One Two Three Four: The Beatles In Time by Craig Brown

1966.  The Beatles return from the US, having played what will be their “last proper concert,” Candlestick Park, San Francisco, August 29.  They have some time off.

For the first time in years, the four of them were able to take a break from being Beatles.  With three months free, they could do what they liked.  Ringo chose to relax at home with his wife and new baby.  John went to Europe to play Private Gripweed in Richard Lester’s film How I Won The War.  George flew to Bombay to study yoga and to be taught to play the sitar by Ravi Shankar.  This left Paul to his own devices.

For a while he hangs out in London, where he’s surely the most famous person.  It gets a tiresome, really.  Paul gets the idea of going incognito.  He arranges a fake mustache, and fake glasses, and slicks his hair back with Vasoline.  He has an Aston Martin DB6 shipped to France, and across the Channel he goes.  He drives around France for a bit, relaxing in Paris, sitting in cafes unrecognized.  From his hotel window he shoots experimental film of cars passing a gendarme.  On he goes.

Upon reaching Bordeaux, he felt a hankering for the night life.  Still in disguise, he turned up at a local discothèque, but was refused entry.  “I looked like old jerko. ‘No, no monsieur, non’ – you schmuck, we can’t let you in.” So he went back to his hotel and took off his scruffy overcoat, his moustache and his glasses.  Then he returned to the disco where he was welcomed with open arms.

I absolutely hoovered up this book.  I’ve read a bunch of Beatles books in the last few years: Rob Sheffield’s Dreaming The Beatles, the gossipy The Love You Make by Peter Brown and Steven Gaines, You Never Give Me Your Money by Peter Doggett, about the Beatles post Beatles.  This last one may have been the most compelling, even though much of it is patient unraveling of complex business and tax situations (plus anecdotes about decadence.)  A tragedy about the years the Beatles spent suing each other.  Maybe because how a person handles that kind of stress – the stress of tedious meetings – is more revealing, the personalities really came to life.

You’d think I’d be bored of the Beatles.  The facts of the history don’t even interest me that much, and I doubt there’s a Beatles song on my top 100 most played.  I’m not that much of a Beatles fan, to be honest, not compared to the psychos.  (A funny bit in this book is Craig Brown, saying he’s spent a few years in deep on Beatles books and lore, acknowledging he’s barely scratched the surface of like, people who know every version of the lineup of the Quarrymen.)

We don’t need a recounting of the basic beats of the plot of the Beatles.  We know.

Craig Brown goes so far beyond that.  He assumes you know the rough outlines, and somehow he breathes new life into these old bones.  He makes moments pop.  Specimens of time, how far can we go to recapturing them?  That’s the real question of this book.

Brown will take an incident – the day Bob Dylan turned the Beatles on to marijuana, for instance – and turn it over from every angle, consider every account.  How do we know what we know?  Who’s telling us?  What was their agenda?  How much can they be trusted? The historigraphy, you might say.  At the same time, he puts us right there as Brian Epstein looks at himself in the mirror, repeating a single word over and over.

Take Pete Best.  You probably know that story, the original drummer, they replaced him with Ringo.  The cruelty of how that went down, how the Beatles treated him, shocks here in Brown’s retelling.  I didn’t know, for instance, that in 1967 Pete Best tried to kill himself.  Brown takes us thereL

He locks the door, blocks any air gaps, places a pillow on the floor in front of the gas fire, and turns on the gas.  He is fading way when his brother Rory arrives, smells gas, batters the door down and, screaming “Bloody idiot!” saves his life.

If you want to know what happened to the comedians who had to perform in between the Beatles’ sets on Ed Sullivan, this is the book for you.

Can I reprint all of Chapter 30?

Seems like I’m just approximating picking this book up in a bookshop.  What harm in that?

Craig Brown: going on my Role Models and Inspirations board. In a random, unrelated search I learn that he is aunt by marriage to Florence Welch, of Florence + The Machine.  That’s the kind of connection Craig Brown would track down and work over for any possible meaning.  Maybe there’s something there, maybe he’d discard it to the flotsam of chance, who knows.  The point is he’d track it down.

Brown’s 99 Glimpses of Princess Margaret is great too, if you’re into The Crown type stuff.

