Wednesday, May 10, 2006

Cell Block e

This is the corner i live in. nothing is ever really organized, but under the chaos, if you look, you will see some order. Books come and go, but the chaos never ends.

we picked up a great book the other day called 'only in books' by j. kevin graffagnino. it is an amazing anthology of quotes about books by the greatest minds throughout time. here's a couple to wet your whistle...

"This will never be a civilized country until we expend more money for books than we do for chewing gum"
-Elbert Hubbard

"It is those books which a man possesses but does not read which constitute the most suspicious evidence against him"
-Victor Hugo

"There are not in the world at any time more than a dozen persons who read and understand Plato"
-Ralph Waldo Emerson

Tuesday, May 09, 2006


"Life of Saint Mary Magdelen, 1904
Anonymous. Hawtrey, Valentina, translator.
John Lane: The Bodley Head, 1904
Decorative binding designed by Jessie M. King

OH MY GODDESS! What a day! e had showed me this auction that was up on ebay (knowing full well that I would freak out & need to have it "by any means necessary,") & sure enough that is exactly what happened... Today the auction (finally) ended at almost 2 A.M.. Are you wondering if we stayed awake to see it end? Let's just say that wild horses (or even heavy medication for that matter) couldn't have kept me away. As many of you probably know, the pressure can be incredible. In the last few hours we had to distract ourselves watching films so that I wouldn't have a complete melt down. Unfortunately the 2nd film wasn't able to do the job fully, so there i was, in the last 17 minutes, hitting the refresh button every couple of minutes... One day there will probably be a self-help group for ebayers who have gone over the edge (if there isn't one already,) and then they'll come up with a name for it: ebayaholic? ebayophile? any body else have any good ones? I almost lost it & increased the maximum bid in the last 10 minutes but decided that it was going to have to be okay one way or another. (And, besides, I felt that I was on "a mission from God/dess.) For all I knew there was some sniper waiting in the bushes with a couple of thousand ready to pounce on me. Luckily it wasn't necessary because, frankly, we collect books, not money. (If someone would've told me a year ago that one day I'd be spending so much on a single book I would've belly laughed!) All I knew was that I would raise this money some how, so I started making phone calls & got some backers.

Now that we've survived a tornado, I know that if it came down to it & there was some other disaster where I only had enough time to grab just one thing before I ran out the door, it would be this book. I'm thinking about making a box for it & placing it above my computer next to antique Last Supper print I found at a church rummage sale last year - it's one of the renditions showing the women at the table as women, not as efeminate-looking men without beards. Of course the women were there serving the food to the men! I mean, really...

I have been a Mary Magdalene "fan" since H.S. when I met my best friend who's name was Magdalene. I couldn't believe that her mother had named her after such a notorious woman so I asked her about it. She said that where her Mother was from in Mexico Mary Magdalene was not viewed as a prostitute, & that she was, instead, considered to be a Saint! This really floored me, especially since we were attending a pretty conservative Catholic high school. I secretly wanted to challenge Father Sweeney (our religion teacher) about how this could be possible. However, he was already challenged w/ my already over-the-top debating over the seeming contradictions within the New Testament. (Like how could The Church consider Mary, the Mother of Jesus as "ever-virgin" when the New Testament clearly states that she had children afer Jesus was born. Or how Joseph would've married her even though she was already pregnant. I can just imagine the scene "No, really, I wasn't with any one, honey, it was...uh, God! Yeah, that's it, God got me pregnant!" Yeah, right...Knowing the times women were subjected to endure during that period of our tedious existence, I doubt very much she wouldn't have just been stoned to death with a story like that.) Whenever poor Father Sweeney couldn't sufficiently explain my queries away, he would simply say "Look, we are supposed to take it on Faith, girl; it's not for us to try to understand these mysteries, they're way to complicated for our untrained minds - that's why we have The Church - to do this thinking for us!" Well, unfortunately (for him) that never really sated my appetite to uncover the truth (or obvious inconsistencies) & I would wait simply wait until class was over to continue my probe. I think it was particularly exasperating since I was an A student, and he couldn't just write me off as a trouble maker attempting to "rattle his cage," as my Dad would say. I've gotta hand it to him, for a fiery tempered ex-boxer from Ireland, he did pretty well... Perhaps deep inside he appreciated the interest in any case. I also was quite disgruntled that I wasn't allowed to be an "Altar Girl" (blasphemous even its very title which didn't even exist) while the notorious, brand-new-Lincoln-Continental-driving, drug-dealing sons of mafia gangsters in our school got the priveledge (& were known for falling asleep during Mass). As you can well imagine that this was one of those "mysteries" Father Sweeney would resort to telling me to take on faith. Hugh? That really boggled my teenage mind: "Why does The Church dislike women so much?" I would think.

