Are we there yet?

Tuesday, February 20, 2018

We got stuck trying to search for a book on Abe.com. So we got the expert in, to show us how this weekend!

Rare Book Cafe is delighted to invite you to visit with us and Abe.com’s public relations director, Richard Davies, on our February 24, 2018 program, at 2.30 pm EDT.
There seems to be little Davies has not seen in the book trade. Of what remains, he is like Aristotle: no matter the direction in which we strike, we meet him on the way back. But among the things we’ll be chatting him up on will be the growth of women in bookselling and collecting, and tips on how to do a search in Abe’s vast databases that will get you useful and timely information!
Abebooks is one of the principal sponsors of this year’s Florida Antiquarian Book Fair as well. The vent will be April 20-22 at the fabulous art deco Coliseum in St Petersburg.
Of his career, Davies says:
I joined AbeBooks in 2005. Although I have always loved books and been an avid reader, I realized that my knowledge of books was actually rather limited when I began working with rare booksellers. I work in the marketing department as the company’s PR person so I deal with books and booksellers on a daily basis.

Davies penguins.jpg

I am fascinated by the rare and collectible items that are listed for sale each day and the sales that are made each day. By studying these rare books for more than 10 years, I have acquired a reasonably sound knowledge of this business. Of course, AbeBooks is an online marketplace so I never have the books in my hand. I am reliant on the information and images provided by sellers. I also spend many hours on the telephone, listening to what sellers have to say. I try to visit used and rare bookshops when travelling – the most expensive book that I have ever handled was a first edition of Leaves of Grass and I felt scared to touch it. That’s a piece of American history right there.  I recently visited both the New York Public Library and the Morgan Library (which are two blocks apart), and found both places to be amazing. The Morgan had a Gutenberg bible on display – it was the first time I’d ever seen one.
Helping to sell an expensive item on behalf of a seller is a very gratifying experience. I am extremely motivated when I come across things that are truly unique or have immense cultural or historical significance.
I am a former journalist and that background means I am drawn to unusual items. Edith Wharton’s baby rattle takes some beating. Listed for sale in 2015, this was no ordinary rattle. Made from sterling silver, it contained a whistle, was engraved with the word ‘Edith’, and had a red coral teething section.
In 2008, George Bernard Shaw’s Remington Noiseless Portable Typewriter was listed for sale. Imagine typing out a letter on that historic machine. Along the top edge of the guarantee in faded ink, Shaw had written the words ‘Bernard Shaw, Ayot St Lawrence, Welwyn Herts.”’
Truman Capote’s birth certificate is currently for sale at close to $35,000 but that’s relatively affordable compared to Jack Kerouac’s signed original painting of his brother, Gerard. Albert Einstein’s childhood building blocks are still very much useable, but would you want to build castles with something that costs more than $160,000?
John Updike’s senior class high school yearbook is just one of many yearbooks on AbeBooks featuring people of significance… before they were significant. There’s a Bolivian catechism from circa 1850 written on llama skin, a check signed by Edgar Rice Burroughs for a mere 50 cents, and many more highly unusual items that we don’t spot. And there was the time that Eugene O’Neill’s underpants were listed for sale.
All these items are well out of my personal price range but I enjoy finding and buying quirky and unusual books that can be picked up cheaply. Examples would be I Seem To Be a Verb by Buckminster Fuller (a crazy book that shows what today’s Internet would have looked like in the early 1970s) and The Poison Cookbook from Peter Pauper Press.

davies king.jpg

I also enjoy reading non-fiction, particularly memoirs and biographies. Travel is one of my favorite genres. I love the writing of Patrick Leigh Fermor, Jan Morris, Eric Newby and Bruce Chatwin. Patrick Leigh Fermor started walking across Europe when he was 18 – that still blows my mind. He walked across Germany as the Nazis were flexing their muscles. How can anyone just walk across a continent? Newby is funny and touching – Love and War in the Apennines is a very, very special book. Chatwin was probably bonkers too – In Patagonia and The Songlines are both remarkable reads. Morris’ book on Oxford – where I lived for many years – is so perceptive.
AbeBooks is thrilled to be one of the sponsors of this year’s Florida Antiquarian Book Fair and I’m sure it’s going to be a great event for visitors and the dealers attending.


Rare Book Cafe is sponsored by the Florida Antiquarian Book Fair. It’s broadcast every Saturday from 2.30 to 3.30 pm EDT and features interviews, panel discussion and stuff you can learn about book collecting whether you are a regular at Sotheby’s or just someone who likes books.
The program airs live on Rare Book Cafe’s and the Florida Antiquarian Book Fair’s Facebook page; the Book Fair Blog, and the Book Fairs YouTube channel. Shows are archived on YouTube and can also be viewed on the Facebook pages, and the blog after their first run.
Hosted by Miami book dealer, appraiser and WDBFRadio.com’s Bucks on the Bookshelf radio show creator Steven Eisenstein, the program features a revolving set of cohosts and regular guests including Thorne Donnelley of Liberty Book Store in Palm Beach Gardens, Florida; Lindsay Thompson of Charlotte’s Henry Bemis Books; miniature books expert Edie Eisenstein; and program creator/producer T. Allan Smith.
Rare Book Cafe program encourages viewer participation via its interactive features and video: if you've got an interesting book, join the panel and show it to us! If you’d like to ask the team a question or join us in the virtually live studio audience for the program, write us at rarebookcafe@gmail.com.

