Oops, Jim Kay Did it Again! A Briefing on the Sacramento Book Fair

by Vic Zoschak Jr.

IMG_4104

Jim Kay did it again!  “What?”, you ask?  Nothing less than host the umpteenth million [or so it seems] successful Sacramento  book fair!  Seriously, in one iteration or another, I’ve been attending this book fair since the mid-1980s.  For northern California bibliophiles especially, it’s a local gem.  Jim [pun intended] resurrected the fair a decade or so ago when it, like many other regional book fairs, was falling prey to the spread of internet book-buying.  Under Jim’s guidance, it’s now a vibrant local fair that consistently draws a good crowd, not to mention, exhibitors, who hail from as far away as Seattle, LA, and Salt Lake City.

IMG_4103This particular fair was also memorable for another reason…  it was the first ever for my new assistant, Samm Fricke.  Samm came on board last Wednesday.  Yes, you read that right, she’d only been in my employ for 2 days before I whisked her off to help me man the Tavistock Books’ booth.  She did great!  And the good ship Tavistock…?  The buying was great*; sales, not so much.  But that said, unless someone buys out your booth, there’s always room for improvement, isn’t there?

Finally, one attractive aspect of this fair that it shares with others-  interaction with colleagues.  The Friday night dinner has become tradition, and this year was no different.  That night, eight of us gathered at a local restaurant, Roxie, to dine, converse & just generally relax after a long day of set-up.  For me, this is one of the allures that keeps me coming back… the camaraderie shared at that Friday night dinner.   As they used to say in that one commercial, “priceless”.

CBB3A882-9EA4-417B-BA8A-8C6C27D6BB17

See you in September.

IMG_4105* watch for our New Acquisitions list…  lots of interesting material will be coming your way!

Share

How Will Today’s Vernal Equinox Affect Your (Book-Buying) Life?

By Margueritte Peterson

equinox4

Like most women, I’ve been called many things in my (relatively short) lifetime. Diva, Brat, Goddess Divine (just kidding… though I may have to hint that one to people as clearly that one I deserve)… you name it, we are called it. What’s the one name I’ve been called (derogatorily, of course) that I have not minded, you might ask?

… Witch!

Now, I am not a witch (though I do know the entire dialogue to Hocus Pocus – doesn’t that matter to the universe?!?), but I am a firm believer that there are occasionally forces at play that affect our lives and we don’t even realize that they are happening! Why do you think you get the urge to purge your belongings in the spring? Or why crave comfort food in the winter, even if you live in a year-round warm area? Equinoxes! Full moons! Changes in the tides! But today we are here to discuss the equinoxes. There are two throughout the year (and two solstices), and as today is the vernal equinox, I’d like to talk about how it will affect your life… and your book buying, of course!

So first things first, what exactly is the vernal equinox? Well, it is one of the two days of the year when the sun in rotation is directly above the equator. In the northern hemisphere, the vernal equinox is the beginning of the Earth’s northern hemisphere tilting toward the sun – marking longer days and shorter evenings, unlike the winters’ short days and long periods of darkness.

equinox6The vernal equinox has been celebrated for centuries – Ancient Egyptians built the Great Sphinx so that it faces exactly the rising sun on the vernal equinox, and pagans (or ancient Anglo-Saxons, if we’re being politically correct) celebrated the Germanic Goddess Eostre (or Ostara) – the Teutonic goddess of spring and dawn, a symbol of fertility whose sacred spirit animal was – you may have guessed it – a fertile bunny rabbit! The symbol of an egg wasn’t far away – eggs are a (pretty obvious) ancient symbol of rebirth. Christianity adopted the holiday for their own celebration of Easter, the rebirth of Jesus Christ. As is obvious from all of these examples, it is a day that celebrates the coming of spring – of greenery, harvest, enjoyment and abundance!

Other than Christmas craziness, most stores (not just bookstores, but the whole gamut) experience a lull in sales in the winter months. There is less time during the daylight to shop, less motivation to do so, and less activity. The vernal equinox marks the beginning of a season of enjoyment, of hatching new plans and dreams, of taking time for yourself, of sloughing off the bad and creating new space in your mind for the things you enjoy! And if that happens to be an antiquarian title or two…

Well, you’ll find no objections here!

