Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Consider the blue and white...

At the risk of boring rigid those who have no interest in blue and white china I am continuing on that theme today. Before you flee (and at the risk of sounding like a pretentious ass), give me a paragraph to argue that there is something really profound about our plates and cups. How about this: these old bits of porcelain and clay distill civilization in a place setting, or even in a creamer.

First, there's the technology to consider - developed by the Chinese and the Dutch and brought to the world by them and by the English. The potters were like alchemists. They figured out which clays, which glazes which ingredients and processes would turn dirt into art. They saved our ancestors from wooden utensils and all that goes with a life where you have to eat out of a wooden bowl with a wooden spoon. Where there is porcelain, or even ironstone, can manners, enlightenment and learning be far behind?

And, as I said here when we were discussing teacups back in April, the art involved in fashioning and decorating these things over the centuries, the thousands of artists and artisans, known and unknown, who have turned their hands to them makes them worthy of our regard.

OK - if you still aren't going for that then at least admit they are pretty, or easy on the eyes.

Above are a couple of new acquisitions from the auction this weekend. It is the time-honored blue willow pattern. There is so much blue willow out there that it must seem to those who have manufactured it over the last 200 years that entire continents can rest on it. It was actually invented in England, by an English potter and engraver for Mintons. The Chinese copied it! These pieces are both marked "Japan" and I think they date from the teens or 20s.

They aren't perfect, which brings me to another point: when it comes to these servicable old pieces, perfection is overrated.

I have been told that no collector wants any piece of pottery with the slightest flaw, but they aren't counting me as a collector. Below are a trio of saucers I picked up at my favorite antique store, M. Lewis in Waterbury, Vermont. They are Wedgewood in the Ferrara pattern. M. Lewis had just these three little saucers. Each one is chipped. The color was so deep and dark, and, as far as I was concerned the chips added to the sense of age that they convey. At $5 apiece I was happy to bring them home. I have them in my most prominent display location in the house.

On this pont of perfection, the Japanese have this useful notion of wabi-sabi, which I have always understood to mean the flaws in beautiful things that somehow make them more beautiful. Checking the definition now I am informed this is crude Western translation. I found this fuller explanation of the concept just now:

Westerners tend to associate wabi sabi with physical characteristics - imperfection, crudeness, an aged and weathered look, etc. Although wabi sabi may encompass these qualities, these characteristics are neither sufficient nor adequate to convey the essence of the concept. Wabi sabi is not rigidly attached to a list of physical traits. Rather, it is a profound aesthetic consciousness that transcends appearance. It can be felt but rarely verbalized, much less defined. Defining wabi sabi in physical terms is like explaining the taste of a piece of chocolate by its shape and color to someone who has never tasted it. As long as one focuses on the physical, one is doomed to see only the back side of the brocade, while its real beauty remains hidden. In order to see its true essence, one must look beyond the apparent, one must look within.

Well, Grasshoppa, this is a deep blog post, isn't it? Anyway these little chips and dings don't make the plates better, but they make them "real" - objects with a history of function and this makes them in their way even more beautiful. (You can read more on the wabi-sabi web page from whence the above was culled.)

Here are a couple other recent auction acquisitions. The bowl is Dutch; turn of the century and stained and chipped. The pattern is called "Abbey." It looks great. I have it sitting on a dinner plate, genuine flow blue, where the cobalt ran during the firing resulting in this fuzzy image, not merely transfer printed. It is much stained, chipped and utensil marked and dates from the 1840s.

Finally, and let's have no juvenile snickering at this, but here's my collection of porcelain balls. Hey - I said no snickering! I picked them up about a year ago at the Christmas Tree Shoppe. I've written about that place before. It has not much to do with Christmas Trees, but it is a liquidator of all kinds of merchandise, some of it decent quality, most of it kind of dodgy, but cheap. These were a dollar each, made in China like everything else, naturally. But at least dishes made in China have a history. Not that I was thinking about this when the kids and I scooped up these. They liked them too and I could not resist. This little collection has been sitting in a clear glass bowl from the high-end Vermont glass maker, Simon Pearce, at the center of our dining room table for more than a year. Every time a guest says something nice about them I tell how cheap they were.

Maybe a hundred years from now some other middle-aged broad will have scored them from an auction and will be sitting around thinking kind thoughts of the person who must have bought them to decorate her table so long ago...

Friday, July 25, 2008

This Can't Be Junk, Can It?

About today's banner, it's a close up of one of a set of four plates I bought at the last good auction I went to (about two weeks ago). Another detail, of the border, is above. There was a bunch of nice blue and white china in that box. This dinner plate and its three mates, nicely impressed with their makers mark and labeled on the back, "farm", were the stars, but the other stuff was nice too. More on that below.