 

 


Dirty trick by Carousel Books

Because anybody can publish and sell texts that are in the public domain, lots of crap publishers flood Amazon with cheaply printed paperbacks of the classics.  These editions are flimsy, often with odd shapes and ugly typefaces.  If you’re serious about reading a book, it’s worth it, in my opinion, to pay up for the Penguin edition.  (This is especially true of translations, I learned this the hard way when I bought the Dover Thrift version of Chekhov’s The Seagull in college, which seemed like it had been translated by an ape).

The snakes over at Carousel Books, knowing this, deliberately made their cover look like a Penguin classic!  Very sneaky, Carousel.  Look close at the cover, you can see the degraded quality of the image, the shape is all off.  It sucks!

Maybe it’s my fault for imagining Penguin, publishers of Morrissey, would include a clown like Chesterton in their ranks.

 


Books I’ve been meaning to review for Helytimes

There’s a big stack of books over here I’ve been meaning to write up.

This book is super good.  Full of vivid detail.

Drums were banned everywhere in North America except French Louisian by the middle of the eighteenth century, and so were horns, which are made from wood or animal horns and played in hocketing ensembles in the slave coast and Congo-Angola regions.

There are excerpts from a long interview with Jim Dockery, of Dockery Farms.  Stories retold and remembered.  Sonny Payne tells of the Helena, Arkansas based radio show King Biscuit Time:

These are well-to-do white women listening.  I listen, every day when I’m doing the show, for the simple reason that there’s something there.  They’re trying to tell you something, and if you think hard enough and listen hard enough, you will understand what it’s all about.

The story this book tells is really about how blues music went from its origin point, where the Southern cross the Dog in the Mississippi Delta, to Chicago and then by record to the UK, where Eric Clapton and Jimmy Page and the Rolling Stones heard it and picked up on it. Along the way there’s so much juicy richness about race and America and music and history and everything.  Palmer takes us to a meeting in Chicago where they tried to encourage black migrants to come back to Mississippi.

This book is almost like a response to the fetishizing or the legend-building surrounding the Mississippi Delta and blues music.  Says Wald:

If someone had suggested to the major blues stars that they were old-fashioned folk musicians carrying on a culture handed down from slavery times, most would probably have been insulted.

I didn’t know that Mississippi was dry until 1966.

It is startling to thank that all of the evolution from the first Bessie Smith record to the first Rolling Stones record took only forty years.  When Skip James and John Hurt appeared at the Newport Folk Festival, they were greeted as emissaries from an ancient, vanished world, but it was only three decades since they had first entered a recording studio – that is, they were about as ancient as disco is to us today.

One point both these books make is that the Mississippi Delta at this time was actually kind of a dynamic region, crisscrossed with railroads, you could quit your job and move and get another one.

Wald tells of an anthropological team from Fisk University and the Library of Congress that visited the Delta in 1941 and 1942.  They reported:

There are no memories of slavery in the delta.  This section of the delta has little history prior to the revolution of 1861

The research team asked people what their favorite song was.  What a question!  (My Country Tis of Thee and The Star-Spangled Banner among the answers).

Gotta love a book where this is a footnote.

When I was a kid you couldn’t go to a library book sale or a book store without seeing some paperback Tony Hillerman mysteries, about the Navajo Tribal Police.  I never got into books like that, not sure why.  But when it comes to New Mexico writers, Tony Hillerman is a name to reckon with.  (And there are a lot of New Mexico writers, just see The Spell of New Mexico, edited by Tony Hillerman).

So, as I was gonna be in New Mexico, I got Tony Hillerman’s memoir.

Man.  Tony Hillerman was a combat infantryman in World War II.  Before he was twenty or so he’d fought his way through the Vosges, killed German boys yards away from him, gone on night raids and been shelled in the dead of winter.  Finally he stepped on a landmine, and his war ended in a military hospital.  There was a guy in the hospital, a tank gunner, who was called “Jug” because of the way his injuries had mangled his face.  Jug considered himself lucky compared to what happened to Colonel Delaney.

All this happened to Tony Hillerman when he was a teenager, before he’d ever really had a girlfriend.

When he got back home, he got a job driving a truck in the New Mexico oil fields.  In the Chaco Canyon country, he happened to come across some Navajos on horseback.  They were going to an “Enemy Way” ceremony, a ritual for those returned from war.

