In Honor of Jackie Robinson

Today is baseball legend Jackie Robinson’s birthday, and being the serious fans we are about the sport (and by “we” I mean Vic – just check out the amazing amount of baseball related items we have in stock), we thought to bring some attention to this amazing athlete and activist and take a look at what he brought to the game… so to speak! Here are ten personal facts you might not have known about this amazing man.

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1. Jackie Robinson was born in 1919 in relative poverty in Cairo, Georgia. He was the youngest of five children, and, his father leaving his mother just a year after he was born, he ended up being raised by a single mother… no small feat, especially at that time.
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2. Jackie Robinson’s middle name is Roosevelt! The former president Theodore Roosevelt died just 25 days before his birth, and his middle name is how his parents honored the distinguished politician.
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3. Robinson and his family moved to Pasadena, California early in his childhood, and it is while at school in Pasadena that his athletic abilities were first noted… mainly by his family! Robinson’s older brothers convinced him to take sports seriously, seeing his skills were unparalleled.
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4. Jackie’s older brother Matthew, or “Mack” was himself an Olympic medalist! In the 1936 Summer Olympics Mack won the silver medal in track and field. He broke the 200 meter world record but so did gold medalist Jessie Owens. Mack was one of the brothers mentioned above that convinced Jackie to take athletics seriously.
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5. While attending John Muir High School, Robinson played five sports and lettered in four: football, basketball, baseball and track. He also played on the tennis team!
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6. In 1939 Robinson enrolled in UCLA after a couple years at Pasadena Junior College. During his time at UCLA, Robinson became the first student to win varsity letters in four sports – the same he’d been playing for so many years. Clearly even into his twenties Robinson was still excelling at every athletic activity he tried his hand at.
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7. During his years at PJC and UCLA, Robinson created a stir a couple times when standing up for himself and others in the face of racism. While an acting second lieutenant in 1943 having been drafted after the outbreak of WWII, stationed in Fort Hood, Texas and a member of the 761st “Black Panthers” Tank Battalion, Robinson was taken into custody after refusing to move to the back of an army bus when traveling around the base. The absurd and highly racist legal proceedings following this incident kept Robinson from being deployed overseas with his battalion, and definitely played a major role in his interest in civil rights activism for the rest of his life.
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8. In early 1945, Robinson was offered $400 a month to play major league baseball on the Kansas City Monarchs team. Though he was a fine player, Robinson was disheartened by the level of disorganization involved in the negro leagues of baseball. He was signed shortly thereafter to Brooklyn’s international league’s farm team – the Montreal Royals. Robinson suffered an unbelievable amount of comments and attacks in his rise in the leagues – more than most as he attempted to do what African Americans had not yet been afforded the opportunity to do. He played so well with the Royals that in 1946 he was drafted to the Brooklyn Dodgers… and in 1947 he became the first black athlete to play Major League baseball in the 20th century.
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9. Just a few short years later, Robinson was chosen as the National League MVP in 1949. A year later, Robinson starred in a biographical film of his life, titled The Jackie Robinson Story! This film focuses on the abuse and hurdles Robinson faced, and depicts the baseball star with a calmness that other Hollywood stars might have killed for!
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Jackie Robinson draws his family close to help him blow out a birthday candle in 1954. Jackie and his wife Rachel had 3 children and he was definitely a family man!

Jackie Robinson draws his family close to help him blow out a birthday candle in 1954. Jackie and his wife Rachel had 3 children and he was definitely a family man!

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10. In 1955, Robinson helped lead his team, the Brooklyn Dodgers, to their World Series win. He had been with the team for a decade, and this win was his ultimate feat. The following year the Dodgers also won the National League pennant. In December 1956 Robinson was traded to the New York Giants, but he never played a game for the team. Robinson retired from the game in January of 1957. In 1962, Robinson became the first African American to be inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame.
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We chose not to include Robinson’s baseball stats and figures… as those are easily found online and also because what we wanted to bring attention to was not only his talent on the field, but his amazing life. Robinson overcame more difficult situations and hurdles than you or I could ever imagine – and for that, and for his inexhaustible efforts as a civil rights activist, we thank him and honor him on his birthday. Happy Birthday, Jackie Robinson!