Thursday, February 15, 2018

Wednesday, February 14, 2018

Win a first edition this weekend on Rare Book Cafe!

This week’s Florida Antiquarian Book Fair Contest is sponsored by St. Petersburg’s Lighthouse Books. The prize is a first edition of a classic novel by the wild man of Florida literature, Harry Crews- The Mulching of America.




Kirkus Reviews’ reviewer had to purse his/her lips:

For 25 years, Hickum Looney has sold the most products for the Soaps For Life company, a record exceeded only by the Boss himself, a snaggle-toothed maniac with a harelip who promises salvation through his crappy soap products and has amassed a fortune doing it. Hickum, based in Miami, leads the properly anonymous existence of a company man, but everything changes when two females come into his lonely life. Ida Mae, an old woman abandoned by her husband, helps Hickum sell more products in a single day than anyone else has ever sold. This has incredible repercussions at the home office in Atlanta, where the Boss sees his worldview challenged. Meanwhile, Gaye Nell Odell, a young ex- prostitute, along with her vicious pit bull, Bubba, shoves her way into Hickum's solitary life. She and the equally ``rank and randy'' Ida Mae help Hickum overcome such embarrassments as chronic diarrhea and insecurity about his ``little raggedy ass Vienna sausage'' of a penis. The Boss has his own problems: his chauffeur, an ex-con who's tired of being booted in the butt; and his trainer, who suffers similar physical abuse for the money. The two are plotting revenge when the entire crew is sidetracked by an even stranger plot involving a major company shakeup and the fulfillment of a long-held rumor concerning the fate of ousted employees.

Imagine, if you can, a cross between Erskine Caldwell, Flannery O’Connor, William Faulkner and Carson McCullers. Imagine him, next, a frequently drunk, profane ex-Marine who said he grew up in “the hookworm and rickets belt” of South Georgia. If you can conjure the likes of that, then you’ll feel right at home in the works of the novelist Harry Eugene Crews (1935-2012).

His family, and all his new neighbors as they moved, once a year, from one played out sharecropper farm to another, were so poor and ignorant most others who were poor and ignorant would have gazed on them, scratched their heads in wonder, and said, “Really?”

His childhood reading was mostly the Sears and Roebuck catalogue. Besides owning all the cool stuff in the world, they were astonishingly clean and happy-looking. At five, he survived a bout with polio, his legs drawn up behind him, racking him in spasms, as relatives, gawkers and faith healers consulted on the case.

After he got his legs back, he managed to fall into a cauldron of scalding water used to sear the hair off hog carcasses, and lived. 

After three years in the Marines, he got a BA in literature and an MA in education at the University of Florida, where he studied with the Southern Agrarians novelist Andrew Lytle. 

Even by the lurid standard of postwar Southern Gothic, Crews’ work was weird. He was 36 when his first novel was published. Margalit Fox wrote of it in his New York Times obit,

“The Gospel Singer,” published in 1968, [was] about a traveling evangelist who meets a lurid fate in a Georgia town, features characters of the sort that would people his dozen later novels: sideshow freaks, an escaped lunatic and a sociopath or two.

“You don’t intend to make a career out of midgets, do you?” Mr. Crews’s wife asked him early in his writing life.

Indeed he did. Besides midgets, later novels feature a 600-pound man who consumes titanic quantities of the diet drink Metrecal (“Naked in Garden Hills,” 1969); a woman who sings tenderly to her dead husband’s skull (“Scar Lover,” 1992); and, perhaps most famously, a man who eats an automobile — a 1971 Ford Maverick, to be exact — four ounces at a sitting (“Car,” 1972).

Crews and his wife married and divorced twice in a decade. They had two sons, and one drowned when he was four.

With articles in men’s magazines like Playboy and Esquire, Crews built following. Margalit Fox wrote,

Though his books captivated many reviewers, they were not the stuff of best-seller lists, in part because they bewildered some readers and repelled others. But they attracted a cadre of fans so fiercely devoted that the phrase “cult following” seems inadequate to describe their ardor...Despite their teeming decadence, or more likely because of it, Mr. Crews’s novels betray a fundamental empathy, chronicling his characters’ search for meaning in a dissolute, end-stage world. His ability to spin out a dark, glittering thread from this tangle of souls gave him a singular voice that could make his prose riveting.

In addition to his journalism, Crews published fifteen novels, three collection of essays, and a memoir of his childhood. A rock band was named for him, and several others wrote songs based on his work. One of his books, The Indian Runner, was made into a movie by Sean Penn.

He quit drinking in the 1980s. It just seemed like the thing to do at the time. “I had an ex-wife and I had an ex-kid and I had an ex-dog and I had an ex-house and I’m an ex-drunk,” he told The Times in 2006. “I’ve supported whores and dopers and drunks and bartenders. Thank God I don’t do that anymore.”

"Listen,” he told one of his last interviewers, “if you want to write about all sweetness and light and that stuff, go get a job at Hallmark."


The Quiz Question:

Of Harry Crews’ movie credits, were any not as himself? Discuss.



The Rules:

On Facebook, Private Message Lindsay Thompson with your answers. Answers will be accepted until 9 pm Friday, February 16, 2018. All correct answers will be sealed in a carefully cleaned Tostitos Creamy Spinach Dip Jar that no one from Price Waterhouse will get within miles of. The winner will be announced on the Rare Book Cafe show Saturday, February 17, 2018, 2:30-3:30 pm EST, on the Cafe’s Facebook page. 