These farm plates were manufactured by George Jones & Sons, Staffordshire England, I believe around the turn of the last century based on the mark. I think they are really smashing, and honestly as good as new. I love blue and white china. But, as part of my buying, I also must do a little selling to support my habit and so that we can move around the house without knocking over boxes of old dishes. Accordingly, I popped these onto Ebay with a few of the other nice bits in my box. I priced these a bit high for ebay, at $20 apiece, based on the fact that the only other example I could find on the internet was $88 for one. I also listed a few other bits from the box, Here they are:

Four "Japan" Berry Bowls, perfect condition, around 1920 ($20)

And this little item, labeled "Swiss Scenery Opaque China" that I didn't like until I researched it and learned that it dated from about 1840. It was also perfect and priced at $8.

I am not writing this because I am still trying to flog these things. It hardly seems worth it anyway. I'll save them for some better purpose, like gifts or maybe for prizes in a little blogging contest I am plotting. The fact that I came to write about tonight is that no one bid on any of it. I checked my prices against on-line antiques dealers and past ebay sales and the prices I was asking were far lower than most similar material. Anyway, my thought is that this old lady stuff just does not enjoy the kind of market it once did. I like it but I may be a vanishing breed. I did much better a few months ago on ebay with some used 1980s paperback mysteries. They looked like junk to me, but they fetched many times what I paid for them in another box lot.

The Wall Street Journal had a story today about how the bottom has fallen out of the trade for 18th and 19th century American antiques - you know, all that brown furniture that the colonists and pioneers built and cherished. Everyone now wants the furniture that the Brady Bunch had in their house; "mid century" Eames era etc. I like that stuff too, but not enough to collect it or pay anything like real money for it. Hmmm.


Thursday, July 24, 2008

A Short Report; Offenses against Nature and Good Taste

The weekend approaches. It has been a pretty good week, though very wet, here in Northern Vermont. I did my lawerly part to keep a mentally retarded sex offender in state custody for another year. Phew. His lawyer put him on the stand (uh oh). Offender testified he didn't want to hurt anyone again. (Original victim, age 8, daugther of girlfriend. Offender believed child came on to him). I asked one question. "If you knew you would not get caught, might you try to have sex with a woman who did not want to have sex with you or a child?" Pause. Him: "Maybe." "No further questions." The judge congratulated offender on his candor and asked me to draft an order. That made for a good day's work.

On the way home tonight I broke the rule of not driving over a road covered with water. There were floods everywhere and the worst one was in Westfield, about ten miles from the Last House. This flood was attended by a guy wearing a fluourescent vest with a reflective strip. He was standing on the road next to an old American SUV. A semi-official, volunteer fireman, I guessed, but it made me feel safe enough for me to pilot the Camry (1993-221,000 miles) across the flood. We exchanged a neigborly wave after my safe passage.

Not too far from that little flood is my favorite auction house. They have an auction scheduled for this weekend and I just had a look online at the preview. The following items are heavily featured.

There is good kitsch and then there are Hummels.

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Recent Viewing - Thumbs Up From Woolfoot: Ghost World and the Diving Bell and the Butterfly

I have stolen a little time in the last few days to see some "films" (not mere "movies") here at the Last House. Neither one of them needs any boosting from this obscure corner of the internet, but I liked them both so much I decided I had to say so here.

Ghost World

I found myself recently trying to describe to a friend what was meant by the term "ghost world" in this movie. It's that nowhere-and-everywhere suburban landscape that now makes up huge swaths of every largish American city. Drugstores, convenience stores, stoplights, fast food restaurants - an arid unidentifiable nowheresville. (My friend and I were discussing what makes northern Vermont different from the Rest of America - the dearth of "Ghost World" settings is one thing). The conversation got me thinking about the movie, which I saw once, years ago, and how I would like to see it again. Back to my beloved Stowe Library where they had a videotape with a little "classic" sticker on it. Funny that this film, made in 2001, has become a "classic" but I agree that it merits the designation.

Here's a snippet from the relevant Wikipedia article:

Ghost World is a 2001 film by Terry Zwigoff, based on a graphic novel by Daniel Clowes, also titled Ghost World. It stars Thora Birch, Scarlett Johansson and Steve Buscemi. Although the film was not a box-office blockbuster, it was enormously acclaimed by critics and has established a strong cult following.

The story focuses on the life of two teenage friends, Enid (Thora Birch) and Rebecca (Scarlett Johansson), who are outside of the normal high school social order in an unnamed suburb, often assumed to be in or around Los Angeles, where much of the movie was shot, [...]

I remember I liked Ghost World a lot the first time around, but it was even better this time.