The healing power and religious idea of this ceremony impressed Tony Hillerman.  It was just what he needed.  (It sounds like the kind of ceremony Karl Marlantes describes the need for in his book).

Hillerman became a newspaperman in New Mexico, and the rest of the book is mostly funny and interesting stories about that life, and his family, and his decision to attempt some mystery books.  On a writing class he taught at UNM:

my premise was that power to persuade lies in the ability to make people see – sometimes literally – the situation as the writer sees it.  Instead of telling readers the city should improve its maintenance programs, walk them down the street with you and show them those same details that drew you to that conclusion – the roaches around the drains, the trash collecting on the fences, and so forth.  Based on that argument, I’d send them forth.

A good book by a man who seems tough and tender, humble and wise, I read most of it on an overnight train ride.

Speaking of trains, how about Hunter Harrison?  A first ballot Hall of Famer for sure if the Hall of Fame is “railroad CEOs.”  Hell they’ll probably name the hall after him.  Hunter Harrison from the time he was a teenager only ever worked for one kind of company: railroad company.

Harrison’s thing was “Precision Scheduled Railroading,” which apparently revolutionized a kind of sleepy industry.

Harrison created approximately $50 billion in shareholder value in his time as a CEO.

says the book jacket, telling you something about how we’re keeping score.  Harrison was an absolute fanatic about railroading.  He ran Canadian National, Canadian Pacific, and died on the job running CSX.

I’m not sure if I’ll finish this book, it’s interesting and I’m learning a lot, but I’m just not sure I’m that interested in this guy.  So far the part that sticks out in my mind is Harrison’s semi-mentor, Thompson.

Thompson was William F. Thompson – a.k.a. “Pisser Bill”

says the book.  I thought the nickname might be kind of a metaphor or something, but no, a few pages later Pisser Bill was at the trainyard and saw something he didn’t like so he pissed all over the place.

This book was worth the price for that alone.

 

 

 


Plague Lit

Have only gotten through the introduction to this one, big daddy of ’em all.  Am now on the cusp of chapter One (“I – Man The Hunter”).

Disease and parasitism play a pervasive role in all of life.  A successful search for food on the part of one organism becomes for its host a nasty infection or disease.  All animals depend on other living things for food, and human beings are no exception.  Problems of finding food and the changing ways human communities have done so are familiar enough in economic histories.  The problems of avoiding becoming food for some other organism are less familiar, largely because from very early times human beings ceased to have much to fear from large-bodied animal predators like lions or wolves.  Nevertheless, one can properly think of most human lives as caught in a precarious equilibrium between the microparasitism of disease organisms and the macroparasitism of large-bodied predators, chief among which have been other human beings.
Humans, virusing on each other!
Later, when food production became a way of life for some human communities, a modulated macroparasitism became possible.  A conquerer could seize food from those who produced it, and by consuming it himself become a parasite of a new sort on those who did the work… Early civilizations, in fact, were built upon the possibility of taking only a part of the harvest from subjected communities, leaving enough behind to allow the plundered community to survive indefinitely, year after year.
I might treat this book more like as a longterm project.

Defoe! Now he’s fun at least.

In 1685 he joined the rebel army of the Duke of Monmouth, the illegitimate son of Charles II… the revolt failed, but Defoe managed to escape unscathed and unidentified – riding to greet the new King William III and Queen Mary II in 1688, becoming a sort of informal adviser to them.  Then things get rocky.

Switching sides!  How did he pull that off?  That’s from the intro by Cynthia Wall.  I usually don’t read the introductions until after diving in, often never, but this is a good one.  Defoe, a wine merchant, pampleteer, always in debt, Robison Crusoe, Moll Flanders.  He died “of a lethargy” (what a way to go!  although I’m told it probably meant “stroke”) while hiding from people he owed huge amounts of money to.

Defoe was already a prolific and well-known author by the time he wrote A Journal of the Plague Year.  At the age of sixty-two he had had careers as a merchant, a spy, a political journalist, a religious and social satirist, a poet, a travel writer, an economist, an author of conduct books, and a novelist.

Journal of the Plague Year (the year was 1665, the book was written in 1720) is a kind of narrative non-fiction (half fiction?  that’s the whole joke with Defoe) narrated (sometimes?) by H. F., who’s probably based on Defoe’s uncle.
This is like a collection of horror stories, a little hard to read, but spicy.

