Sunday, July 28, 2013

The Post-Mortem Technician’s Handbook: A Manual of Mortuary Practice by Bernard Knight.

The Post-Mortem Technician’s Handbook: A Manual of Mortuary Practice by Bernard Knight.  Paperback book published by Blackwell Scientific Publications 1984, 258 pages with some black and white photographs and illustrations. EX LIBRARY

“…with some black and white photographs and illustrations”.  That’s right, some photographs and illustrations…  I feel that I should describe the contents or maybe scan some of the images for this blog post, but i can’t bring myself to relook inside the book to confirm what I have only previously glimpsed, as it is fairly graphic and it’s not really my “thing”.  Not that I’m squeamish or anything like that, it’s just that it’s… ummm… it’s not my “thing” and a quick glance the once is plenty for this slightly, but not prudishly, squeamish bookseller.  So even though I find this subject a little bit… ummm… not “my thing”, I am happy to sell a book such as this.  Actually, I was fairly pleased to have found this title as it’s not that common and it’s a subject matter that is a little unusual in book form.  There are plenty of popular CSI type books that touch upon this subject, but this title is of a more scientific, warts and office management professional type.*

When this book leapt into my hands, I did seriously consider who would be interested in it.  I don’t particularly want to service the needs of serial killers and their associates, so to justify my acquisition, listing** and writing about this book, i figured that anyone wanting to write an authentic crime novel or TV show, could find this title of some use… that’s what I told myself.  I can’t imagine anyone currently studying the fine art of the Post-Mortem being that interested in this 30 year old title, as I’m fairly sure that Post-Mortem technology and methods have changed over the years.  Realistically, going back to my crime writer idea, I’m hoping to cater to the needs of someone writing a crime novel set in 1983.  Not that I know of anyone writing such a book, but if I did, this would be the book for them.

* Blackwell Scientific Publications
** ebay

Monday, July 22, 2013

The Secret Life of Dust: From the Cosmos to the Kitchen Counter, the Big Consequences of Little Things by Hannah Holmes.

The Secret Life of Dust: From the Cosmos to the Kitchen Counter, the Big Consequences of Little Things by Hannah Holmes.  Hardcover book published by John Wiley & Sons 2001, 240 pages.

Have you ever seen dust up close?  As a bookseller, I have seen a bit of dust over the years and some of it has even managed to get up my nose.  It’s not uncommon for booksellers, that includes me, to sneeze whilst processing books through the many stages they go through before selling them (selection, cleaning, selling etc).  Yes even this hardened bookseller has been known to unavoidably have the odd “convulsive expulsion of air from the lungs through the nose and mouth”*, whilst working with books.  

I do like the idea of this book with all it’s dusty information.  According to the author this planet is made of the stuff.  Now that’s a scary thought.  Dust is the thing of shelves, furniture, knick-knacks and basically any surface that hasn’t been wiped in the last few minutes, it not something that I associate with this rock, but I’m not a dust expert and if I think really hard about it… yeah, I guess I do get the idea that everything (and I mean everything) can be dust.  But the book doesn’t just cover the cosmos, it also looks at dust at a more local level including book lice and Pseudoscorpians.

“In addition to mites, these carnivores eat book lice and flea larvae, and when the chips are down, they eat one another**.  Larry Arlian, the dust-mite man, finds predatory mites such ferocious hunters that he’s forced to position his dust-mite cages inside moats of oil and to grease the sides of the cages with petroleum jelly. Regardless, these bloodthirsty animals will sometimes break into a cage and begin devouring the experiments. And like the dust mites they kill, these predatory mites may also produce allergenic dusts. “Pseudoscorpions” are equally savage hunters. And they look the part. They’re crab-shaped, armed with long claws, and visible to the naked eye. The book scorpion is one of this clan. In a dark crevice, such as the black canyon between books, it awaits the innocent dust mite or book louse that might pass by. And then it pounces, claws slashing.”  Page 186

Now I feel itchy… and a bit creeped out.  This sounds like there’s an active food chain happening right behind me, which is something I don’t want right behind me.***  And I thought H.P. Lovecraft was scary, this is real horror show and to think some of this stuff is getting up my nose.  Yuck.  I guess it’s all part of the food chain… including me. 

** A bit like booksellers.
*** I dust and clean all the books I sell as best as I possibly can.  I also take other precautions to avoid insect damage and so far there hasn’t been any problems here at the home of Huc & Gabet.

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Jane Fonda's War: A Political Biography of an Antiwar Icon by Mary Hershberger.