So enjoy today – listen to the birds chirping, bask in some sunshine, and know that you can treat yourself to whatever you like! You’ve spent the winter working and saving (hopefully), now don’t forget to live a little. Book-wise, of course!

book

 

Share

Happy Birthday, Gabriel García Márquez!

Screen Shot 2018-02-20 at 8.11.03 PM

After his death in April 2014, the President of Colombia called this author “the greatest Colombian that ever lived.” Let’s find out why!

Author Gabriel García Márquez was born on March 6th, 1927 in the small Colombian town of Aracataca. His father, a pharmacist, and his mother left him to be raised by his maternal grandparents, before coming back to Aracataca for Gabriel and his brother when he was almost 10 years old. His maternal grandparents, his grandfather in terms of his liberal political beliefs and his grandmother’s belief in the supernatural, were very influential in Márquez’s upbringing, and so was, surprisingly, his parents romance before marriage. His father was not the ideal choice in his mother’s list of suitors, and yet he spent quite a bit of energy romancing her (window violinists, love letters, the whole nine yards) and eventually won both her and her family over. This story Gabriel would eventually, much later, adopt for his novel Love in the Time of Cholera. 

But, I get ahead of myself. First things first! After being reconciled with his parents at age 10 and moving to Sucre, Márquez became a shy and serious teenager, often found writing humorous poetry, to the delight of his family and friends! Though he was not very athletic as a child, after attending high school at Colegio jesuita San José he was awarded a scholarship to study in Bogotá. After graduating in 1947, Márquez stayed living in Bogotá to study law. 

Screen Shot 2018-02-20 at 8.05.52 PMHowever, Márquez’s passion lay in writing, despite continuing his law studies in order to please his father. That did not stop him from publishing his work, however. Having published poems throughout high school in his school journals and papers, La tercera resignación was his first published work as an adult, which appeared in the 13th of September, 1947 edition of the newspaper El Espectador. Coincidentally and luckily for Márquez,the assassination of Gaitán, in 1948 led his school to be closed indefinitely. Márquez began working as a reporter at El Universal and eventually moved on to write for El Heraldo. 

Márquez’s literary skills were honed in the 1950s, when he became part of a group of journalists and authors known as the Barranquilla Group – the Bloomsbury group of Bogotá, if you will. He became enthralled by the works of contemporary authors like Virginia Woolf and William Faulkner – and authors who mixed the every day with the extraordinary, like Franz Kafka. Throughout this time, Márquez continued working as a journalist, honing his literary skills. 

Screen Shot 2018-02-20 at 8.06.50 PM

In 1955, Márquez’s first novella Leaf Storm, was published after seven years of trying to find a publisher – somewhat shocking, considering the group he was a part of in Barranquilla. Later on, Márquez would remember Leaf Storm as his favorite of his works – insisting that it was his most spontaneous and most sincere work. It follows both a child and woman’s point of view of death in stream of consciousness style.

Screen Shot 2018-02-20 at 7.54.19 PMIn 1967 Márquez finished 18 months of daily writing to publish his most critically successful work, and the one he would win the Nobel Prize for years later – One Hundred Years of Solitude. After achieving international fame for said work, Márquez spent the following years traveling the globe with his family, acting as a negotiation liaison for several political situations, and writing other works such as Autumn of the Patriarch, The Incredible and Sad Tale of Innocent Eréndira and Her Heartless Grandmother, Chronicle of a Death Foretold (see our holding, a 1st Italian edition, here) and Love in the Time of Cholera. All of his works held a kind of “magical realism” – origins that one can trace back to his upbringing with his realistic grandfather and supernatural-believing grandmother. 

By 2005, Márquez was publishing significantly less, though still admitting to writing all the time. After suffering from lymphatic cancer (but going into remission), a few years later it was announced that he was suffering from dementia. In April 2014 he passed away from pneumonia in Mexico City – and his loss was felt by the entire world. 