I have heard also of some, who on the Death of their Relations, have grown stupid with the insupportable Sorrow, and of one in particular; who was so absolutely overcome with the Pressure upon his Spirirts, that by Degrees, his Head sunk into his Body, so between his Shoulders, that the Crown of his Head was very little seen above the Bones of his Shoulders; and by Degrees, loseing both Voice and Sense, his Face looking forward, lay against his Collar-Bone; and cou’d not be kept up any otherwise, unless held up by the Hands of other People; and the poor Man never came to himself again, but languished near a Year in that Condition and Died

Anthony Burgess in his 1966 introduction, included in this edition:

This is what it reads like and is meant to read like – a rapid, colloquial, sometimes clumsy setting-down of reminiscences of a great historical event… in reality it is a rather cunning work of art, a confidence trick of the imagination.

OK here we go!  The summer of 1348, ten young people flee Florence, go to the countryside, and tell one hundred stories, some of them funny, some of them sexy.

Trying to learn storytelling a few years ago, I dove into this one, but now I couldn’t find my copy.  This book is impressive for the sheer number of storytelling twists and plots:

but this go, can’t say I found it all that compelling.

Not to put it down, this is obviously an incredible achievement.

At the end Boccaccio has an epilogue that’s like a pre-attack on any possible criticisms.  Maybe more books should have that.

My favorite story remains the tenth story of the third day, about a virgin who is taught by a monk how to put the Devil back in Hell.

Don’t have a copy of this one in my house.  It sounds good!

Joseph Grand: Joseph Grand is a fifty-year-old clerk for the city government. He is tall and thin. Poorly paid, he lives an austere life, but he is capable of deep affection. In his spare time, Grand polishes up his Latin, and he is also writing a book, but he is such a perfectionist that he continually rewrites the first sentence and can get no further.

Hope to get to it eventually, but right now looking for something more amusing.

When I remember this era, will surely associate the early period more with Tiger King on Netflix.


Suttree

Moving stuff around in my house I found the handwritten list of words I had to look up from Suttree, by Cormac McCarthy, and their definitions.

Trull: a prostitute or a trollop.

Tellurian: an inhabitant of Earth.

Feels like I used to have a lot more spare time.

Suttree is set along the river in Knoxville, TN.

If you think Suttree might be for you, try the first sentence:

Dear friend now in the dusty clockless hours of the town when the streets lie black and steaming in the wake of the watertrucks and now when the drunk and the homeless have washed up in the lee of walls in alleys or abandoned lots and cats go forth highshouldered and lean in the grim perimeters about, now in these sootblacked brick or cobbled corridors where lightwire shadows make a gothic harp of cellar doors no soul shall walk save you.


Highlights for Children

On the suggestion of Neomarxisme I got a copy of this book, which he said was a pretty readable roundup of the big theories in anthropology and a history of the field.  I love that kinda book.  I bought a used copy, which the seller noted was somewhat highlighted.  I enjoy books that are a little marked up, feels fun and human.  But the previous reader really went nuts!

TAUGHT


Proust’s coffee

Although fifteen years later [Marcel Proust] would recall his year as a soldier with total delight, as “a paradise,” at the time he complained bitterly and his mother had to write him consoling, babying letters, telling him to think of the twelve months as twelve chocolate squares.

Imagine the guys in the barracks finding your letters from your mom telling you to think about your year as twelve chocolate squares.

In his short biography of Custer, Larry McMurtry mentions a few other short biographies he judges fine, including with a characteristic lack of false modesty his own biography of Crazy Horse, and this Edmund White biography of Proust.

So, I got it and read it.  Wonderful act of compression.  Thoughtful, succinct, at times funny, human, gentle, this book is a great guide to the man and artist, what his work meant and what he was after.

Thought this was wild:

In 1911 Proust became a subscriber to Théàtrophone, a service that held a telephone receiver up at a concert, which allowed people to stay at home and hear live music on their receivers.

The few hundred pages of Remembrance of Things Past I was supposed to read in college (“Proust, Joyce and Modernism”: a class I chose to take!) were tough going for me.  Proust won’t be hurried.  This guy didn’t even get a job  until he was in his thirties.  This was an unpaid job, as a librarian, and eventually he got fired for being out sick too much.  Proust is not interested in going at anyone’s pace except the languid pace of a man lying in bed, leisurely following the meandering paths of his own memory.