Tuesday, February 13, 2018

From Swamp Apes to Swamped Stock, it's another jam-packed week of book adventure on Rare Book Cafe



The Florida Antiquarian Book Fair is only 61 days away from this Saturday, and Rare Book Cafe is full of Sunshine State book folk:

-Born in Orlando, Florida, Rob Smith Jr is a regular at the Book Fair, turning out drawings of fairgoers all weekend long. He started drawing caricatures at theme parks while still in high school. He attended the Ringling School of Art in Sarasota, Florida, the Joe Kubert School of Cartoon and Graphic Art in Dover, New Jersey, and Rollins College in Orlando.

Hired in 1985 as a draftsman and artist for the City of Orlando by Jeff Parker- who went on to work with Mike Peters on the Mother Goose and Grimm syndicated comic- Smith contributed editorial cartoons to the Winter Park, Florida Observer and did caricature work at places like Walt Disney World and Gatorland.

Smith joined the National Cartoonists Society in 1995. He has also been a member of the American Association of Editorial Cartoonists.

His editorial cartoons are conservative in tone and focus on social issues as well as politics.

Smith drew syndicated editorial cartoons for DBR Media and a weekly cartoon for the Glenn Beck Program. His work has been recognized with awards from the Florida Press Association.

Smith currently contributes editorial cartoons to various sources, including the Glenn Beck Program, the late Phyllis Schlafly’s Eagle Forum, and various other conservative websites.

He created Swampy's Florida in 2005 with a focus on Florida history and travel. There are currently over a dozen Swampy's Florida books, 54 prints, 17 greeting cards and 2 DVDs. His website gives a colorful example of the range of his work.

Smith’s last visit to the Cafe, in January 2016, inadvertently alarmed some viewers as he turned out to be phoning in from a Civil War Battle reenactment, talking to us via his phone at the end of a selfie stick as rifles popped and cannon boomed (the carnage begins at 13 minutes):



-Steve Bolter, of Palm Coast’s Sleuth Books, is Florida’s undrownable rare book dealer. After a quarter-century in the business, Steve and his wife, Pam, survived two ruinous hurricane-driven storms and floods in an eleven-month period during 2016-17 (a gofundme.com appeal organized by friends is still open).

Sleuth Books specializes in Juvenile Series, Children's books, Florida History, Sports, Mystery, and Animals. Sleuth is located in the beautiful Hammock, right off of A1A in Flagler County.

Here’s a 2014 Book Fair video in which Bolter describes a favorite book.




Rare Book Cafe is streamed every Saturday from 2.30 to 3.30 pm EDT. We feature interviews, panel discussion and stuff you can learn about book collecting whether you are a regular at Sotheby’s or just someone who likes books.

The program airs live on Rare Book Cafe’s Facebook page, and remain there after the show.

The program’s regular guests include Miami book dealer, appraiser and WDBFRadio.com’s Bucks on the Bookshelf radio show creator Steven Eisenstein, Thorne Donnelley of Liberty Book Store in Palm Beach Gardens, Florida; Lindsay Thompson of Charlotte’s Henry Bemis Books; miniature books expert Edie Eisenstein;  and program creator/producer T. Allan Smith.

We enjoy the support and encouragement of these booksellers:A Bric-A-Brac in Miami;  Little Sages Books in Hollywood, Florida; Liberty Books in Palm Beach Gardens; As Time Goes By, in Marion, Alabama; Quill & Brush in Dickerson, Maryland; Lighthouse Books in St. Petersburg; The Ridge Books in Calhoun, Georgia; A-Bric-A-Brac in Miami Beach; and Henry Bemis Books in Charlotte.

Rare Book Cafe program encourages viewer participation via its interactive features and video: if you've got an interesting book, join the panel and show it to us! If you’d like to ask the team a question or join us in the virtual live studio audience for the program, write us at rarebookcafe@gmail.com.


No two ways about it, a very Gorey business.


The first major show of the works of the major American 20thC illustrator Edward Gorey (he of the PBS "Mystery" titles, now whittled down to a nub) has opened at New England's Wadsworth Athenaeum.

The show predates Gorey's 93rd birthday by a fortnight; Henry Bemis Books' bio of the master of Victorian eccentricity is here.

Rare Book Cafe feature Gorey stories in one of our 2017 episodes. Cape Cod bookseller Jim Visbeck, of Isaiah Thomas Books, joined us last March and remembered his neighbor- who died in 2000- down the road a ways. 

Here's a look back at one of our most entertaining guests- and the first whose interview was pre-recorded and then broadcast in a live show:



Rare Book Cafe happens every week on Saturdays at 2.30p EST. But you can watch it on demand, on our Facebook page, and at the Florida Antiquarian Book Fair YouTube channel.

Tuesday, February 6, 2018

Books from Key Largo: an island dealer talks paradise, sunshine, and collecting on Rare Book Cafe!



Blind Horse Books is operated by Richard and Dottie Oates, retired educators who live in the Florida Keys. The couple are internet book sales pioneers, having opened their online shop in 1999.

“Though we specialize in travel, exploration and geography books from the mid-19th Century to World War II,” they’re written, “our site has books of note for all interests.  Let us know if you have specific interests and we will contact you when we find material you might enjoy.”

