Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Clunes Booktown 2013: Tuesday before.

Windows have now been cleaned and the beginnings of an outstanding window display are now in place.  Have vacuumed and I’m just waiting on the other person involved with the shop to give me his final bits and pieces and I will then begin the final tidy/straightening up.  I like a tidy shop.  I don’t like books on the floor (… sorry Paul), but this is not anything I have to worry about, as it’s not something that we normally do.  I was talking to my good friends at “Black Duck Books” here in Clunes and they are also nearly ready as indeed are the other wonderful people at “We’re All About Books” and “The Book Fossiker”.  I was talking to “The Bishop” the other day (yes we have a bonafide Bishop (retired) here in Clunes) just after he had sermonized a combined congregation of local book lovers who were seeking to give their bit to the book fair… I assume this was through prayer and general good wishes on their behalves.  Anyway, I did point out that if business is not so good this year, I know who to blame.  He did smile.

Monday, April 29, 2013

Australian Oat Varieties: Identification of Plants, Panicles and Grains by R.W. Fitzsimmons G.L. Roberts and C.W. Wrigley.

Australian Oat Varieties: Identification of Plants, Panicles and Grains by R.W. Fitzsimmons G.L. Roberts and C.W. Wrigley.  Paperback book/booklet (spiral bound) published by CSIRO 1983, 68 pages with colour photographs and some black and white illustrations.

Samuel Johnson: In England we wouldn't think of eating oats. We only feed them to Horses.
Boswell: "Well, maybe that's why in England you have better horses, and in Scotland we have better men". 

Conversation in response to Johnson criticising Boswell for the latter's Scottish habit of eating oats for breakfast.
(Unsourced Wikiquote)

Besides eating a few odd oats mixed with some dried fruit and nuts, I have very little to do with oats as a general rule.  In fact, I having nothing to do with oats at all*, yet I see a book about Australian Oat varieties and I get excited.  Yes it’s true the identification of plants, panicles and grains excites me… even though i have no idea what the word “panicle” means and can only assume that it has something to do with oats… I get excited.  It was also partially due to these wonderful photographs that my interest in things oaty, was stimulated.

I love the idea of photographing oats.  It’s a bit like photographing… well… ummm…. anything.  All you need is a good camera, a bit of skill and some oats and you’re off.  Most of us choose not to photograph oats (… I may be wrong about this) unless of course it’s part of our job as is the case with these photographs (… I may be wrong about this).  But there is a quality about these type of scientific/agricultural images that appeals to me, which is possibly a perceived absurdity on my behalf, at the very idea of photographing oats.  Of course to an oat aficionado, an agriculturalist (the probable target audience for these photos and the book), or a Scotsman (according to Johnson and Boswell), there is no absurdity.

More importantly though, I was drawn to this book as it is specifically about Australian Oat Varieties.  No foreign oats in this book just your regular Aussie oats.  This is an important aspect of this title particularly when one is trying to “separate the wheat from the chaff” in regards to oat books.

*But i do occasionally partake in some Haggis.

Friday, April 26, 2013

Pontiac Shop Manual 1940 Models.

Pontiac Shop Manual 1940 Models.  Paperback book published by Pontiac Motor Division General Motors Sales Corporation 1939, 222 pages with black and white photographs and illustrations.

“The information given in the shop manual covers only the 1940 Pontiac Cars.  The subjects have been discussed in the order of arrangement of the General Motors Parts Grouping System.  Each section consists of a brief description of the parts included under that group heading; complete information concerning repair operations and the specifications of the parts.” 

I’ve slowed down a bit in the purchasing of old car manuals over the last 12 months as there seems to be a bit of a slowdown of sales of old car manuals on the interwebs over the last 12 months.  I wrote about another manual a while ago and I guess my opinion has shifted slightly on the whole subject as they no longer seems to be as popular a proposition as they once were.  Why is this?  I have absolutely no idea.  Maybe there’s a glut.  Maybe my other blog post inspired you all to race out and buy car manuals and list them on ebay…  More than likely it’s just another one of those book selling on line things that is inexplicable.

Pontiac 1940.  Wow.  Despite my observations re the downturn in car manual sales, I couldn’t resist this one.  If you owned a 1940 Pontiac you would have to accessorise and lets face it, you would probably be doing your own repairs and maintenance, so what better an object to have to go with your Pontiac than an original shop manual… in all its used and worn glory.

Now for the big question.  How many 1940 Pontiacs are there still out there on the road (or in the garage)?  And how many manuals are out there?  A quick look around the interwebs shows me that there ain’t that many manuals for sale and this can only be a good thing… that is, unless of course, all the other copies have already been bought up by accessory conscious Pontiac owners.

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Recollections of a Bleeding Heart: A Portrait of Paul Keating PM by Don Watson.

Recollections of a Bleeding Heart: A Portrait of Paul Keating PM by Don Watson. Hardcover book published by Knopf 2002, 756 pages with a few black and white photographs.

“IN JANUARY 1992, less than a month after Paul Keating became Prime Minister, Don Watson was employed as his speechwriter. Though trained in history rather than economics and generally regarded as a ‘bleeding heart liberal’, he became a close advisor and friend.” 