Proust always claimed that he had a bad memory and that, besides, a carefully reconstructed recollection, prompted by photos or shared reminiscences, was invariably colorless, Only an involuntary memory, triggered by a taste or smell or other sensation, could erase the passage of time and restore a past experience in its first, full effulgence.

Proust’s world was pretentious and can seem ridiculous.  Proust himself was a great mimic, reducing people to fits of laughter with his impressions.  He loved collecting anecdotes and gossip, grilling waiters for details (Proust was an extravagant tipper.)  White says that Georg D. Painter’s Marcel Proust: A Biography, the one-volume edition, is

so amusing that it could be used as a source for a stand-up comic.

I’ll be looking into this claim.

How about Proust’s maid, Céleste?

Céleste’s great anxiety was Proust’s morning (or afternoon) coffee.  It had to be ready the moment he rang for it, but the preparation took at least half an hour, since he liked the water to be dripped, drop by drop, through the grounds in order to produce the thickest, strongest possible “essence” of coffee.  Nor could he bear for it to be reheated…

This is after Céleste had been standing up for hours listening to Proust recount gossip he’d collected on “rare midnight sorties,” Proust waiting til midnight to go out because he was so afraid of dust.  Well, White tells us we read Proust because he knows that

only the gnarled knowledge that suffering brings us is of any real use.

Maybe Céleste pondered that while she remade the coffee.

Leaving the house was a challenge for Proust, but near the end of his life he made an outing to see Vermeer’s View of Delft:

On the night before he died Proust dictated a last sentence: “There is a Chinese patience in Vermeer’s craft.”

White tells us.  Man Ray took a picture of Proust right after the author died, you can see it here if you’re so inclined.  I’m told by the Met that Cocteau wrote of the scene:

Those who have seen this profile of calm, of order, of plenitude, will never forget the spectacle of an unbelievable recording device come to a stop, becoming an art object: a masterpiece of repose next to a heap of notebooks where our friend’s genius continues to live on like the wristwatch of a dead soldier.

True despair hours:


Tyler Cowen’s Productivity

Here is Tyler Cowen’s list of the best non-fiction books of 2018.

I take eight where the Amazon link is easily clickable and find the page count, coming up with an average of 461 pages.

Let’s discount the two books written by colleagues and the one book TC wrote himself.  That leaves us with 19 books, x 461 pages= 8,759 pages of books / 365 = TC is reading 24 pages of nonfiction on average every single day.

But remember, these are just the BEST books he’s picking.  Let’s say for every one book he picks, there’s one he doesn’t.  Call it 50 pages of nonfiction a day.

TC also picked eight fiction books, one of which is 1160 pages.

In addition to a busy travel schedule, college professor, prolific blogger, interviewer, husband, etc.

Impressed!


Dictionary of National Biography

When you come across this book, it’s fun to take it down and open it at random and read about some guy.  For instance, Caleb Jeacocke, debater and roll-maker:


Books I got rid of

Pained me to get rid of it.  But look how long it is!

Let’s be reasonable!

I hate giving away books.  I wish I could read them all.

This one I got because I saw John Laurence on Ken Burns and Lynn Novick’s The Vietnam War

and kind of related to him.  

But I mean, these books’re spilling over into in my kitchen!

The Idiot I read and loved, that is my second, demolished copy on the right.  The Other Paris can stay.

This book is incredible.  The part about the Judge and The Seducer should be its own book.

This one I got because it was recommended someplace.  Again, I regret parting with it and perhaps we’ll meet again.

This book I got because I wanted to track down the origin of JFK’s alleged claim to Macmillan that if he didn’t have a woman every few days he got headaches.  Unfortunately the source appears to be yet another book!  Goodbye, this book.  Macmillan’s life worth a peak into. 

I like Melbourne a lot.  But I did feel this book was attempting to exaggerate the charm somewhat.

For me the best thing to do in Melbourne is take a train to the countryside or drive the Great Ocean Road.  No need to oversell Melbourne, it has some cool buildings.

Flinders Street station is a personal fave.

Discussed in a review by Thomas Ricks.  Pickett’s Charge is interesting, and I was curious as to how you write a whole book about what was pretty much four thousand guys getting blown to pieces.