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Brothers to All

Quick! Think about the most famous pair of brothers you know of. What names came to mind? I bet for at least 50% (after all, we are all bibliophiles here, are we not?!) of us, the names that popped into our heads are most commonly associated with folk tales, fairy tales… or just “tales”, if some of them are a bit too… grim… for your taste!

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Jacob Ludwig Carl Grimm and Wilhelm Carl Grimm were born just a year apart in Hanau – part of the Holy Roman Empire at the time and present day Germany. After Wilhelm was born in 1786, they would have three more surviving siblings (with one older). The family moved in 1791 to the countryside – a move which the two young boys were exceedingly fond of, loving everything about country life. Unfortunately the family was plunged into despair in 1796, when the family Patriarch, Philipp Grimm, died suddenly of pneumonia leaving the large family poverty stricken and struggling to make ends meet. The family was supported by their mother’s father and sister, and their grandfather made quite an influence on the boys’ lives. He constantly reminded them to be industrious and hard working. The boys were able to go away to school as teens, paid for by their aunt, where despite being looked upon as lower class by the rest of the students, they were able to graduate at the top of their classes. The two brothers remained very close throughout their schooling, despite having different temperaments – Jacob being more introverted and Wilhelm more playful and outgoing, though oftentimes ill. 

grimm1The two attended the University of Marburg together, where they tried to study law. I say “tried”, because here the brothers once again met adversity due to their reduced social status. Treated as outcasts, without the benefit of receiving financial aid or stipends as some of the wealthier students received (explain THAT one, if you can), the brothers once again turned to each other for comfort and worked hard in their studies. It was at the University of Marburg that the pair first became interested in medieval German literature and more simplistic, romantic ways of writing that the modern day seemed to have forgotten. This interest in folklore and poetry and traditional “German” culture influenced the brothers for the rest of their lives. They wished to see the unification of the over 200 principalities into a single, unified state, and spent much of their time with their inspiring law professor Friedrich von Savigny and his friends. It was through these romantics that the Grimm brothers were introduced to the literary beliefs of Johann Gottfried Herder – a German philosopher who felt that literature of the area should revert back to simplicity, and focus more on nature, humanity and beauty. The boys credited their devotion to their studies in Germanic literature and culture as a saving grace in a dark time – outcasts amongst their peers. Wilhelm himself wrote, “the ardor with which we studied Old German helped us overcome the spiritual depression of those days.”

grimm2The brothers did not immediately turn to transcribing Germanic folklore for the masses. As they were solely responsible, as the oldest boys (primarily Jacob) of the family, for their sibling and mother’s livelihood (because that’s what they needed… more stress), Jacob accepted a job in Paris as assistant to his once-professor (von Savigny). On his return to Marburg he gave this post up to take a job with the Hessian War Commission. Their circumstances remained dire – as it seemed almost impossible for Jacob to support them all on his own. Food was often scarce and the brothers suffered emotionally. In 1808, Jacob found a more appropriate (to his interests) job as the librarian to the King of Westphalia, and soon after went on to become the librarian in Kassel, where the two boys had attended their gymnasium (high school, for all intents and purposes). Jacob supported his siblings once their mother passed away, and he even paid for Wilhelm to receive medical attention that year to seek treatment for respiratory problems. After Wilhelm’s recovery, he joined his brother as a librarian in Kassel. 

The original title page and frontispiece of the first set of Grimm's folk tales. This frontispiece was illustrated by the brothers' younger brother, Emil.

The original title page and frontispiece of the first set of Grimm’s folk tales. This frontispiece was illustrated by the brothers’ younger brother, Emil.

