Monday, July 30, 2012

Three Men in the Snow by Erich Kästner.

Three Men in the Snow by Erich Kästner.  Hardcover book published by Jonathan Cape 1938, 256 pages with an unpaginated publishers catalogue at the end of the book.

One of the benefits of being a bookseller is that I can read a book before selling it.  When I found this gem by Erich Kastner this is exactly what I did.  Erich Kastner was a German writer most well known for his childrens books.  Like a surprisingly large number of people that I have recently mentioned the name Erich Kastner to, I read a number of these books in my youth.  Who can forget “Emil and the Detectives”, “Emil and the Three Twins”, “Lottie and Lisa” or “The Little Man”.  I certainly haven’t and when I found this book my attention was immediately drawn to it.

I hadn’t read this particular title before, although for some reason it seemed vaguely familiar.  I’m still not sure why this is.  I assumed it would be a childrens book and it was only when I started reading it that I found out it wasn’t… at least I think it wasn’t.  Regular readers of this blog are aware that I tend to use the interwebs quite a bit to do research on various things to do with my work, but in regards to this volume there was very little information.  In other words, I was unable to find out anything regarding this title.  There’s probably heaps of information in German, but my German is not that good and I certainly am unable to easily decipher a long treatise on “Three Men in the Snow” in Deutsch… and let’s be honest, it’s not that important.  What I did find out was that this period of Kastner’s literary career was not a very happy one.  For various reasons he had fallen out of favour with the Nazis and wrote a number of books that were apolitical so as to avoid any further issues with Adolf and his book burning friends.  This was obviously not a happy time for Erich yet he was still able to write this charming story.

Interestingly this English translation was published in Britain in 1938 and is a reprint of a 1935 edition.  I don’t think I need to go into the details about British German relations at this point in history… and if your not aware, well… let’s just say it wasn’t very good.  As far as I can tell there are no other editions of this book other than the 1935 and 1938 editions.  As I mentioned above, many of Kastner’s other books were incredibly popular in the Anglosphere after WWII.  Having read the book, I sort of understand why this one hasn’t remained in print.  Don’t get me wrong, it’s entertaining and very readable, but it is a little fluffy and keeping in mind his other excellent works, it’s certainly not an Emile.  What it is though, is rare. 

Thursday, July 26, 2012

Monty Python (“Don’t mention the war”).

(Yes, I’m well aware that the brackets above contains a quote from a completely different TV series which is not Monty Python, but with some artistic license due to the obvious link, I thought it might be appropriate in this instance.)

In the past i have shared a few words of wisdom regarding some items of interest that for various reasons, I have chosen not to purchase.  I’ve also on occasion mentioned the difficulty in selling books that are published in foreign languages in a country where the… ummm… language of the book is foreign.  I seem to keep falling into the trap of purchasing great titles in other languages and then not being able to sell them and I have vowed to be a little more discerning regarding this matter.  So when I found this 2 volume hardcover set of Monty Python sketches in German, I was finally able to control my urge.  Indeed, I didn’t whip out the cash, choosing instead to whip out my phone and take these pictures.  My reasoning was that it would make a great post on this blog and not a great thing to have sitting on my shelves. 

Humour translated into another language is an interesting concept.  Sometimes it works incredibly well and sometimes it doesn’t.  As an English speaker, Monty Python is an interesting phenomenon to consider how well it could translate into any foreign language.  I have heard that Monty Python is/was incredibly popular in Germany and there are numerous clips on youtube of sketches dubbed into Deutsch and I guess this is some sort of indicator as to the popularity of this sort of thing. 

I think that I don’t really need to mention the near impossibility of selling a German translation of Monty Python sketches here in Australia… but I should mention that I was tempted to give it a go.  Some habits are hard to lose. 

Monday, July 23, 2012

Mad Max by Terry Kaye.

Mad Max by Terry Kaye.  Paperback book published by Circus Books 1979, 200 pages.

“MAD MAX will make you stab for the brake until the very last page. Your blood will turn to ice and your eyes will squirm with horror. Bullet down the spine of suicide highway with the Toe Cutter, Bubba Zanetti, and Johnny the Boy hissing with revenge for the death of their hero The Night Rider, killed after a frenzied car chase with mad-cop Max. Mad Max, Jim the Goose, and Fifi Macaffee follow a twisted trail of highway smashes, torture, and brutality in pursuit of the nomad bikies.  MAD MAX will career you into a metallic volcano, exploding with fiendish crimes, lightning chase scenes and one man’s madness against a gang of bike riding psychopaths. Hit the road with MAD MAX and crash the hot metal nightmare of a lifetime.”