But then I was like I don’t want to read a whole book about four thousand guys getting blown to pieces.

A page selected at random:

One reason why there are so many statues of Lee is that he really did do some cool shit.  Something like this really did happen:

But whatever.  Remember he did just get four thousand guys blown to pieces.

Phillip Thomas Tucker I believe makes the case that Pickett’s Charge wasn’t as crazy as it later seemed and Lee almost won.

A tough guy detective type book recommended by fellow tough guy detective type writer Don Winslow.  Interested in tough guy detective type books.  But I just didn’t get to this one and it’s probable I won’t ever so best to pass it along to a new home.

Like I say, I am sad to part with any book.

I thank these books for their service!

If you want these they should be at Goodwill on Beverly.

TWIST:

Two books got a last minute reprieve!

 

 

 

 

 


Critics on critics on critics

This review in the New York Times, by Vivan Gornick of Adam Gopnik’s “At The Strangers’ Gate” caught my attention.

Critics have taken aim on Adam Gopnik before.  To which New Yorker editor David Remnick says:

‘The day any of these people write anything even remotely as fine and intelligent as Adam Gopnik will be a cold day in hell.'”

The key to this memoir might be when the author reveals he graduated high school at age fourteen.  He’s a boy genius.

This is kind of Young Sheldon the book.

The book has some good stories in it.  Adam Gopnik tells about how a guy who came to one of his lectures on Van Gogh.  This guy had an axe to grind and it was this: why did Vincent never paint his brother Theo?

My favorite part of the book was Gopnik’s discussion of Jeff Koons.  Gopnik is illuminating on the topic of Jeff Koons.  Here is Koons talking to Gopnik at a party.

(I added the potato because while it may not be strictly legal to electronically reproduce pages of books, if I include them in an original work of art, that’s gotta be allowed, right?)


His sporting blood turned to horsepiss

portis-eb-white

This interview with Charles Portis, on his days a young reporter, for an oral history project about the Arkansas Gazette newspaper is so wonderful.

Lady stringers:

lady-stringers

On Tom Wolfe and Malcolm X:

portis-on-tom-wolfe-andmalcom-x

They made movies out of several Portis books:

is one and

is another.

What does Charles Portis make of all this I wonder?

mofa

Click on this link for an amazing picture of William Woodruff sailing up the Mississippi with his printing presses.


F Minus

I don’t like to give bad reviews to books on Helytimes.  Why call limited attention to bad books?  However I must condemn this book.

img_8925

Let me admit that I didn’t read it.

I oppose it because:

1) I was not consulted on it and didn’t hear about it until it was published

2) I was not included in it

3) many geniuses were not included in it, and the selections don’t represent anything like a best of.   

Impossible in an anthology to please everyone.   But I suspect anyone familiar with the Lampoon will find the table of contents to be the funniest part.

(That’s the only part I read.)

screen-shot-2016-12-07-at-7-54-40-pm

4) No art?

The Lampoon is full of beautiful art that makes the words tolerable.

Example I happened to find here.

Example I happened to find here.

A mistake to print an all words anthology.

5)  the whole point of the Lampoon is you can write and “publish” dumb bad practice material that no one will ever see.

On the other hand: I was lucky and was given issues of the Lampoon by my cousin when I was a senior in high school.   That gift changed my life.  So maybe this book will do that for someone.

Still, I must grade it an F minus and recommend that you not purchase it on Amazon or your local indie bookstore.  For example The Harvard Book Store:

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

found on the website of Dr. Barbara Long

Here’s a funny review by one Helen Andrews of Sydney, Australia in the Weekly Standard.  (Shoutout to Chris McKenna who I guess reads The Weekly Standard?)

I think you’ll get more value for your book dollar in:

treee

available at Amazon or your local indie bookstore.  You’ll enjoy it.


Diary Of An Oxygen Thief by Anonymous

img_7520

  • this book was recommended to me in a cool way
  • 5% chance it was recommended to me by the author
  • 8% chance the author was present at the recommending
  • it’s the right length for a book
  • it’s the right size for a book
  • it’s compelling
  • there’s a coolness to it

and

  • it did send a chill down my spine.