It was around this time that the men began to collect folk tales from others. Initially they collected them in a haphazard manner – not realizing the great wonder they began to lay their hands on. They used their positions as librarians to accomplish their research, and began to publish in 1812. Their first volume of 86 folk tales, called Kinder- und Hausmärchen, was published when the brothers were merely 26 and 27 years old. They published several books and collections until 1830 – not only on Germanic folklore but of Danish and Irish folk tales, Norse mythology, and began work on a Dictionary. The brothers stayed quite busy and enjoyed their positions – their work becoming so well-known that they received honorary doctorates from the Universities of Marburg (along with their original diplomas), Berlin and Breslau. 

grimm4After being slighted for a job promotion, the brothers eventually moved to Göttingen where they became professors of German studies at the University (Jacob also as head librarian), and continued to write and publish works on Germanic folklore, mythology and country tales for a few years. The brothers moved to Berlin in their later years, working at the University of Berlin and also editing their German Dictionary, which would become one of their most prominent works. 

Because of the brothers Grimm, we have several tales written down today that might not have been, otherwise. To the brothers we can attribute (at least in transcribing) versions of Snow White, Rapunzel, Little Red Riding Hood, Sleeping Beauty and Rumplestiltskin. One of the best qualities of their writing is that the brothers found a way to make the tales accessible and readable by adults (at first the stories contained their original graphic violence and sexual implications, which were slowly and painstakingly edited in a way to make the stories accessible to children), while retaining their folkloric qualities and symbolism. Though the brothers did not author the stories – but rather listened, read and researched them all until they were able to grow a collection of over 211 tales – they provided arguably the most extensive fount of Germanic folklore to date… and to them we are eternally grateful. 

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Tis the Season to Read Merry!

The 2019 Christmas Season is upon us, bibliophiles. We’d like you to take some time out of the busy practices of the holiday season and take up a Christmas tale or two… some quiet time amidst the chaos is just what the Doctor ordered! Here’s a mini rundown on some of the most beloved Christmas stories of all time. Happy Holidays! 

Our 1902 Elbert Hubbard published holding of A Christmas Carol! See it here.

Our 1902 Elbert Hubbard published holding of A Christmas Carol! See it here.

A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens

This story, written by our main man Charles, was first printed in 1843. For a story to still have such relevance today, that seems quite a long time ago! It follows the Christmas Eve adventures of Ebenezer Scrooge, a mean-spirited miser who is visited by three ghosts that in turn show him his shortcomings and his unfortunate future should he not shift his attitude and his focus in the present. We highly recommend this tale (though we also assume everyone reading this blog has most likely read A Christmas Carol before!), as it is a wonderful story for all ages.

 

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The Little Match Girl by Hans Christian Anderson

This 1845 “Christmas story” I have some reservations about including here (since I don’t want to bring our party down) – but it is a popular tale this time of year! It is a beautiful story, well-written as only Anderson can write, but we must warn you in advance… if you’re looking for a heart-warming happy ending, maybe stick with A Christmas CarolThe Little Match Girl follows a dying young pauper’s reflections on her hopes and dreams and teaches us the moral of being kind and charitable to those around us, especially during the holiday season when we have so much and others have so little. My advice? Read with cocoa, not wine, and have a box of kleenex handy. <3

 

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How the Grinch Stole Christmas by Dr. Seuss

I kind of feel like this story needs no introduction (but neither did A Christmas Carol I suppose and yet we introduced that). How the Grinch Stole Christmas is a quaint tale of a young man who in his hardships realizes that you can’t burglarize department stores on Christmas Eve and feel good about yourself afterward, and therefore learns the value of paying for your Christmas gifts instead of stealing them.

Psych! Just seeing if you’re paying attention. How the Grinch Stole Christmas is a children’s story published in 1957 about a mean, green recluse living up on a mountaintop who hates everything Christmas – unlike the tiny town below his home. Through the art of trying to spoil their happiness, Mr. Grinch learns how to love… and how to love Christmas to boot!