This question lingered in my mind over the years until I came across the book Holy Blood, Holy Grail. Now this rang a lot truer for me than what I found in my Biblical studies. Of course Mary Magdalene wasn't what they said she was. Of course she was actually the wife of Jesus, this made perfect sense. Especially since that Jesus was at an age & position (Rabbai) where, by law, he would've been required to be married. He would've been in danger of violating Jewish law otherwise & they would've had a "real reason" to crucify him (and this is curious considering that Caesar clearly is perplexed over his troubled conscience because the blatant innocence of the Nazarene. And then in subsequent years, when hidden scrolls started to become unearthed, these questions have only intensified. Especially when it has been revealed that women's rightful place in spiritual history seems to have been highly edited.

My question, since meeting Magdelene Santiago in H.S. was "Why would The Church want to discredit Mary, and the position of women in general? Why was Eve labeled as The Temptress? Why are Catholic priests celebite (leading them into having to reduce themselves to taking on altar boys as sexual outlets)? What is the root of fear behind all of this? This fear of the most natural part of being human - our sexuality. What about "going forth and multiplying over the earth?" Without sex? And, what is the deal with blaming all the ills of our human existence on women? Surely we must be super powerful w/ so much suppression going on.

Being a woman growing up in the '60's and '70's with a Feminist as a Mother, this question lingers & will no doubt go unquenched until... ? Any clues, any map, any story, regardless of its "legitmacy" will not go unprobed or considered with great fervor. And, as I learned more about other groups who have been suppressed over time (Jews by the Nazis, African Americans, Salem Witches, the Native Americans, Ghandi, Malcolm X, Martin Luther King, Jr., John Lennon, John Kennedy,... the list is probably endless) I saw the corrolation between them - the common thread: when people are perceived to have a lot of power to influence the collective consciousness, other people want to have it for their own. And they will go to great lengths to ensure the realization of this, (and to silence them) including throwing them in prison or slandering their character, or even killing them.

But, I digress. So, back to the auction story. In any case, this volume would be mine. I knew this the minute I saw it. In the last day we were up against some rich guy who buys scuba gear & other high-priced recreational items, none of them even hinting at any kind of possible quest he was on. He probably has some over-sized diamond-fingered fiance he wants to impress. For me, however, this book is a piece of the grail, & I knew that it just couldn't fall into "the wrong hands."

When the auction ended, I decided to check my astro transits for the day. It seems that my sun is trining Venus right now & that any investment I make right now, especially in regards to antiques, etc., would be a good one! That topped the cake.

This will probably be the only time I ever make such a purchase, (unless there is another similar subject being unearthed). We're going to do research on this title & see if we can reprint it without copyright infringement. Yes, I'm on a mission...

If you'd like more info on this topic, click here: Magdalene

Or, if you'd like to find out more about the author of the introduction, click here: Vernon Lee

Monday, May 08, 2006


I think perhaps we are the luckiest book people around - our post office is located in our building! All we have to do is run downstairs (which is apparently how Steve, our Post Master, says he knows when we have an order to ship - he can hear Eddy, my partner, running down the stairs in the hallway next to the post office. I don't know how many times we have bragged to people about our Post Master; he really is the greatest asset our business has. Sometimes it feels like we've got "the Grand Parents Syndrome - you know, "OH, my grand daughter is sooo cute, wanna see some photos?" Only we didn't have photos, which is probably the only thing separating our zeal from theirs. Well, now we do have a photo! Isn't he great?