Jane Fonda's War: A Political Biography of an Antiwar Icon by Mary Hershberger.  Hardcover book published by The New Press 2005, 228 pages.

““What she said got about as much attention as Leonid Brezhnev” quipped an insider in the Nixon administration. … Jane Fonda’s War recounts the evolution of Fonda’s politics leading up to her bold antiwar stance. It charts the obsessive interest with the actress on the part of the Nixon government and the dirty tricks that were employed against her, including pressuring the Justice Department to charge her with treason. It follows Fonda on her controversial visits to Hanoi, and it documents the fury these trips provoked, among many Americans, an anger that still finds an echo today.  Based on unprecedented access to Fonda’s twenty foot thick FBI files, interviews with former prisoners of war who met with Fonda in Hanoi in 1972, and a broad range of contemporaneous press reports, Jane Fonda’s War is an essential complement to her own story and an important corrective to pervasive rightwing mythmaking.”

For those of us (myself included) who are too young to remember, Jane Fonda was not a friend of the Vietnam War. Yes, it’s hard to believe that this woman…

… was/is not only the exercising behemoth that she was/is, but was/is a political dynamo, feared by Richard Nixon and was/is someone who was/is not afraid to say what she thought.  …oh yeah, she was also an actress.

Here in Australia, a lot of Jane’s political activities seem to have not received much press, or maybe it’s just that I haven’t noticed up till now.  Reading through her entry in Wikipedia I was pleasantly surprised to find that she didn’t just stop at the Vietnam War, but has continued her activism… and her exercise videos.  The problem though is that Jane’s political activity whilst obviously of great importance and in some instances of historical importance, it is not so well known (or feared) here in Australia.  A book like this one whilst fascinating and I’d even go so far as to say of great importance, would probably not be as popular here as a book about the making of Barbarella.  Popular culture tends to be of more interest here in Australia than US radical politics.  In other words, i think this book will be a hard sell.

Jane Fonda's War was published soon after Jane’s autobiography “My life so far”.  I think the intention was to ride on the back of the other book, which had received a bit of attention, by focusing on a particularly controversial period of her life. The interesting thing about this book as apposed to Jane’s book is that this one wasn’t written by Jane and those twenty foot thick FBI files on her activities would probably have some information she failed to mention in her biography. 

Friday, July 12, 2013

Fates Worse Than Death: An Autobiographical Collage of the 1980s by Kurt Vonnegut.

Fates Worse Than Death: An Autobiographical Collage of the 1980s by Kurt Vonnegut.  Hardcover book published by Jonathan Cape 1991, 240 pages with a few black and white photographs. 

It was many years ago that I was reading as much as I could possibly find of Kurt Vonnegut’s work in a very short space of time.  I’m pretty certain that I ended up finding and then reading one of those Heinemann Octopus anthologies containing six individual titles “complete and unabridged”.  I think I even read them back to back, which is not something I would normally do, but from memory I was enjoying Kurts works so much, I just couldn’t stop.  At the last page of the Omnibus, I felt saddened that that was all. I had no more.  Needless to say I got over my disappointment and moved on and rather strangely haven’t read any other Kurt Vonnegut books since then, although I have often contemplated revisiting the titles that I have read… and I’ve even  toyed with the idea of reading something of his that I haven’t read.

Kurt Vonnegut is one of those writers along with Philip Dick, Herman Hesse and others, where it is not only difficult to find good quality second hand copies of their work, but when you do find them, they are often in poor condition.  To me this is a good sign in that people are obviously reading these authors and keeping their books not Dan Browning them*, and when they are finally moved on, they have been read and read and read again which is why they are so battered and bruised.  … of course as a secondhand bookseller, this is really bad as everyone wants these books and I can’t find them in a good enough condition to sell.  What appeals to me, is that people are obviously as passionate about some of these writers as I am. 

This book is a later title by the now sadly departed Kurt and is a collection of previously published autobiographical articles.  In the absence of finding any classic Vonnegut titles, this one will do.  I’m sort of intrigued by this collection, but to be honest if I had a choice between reading Slaughterhouse 5 again or reading Fates Worse than Death, I think I’d read Slaughterhouse 5 again… but that’s me being a bit nostalgic for the past… present… and future.  Let’s just hope I get around to reading it before a Tralfamadorian test pilot accidentally destroys this universe.

*Discarding them immediately on completion as evidenced by the large numbers of secondhand copies of whatever the latest Dan Brown book is at the time.


Monday, July 8, 2013

God's Crucible: Islam and the Making of Europe, 570-1215 by David Levering Lewis.