In 1979 the first of the Mad Max film franchise was released to mixed revues.  Over the years it has become one of Australia’s most successful films both financially and critically, attracting a rabid following both here and elsewhere.  This book was typical of the sort of novelization that was written and published to accompany cinematic releases.  I think the idea was that you would be able to take the book home and relive the film through the book.  As far as I’m aware this sort of novelization is less popular now possibly due to the advent of Video and then later, DVDs, in other words, why read the book if you can watch the film over and over again.  These books were often written as an afterthought and not necessarily by the creative forces that created the original story.  In case your thinking that this is just more Huc & Gabet rubbish/guess work, the story was written by James McCausland and was then revised by George Miller and Byron Kennedy… of which none are Terry Kaye (the author of this book). 

This book is rare and unlike many of the other gems I accidentally find and only later realize that I have struck gold, I was aware of it’s value as soon as I saw it.  Now this is an interesting thing in bookselling, how did I know?  Actually, it's not that interesting.  I think I’ve written before that gut feeling is one way, previous experience selling a particular title is another, in this instance it was neither.  A few years back I was casually talking to some fellow booksellers about interesting books and they mentioned this title as being one to look out for (… as one does).  The success and continued cult following of the movie has ensured a demand for this rare paperback.  I think the other thing is that due to the format many copies have worn and subsequently deteriorated considerably making intact and reasonably good condition copies all that more uncommon.  This copy is not in mint condition but it is still in one piece.

Finally, I would like to mention that sections of the original movie were filmed here in Clunes.  There are locals who remember the event and those tourists who are not here visiting Australia’s only booktown or investigating family history, are often here to worship at the holy Mad Max sites of pilgrimage.  It’s been a long time since I saw the film so I can’t confirm what was or wasn’t filmed here, but I have been assured that the railway station is in the film.  Living here in such an illustrious location, i should also add that I’ve never met Toe, Bubba, Johnny, Jim, Fifi or Mad... but I’m sure I would recognise them if I did.  I guess they have all moved on… as I hope this book will do as well.

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Communist Review: Organ of theory and practice of the Australian Communist Party, edited by L.L. Sharkey.

Communist Review: Organ of theory and practice of the Australian Communist Party, edited by L.L. Sharkey.  Hardcover book (no dust jacket) published by the Central Committee of the Australian Communist Party 1945, various pagination (this book is comprised of the 12 monthly issues of the Communist Review with index, bound together in one volume).

Cover of the January issue

Greetings comrades.

Once again I’ve chosen to tackle the exciting and sadly not so popular world of Communist publications.  In this instance it’s a journal/magazine/“organ of theory” published by the Australian Communist Party.  The editor was a certain Lance Sharkey who at one stage attained the lofty heights of Secretary-General of the Communist Party of Australia and from all accounts and my brief reading of those accounts, he was an important person in the world of Australian Communism and beyond.  If you look back at my blog entry re communist publications, you’ll see that one of the publications was written by Mr Sharkey.

This book is a complete collection of the monthly 1945 issues of Communist Review.  In years gone by libraries would often gather issues of magazines or journals together and get them bound into one hard cover volume for easier reference and storage and from what I can gather this book is one such volume.  There aren’t a lot of clues as to which library it was bound for and all of what I’m writing here is theory only… but I did find this ink stamp on the front cover of the August issue: 

This could mean the book was part of a collection of learning tools that were available at the Marx School in Melbourne Victoria. The book doesn’t appear to have been overly used which is possibly an indicator as to the popularity of the magazine… or maybe this was a storage copy… in other words, crisp copies of the magazine, bound and put aside for future generations to study... and enjoy… or put aside for Huc & Gabet to one day pick up and sell…

Slightly earlier issues of the Communist Review, are currently selling on line for $20 a piece.  There are 12 issues in this volume ($$$).  Also to be noted is that there aren’t really that many issues available on the interwebs for purchasing.  This may be a reflection of the rarity or it may just be a lack of interest.  I personally think it is of interest, which I guess is why I picked it up.  It will be even more interesting to see if any one else finds it of interest.

Monday, July 16, 2012

With Lane in Paraguay: Harry Taylor of the Murray Pioneer 1873-1932

With Lane in Paraguay: Harry Taylor of the Murray Pioneer 1873-1932 by Don Gobbett and Malcolm Saunders.  Paperback book published by Central Queensland University Press 1995, 141 pages with a few black and white photographs.

Now here’s a book that is about Paraguay that does have an Australian connection.  In the late 1800s a group of Australians decided that they didn’t want to live here (Australia) anymore, so they moved to Paraguay.  That’s the simplified version of what happened.  In fact it was a little more political than a whimsical choice to move to a foreign land and involved the early Labour Party and a desire for utopian settlements… there was other stuff as well.  I guess Australia wasn’t big enough and Paraguay was, so too Paraguay they went naming their new found Utopia “New Australia”.  Of course these things often end up in tears.  There was a split in the community and some of the people started a new commune nearby.  There are still descendents of the original settlers living in Paraguay and I reckon if you found them, there would possibly be a jar of mouldy Vegemite in the cupboard somewhere.