 

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The Gift of the Magi by O. Henry

One of my personal favorite Christmas tales, this short story was published by O. Henry in 1905, and follows a young couple struggling to afford the perfect gift for their spouse on Christmas Eve. This tale of selflessness always touches the hearts of those who read it – and is a great one for remembering that the art of giving gifts is not to show how much we have and can give away, but to share our love for others by the giving of ourselves. Read it… we promise you won’t be disappointed!

 

 

Photo courtesy of Yale University

A Letter from Santa Claus by Mark Twain

Now I’m not entirely sure we can call this a Christmas “story”, per say, as it is literally a letter, but we will include it anyway in the spirit of the holiday! In 1875 American author Mark Twain answered his 3 year old daughter Susie’s letters (by way of her mother and nurses) to Santa Claus with one of his own, signing off as jolly old St. Nick. In the letter, which will make you feel warm and fuzzy all over, Santa Claus/Mark Twain sends his love to little Susie and apologizes profusely for not being able to obtain every single gift her heart desired – making up an elaborate reason as to why it wasn’t possible. He gives detailed instructions for his visit (threatening a servant named George with his own mortality a couple times, but that’s neither here nor there), and the entire letter is absolutely full of the warmth and love of parents around the world who sneak out in the middle of the night to place presents under the tree and keep their little one’s imaginations alive. You parents out there won’t be disappointed. Read his letter here.

That’s all for now! So let us just say have a wonderful holiday and don’t forget to take a moment to appreciate some of the wonderful, heart warming stories written about this season of giving. It’s never too late put down a gift and pick up a book!

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Happy Holidays from Tavistock Books

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The Beginnings of Tavistock Books

For those of you who don’t know, we deal in many genres of antiquarian materials. However, one of our specialities – and even our shop’s name – come from a wildly famous author who we happen to adore… Mr. Charles Dickens. As the author is very often associated with the holiday season, we thought now might be a good time for a little Q&A with our President, Vic Zoschak Jr., on his love of Dickens and the beginnings of Tavistock Books. Enjoy!

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Tavistock House, London.

Q: Vic, could you take our recent followers on a mini journey as to our shop name? I remember getting the question of whether or not your last name was Tavistock!

tavistock2Yes, over the years, I’ve often been referred to as “Mr Tavistock”, but the name actually, rather than being my surname, has a [small] Dickens connection…  back in the late 80s, as I contemplated opening my own business, I cast about for a name that would reflect my firm’s interest in Dickens, but didn’t want to be too overt in that regard..  you know, nothing like “The Old Curiosity Book Shop”, or anything like that.  So, long story short, I settled on Tavistock, the name of Dickens house in the 1850s, which was situated on Tavistock Square.  

Q: So why Dickens? He is obviously a world-famous writer of course, but what about his writing spoke to you, and what made you want to name your store after his house?

Well, back in the mid-to-late 80s, while living in Sacramento, I was in a reading group that read, as one of our books, Dickens’ Pickwick Papers.  While I personally don’t consider that his best novel, what that reading did do was spark an interest in the author himself.  And in pursuit of knowing more about the man, I [luckily] happened across what I consider to be the best biography of Dickens, Edgar Johnson’s Tragedy And Triumph.  On reading that biography, I found Dickens to be a fascinating individual, a genius, which precipitated my dive into that gentle madness known as book collecting.  I collected Dickens from the mid-80s until I opened my shop in July 1997, at which point I used my personal collection to stock the Dickens’ Corner here at 1503 Webster Street.

Q: What is your favorite of the Dickens novels and why? Favorite character in any of them?

Favorite novel is Hard Times.  Many of Dickens’ novels required “32 pages of letterpress” every month, and so often, like in Pickwick Papers, there are literary diversions therein to fill up space….  I don’t see that in Hard Times.  It’s spare, it’s lean, it’s all about the facts.