This is the book that ended the camaraderie between Don and Paul.  Yep, Keating read it, had a few issues and that was it, it was over.  It had something to do with the Redfern Speech which to be honest, I can’t even remember.  Some of you may have gasped at my last sentence, the truth is that at the time I was not a fan of Keating and I had become so disillusioned with Australian Politics that I had withdrawn my interest.  In retrospect I think this was a mistake as I now perceive Keating as a clever man and certainly a man of interest… why else would someone write a musical about him. 

Don Watson has written a number of books on a number of subjects.  I guess being a speech writer, is a good background to writing and if you’re remembered as having had a talent, well this can only help with any future sales of scribblings that you might make.  This book about his time with Keating is a well respected and much read political biography.  It’s a win win (win) book if you think about it.  It’s about an interesting prime minister, written by an insider, who is a writer… you can’t get any better than that.  Unlike John Howards recent rant (2010), this biography is not an easy secondhand find and I gather this has to do with the content and the reluctance of current owners to part with it.  Also of interest is that a few booksellers have asked me over recent months if I have a copy of the Watson/Keating book and no one has asked me about the Howard book. 

Besides writing about his ex boss, Don also writes about the use of language… oh boy, I’m in trouble.

Thursday, April 18, 2013

Clunes Booktown 2013.

I’m still here… and the annual Clunes Booktown festival is still here, with this years festivities set to begin at 9am Saturday 4th of May.  This means that I am currently juggling not only my online business and the regular shop, but also the preparations for the big weekend.  Last year we* supposedly had 18,000 visitors.  I lost count after 1,000 as i was a little bit busy selling some books, so I can’t verify the exact number, what I can verify is that there was a shit load of people here in Clunes and they did buy books. 

Preparation is a tricky thing.  I already have a shop full of desirable tomes so what else do I need to prepare?  Signage is an issue that has been talked about and worked upon for the last few months and there’s still a bit of tweaking needed in this area.  A little bit of cleaning is probably appropriate and staff are on board and ready to go… or rather, as ready as they can be.  Except for enthusiasm and positive attitude, we are pretty much prepared for the onslaught… that is if there is an onslaught. 

… of course there’ll be an onslaught.  There has to be.  We are an international booktown of international standing and booklovers love books which is what you find at a booktown festival… so… you know… “build it and they will come”**… or maybe this should read “advertise it and they will come”.  To be honest I’ve been waiting 51 weeks for this weekend as it’s the one weekend when I can be fairly confident that I will sell something… anything.

So if you’re in Clunes with the massing throngs don’t forget to visit us/me at “The Everyman Bookstore” (4a Service Street) which is just around the corner from Fraser Street. 

(I hope that was all positive enough... except for the bits that weren't.  Hard sell?  Yep.)

**Popular misquote.

Thursday, April 11, 2013

The Book of Masonry Stoves: Rediscovering an Old Way of Warming by David Lyle.

The Book of Masonry Stoves: Rediscovering an Old Way of Warming by David Lyle.  Paperback book published by Chelsea Green Publishing Company 1997, 192 pages with black and white photographs and illustrations.

Winter is fast approaching and it’s that time of year where I start to stock up on fire wood whilst bracing myself for the onslaught.  Yes, it gets hot here in Australia and whilst it doesn’t get as cold as Russia, Iceland or Antarctica, it does get cold enough for me to notice.  Fortunately i have good heating and warm jumpers (sweaters) that do a reasonable job in keeping me unfrozen but without a good wood heater i doubt that i would be as positive about the season as i am.  

So, i find a book about wood heaters and of course i immediately identify with it.  I understand the importance and the desire to have an appropriate source of warmth when there is none.  I don’t have a Masonry Stove.  Mine is a ummm… a wood burning… ahhh… something.  It’s good and does the job.  According to the publishers blurb of this book I might be better off with a Masonry Stove.  

“Masonry stoves offer good solutions to many of the problems associated with wood burning. They provide clean combustion at a high temperature, good efficiency, a high degree of safety, and little or no pollution. Masonry stoves require little care, needing to be fed only once or twice a day. They come in a wide variety of shapes and sizes from simple to elegant and from austere to gothic.”   

I don’t know that I need a gothic stove and to be honest the wood heater I currently have will do just fine for the moment.  Anyone who is building, renovating, DIYing or lacking in warm jumpers, might have a passing interest in this book, particularly here in the forthcoming frozen wastelands of Clunes.

Sunday, April 7, 2013

Hellfire: The Story of Australia, Japan and the Prisoners of War by Cameron Forbes. One Fourteenth of an Elephant: A memoir of life and death on the Burma-Thailand Railway by Ian Denys Peek.

Hellfire: The Story of Australia, Japan and the Prisoners of War by Cameron Forbes.  Hardcover book published by Macmillan 2005, 559 pages with some black and white photographs and a few black and white illustrations.

One Fourteenth of an Elephant: A memoir of life and death on the Burma-Thailand Railway by Ian Denys Peek.  Hardcover book published by Doubleday 2004, 522 pages with a few black and white photographs and illustrations.