Steve has stuck by us through thick and tornado (8/18/05) and always has a sweet disposition (post office workers who have "gone postal" could take lessons from his calm demeanor under pressure!)
As you can probably guess from the fact that you've probably never heard of our town (Viola,) and you're probably pronouncing it V-ee-ola instead of V-eye-ola, we live in a small town. Very small. Population of 667: almost all of whom we see going up & down our stairs every day as they visit the Post Office. The other great thing about living in the Post Office Building is that it is also the hub of information for the community. Anything you want to know in terms of what's happening can be found out right there on those steps...

For those of you, who when you hear the word "Wisconsin," immediately see images of zealous sports fans dressed in cheese head hats, should know there is a very good reason for such behavior: it is also known as Packer Country. Our delightful postmaster is an avid Packer fan, (though it would be very difficult for me to imagine him with a cheese wedge on his head) and has found many of the Packer books we have come across irresistable. We're always on the look-out for new Packer books for him, but at our last book buying outing we spotted The Little Golden Book "Seven Little Postmen," & we just couldn't resist it! We gave it to him as a gift today (though we wish we could give him something bigger like free tickets to a Packer game or something more representative of his importance.) But he was happy with it (the vintage illustrations are sooo cute!) He said that the little boy looked like he did as a kid. Well, it turns out that there is a post office in another town that is putting together an exhibit of old time post office ephemera. He's going to loan it to them. Thanks Steve, You're the greatest!

This is a photo of The old feed mill in town, which was more recently being used as a "Flea Market." The owner Gene also has 2 other buildings, one is the old opera house, which seated 500 people in "The Day," a hundred years ago, and also the old Odd Fellows Hall. Both are gems. Gene is in the process of looking for interested buyers to take them over so he can move to his off-the-grid dream acre in Alaska. Our hope is that a fellow bibliophile will buy them & help to create a beautiful Mid-western Book Village with us. Let us know if you're interested...

Sunday, May 07, 2006

listless driftless rummaging

the last 24 hours was a book buying frenzy here in the hills of
wisconsin.  we completely missed the huge 100 mile  long mississippi
river rummage sale extravaganza. hundreds of sales on both wisconsin and minnesota sides of the river. oh well.  i heard about it from a nice old
woman in a tiny town on my way home.  she was having a sale in her
garage and we found a sweet cache of al-anon stuff and some delighful
old disney story books with nice 45's of the stories enclosed.  old
stuff, will mix very welll with my radio show, when i get around to doing it again. the lady talked with us about how people don't read anymore. we noticed that there were as many video cassette tapes of movies as there were books at her sale. we realized that of the 50 or so rummage sales we did hit this weekend, most sales had more video tapes than books. the woman ended up giving us a life size stuffed lime-green alien doll.

huge library sale in la crosse last night.  nowhere near the knock
down drag out kinda scene you find in madison sales.  this one was
polite and well organized.  and not one phuking cell phone or scouting
scanner.  those should be outlawed from library sale in my opinion.
too many people who grab a huge pile of the best titles, and then sit
and type the numbers into their cellphones, and leave with 10 prime
old science books and a huge pile of their discards which the library
volunteers have to reshelf before the morning. or worse, the folks who rummage through books with their ISBN barcode scanner. one woman at the madison sale was very obviously not at all interested or even looking at the titles, just at the price her little scanner brought back. that would be a funny hack, to reset the pricing setup so that the daniel steele paperbacks bring back big numbers and the valuable titles are passed over. but that would be mean.

back to the library books were the best. they had thousands, and unlike bigger library sales, the section was not a rugby match with poor children trying to escape the scrum of their desperate mothers frenzy. in fact, allegra was alone there for a a bit. we found some great kids books, a sweet mary magdalene book, 8 volumes of the shakespeare survey from the 1950's, to fill out my collection. in short a load of great non-fiction. we stayed away from the fiction,as that is not our strong point, and it all looks the same. on the way out i saw a free box of foreign affairs journals from the mid eighties. couldn't pass that up.