As to characters, like many, I’m partial to Mr. Micawber, the lovable impecunious fellow from David Copperfield.

Q: Is it true that you refuse to watch Dickens-related cinema? Interesting choice! What are your thoughts behind that decision?

True.  Dickens’ words call up a mental image of each & every character he’s created.  I found that when I watched a film interpretation, my mental image of a given character, e.g., Nicholas Nickleby, engendered by Dickens’ prose was replaced by the individual cast by whatever director was filming whatever version of Dickens’ works.  In comparison, I found I preferred Dickens’ version.  FWIW, he would only allow images approved by him, and as such, they are truly Dickensian.  

Q: And last but not least… who was your favorite ghost in A Christmas Carol and why?

Ah, tough question Ms P!!  I think I’ll go with the “Ghost of Christmas Yet to Come”.   With these visions, Scrooge realizes his future can change.  That’s powerful stuff, knowing one can change one’s future.

And you know what, Ms P – it’s been a few years since I’ve read this popular novella. I think I’ll revisit it this season… it’s time.  

~ Happy Holidays ~

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Today we are Thankful for… William Blake!

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Copyright Learnodo-Newtonic!

Happy Thanksgiving to our fellow bibliophiles! We thought we’d start off this day of giving thanks for a world-famous English poet, artist and printmaker with a brief history of his early life. Despite the fact that this renaissance man was largely unrecognized for his talents in his time, today he is considered one of the foremost artisans of the Romantic Period. William Blake’s prophetic art and poetry are both moving and inspiring – and for that we honor him this Thanksgiving – which also happens to be his birthday!

NPG 212; William Blake by Thomas PhillipsWilliam Blake was born on November 28th, 1757 in Soho, London. He was the third of seven children (though two of his siblings died in infancy). Though his family were English dissenters, it did not stop Blake from being baptized and having a thorough biblical education – knowledge which would prove to be quite inspirational in his work later in life. Blake’s artistic side surfaced when he began copying drawings of Greek antiquities given to him by his father. It was through these copies that Blake was first introduced to works by Michelangelo, Durer and Raphael. By the time Blake was ten he had completed his formal education and was able to be sent to a drawing school in The Strand – where he not only read and avidly studied the arts but also made his first foray into poetry.

blake6At the age of fifteen, Blake was apprenticed to an engraver in London and upon his completion of his apprenticeship became a professional engraver at twenty-one. The following year, Blake became a student at the Royal Academy where he studied over the years and submitted works for exhibition. Though he disagreed with the views held by the headmaster of the time and favored more classical art rather than the popular oil paintings of the age, Blake used the years to make friends in the art world and perfect his own skills. He printed and published his first collection of poems, Poetical Sketches, around 1783, and opened up his print shop with fellow apprentice James Parker in 1784. Blake began to associate with radical thinkers of the time – scientists, philosophers and early feminist icons like Joseph Priestly and Mary Wollstonecraft. Blake spent the 80s experimenting with different kinds of printing, finally moving onto relief etching in 1788. Relief etching (also called illuminated printing) would be a medium Blake would continue to use in printing his works throughout his life. In this medium, color illustrations were able to be printed alongside text. Blake has become well-known for his illuminated printing, but throughout his life he was also known for his intaglio engraving – a more standard process of engraving at the time.

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All of these processes are wildly interesting, of course – but perhaps better explained by simply showing some of the most famous of Blake’s sketches and illustrations. His poetry and text almost always contain spectacular imagery and mythological symbolism, which were even further highlighted by his beautiful images. He was an artist, a free thinker, a poet, a radical, a spiritual man, and a devoted husband – among many other things! On this Thanksgiving, we’d like to bring recognition to him and wish him a happy birthday.

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From our 1922 holding of The Drawings and Engravings of William Blake, edited by Laurence Binyon and Geoffrey Holme. See it here!