Screen Shot 2018-02-20 at 8.06.07 PM

Share

2018 is Not a Leap Year. That Being Said… Get ready for 2020!

Screen Shot 2018-02-19 at 2.59.27 PM

Sometimes, children ask ridiculous questions. I think everyone here has probably rolled their eyes at a bright and inquisitive child at least once, while answering questions like “Why is the sky blue?” or “Why do we have to wear pants?” (The latter of which I am still not sure of a legitimate answer to.) 

But there are a couple basic life questions that a child could ask me… and I would be unable to answer scientifically. Hence this blog. I would like to use this time to answer a question I have had since childhood and never bothered to truly research… until now. 

What is leap year and why on earth (pun intended) does it need to happen? And in that same vein… why did February get jipped at only 28 days (most of the time)? Ahh. All in good time, folks. All in good time. 

Leap year is defined as a calendar year with a single extra day in the mix, making a year of 366 days instead of 365. It is added to keep the calendar year synched up with the astronomical or seasonal year. What does that mean, exactly? Well, one full day on earth is the planet spinning around on its axis once. A year is how long it takes the earth to orbit the sun exactly once. Now the problem lies here – the earth actually orbits the sun 365.25 times – an “astronomical year.” Quite obviously, the .25 years accumulate and voilà! The stars threaten to drift out of sync with our calendar, so every four years we have one extra day laying around. 

Screen Shot 2018-02-19 at 2.58.27 PM

So how did we figure this all out? Ancient Egyptians actually discovered that it was 365.25 days by seeing the Sirius star drift out of sync first. However, much later (in 46 B.C.) Julius Caesar (with the help of an astronomer) discovered the same, and created the Julian Calendar with the leap year added. Today, a revised version of the Julian calendar called the Gregorian calendar (for Pope Gregory) is in use – leap years still hold true. However, every year that is divisible by 100 (1700, 1800 and 1900) will NOT be a leap year, even though they normally should be. Then again, every year divisible by 400 WILL be a leap year, even though it is also divisible by 100. Like the year 2000, which was a leap year, despite being divisible by 100. 

You still with me? (Good, because I almost lost me there for a second.)

So all of this science behind us, we now know WHY we use leap years – so that we stay in sync with the stars! But why February? Well, it actually used to be that August had 28 days! But when Julius Caesar created the Julian calendar, he wanted his name month (Caesar Augustus) to be the full 31 days… so had it switched to February! 

Screen Shot 2018-02-19 at 2.57.54 PM

Now if only we could figure out why we still need to deal with daylight savings… 

(Stay tuned for THAT blog coming to a computer screen near you this November.) 

Share

A Congress. A Book Fair. A Blog.

IMG_3970

$400,000.00  Could I sell my first born male child to fund this purchase?  OMG, I so want[ed] this book.  But I leap ahead, for that yearning comes later in the week…  the week, actually 11 days, started with a road trip.  A Vanilla road trip, but nevertheless, a road trip.  Saturday morning, the 3rd of February, Peaches dropped me off at my colleague’s shop in Walnut Creek, Swan’s Fine Books.  Luggage was transferred.  WC calls were made, and Laurelle & I headed south.  Pasadena bound.  Yes, we both were attending the 2018 ILAB Congress, being held in lovely Pasadena California.  The drive was pleasant, conversation exchanged, and other than 2 idiot drivers doing their best to side-swipe us [Laurelle alertly avoided both.  Thank you God], uneventful. 

The Congress started with a tour of Old Town Pasadena at 2 pm Sunday.  I arrived in the lobby promptly at 1:58.  2:00 pm, no guide.  2:03 pm, no guide.  2:10 pm, Brad Johnson explaining the guide had been confirmed, and the committee’s check cashed, but still no guide.  2:20 pm, no guide.  2:30 pm, I moseyed on over to the bar, where I found Laurelle, and we had a glass of Chardonnay.  And a second glass, to down the crab cakes.  A 3rd glass was contra-indicated.  The guide never showed.  I felt for Brad [and Jen, the Congress organizers]… was this a harbinger of the 3 days ahead?