Reminded me of another dark and mysterious book:

perfume-story-of-a-murderer

 

The first page of DoaOT gives a good sense of where we’re headed:

img_7521

Intrigued by this article about the author’s campaign to promote the book which he originally self-published in Amsterdam in 2006:

Intent on building underground buzz for the book, the author focused on promotional efforts that would make people google the book’s title. From his limited sales in bookshops he felt confident that he could land readers by getting the book’s cover (which features a picture of a snowman whose carrot nose has been repositioned to look like a penis) seen, and its title shared.

With this in mind, the author went out into the streets of New York and put up posters. Some featured profane statements and the book’s title; others simply displayed the book’s cover. The posters of the book’s cover were placed side by side on scaffolding, in the wheat-pasting tradition, to mimic ads promoting bands and albums that often dot urban landscapes. To draw readers in another way, the author created a fake profile on a popular dating website—he declined to say which one—with photos of a beautiful woman. The profile directed potential suitors to read a book called Diary of an Oxygen Thief. “I gave the impression that, if they were to read this book, they might have more of an amorous chance with me,” he said. Again, as with the posters, the goal was to get people to plug the book’s title into their Web browsers.

Now I’ve done my part.


Wonder Trail reviewers’ guide

books in box

Books arrived!

The main character of my last book had some rough things to say about book reviewers.  That was part of the joke.  Me?  I’ve always rooted for book reviewers.  They have a tough job.  Newspapers shrinking, etc.  I am on the book reviewers side.  This site is largely amateur book reviewing.  It’s easy (and cheap) to write a bad review.  Hard to write a good one.

Let me make things as easy as possible for anyone reviewing of my book.

If you’ve been assigned the job, or if you want to pitch it and take it on freelance (her0), let me help you with this handy reviewers’ kit to The Wonder Trail:

orig

If you’re brave enough to volunteer?  At your local publication?  God bless.  (Happy to answer your interview questions, write me.)

Print that helpful guide out.  Download it.  All those phrases are free to use.

Start each paragraph on one and you’ll be done in no time!

* this one from actual human reader Margot B. who I don’t know but who very kindly wrote in after winning a copy in the Great Debates Newsletter contest.  

Thanks, and good luck!


Fault Fun

IMG_3999

Very happy with this purchase of David K. Lynch’s Field Guide To The San Andreas Fault.
IMG_4001

Good charts.  IMG_4002

Plus, fun style.
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Didn’t know we barely nick the top ten ever in the US!
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Reading up on author David K. Lynch I am delighted to learn:

Back in the 70’s, he was proclaimed “Frisbee Immortal” by the Wham-O company. Dave’s recreational activities include playing the fiddle in assorted southern California bands, camping, collecting rocks and rattlesnakes and reading the New Yorker.

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You wish!  Can’t wait to hit the road and start looking for scarps. scarp

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Will definitely check out Lynch’s Color and Light In Nature.

color and light in nature

 


A+ to this book

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Unauthorized excerpt:

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Lot of the feel of David Markson’s books, Boyland’s copies of which I read all in one fall in NYC.

This novel contains much information and true stories in it, which I always enjoy:

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This was so interesting was that I looked into more about Komarov:

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He successfully re-entered the Earth’s atmosphere on his 19th orbit, but the module’s drogue and main braking parachute failed to deploy correctly and the module crashed into the ground, killing Komarov. According to the 1998 bookStarman, by Jamie Doran and Piers Bizony, as Komarov sped towards his death, U.S. listening posts in Turkey picked up transmissions of him crying in rage, “cursing the people who had put him inside a botched spaceship.”

Komarov

As always, the more you read about the story the more interesting it gets.  Did they really hear his screams?

Komorov is one of the people honored in the Fallen Astronaut memorial left on the moon by David Scott on the Apollo 15 mission.

fallen astronaut

If you’re looking for that it’s over on the Hadley Rille:

Hadley Rille

According to NASA, the origin of lunar sinuous rilles remains controversial.[1] The Hadley Rille is a 1.5 km wide and over 300 m deep sinuous rille. It is thought to be a giant conduit that carried lava from an eruptive vent far to the south. Topographic information obtained from the Apollo 15 photographs supports this possibility; however, many puzzles about the rille remain.

 


Hurray for Bookstores!

 

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Bookstores are so pretty.  Here is a bookstore I saw in Barcelona.  I mean man.