From our 1922 holding of The Drawings and Engravings of William Blake, edited by Laurence Binyon and Geoffrey Holme. See it here!

For more information on William Blake, we recommend visiting our colleague John Windle’s William Blake Gallery where you can find blogs related to the author and various prints and books for sale both online and in person in San Francisco. We highly recommend a visit!

Happy Thanksgiving, bibliophiles!

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The Future of Antiquarian Book Fairs

As Antiquarian Booksellers, we are intimately familiar with book fairs. For those of you who have never attended such a fair before, we highly recommend it. For collectors and bibliophiles, scholars and tradesmen alike – book fairs are a wonderful place to get a feel for our world. All sellers bring a variety of items, and you can make note of who has items of interest to you and research them further. It is a wonderful place to make contacts with like-minded souls and spend time talking books. Tavistock Books has now been in business for decades, and we like to think that our fearless leader, Vic Zoschak (who also happens to be the current President of the Antiquarian Booksellers Association of America – the ABAA) has a fair amount of experience in this field. We share with you a mini Q&A with him and his thoughts on the past and the future of the antiquarian book fair.

Photo courtesy of Fine Books and Collections magazine.

Photo courtesy of Fine Books and Collections magazine.

Vic, Thanks for answering our questions. We’ll get right to it – what changes have you witnessed in antiquarian book fairs over your many years in the trade?

Vic Sac IOBAWhen I started doing fairs back in the early 90s, book fairs were an opportunity for collectors to see a bunch of material they may not otherwise have access to.  There used to be lines around the block awaiting entry to the fair.  No more.  Remember, then, there was not widespread internet access… so no searching 20,000 bookstore inventories with a click of the mouse.  Today, a collector, or just an individual searching for a given book, need not attend a fair to look for material.  Today, when buyers search for their title on vialibri.net, they search the inventory of 20,000 booksellers.  That’s an unprecedented access to inventory that has not been possible at any other time in bookseller/book buyer history.  What that means for fairs is that most regional fairs have gone by the wayside…. in those early 90s, on the West Coast, I did 20+ book fairs a year.  Now, 3.  The local/regional fairs just don’t bring in the number of buyers that they used to.  And if exhibitors don’t sell books at the fair, they won’t come back.  Today, it’s my opinion, that a book fair needs to be an *event*, perhaps coupled with other *events* that same week.  The ABAA book fairs are trending in this direction…  not only will a potential attendee have the book fair to attend, but also events offered by sister organizations, like the Grolier Club, or the Book Club of California, or the Ticknor Society.   As I think about them now, in response to your query, I think fairs are a somewhat endangered species…. continuing to exist, but in a fragile state and in need of attention.

How are the fairs different for you now as President of the ABAA?

Well, here there is, in fact, a challenge that faces the ABAA…  our New York Fair, and our California fair, are too close together on the calendar.  There’s a long back story there that brought this to pass, much too long to recount here, but suffice it to say, there’s no easy solution.  I only wish, as President, I had a magic wand to fix it.  But I don’t, so it’ll be a significant issue that my successor will, hopefully, be able to resolve.

Vic at a recent Seattle Antiquarian Book Fair.

Vic at a recent Seattle Antiquarian Book Fair.

What fairs that you attend (New York, LA/San Fran, Boston, Seattle, Sacramento) have stayed the same throughout the years and which have changed? Have they changed for the better?

I now only exhibit at 3 a year: Sacramento [local, one day, and easy to do], as well as the ABAA CA fair [this coming year in Socal, Pasadena].  But I do attend, as a visitor, all ABAA fairs, which means I’ll be heading to Boston in a week.  This year, I also exhibited in Seattle, which was fun, but not particularly remunerative, so it’s a question mark for 2020. 