God's Crucible: Islam and the Making of Europe, 570-1215 by David Levering Lewis.  Hardcover book published by W.W. Norton 2008, 476 pages with some black and white and colour photographs and illustrations, as well as a few black and white maps.

I am currently reading a completely different book to this one, but looking at this title and it’s subject matter has reminded of the other book.  “Microcosm: A Portrait of a Central European City” by Norman Davies, looks at the history of Wrocław in Poland from it’s earliest known history to it’s latest.  Now, I don’t remember the dates or who was in control at the time etc etc, but I do remember reading that more than once the people of central Europe and Wrocław, fought against the “Turks” and the Mongols.  I can’t help but think that the term “Turks”, may have been used as a broader term to describe the followers of Islam… of course I could be wrong and the invading “Turks” may have been as Turkish as you could possibly be at that time in history.  So when I considered this book and its subject matter for this blog, I was reminded of the book I am currently reading. 

“God's Crucible: Islam and the Making of Europe, 570-1215” has nothing (or next to nothing) to do with Poland and everything to do with Western Europe.  Interestingly one of the things Norman Davies discusses in his book is that there seems to be a strong preference for the histories of Western Europe and little interest in the histories of Central Europe.  This book is a good example of another Western European history.  That doesn’t mean that it’s not important or not “of interest”.  Of course it is.  History is history and to varying degrees depending on who you are, it is “of interest”.  I guess having just read Normans comments, I can’t help but compare the two books, even though this book is about a completely different subject and the other book has only brief mentions of conflict with the “Turks” and realistically this book is not a book about Central Europe, but still, it’s something to think/write about.

I currently have God’s Crucible for sale on ebay and sadly, there appears to be very little interest in this title.  I’d even go so far as to write that history books in general excluding local subjects, appear to have very little interest on ebay.  Shop sales on these subjects are marginally better, but overall I’m finding that history, particularly European and Asian History, holds very little interest for the second hand book buying public on the interwebs and here in Clunes.  Personally, I mostly find this stuff fascinating and find it hard to understand why others don’t.  

Wednesday, July 3, 2013

Bakery: Bread and Fermented Goods by Leonard J. Hanneman.

Bakery: Bread and Fermented Goods by Leonard J. Hanneman.  Hardcover book published by Heinemann 1980, 208 pages with some black and white photographs and a few black and white illustrations.

Bakery: Flour Confectionery by Leonard J. Hanneman. Hardcover book published by Heinemann 1981, 304 pages with some black and white photographs and a few black and white illustrations.


“This is the first of two splendid, lavishly illustrated books on bakery aimed at professional bakers and confectioners, who are interested in maintaining and increasing good standards of craft.”

“This profusely illustrated book is the companion volume to Bakery: Bread & Fermented Goods.  A wide variety of recipes advocate methods generally in common use in most small bakeries, some with specialised bakery materials and equipment.”

Recently one of the larger supermarket chains here in Australia, has been accused of misleading customers with some of their baked products.*  Apparently they have been claiming that bread and other baked items have been "freshly baked in-store".  This sadly is not the story, as the “freshly baked in-store” bread has been baked in Ireland… or so the accusation claims.  They are currently under investigation by the ACCC.

Let’s assume that this story is true (… it is under investigation and you never know, they may be innocent).  If you look at a map of the world, you’ll notice that Australia is a long way from Ireland.  We’re not talking a quick ferry ride, or a quick flight from the European mainland.  It is a long way from Ireland to Australia... particularly the bottom right hand corner, which is where the major complaint has been made.  So I can only guess that the cost including the cost of shipping (I assume that they fly the products to Australia) is cheaper than baking here.  We live in a very strange world.  Think about it.  Can it really be cheaper to bake something in Ireland and fly it to the other side of the world?  … Or maybe we’ve lost the skills to bake bread here, which is where these 2 books could possibly come into this story.

Pictures from Bakery: Bread & Fermented Goods:

These books have got all, or at least some, of the information anyone (including a supermarket) could possibly need to bake bread or cakes on a commercial scale.* I’m sure the Irish do make wonderful tasty bread, just as sure as I am that Australia… even a supermarket… could make wonderful tasty bread.  (Ireland, please don’t take offence at what I’m writing here, this isn’t about your bread, it’s about our bread.)  All the supermarket chain needs to do is buy these books from me… they would be supporting an Australian business by doing so… they could get some bakers and some machinery and voila, bread that is “freshly baked in-store”.  How simple is that?   It’s a better concept that the half baked one they currently have in place.  

*Fruit and vegetables as well. 
**The books are suitable for home use as well.