Blind Horse Books is a member of the antiquarian booksellers' associations of Florida and the United States, and the International Online Booksellers Association.

The Oatses are regulars at the Florida Antiquarian Book Fair and will be giving us a preview of the treasures they plan to bring forth from their island fastness.

We’re looking forward to talking with Richard about these, and many other things, this Saturday, February 10th’s Rare Book Cafe!




Rare Book Cafe is streamed every Saturday from 2.30 to 3.30 pm EDT. We feature interviews, panel discussion and stuff you can learn about book collecting whether you are a regular at Sotheby’s or just someone who likes books.

The program airs live on Rare Book Cafe’s Facebook page, and remain there after the show.

The program’s regular guests include Miami book dealer, appraiser and WDBFRadio.com’s Bucks on the Bookshelf radio show creator Steven Eisenstein, Thorne Donnelley of Liberty Book Store in Palm Beach Gardens, Florida; Lindsay Thompson of Charlotte’s Henry Bemis Books; miniature books expert Edie Eisenstein;  and program creator/producer T. Allan Smith.

We enjoy the support and encouragement of these booksellers:A Bric-A-Brac in Miami;  Little Sages Books in Hollywood, Florida; Liberty Books in Palm Beach Gardens; As Time Goes By, in Marion, Alabama; Quill & Brush in Dickerson, Maryland; Lighthouse Books in St. Petersburg; The Ridge Books in Calhoun, Georgia; A-Bric-A-Brac in Miami Beach; and Henry Bemis Books in Charlotte.

 Rare Book Cafe program encourages viewer participation via its interactive features and video: if you've got an interesting book, join the panel and show it to us! If you’d like to ask the team a question or join us in the virtual live studio audience for the program, write us at rarebookcafe@gmail.com.

Thursday, February 1, 2018

Previews of the Past: this weekend's Cafe guest, Mark Alexander, from 2017!

Here's a blast from the Rare Book cafe's past: in 2017 rare poetry dealer Mark Alexander sat down to chat with us about his work. He'll be back this Saturday on Rare Book Cafe, 2.30 pm live EDT  on our Facebook page. Join us!


Tuesday, January 30, 2018

February 3 on Rare Book Cafe: As Leonardo reminds us, "“Painting is poetry that is seen rather than felt, and poetry is painting that is felt rather than seen.”



Hillsborough, NC’s Mark Alexander’s rare book turf is literary firsts, especially poetry, important fiction, fine printing and publishing ephemera; with a particular interest in signed/inscribed books, association copies, books by and about Vladimir Nabokov, and advanced and uncorrected proof copies. About ⅔ of his 8000-volume inventory is poetry, he says.


» 19th C
» African-American
» Avant Garde
» Beat
» Biography/Bibliography
» Black Mountain
» British
» British/Scottish
» Broadsides/Art
» Canadian
» catalog1
» Contemporary
» Early 20th C
» Ephemera
» Experimental/Concrete
» Fiction
» Fine Press
» Formalist/New Formalist
» Graphic Novel/Comic
» Haiku/Asian
» Irish
» Letters/manuscripts
» Literary Journals
» Mid-Century
» Modern Literature
» Moderns
» Native American
» New York School
» Objectivist
» Play
» Poetry
» Publishing Ephemera/History
» Punk/Rock
» Radical
» San Francisco Renaissance
» Small Press
» Southern
» Vladimir Nabokov
» War Poets
» World

We’re looking forward to talking with him about these, and many other things, this Saturday, February 3rd’s Rare Book Cafe!

Rare Book Cafe is streamed every Saturday from 2.30 to 3.30 pm EDT. We feature interviews, panel discussion and stuff you can learn about book collecting whether you are a regular at Sotheby’s or just someone who likes books.

The program airs live on Rare Book Cafe’s Facebook page, and remain there after the show.

The program’s regular guests include Miami book dealer, appraiser and WDBFRadio.com’s Bucks on the Bookshelf radio show creator Steven Eisenstein, Thorne Donnelley of Liberty Book Store in Palm Beach Gardens, Florida; Lindsay Thompson of Charlotte’s Henry Bemis Books; miniature books expert Edie Eisenstein;  and program creator/producer T. Allan Smith.

We enjoy the support and encouragement of these booksellers:A Bric-A-Brac in Miami;  Little Sages Books in Hollywood, Florida; Liberty Books in Palm Beach Gardens; As Time Goes By, in Marion, Alabama; Quill & Brush in Dickerson, Maryland; Lighthouse Books in St. Petersburg; The Ridge Books in Calhoun, Georgia; A-Bric-A-Brac in Miami Beach; and Henry Bemis Books in Charlotte.

 Rare Book Cafe program encourages viewer participation via its interactive features and video: if you've got an interesting book, join the panel and show it to us! If you’d like to ask the team a question or join us in the virtual live studio audience for the program, write us at rarebookcafe@gmail.com.

Tuesday, January 23, 2018

Saturday, January 27: It's the Cafe's Lost & Found Guests Show!





"A familiar face around the southeastern US book fair circuit, David A. Hamilton is Rare Book Cafe’s August 13 guest," began Rare Book Cafe's promo in late summer, 2015.

The night of August 12, 2015, co-host Lindsay Thompson signed in to Blab.im, the videoconferencing site the show'd been using, and, gasped.