Military history is a massive and at times overwhelming subject.  One part of that subject is the Prisoner of War story.  I know of a number of people (myself included) where family members were locked up during war and it is one of those subjects where rarely is there a good story to tell.  It’s always grim and even with time and a desire to comprehend, it is difficult to comprehend what these people went through.  I did once meet an elderly German man who had wonderful stories about being a POW in the United States at the end of the Second World War.  He said that besides the excellent conditions, that it was unbelievable how much food he was given, particularly compared to what he had been living off in Germany towards the end of the war.  His story is one of the few exceptions that i know of. 

Both of these books look at Prisoners of War held by the Japanese.  Here in Australia people were very bitter for many years about the treatment of their loved one’s.  Many of those that did survive said very little or avoided too much detail.  These books were written many years after the fact possibly due to some sort of healing process over time as well as a desire for everyone to know the truth.*  Primo Levi wrote, “I am constantly amazed by man's inhumanity to man” and I guess it’s this inhumanity and some people’s resilience and determination to survive, that is what these books are all about.

Anyway, what I wanted to write about today, was the not the subject matter but rather the actual books themselves.  I’m sure you’ll agree that there is a similarity between the designs of the dust jackets.  Even the spines and back of the dust jackets have a similar design.  The first thing I thought when I saw the second book was that it was the same as the first book which on closer inspection, it obviously isn’t.  So then I figured they must be companion volumes… which they are not.  They are similar in subject matter, size, weight, pagination and artwork, but they are not related to each other.  They have different authors and publishers and different cover designers.  If these books were songs, someone would sue… One thing I can say is that they do look great on the shelf together and despite not being a set… are a great set.

I don’t go out of my way to pick up POW books.  They are slow sellers. I think my avoidance has a little bit to do with the subject matter as well.  Lets face it, it’s a downer.  So why do I have two weighty POW books sitting on my shelf?  ???

Thursday, April 4, 2013

Ballaarat: Golden City: A Pictorial History by John Reid and John Chisholm, photography by Max Harris.

Ballaarat: Golden City: A Pictorial History by John Reid and John Chisholm, photography by Max Harris.  Hardcover book published by Joval 1989, 160 pages with black and white photographs throughout.

“BALLAARAT, GOLDEN CITY chronicles the romantic history in photographs of Australia’s most famous city. Its pages mirror the transition of Ballaarat from a field of gold and blood to a bustling city nestled idyllically around Lake Wendouree. This major chapter in Australia’s history comes alive as you look across Ballaarat Flat in 1860, just 6 years after Eureka, and see the landscape transformed by the miners in their desperate search for gold and the city they built to the west. Ponder the deep shaft mines with their poppet heads and almost hear the booming stampers crushing the quartz to release the gold. Wander down Lydiard Street past the Mining Exchange, the banks, the hotels and the warehouses and become immersed in what it was like to live in Ballaarat almost a century and a half ago. Marvel at the hopelessness of the Chinese lepers ostracised by society, the wonderment of school children gathered around an Edison Cylinder Phonograph and the romance of the Ballaarat Cycle Club’s pennyfarthing excursion to the Ballaarat Gardens. Chuckle at the football team which dressed in anything as long as it was blue and the quadrille and iron quoit teams with their stiff and starchy collars. And more. The lake, the statues, the gardens, the zoo, the coming of the railway and the sooty splendour of the Phoenix Foundry, the churches, the schools and the public buildings . . . all part of the history of the Golden City we call Ballaarat.” 

In fact we now call it something a little different to Ballaarat.  Ballaarat is now known by the name of Ballarat, after Ballaarat combined with some other local government areas in 1994. It’s all just a minor difference but a difference it is.  I think that the title is a great introduction to a book that demonstrates the way things have changed in Ballarat… which is why I’ve mentioned it here. 

I’ve written about living in rural Victoria many times, and indeed, I don’t live that far from Ballarat (formerly Ballaarat) and have been known to do my weekly grocery shopping in that historical throbbing metropolis. On these shopping excursions I do of course inadvertently visit many of the spots shown in the book, but I must confess that i've never visited the hopeless Chinese lepers and that i had no idea that there was ever a zoo there.   

Lake Wendouree, a Ballarat landmark, ex Olympic venue and must see tourist spot, is well represented in the book and it was only a few days ago that I sat by it’s shores and ate my lunch.  None of these people (photo below) were there at the time, they’d be very old if they were, but there were some pesky swans that tried unsuccessfully to steal my chunky beef burgundy pie (not shown in photo). 

I like these sort of books.  They are a reminder in a very in your face way of the way things once were.  When I first acquired this title I was happy to sit down with a cup of coffee and flick through it and was very pleased each time I saw something I recognised.  I reckon most people would feel the same way and would enjoy this nostalgic journey. There is of course the whole “every picture tells a story” aspect which even though I’m not part of the original story, I’m now a small part of the later story and looking at these photos there are many stories which whilst not always within my own comprehension or nostalgia, are of interest. 

This is not the first copy of this book that I’ve acquired, but this copy is in much better condition that the previous one.  And will it sell?  Sure it will.