Re: change?  Here I have to give a shout-out to Jim Kay, the Sacramento promoter.  He’s kept that local fair alive and vibrant.  And I also want to give a shout out to the local ABAA book fair committees – Boston, NY & California – who have the task of keeping our ABAA fairs alive & well.  In this challenging economic environment, they are doing a bang-up job in my opinion.  They have evolved to meet the needs of the current book collecting milieu.

A shot from the New York ABAA fair, photo courtesy of LitHub.

A shot from the New York ABAA fair, photo courtesy of LitHub.

How do you see antiquarian book fairs faring (pun intended) in the future?

I think we’ll be fine, especially if we continue to market our fairs as ‘events’.  Give people more than one reason to attend.  There’s a lot of competition for an attendee’s time & money; let’s make our pitch for our fairs be one that compels.

Amen to that! Keep the book fairs coming, people. 

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A Happy Halloween with Hill House

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As Halloween rapidly approaches, we thought – in honor of this holiday season – it might finally be the moment for a short blog dedicated to a favorite type of literary genre throughout this season – horror stories.   

Upon the recommendation of a friend, I recently finished The Haunting of Hill House, by Mrs. Shirley Jackson. This book, much dramatized in movies and tv and spoken about in literary ‘thriller’ circles (yes, they exist), is one of the most famous of Jackson’s works – one that has you in goosebumps from start to finish. And what, we asked ourselves, is so scary about it? (Warning: spoiler alerts below.)

Realism. Nowadays, it is easy to go to the movies and see a thriller with a screeching soundtrack and people that pop up in mirrors as you wash your face in the evening (my worst fear)… you know the drill. Even the exceedingly gore-filled SAW movies have a following. So what makes classic horror stories so frightening, even in a modern world where we are used to an unimaginable level of psycho made with special effects and computer geniuses?

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This 1st edition of Haunting of Hill House is offered by Peter Harrington here!

We might argue that it is a lack of such “effects” that sets these stories apart. While in high school, my best friend went to see a movie that came out called “The Strangers” (I have a point to this, I promise). This horror flick focused on a romantic couple who come to stay in a woodland cabin for a night (unfortunately directly after a refused marriage proposal, but that’s neither here nor there), where a group of teenagers (spoiler alert!) terrorize them throughout the night. In the morning (I DID say spoiler alert), the teenagers finally and gruesomely murder the couple in front of each other. Their reasoning to the couple? “Because you were home.” Now why did my close friend say it was the scariest movie she, as a horror film lover, had ever seen? Because there were no special effects. It was not that preposterous. It was simply people… terrorizing people. Personally, I would say The Haunting of Hill House has a similar vibe. It contains some ‘supernatural’ elements, absolutely. And perhaps it is the house terrorizing the characters. But at the same time, those elements could be being caused by the other characters – we aren’t ever truly sure. The story centers around four people arriving at a reportedly haunted house – with possibly the best description of a house I have ever read – to see what happens. (This still happens today… only we have tv crews that follow these nutters around while they scream in sinister night-vision.) As the foursome stay on in the Hill House, night after night more strange and creepy instances occur, with one character singled out pretty obviously. As it happens, this character is also quite clearly the most vulnerable and unstable of the group… not to mention the narrator. She gives the impression of being somewhat unreliable from the beginning, giving the audience very little understanding of what is truly going on, and of whether her discrepancies, misgivings and thoughts on the ‘hauntings’ are built up by her own abnormal nature.

Now, I don’t want to ruin the story for the rest of you. I just wanted to give you the slightest chill, given how close we are to (arguably) the best holiday in the entire world. Perhaps you will be inspired to read something spooky, something creepy. What would we recommend?

Well, you can’t go wrong with the classics. Shirley Jackson, Edgar Allen Poe, Agatha Christie, Mary Shelley, Bram Stoker, Stephen King… the possibilities are endless. Just don’t forget… the best horror stories are the ones that scare you – curl your toes – not from frightful voices and things that go bump in the night, but from a solid, well described tearing down of human nature.

Happy Halloween, bibliophiles!

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