The title of this book refers to William Lane who was the head honcho of New Australia and the New Australians(?).  He was also the guy who split off from the original group and then much later ended up in New Zealand.  Reading between the lines, I think that some of the problems were due to peoples dissatisfaction in Lane’s leadership capabilities… and possibly some of the rules were a little extreme.  Harry Taylor, who was the author of this book, was a South Australian guy and was one of the first group of people to go with Lane to Paraguay… he was also a journalist and this book is his first hand account of these events.

When I found this title, I had a fair (although a little vague) idea on what it was all about.  Which is a very different story to me finding the The Lives of Eliza Lynch of which I had absolutely no idea about at all.  The idea of a first hand account of this strange and peculiar history of a Paraguayan and Australian connection is a great title to have for sale.  I believe there are other books about New Australia and William Lane but unfortunately I have never found any which is one of the reasons I find this title interesting.  Maybe books on this subject are a lot more common than I’m aware of, regardless I rate this book as a book of interest.

Thursday, July 12, 2012

The Lives of Eliza Lynch: Scandal and Courage by Michael Lillis and Ronan Fanning.

The Lives of Eliza Lynch: Scandal and Courage by Michael Lillis and Ronan Fanning.  Hardcover book published by Gill & Macmillan 2009, 298 pages with a few colour and black and white illustrations and photographs.

So who was Eliza Lynch?  Well, originally she was Irish, but was living (and loving) in France when she met a Paraguayan guy called Francisco Solano López who ended up taking over from his dad as President of Paraguay (1862 to 1870).  Eliza went to Paraguay and was the mistress of this Mr Lopez and then later became the de facto first lady of Paraguay upon his attaining the presidency (they didn’t marry as she was already married).  As president, Francisco got Paraguay involved in a war known as the War of the Triple Alliance (Argentina, Brazil, and Uruguay) which ended up killing a lot of people including most of Paraguay’s male population (90%)… and Francisco.  … and what did Eliza have to do with all of this?  Well, there’s a lot of debate as to how much influence this lady had on Francisco and I guess that’s some of what this book is all about.  

Here is Australia most of us… myself included… or maybe only myself… are not all that familiar with the War of the Triple Alliance, Francisco Solano López or Eliza Lynch.  In Paraguay, Argentina, Brazil, and Uruguay, I assume people are a little more au fait with this War, the President and Eliza.  Which is why this book is of interest.  From my experience of bookselling over the years, most books on South American history are a hard sell, at least on the interwebs here in Australia, they are hard to sell. I'm sure that if the book was in the right language (Spanish or Portuguese) and in South America this would not be the case.  Looking at the subject matter though, a book such as this shouldn’t be a hard sell (?).  Then again, there are lots of book that I think shouldn’t be as hard a sell as they are and maybe all of this is just a grumpy booksellers (that’s me) venting at the difficulty of selling certain titles.  I guess the truth is that a book like this is difficult as there appears to be very little interest here in the history of Paraguay unless there is possibly some sort of Australian connection… (to be continued).

Sunday, July 8, 2012

Life: An Unauthorised Biography by Richard Fortey.

Life: An Unauthorised Biography: A Natural History of the First Four Thousand Million Years of Life on Earth by Richard Fortey.  Hardcover book published by Harper Collins 1997, 399 pages with a few black and white photographs. 

“What do any of us know about the history of our planet before the arrival of man? Most of us have a dim impression of a swirling mass of dust solidifying to form a volcanic globe, briefly populated by dinosaurs, then by woolly mammoths and finally by our own hairy ancestors. This book, aimed at the curious and intelligent but perhaps mildly uninformed reader, brilliantly dispels any such lingering notions forever.”  Publishers blurb.

So this book is obviously written for a reader like myself.  That is, the “mildly uninformed reader” with "lingering notions".  I like these popular science type of books and have read a few such titles over the years as I am someone who whilst being mildly uninformed, is interested in becoming a little more informed… or uninformed, depending on the book.  I do understand that I won’t become a rocket scientist after reading a book such as this, but it is of interest and I’m interested.  I guess what I’m trying to say, is that this book is my kind of book.

There are 399 pages covering 4,000,000,000 years, which is about 10,000,000 years per page.  That’s a lot of information per page.  I’ve got a feeling the author may have concentrated on the important bits… which is possibly a good thing as I’m sure there were long periods of Life on earth that were a little dull and probably don’t make for interesting reading.  I’d hate to think how many years per page Readers Digest could condense a book like this down to.