IMG_3944No.  IT WAS WONDERFUL!  We went to the Clark.  We went to the Huntington.  We went to the Getty.  We went to the Herrick.  AND we went to the Petersen Car Museum!!  Can you say awesome!  OMG, the cars!  And there was a Porsche exhibit on!  Did I tell you I have an ’82 911SC [the “P Car”] and a ’94 964 Carrera 2 convertible [“Miz White”].  In other words, I was in 7th heaven!  

I could write this entire blog on that museum tour, but I’ll just say the coolest car seen, in my not so humble opinion [IMNSHO], was Steve McQueen’s Jaguar XJSS.  I swooned.

This visit was Wednesday am, and to be honest, I was sorely tempted to join the Congress afternoon group, so I could revisit the Petersen and see those cars I missed… but no, I stuck with my morning group, and was glad I did, for we went to the Herrick.  Howard Prouty, ABAA member, is also ‘the guy’, at this Academy Library.  Many treasures there, and I was glad to see them [fwiw, they house Peaches’ father-in-law’s papers, that being Irving Brecher, who wrote the screenplay for Meet Me in St Louis.  Those weren’t on display.  I survived the disappointment].

IMG_3961Wednesday night.  Gawd, I had to put on a suit.  It was the Congress “Gala Dinner”.  It’s California… couldn’t I go in shorts & flops?  Evidently not.  Ok, B-Squared it was.  Peaches said I clean up pretty well, your call if she’s right.  And really, it was a nice evening.  A palatable meal, lovely dinner companions, engaging conversation and dancing!  Whoohoo, been a while, let me tell you!  However, I did not go to the Presidential suite after…  getting a bit too advanced in my years to stay up till 3 am, as some of our younger members did.  

Thursday dawned, Congress over, the 51st ABAA California Antiquarian Book Fair about to begin.  Book fairs are funny animals.  They can cheer you, they can humble you, they can confound you, they can elate you.  This one was no different.  It was the first for my assistant Cassie.  She has a nice eye… her responsibility was booth set-up, and a great job she did. 

IMG_3986

Did I say we had adjoining booths with Swan’s Fine Books & Churchill Book Collector?  We did.  30 feet of dazzling material.  And how’d we do you ask?  Well, we sold some, and we bought some.  Like I told folks at the fair who inquired, “I didn’t crash ‘n burn, but I didn’t soar with the eagles either.”

IMG_3984Before I leave Pasadena, I should mention poker.  Anybody out there play?   James Bryant does, and he’s the new ABAA champion at Texas Hold’em.  In case you weren’t aware, the ABAA hosts a benefit poker tournament during the CA Book Fair.  Proceeds help fund the ABAA’s Elisabeth Woodburn Education Fund, which sends young[ish] booksellers to CABS, RBS, CALRBS, etc…. I’ve been told over $6000 was raised that evening.  While I was happy to contribute my $$ to a worthy cause, I confess, I didn’t make it past the second table.  lol

It’s now Thursday, Februay 15th.  Cassie & I are back in Alameda, those books not sold are reshelved, and we’re getting back into the daily routine.  Put another one in the books.  Next year, Oakland.  2020, the ILAB Congress is in Amsterdam.  Count ME in!

And oh, what was that $400,000 book…?  Shakespeare’s Second Folio.  Original, unsophisticated, in a period binding, with an enviable provenance.  In the booth across from mine.  Christopher, I’ll be calling if I win the lottery.

IMG_3992

Share

Why We Should Thank Charles Dickens on His Birthday!

Every year we post a blog about Dickens around this date… it is his birthday, after all! What better way to honor our main man than keep his writing and memory alive? This year we thought we’d do something a bit different – instead of a long rambling blog about some aspect of his life, we thought we would remind you of a few ways that you see Dickens’ influence every day!

dickens-in-birthday-hat

Happy 206th birthday, Chuck!

Dickens re-built Christmas.