rummage sailing on a sunny spring saturday can be a religious experience at best, a bad dream at worst. we had a bit of both. every third sale had a nice title or two. always 10-25 cents. good to stock the shelves with the newer novels that the locals read. the bad dream was having to pee and not having the balls to ask the kind old ladies in their garages to use their wc.
but in the middle of squirming down the block of neighborhood bazaar, i stumbled on a mint 1961 copy of the LIBER USUALIS, edited by the benedictines of solesmes. This is a thick pre vatican II gregorian chant book in latin with rubrics in english. 25 cents for a classic slice of catholica. i think this copy is worth 40-50 bucks and oh do catholics love the pr-vatican II stuff. there is something elegantly romantic about a good mass, done the old school way. as we have a collection of a few thousand odd and old masses from the sheet music collection, this should fit in well.

anyway the church  next to my parents house had a book sale too, a day of bibliomania in the highest midwest sense.

the gem find at the church sale was 70 pristine 'collectible automobile' magazines spanning the years 1984-2002. each one mint in a mylar bag. we are in the process of listing them now, and the cars are amazing. we did some ebay research and found one auction where an 18 page article from one of the ones we bought sold for 217 dollars. wow.
i guess if you spend 100,000 on a nice old car, you don't mind paying a few hundred for an article with the history of the car and some killer photos. we think the collection os worth 400-500. some of the issues routinely sell for 5-10 and some for 50 and up. i think 'rodders' magazine has some higher value, at least older copies, but this bunch will pay for the weekend of acquisitions.

i think my favorite score from a cobwebbed corner of a garage in la crosse was a first edition 1939 book entitled 'the evolution of chiropractic' by a. aug. dye. this is a fascinating history of all aspects of this work. and the kick is it has a pristine dust jacket, and is signed by the author of the ffep. fnord! i just looked it up on abe and there is one copy there for 30.00. and it is a reprint of the 1939 original.
one woman liked my cheerful disposition and out of the blue GAVE me 2 folders full of exquisite prints of scarecrows, 15 in each, some color, some b/w. they were painted by a minnesota artist. lovely gift.

other memorable titles from the day include a first edition 'journeys out of the body', with sweet dj by robert monroe, who went on to found the monroe institute, where all the best Remote Viewers trained. a first 'up from nigger' by dick gregory, a few nice morman titles, some FE thomas mertons for the merton memorial shelf i have been collecting for, and a great copy of an obscure local title called kickapoo sunrise, a resource directory prepared by the kickapoo energy alternative staff. it's from the 70's and was put together by some great local 60's homesteaders. i have taught some of their kids and even grandkids at the waldorphish high school. one of the contributers is our resident bookfriend and cataloger mick,
Mick helps out at the shop sorting and explaining to me who all these obscure british lords and travelers were. he has an encyclopedic mind and has devised a 15 page organizational scheme for the books here. see picture...

on the theatre side, some great african and african american anthologies of plays, a book of gertrude steins operas and plays, and even an ubu by jarry, which we have been conspiring to put on recently with some of the dreamtime village folks.

on the way back into town after 24 hours of filling the back of the pickup
truck with a couple three hundred books and a rocking chair and some
boards for shelves and even a homemade green stuffed alien.  on the way into our town of 700, i see a small rummage sale.
the books were laid out on an old farm trailer, rusty wheels and greying oak boards. 80 years old. old
books on my two favorite subjects, Organic farming and Metaphysics.
quite a stash of rodale stuff, some uncommon titles on both the occult
side and the prestidigitation side of magic, pruning, grafting, card
tricks and odd fellows code books.  and to top it off a pamphlet on
the propagation of the eggplant.  and a lovely first edition of the
flying saucer conspiracy.

life is good.

when we arrived home we found that 20 of our paragon piano concertos had sold on ebay, lots of henselt, hummel, tschaikowski, and some liszt. no one has bought the bukowski, but we did upload some more pictures to excentuate the beat up very good condition.

In the morning is the packing and posting, but hey the post office is right downstairs and steve our postman always has all the latest news, so that is always worth looking forward to.

from the hills of south west wisconsin