It was gone. Shut down. The site- which had gained notoriety as the home of all-night mologues by "Pharma Bro" Martin Shkreli while still in beta- was closed by its developers. They posted a cryptic note about pursuing other things.

So we had to cancel one of our two January 20, 2018 guests, David Hamilton.

But now, after 29 months, David Hamilton will make his Cafe visit at last!

Not only will we talk with Hamilton about his ABAA/IOBA member bookstore, Americana Books in Stone Mountain, GA, we’ll learn more about the Georgia Antiquarian Booksellers Association, whose annual Georgia Book and Paper Fair is slated for September 3-4, 2016 in Decatur. Hamilton is the Association’s treasurer.

Open since 1993, Hamilton’s business focuses on “books and printed materials that are focused on our country's rich and historic culture including unique narratives, regional histories, reminiscences, obscure imprints, books with provenance and associations, journals, ledgers, diaries, manuscripts, photograph albums, and ephemera.”

“Our history is full of dramatic stories of rise and fall, heroism, tragedy, conflict, scandal, oppression, struggle, victory and inspiration. Recorded narratives of pioneer travellers, civil war soldier’s battle reminiscences, or civil rights struggles opens a window into the past to see how people lived, survived, where they came from, what they experienced and so on.  The past is chronicled in a wide assortment of books and ephemera. Reading about our shared history stimulates our imagination and grabs our attention. Compared to the rest of the World, American History is fresh and evolving. Our culture is very diverse and constantly changing. These trends provides us with plenty of new stories and information. We hope our customers will share our passion for the personal, historical and descriptive stories that have been written and preserve them for future generations to read and enjoy,” Hamilton explains.

The store is located in the historic Stone Mountain Village near Atlanta.

Richard Mori (right) at the 2014 Florida Antiquarian Book Fair, with comedian Meredith Meyers, the Standup Librarian.


Also joining us Saturday is another guest who got away. Richard Mori was set to joining the Cafe from the fabulous St Petersburg Coliseum January 13, while he was there for a collectibles show.

But came the afternoon, and didn't come the Mori. He had the best of all problems: he was so busy selling things he brought to St Petersburg, he couldn't take a break. But he, too, wanted to join us, and so cleared time for this coming weekend.

Richard Mori is a local dealer of antiquarian or used books and has been buying and selling for over 25 years. His passion is selling, buying, appraising and enjoying rare and antiquarian books. He spends time traveling around the country attending book and antique shows.

After scouting Franklin for some storage space for his book collection, he and a friend opened Franklin Falls Book and Art Store on July 1, 2017. The store carries used and collectible books, over 5,000 postcards and even a historic piece on the City of Franklin from 1895 that’s in pristine condition.

Mori’s expertise ranges from the author Tasha Tudor to Boy and Girl Scouts books and ephemera (here’s an audio interview about that) to children’s books. A Denver Post reporter profiled him on a visit to the Mile High City:

Collectors first started to take notice of children's books in the 1930s, but the genre began to hit its collectible stride in the 1980s as boomers reached an age where they were stricken by nostalgia for childhood.

Their old children's books became a way to recapture that time, said Richard Mori, a New Hampshire book dealer. Mori will be on a panel that will discuss collecting children's books at 1 p.m. Saturday at the Rocky Mountain Antiquarian Book Fair…

Mori said children's books are the babies of literature, with very few published before the 1870s and 1880s.

"To put it into perspective: They have been publishing books for 500 years, but it is really in the last 200 years that they have actually printed anything oriented to children and, in truth, it is only in the last 100 years or so that children's books have had a very defined market,'' he said.

The birth of children's literature resulted from societal changes spurred by the Industrial Revolution, technological advances in printing after the Civil War, especially chromolithography, and the emergence in England of a group of talented artists trained to illustrate books, Mori said.

The artists were a key ingredient in the new popularity of kids' books. Among them were Howard Pyle, Kate Greenaway, Jessie Wilcox and Walter Crane.

Then in the 1930s Joseph Blanck published "Peter Parley to Penrod,'' which was a guide to the best-loved American juvenile books.

Library, schools and other institutions built children's collection using Blanck's book. Its list of some 100 books included "Captain January'' by Laura Richards, Pyle's "Otto of the Silver Hand,'' "Little Lord Fauntleroy'' by Frances Burnett and "Peterkin Papers'' by Lucretia Hale.

"That was probably the seed that started in earnest the collecting of children's books,'' Mori said.

*****

Rare Book Cafe is streamed by the Florida Antiquarian Book Fair every Saturday from 2.30 to 3.30 pm EDT. We feature interviews, panel discussion and stuff you can learn about book collecting whether you are a regular at Sotheby’s or just someone who likes books.

The program airs live on Rare Book Cafe’s Facebook page, and remain there after the show.

The program’s regular guests include Miami book dealer, appraiser and WDBFRadio.com’s Bucks on the Bookshelf radio show creator Steven Eisenstein, Thorne Donnelley of Liberty Book Store in Palm Beach Gardens, Florida; Lindsay Thompson of Charlotte’s Henry Bemis Books; miniature books expert Edie Eisenstein; and program creator/producer T. Allan Smith.

We enjoy the support and encouragement of these booksellers:A Bric-A-Brac in Miami;  Little Sages Books in Hollywood, Florida; Liberty Books in Palm Beach Gardens; As Time Goes By, in Marion, Alabama; Quill & Brush in Dickerson, Maryland; Lighthouse Books in St. Petersburg; The Ridge Books in Calhoun, Georgia; A-Bric-A-Brac in Miami Beach; and Henry Bemis Books in Charlotte.