True, Prince Albert (of Albert and Victoria) is often given the credit for reviving the Christmas holidays and traditions – he was the instigating factor in setting up a Christmas tree for the royal family! However, Dickens’ depictions of Christmas and the season at the time certainly helped people around the world begin to see Christmas as a time for joyous celebration with their loved ones!

Dickensian.

Where would we be without this word, which has become a household term for a deplorable level of poverty and poverty stricken folk.

“It is a far, far better thing that I do…”

Many people attribute current celebrities ability and humor in characterizations and voices from Dickens! One of his interesting habits was to do all the voices of his different characters during his reading tours. Often, it was the way the characters spoke and expressed themselves that made the lines humorous. As Professor John Mullan of University College London said, “Quite a lot of the time, if you were simply to describe the plot situation of one of the set pieces that you find very funny, it’s not very funny at all… But it is very funny. The extraordinary thing he does introduce to the novel is the comic potential of the way people talk.” Voila!

And we couldn’t very well have a blog thanking Dickens without bringing up some of the terms and phrases he brought us! Just think of these words, coined by none other than our main man!

Abuzz

The creeps

Flummox

On the rampage

Whiz-bang

Devil-may-care

Very cool, eh? Happy Birthday indeed!

Share

Why People Love to Hate Edgar Allan Poe’s “The Raven”

We all know it, or at least part of it. You either learned it in school or you’ve heard it around Halloween-time… it doesn’t really matter how you know it, you just do. And no matter how you feel about it (good, bad, indifferent) you must admit… it’s a fan favorite the world over.

poe1

Yes, ladies and gentlemen, we’re just talking about a poem. On this date 173 years ago, Edgar Allan Poe’s The Raven was first published. Let’s look at what this poem was and how it affected both the literary world and Poe’s life.

At the time when The Raven was published, Poe’s life held startlingly similar circumstances to the protagonist of his poem. Poe’s young wife, Virginia, was slowly succumbing to the fate of sufferers of tuberculosis. Poe knew well what would happen – having lost much of his family to the disease. In the poem, the protagonist agonizes over a lost love, and even asks the raven whether there is any “balm of Gilead” that could ease his suffering. He is rejected by the raven (you know, in the way where it is a raven rejecting you with the only word he seems to have memorized) and laments on his seemingly wasted life (as one does when a bird rejects you).

A fact we truly enjoy bringing up to all Poe fans at length is that part of his inspiration for this poem came from… none other than Charles Dickens! I mean, Poe may not have directly admitted this fact, but he did publish a review on Barnaby Rudge and mentioned the fact that the raven in the novel, “intensely amusing as it is, might have been made more than we now see it… Its croakings might have been prophetically heard in the course of the drama.” How’s that for inspiration?!

Alright – well, enough fun facts about the poem itself. Let’s focus a bit on what might have been happening on this day so many years ago. The truth is that The Raven turned Poe into an instant celebrity – it was well received from the beginning, and prompted publishing house Wiley and Putnam to publish a book of Poe’s prose in June of that year, and a book of his poetry in November of 1845. Though the poem brought Poe very little financial success ($9-$15 is what Poe received for it at the start), the fact that it prompted the publication of his first book in five years was obviously a boon. Plus he had children following him in the streets flapping their arms and cawing until he would turn around and screech “Nevermore!” at them so that they would run away squealing. I mean, how much happiness could one man take?

poe5

So I know I promised that we would talk about how its writing influenced literature, but in all truthfulness, I have yet to see an article reflect at length on such an announcement. It drew an audience from all over the United States and abroad in England and Europe, where Poe became a household name. It sparked fear in the hearts of many – watching a depressed protagonist slowly lose his mind and be both the conveyor and interpreter of an ominous message delivered by an irritating feathered friend will do that to you. It was revered, accepted, and even sparked apathy and distaste by both civilians and other writers – much the same as every other piece of the written word that gets sent out to be eaten by us literary wolves. So what is it that The Raven had that was so singular?

poe3

It was written by a man with the prettiest handwriting I’ve ever seen, of course.

Enjoy.

Share