I love the whole “unauthorized” thingy in the title.  Arnold Schwarzenegger or Tom Cruise have unauthorized biographies.  “Life” shouldn’t.  This is possibly a clever marketing tool by the author and/or the publisher to catch the attention of us “mildly uninformed reader”s.  In this instance, it worked.

Wednesday, July 4, 2012

Your Book of Knitted Toys by Brenda Morton.

Your Book of Knitted Toys by Brenda Morton.  Hardcover book with pictorial boards (no dust jacket) published by Faber and Faber 1973, 78 pages with black and white illustrations.

Like making cupcakes, craft was another activity/pastime that was all the rage a few years ago… actually, it may still be all the rage, but this is something I am unfortunately a little out of touch with at this particular point in time.  I guess if you don’t know anyone into something, in this case craft, it’s easy to say it “was all the rage”.  There is a little more though re the “was”  that I’m talking about as I am finding craft books a lot harder to sell now than 2 years ago.  It’s sort of like Britney Spears in that sales figures are no longer what they once were. 

This title is a little older than the recent interest in crafts and this is possibly a slight problem.  I don’t know if people want to knit


But I can’t imagine that anyone out there would have an issue with a knitted group of break dancing teddy bears or an army of slightly varied bunny rabbits. 

The strangest thing about this book is that it has an on line value that shocked me when I first searched around on the interwebs.  A worn ex library copy is currently listed on line at around $25 and a good copy (not ex library) is listed at just under $50, then its value starts to climb until it reaches just over $205.  I guess if your keen, your keen… and who wouldn’t be keen on this sort of thing.

Sunday, July 1, 2012

The Teachings of Osiris: Set down in the House of El eros-El Erua, they being male-female, born according to the laws governing the Dhuman-Adamic race, this being their fourth incarnation.

The Teachings of Osiris: Set down in the House of El eros-El Erua, they being male-female, born according to the laws governing the Dhuman-Adamic race, this being their fourth incarnation.  Hardcover book (no dust jacket) published by Rider & Co. (no date, late 1920s?), 135 pages.

According to Peter Miles, who wrote the introduction, this book was produced by “clairaudient dictation”, which is probably why there is no author listed.  Clairaudient dictation, now there’s something you don’t read about everyday.  I’m not 100% jiggy with the whole clairaudient thing, but I think it’s the same or it’s a very similar to Channeling.  I’ve sold a few Channeling books over the years and there are a few authors/channeled entities that I do look out for.  Again, it’s not my thing, but it is the thing of many others.

So who was Osiris? Well he was (is?) an Egyptian god usually associated with the afterlife.  The tiny picture on the front cover might just possibly be this Osiris fellow, who might just possibly be the author of this book via the clairaudient dictation thingy.  Whoever it is, it is certainly not Peter Miles.  So who was Peter Miles?  The interwebs hasn’t been able to give me the quick answer I was hoping for (unlike the quick answer re Osiris) and delving a little deeper… I still have no answer, so I’m going to go out on a limb here.  I reckon there’s a good chance that Peter Miles was the person who was involved in the clairaudient dictation and some of us skeptical non believers of clairaudient dictation, may even go so far as to say, that he was probably the author of this book. 

So what is this book all about?  The contents read like a what’s what and who’s who of the paranormal world of the 1920’s, which is by the way, when this book was dictated (all of the entries are dated).  The contents include: Spiritual Success; Law of Attraction and Repulsion; Dual Life; Reincarnation; Spirit; Astral Rays; Subconsciousness Mind; Magnetic Attraction; Egyptian Existence; Ectoplasm; Manifestations; Cosmic Consciousness; Religious Rites; Osiris-Isis; Book of Knowledge; Teachings.  I’m not going to go into what all these things are as there are others out there who can write a better biased or non biased explanation than I can ever possibly cobble together from Wikipedia.  The fact that there is a chapter on Ectoplasm does date the book a little (… no, I’m not an ectoplasmic expert).  Apparantly ectoplasm is not as common as it once was and some people doubt that it ever really existed...?  If you look around on the interwebs you’ll find some great pictures.

Here’s what Osiris had to say about ectoplasm:
“Ectoplasm is a magnetic substance which is invisible to the physical eye unless it be trained to receive its vibrations ; as thou dost know, the centre of the ectoplasm is toward the lower part of the chest.  This is attracted out of the medium’s physical body by the absorbing vibrations of the spirits who are to manifest.  The mediums generally have an abundant supply of ectoplasm.”

This book is a very strange and peculiar thing.  A little dated and possibly a hard sell, but still an interesting curiosity.