 Rare Book Cafe program encourages viewer participation via its interactive features and video: if you've got an interesting book, join the panel and show it to us! If you’d like to ask the team a question or join us in the virtual live studio audience for the program, write us at rarebookcafe@gmail.com.

Friday, January 19, 2018

Coming Saturday: What makes a cult writer? And what makes one collectible?


On January 20th's Rare Book Cafe, cohost Lin Thompson will consider the half-lives of cult writers, short and long. Here's a case study from half a century ago:

“I have always wanted to write a book that ended with the word 'mayonnaise.’”

Richard Gary Brautigan (1935-1984)
Novelist, poet

His friend, the author Tom McGuane- who actually liked Brautigan- said, when the Sixties ended, Brautigan was “the baby thrown out with the bathwater”: a fad, “nothing but a pet rock! A fucking hula hoop!”  

Lawrence Ferlinghetti, who knew him for years, called him “a willful naif”- “he was forever waiting to grow up.”

Terence Malley observed in his Richard Brautigan: Writers for the Seventies, "In general, people who write or talk about Brautigan tend to be either snidely patronizing or vacuously adoring." 

The book critic Jonathan Yardley called Brautigan “the Love Generation’s answer to Charlie Schultz. Happiness is a warm hippie.”

To most over sixty, he is forgotten; to most under sixty, unknown.

Brautigan, who published 23 books in 27 years, could hardly have had less promising beginnings. His mother, Lulu, was a waitress in Tacoma, Washington, who split up with his dad eight months before he was born. She drifted around the Pacific Northwest for years, marrying four times and having a child each time, until the 1940s, when the family settled in Eugene, Oregon. 

He remembered the family going days with little to eat, and being left alone, at five, with his stepsister, for two days in a motel in Great Falls, Montana.

He graduated high school in Eugene, published a poem or two in the school paper, and made a name on the basketball court (by eighteen he stood 6’4”). He yo-yoed between Eugene and San Francisco in 1954-55, coming home when he ran out of money. 

In December 1955, depressed over a failed romance, he walked into the Eugene Police Department and asked to be arrested. The police said no, so he pitched a brick through their front window. Hospitalized for a year, he was diagnosed with depression and paranoid schizophrenia and treated with electroconvulsive therapy. He wrote a short novel, The God of the Martians, composed of twenty 600-word chapters.

Released, he returned to San Francisco and remained there the rest of his life. He tried to make himself a poet, passing out mimeographed verse on the streets and getting rejection letters from publishers. His first published poem, a long verse called The Return of the River, came out in 1957, and he published small collections in 1958 and 1959. 

In the 1960s, Brautigan eked out a life. His wife and child left him in 1960, alarmed by his alcohol-medicated depressions. Still, he began to get some traction. 

His novel, A Confederate General in Big Sur, was a flop in 1964, but Trout Fishing In America (1967) got the roll of the zeitgeist dice down, and became a bestseller. Between 1968 and 1970 he published 23 short pieces in Rolling Stone. 

In 1969, Kurt Vonnegut championed Brautigan with Vonnegut's publisher, which picked up his backlist and boosted the young writer’s sales and critical reputation.

A Poetry Foundation bio of Brautigan sums up his appeal in those days:

Despite Brautigan's off-beat and fantastic prose, Malley asserted that he "is very much in the American grain." Similarly, Dictionary of Literary Biography's Novak noted of Trout Fishing in America: "It has a traditional theme of American novels: the influence of the American frontier and wilderness on the American imagination, its lifestyle, its economics, its ethics, its therapies, its religion, its politics." 

Kenneth Seib, writing in Critique: Studies in Modern Fiction, also observed an attachment to a typically American literary genre: "For all its surface peculiarity,... [Trout Fishing in America] is centrally located within a major tradition of the American novel—the romance—and is conditioned by Brautigan's concern with the bankrupt ideals of the American past. Its seemingly loose and episodic narrative, its penchant for the marvelous and unusual, its pastoral nostalgia—all of these things give it that sense of 'disconnected and uncontrolled experience' which Richard Chase finds essential to the romance-novel."

Similarly, David L. Vanderwerken commented, also in Critique: Studies in Modern Fiction, "In choosing to write the kind of fiction that he does—symbolic, parabolic, fantastic—Brautigan clearly aligns himself with the tradition of American romancers, as opposed to that of the realists." 

A concern with nature coupled with often surreal and whimsical plots typifies Brautigan's novels, which combine pastoral imagery with an examination of social disintegration within the contemporary human condition.

He was compared to Thoreau, Twain, and Donald Barthelme, only with bleaker humor and less optimism; one of his recurring themes was how American believed they could rid themselves of the baneful effects of technology and pollution through the use of technology and pollution. He was signed to do a spoken word album on The Beatles’ short-lived Zapple label, which was shuttered after he recorded but before release; EMI eventually picked it up. 

Trout Fishing sold over four million copies and cemented Brautigan as the new fiction star, crossing over from the late Beats to the new hippie dawn. Brautigan, who loathed hippies, saw himself as an endlessly evolving stylist. He could never write another Trout Fishing, he said. Once it was done he dismantled the machine and scattered its parts in the back yard to rust (he didn’t much like The Beats, either, after Allen Ginsberg, who took an instant dislike to him, nicked him “Frood”).

