry. I shan't do that again. It's a perfectly fine and exhaustive, but it may have tainted the experience.
I had just finished reading it an hour before and enjoyed it very much. Perhaps I should have waited a day or two  before starting the review.
Why should you read this book? It's sometimes silly, with funny words and a goofy, yet appealing, made up religion.
It's poignant, dark, well written, and extremely readable. A good rainy day would suffice. Try it, you'll not regret it.
Buy Cat's Cradle on Amazon.