Some of my all-time favorites are The Harvard Book Store in Cambridge:

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Marfa Book Company in Marfa, TX:

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Elliot Bay Books in Seattle:

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(their Instagram is like 50% adorable dogs)

and Three Lives Books in NYC:

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LA is a great bookstore town, don’t let anyone tell you otherwise.  There is Book Soup, right on the Sunset Strip:

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And Skylight:

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The Last Bookstore is almost like a book theme park:

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Iliad Books in North Hollywood:

Iliad Bookshop

And the granddaddy in Pasadena, Vroman’s:

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I will be coming to some bookstores to promote my new book, The Wonder Trail: True Stories From Los Angeles To The End Of The World, in June of this year.  My book cover straight up looks good:

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and will brighten any bookstore.  Can’t take the credit for that, it goes to kickass cover designer Anna Laytham, who says:

I’ve done a fair bit of traveling myself in the last couple years, and as a designer find all the vibrant color and beautifully imperfect handtype to be one of my favorite parts of being in an unfamiliar place. I was happy to express some of that feeling on your cover!
And hell yeah people judge books by their cover! I certainly do. Thats why I design them 🙂

Especially looking forward to a trip down to Laguna Beach Books:

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If you work in a bookstore and want me to come visit, get at me!

helphely@gmail.com.  If at all possible I would love to do it.

And thank you for your great service to our nation!

(photo credits: Helytimes / Harvard Book Store / Marfa Book Co. Facebook / Elliot Bay insta / Google Street View / Google Street View / Skylight Twitter / Helytimes / Iliad Twitter / Helytimes / Rachel Orminston Caffoe for Vroman’s found here

World’s oldest liberry

al Qarawiyyin

The ancient al-Qarawiyyin Library in Fez isn’t just the oldest library in Africa. Founded in 859, it’s the oldest working library in the world, holding ancient manuscripts that date as far back as 12 centuries.

so I learn from this interesting thing linked by Tyler Cowen.

The al-Qarawiyyin Library was created by a woman, challenging commonly held assumptions about the contribution of women in Muslim civilization. The al-Qarawiyyin, which includes a mosque, library, and university, was founded by Fatima El-Fihriya, the daughter of a rich immigrant from al-Qayrawan (Tunisia today). Well educated and devout, she vowed to spend her entire inheritance on building a mosque and knowledge center for her community.

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picture of Fatima from this strange pseudo wikipedia: http://america.pink/fatima-fihri_1528345.html

Among the library hounds was Ibn Khaldun who wrote Muqaddim, The Introduction, which is full of interesting ideas:

Topics dealt with in this work include politics, urban life, economics, and knowledge. The work is based around Ibn Khaldun’s central concept of ‘‘aṣabiyyah, which has been translated as “social cohesion“, “group solidarity”, or “tribalism“. This social cohesion arises spontaneously in tribes and other small kinship groups; it can be intensified and enlarged by a religious ideology. Ibn Khaldun’s analysis looks at how this cohesion carries groups to power but contains within itself the seeds – psychological, sociological, economic, political – of the group’s downfall, to be replaced by a new group, dynasty or empire bound by a stronger (or at least younger and more vigorous) cohesion.

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By م ض – Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=6287905

Perhaps the most frequently cited observation drawn from Ibn Khaldūn’s work is the notion that when a society becomes a great civilization (and, presumably, the dominant culture in its region), its high point is followed by a period of decay. This means that the next cohesive group that conquers the diminished civilization is, by comparison, a group of barbarians. Once the barbarians solidify their control over the conquered society, however, they become attracted to its more refined aspects, such as literacy and arts, and either assimilate into or appropriate such cultural practices. Then, eventually, the former barbarians will be conquered by a new set of barbarians, who will repeat the process. Some contemporary readers of Khaldun have read this as an early business cycle theory, though set in the historical circumstances of the mature Islamic empire.

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By Khonsali – Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=4550966


How to pronounce Broad

Broad

If you are on Instagram in LA you have seen probably six hundred pictures of The Broad art museum downtown.

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How did Broad get so rich?  “Moving money around,” was my guess. Part right: he started a homebuilding company, KB Home, and then when that was up and going he started another company, SunAmerica, for retirement savings / mutual funds.  Learning this from the man’s book:

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which also gives a final answer on how to pronounce the name:

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To summarize: everybody has to say it weird because he didn’t like getting teased as a boy.

(photos of the Broad yanked right off LA Curbed)