Dwight Garner, reviewing a 2012 biography, Jubilee Hitchhiker, wrote, 

Generations of anglers have picked up “Trout Fishing in America” based on its title alone, expecting a how-to volume. What they get instead is akin to a gentle tab of LSD: an eccentric and slyly profound novel, seemingly narrated by the ghost of trout fishing past and filled with surreal post-“Walden” visions like a dismembered trout stream for sale at a junkyard.

In that way, the book is not unlike David James Duncan’s 1980s bestseller, The River Why: a fish story about life.

While the living was good, Brautigan lived very well. He reveled in fame, Garner continued, 

in gonzo times in Montana with writers like Mr. McGuane and Jim Harrison, and wildcats like Warren Zevon, Rip Torn, Jeff Bridges, Dennis Hopper and Harry Dean Stanton.

Brautigan was essentially a loner, but he had a Zelig-like quality and seemed to know everyone and go everywhere. He drank heavily in Western bars with the young Jimmy Buffett. 

He shot basketball and tore up money (a long story, that one) with Jack Nicholson. He had an impromptu pasta sauce cook-off with Francis Ford Coppola. 

He drunkenly pointed a rifle at Wim Wenders, who had mildly criticized the translation in one of Brautigan’s German editions. 

Janis Joplin wanted him to name her new band.

His penchant for brick-throwing was lifelong:

Bored at a party one night, he hurled a brick through a window, a typical Brautigan performance. When the host screamed at him, he replied, “I don’t want things to be predictable.” He and director Sam Peckinpah shared a fondness for shooting at alley cats from hotel room windows.

Five novels followed in the 1970s, probably the best of which was The Abortion: A Historical Romance 1966. He married again, 1977-80, and conducted serial affairs before, during and after his marriages. 

“Happiness for Brautigan” Garner wrote,  “usually meant, to borrow the title of an undervalued W. M. Spackman novel, an armful of warm girl.”

In San Francisco, where he mostly lived, and elsewhere, he had groupies and would hit on ‘anything that wasn’t nailed down,’ one friend commented. He put some of his favorite bohemian cuties on the front of his books. ‘Richard’s sexual archive,’ another friend said, ‘is reflected on his book covers.” Brautigan may have been having a flash of self-awareness when he wrote,

“I will be very careful the next time I fall in love, she told herself. Also, she had made a promise to herself that she intended on keeping. She was never going to go out with another writer: no matter how charming, sensitive, inventive or fun they could be. They weren't worth it in the long run. They were emotionally too expensive and the upkeep was complicated. They were like having a vacuum cleaner around the house that broke all the time and only Einstein could fix it. She wanted her next lover to be a broom.” 

The poor man’s David Foster Wallace, he was often miserably depressed, contemplated suicide, drank too much.The sudden collapse of his popularity made matters worse. In his last years, he couldn’t find a publisher willing to take his work. 

Alone, he retreated to a big, old house he bought in Bolinas, a Marin County beach town, and there he killed himself in September 1982. It was a month before the body was found, so reclusive had he become.

Brautigan’s influence can be best seen in the works of W.P. Kinsella (The Iowa Baseball Conspiracy) and the more recent novels of the Japanese author Haruki Murikawa (1Q84). 

In The Abortion, Brautigan’s hero is the librarian of a very unusual California library which accepts books in any form and from anyone who wishes to drop one off at the library—children submit tales told in crayon about their toys; teenagers tell tales of angst and old people drop by with their memoirs—described as "the unwanted, the lyrical and haunted volumes of American writing" in the novel. 

Summoned by a silver bell at all hours, submissions are catalogued at the librarian's discretion; not by the Dewey Decimal system, but by placement on whichever magically dust-free shelf would, in the author's judgment, serve best as the book's home.

A man in Burlington, Vermont, Todd Lockwood, opened The Brautigan Library as a real repository for unpublished works. As time passed and the novelty ran low, so did funds, and the Library closed in 1995. 

In 2010, the collection was pulled out of storage and moved to Vancouver, Washington, Brautigan’s native state. There they were installed in the Clark County Historical Museum which, like Brautigan’s imaginary library, is housed in a former Carnegie Library building. 

The collection now exceeds four hundred volumes. The Library also hosts (inter)National Unpublished Writers Day celebrations and workshops annually on the last Sunday in January.

For some, there will always be a hippie heaven, where Brautigan is Jesus. In 1994, an American teenager legally changed his name to Trout Fishing in America; he is now a university professor in Japan, where Brautigan is what Jerry Lewis is to the French. Shortly afterward, NPR reported a couple named their newborn after the book.

#HenryBemisBooks #LiteraryBirthdays #Charlotte #RichardBrautigan

The Cafe's January 20 guest explains how a picture can be worth a book sale

colleen lynch.jpg

I'm a writer, librarian, photographer, bookseller, and reader. I'm 25 and live in Connecticut. Hi :)

That’s how rare book dealer Colleen Lynch introduces herself to online customers.

You’ll have a chance to meet her this Saturday, January 20, when Rare Book Cafe welcomes Lynch to our table at 2:30 pm EST. We're delighted she could reschedule with us after illness derailed a planned December visit!

The New Haven, Connecticut dealer writes with a sure eye for words that convey all the sensations of discovering, acquiring, and reading a book:

There is no other book like this one. That's how you should feel about every book that you own.

With my Library and Information Science degree and my work history in all facets of the world of books, including my antique and rare book dealings to my library and archives experience, along with all the old or new books I have read and bought just so I could own them, I've known and believed this for ages. Still, only certain people get it.

Your bookshelves should be beautiful to you, breathe history--yours or others, should reflect what you love. Buying a book you are looking to own the way it made you feel when you read it, what it made you think. They are a part of you, the books that connect to you in that deep way, the ones you want to own instead of borrow. The bookshelves you have, or cases displayed, or the piles you have spread all across the room, these should catch eyes, pull stares, and express in a fully unique way what you love to read because this expresses you.

This is what I've tried to do here as both a photographer and writer--to show the specialness of each and every book, so you can see yourself there, even a little bit…

Lynch is one of a new breed of online sellers. In September, Publishers Weekly explained them as people “ sharing literary recommendations on a variety of social media platforms. Instagram remains the dominant outlet, and these new influencers are popularly referred to as bookstagrammers.

“While this movement began with spontaneous expressions of love for particular titles, it has become a serious part of every publicist’s media outreach. “We really value what bookstagrammers are doing,” said Meagan Harris, who worked on Ware’s campaign as the publicity manager at Scout Press.”

Some bookstagrammers are advocates for authors, or titles. Others, PW notes, have evolved in a more traditional direction:

Other platforms have also provided fertile ground for book clubs. Actress Emma Watson founded the feminist book club Our Shared Shelf at Goodreads in January 2016. Her first pick was Gloria Steinem’s 2015 memoir, My Life on the Road. The Our Shared Shelf community of readers has grown to more than 204,000 members. This spring, actress Kim Williams-Paisley launched a book club on Facebook and Instagram. In July, she recommended E.B. White’s novel Stuart Little to her 137,000 followers.

In March, actress Emma Roberts and producer Karah Preiss launched Belletrist, an online book club with a website, Tumblr blog, email newsletter, and Instagram page, that invites members to “discover, read, and celebrate a new book every month.” Megan Fishmann, associate publisher and director of publicity for Counterpoint Press and Soft Skull Press, noticed that a Belletrist post had mentioned the work of Eve Babitz. Counterpoint was about to reissue Sex & Rage—a 1979 novel by the Los Angeles author—so Fishmann reached out to the book club. In July, Belletrist featured the book across all its platforms.

Babitz found the whole experience “thrilling,” finding readers of a new generation and through new channels. “The response has been astounding. Readers meeting [Sex & Rage protagonist] Jacaranda and 1970s Los Angeles in 2017 and having such a positive reaction to her means everything to me,” Babitz said.

Oprah Winfrey is the patron saint of these 21st-century book clubs. Between 1996 and 2010, Winfrey led her own book club on the Oprah Winfrey Show on ABC, and a Winfrey selection was a ticket to the bestseller list. Winfrey still runs Oprah’s Book Club 2.0, the digital incarnation of her old book club; these literary conversations now happen on the smaller outlets of Winfrey’s OWN and online and pack a smaller punch than her original recommendations.


Bookstagrammers help in that they get images of your book cover out there (and they make them look so pretty!), and readers need to see a book a couple of times, in a couple of different places, before they are inclined to buy it. According to the marketing Rule of 7, a consumer needs to be touched seven times before they commit to buying a product," explained author Brenda Janowitz whose latest novel, The Dinner Party, was released last year.

"Bookstagrammers give that to authors, showcasing their work multiple times. When readers see the same books pop up in their feed over and over again, it makes it appear like the book is in high demand, and that this book is something that everyone’s talking about. And everyone wants to be reading the book that everyone’s talking about.”

According to conversations with authors, publishers and book marketers, between 2014 and 2015 Instagram became one of the more prolific social platforms for readers to connect with new books, through the handful of bloggers who saw the utility of the platform—now referred to by themselves and by publishers collectively as bookstagrammers.

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Rare Book Cafe is streamed by the Florida Antiquarian Book Fair every Saturday from 2.30 to 3.30 pm EDT. We feature interviews, panel discussion and stuff you can learn about book collecting whether you are a regular at Sotheby’s or just someone who likes books.

The program airs live on Rare Book Cafe’s Facebook page, and remain there after the show.

The program’s regular guests include Miami book dealer, appraiser and WDBFRadio.com’s Bucks on the Bookshelf radio show creator Steven Eisenstein, Thorne Donnelley of Liberty Book Store in Palm Beach Gardens, Florida; Lindsay Thompson of Charlotte’s Henry Bemis Books; miniature books expert Edie Eisenstein; and program creator/producer T. Allan Smith.



We enjoy the support and encouragement of these booksellers:A Bric-A-Brac in Miami;  Little Sages Books in Hollywood, Florida; Liberty Books in Palm Beach Gardens; As Time Goes By, in Marion, Alabama; Quill & Brush in Dickerson, Maryland; Lighthouse Books in St. Petersburg; The Ridge Books in Calhoun, Georgia; and Henry Bemis Books in Charlotte.


Rare Book Cafe program encourages viewer participation via its interactive features and video: if you've got an interesting book, join the panel and show it to us! If you’d like to ask the team a question or join us in the virtually live studio audience for the program, write us at rarebookcafe@gmail.com.