At its heart, it's a coming of age story about a young woman artist, Enid. The movie begins as Enid and her long-time best friend Rebecca are leaving high school. They had a place in school, a well-understood one, as eccentrics; the too cool bohemians of the class. Now, school is over and they have to put their money where their mouths have been. This means getting jobs and an apartment together. Not so easy as it sounds, Enid discovers as the film moves forward. While Enid and Rebecca are in the planning stages for their new life in those first weeks after graduation, they play a mean trick on Seymour (Steve Buscemi)based on a sad little classified ad he had placed. Seymour is a loser of the Simpson's Comic-Book-Guy ilk. He's so good hearted, well meaning and intelligent, however, that while Enid came to jeer, she stays to cheer. Things are so much more complicated than she had expected or formerly understood. It all rings true, and it's very funny as well as painful. Of course I identified with Enid, although I was never that cool.

Sign me up for the cult following. I know I could watch it 10 more times and still see new things every time.

The Diving Bell and the Butterfly

This was on the recent arrivals DVD shelf at the library and I snagged it. I had read The New Yorker article a few months ago about those who were "locked in" (i.e., brain working fine, body not at all) and had heard lots of other buzz about this movie. My office mate had recommended it and she has a track record for picking winners.

As the whole world knows by now, the book on which this movie was based was written by Jean Dominique Beauby. Beauby was the editor of Elle magazine in the mid 1990s when he suffered a massive stroke. He was in his early forties, at the top of his game in all areas of his life, the father of three, lover of many, and, suddenly completely paralyzed. [Warning - Potential spoilers ahead!!]

Beauby retained the ability to blink one eye and in this way, using an alphabet based on the frequency of letters most used in French, he dictated his book. He died 10 days after the book came out (to rave reviews). Julian Schnabel, the famous contemporary artist, made the film.

I liked the movie a lot - more than I had expected to. I have to say, though it was hardly the main point, one of the things that really struck me was how elegant and lovely were all the French actresses. (Schnabel's wife was one of them, I have read). He captures something really attractive in the French female character - an easy glamor. For an hour or two at least (I watched it during a bout of insomnia at 4 AM)I was determined to go on a diet, buy a form-fitting trench coat, some scarves and live on green vegetables, red wine and oysters. My resolve faded by the afternoon (Burger King at 2 PM) but I still think it is a fine resolve.

Beauby's dilemma is unimaginable, but this seems to me a great realization of the unimaginable. Beauby is trapped in the diving bell of his body - like one of those pre-Cousteau diving suits - (the metaphor is photographed for us and repeatedly shown). The butterfly of imagination survives, however, and can take him anywhere. The love and care he apparently got following this disaster was impressive - as was his response. I have heard Stephen Hawking say (in another film) about how his illness is, in some respects, the raison d'etre of his achievements. Beauby wound up in a similar situation. Talk about making the best of it.

I was also glad to see Max von Sydow again as Beauby's father. They don't make them like that anymore...

Comments welcome. Anybody else need to unleash their inner critic?

Sunday, July 20, 2008

A Summer Sabbath Observance, Such as it Is

The weekend comes to a close having been spent mainly socializing. Our English friends are back at their house down the road for a few weeks and our kids and theirs went swimming together yesterday and then we all had dinner. Today, other friends who came to visit after a long time away. They are very old and dear friends and it was great to see them again, but the visit was not just all fun and games. Since we saw them last they have had some terrifying health news about one of their children and suffered some other family tragedies. I'll say no more about that (since it's all their business and no one else's) except that the pain of it has me thinking religious thoughts (these terrible blows, and nature films, always stir my piety, albeit in different ways). I remember once hearing Pope John Paul urge people to get close to the ill and not be afraid...

So, before this Sunday is completely kaput, with no religious observance on my part, here is the promised (slightly excerpted) repost on my spiritual home, the Church of St. Andrew and St. Paul in Montreal I wrote this two years ago when our family were all up in Montreal for a winter weekend. The minister who had been in charge while I was in college was filling in that Sunday (he had retired). I brought the kids and and made it to the service that inspired this post.

The Church of St. Andrew and St. Paul is a Presbyterian Church and was built by a prosperous set of Scotch/English/Canadian high society back just before the second World War got going. It was an amalgamation of the Church of St. Andrew and the Church of St. Paul. This group (the founders of the “A&P,” as it is sometimes known) and their ilk have gone and we will not see their like again. In their current incarnation (today’s rich people), charitable efforts are not directed at church buildings and stained glass. The A&P, is a gothic revival stone church with an impressive stone tower that anchors the corner of Rue Redpath and Sherbrooke Street in what is still, in some senses, Montreal’s “best” neighborhood.

The sanctuary is large and long and the ceiling is vaulted. The pews, the altar, the pulpit, the model church over the pulpit, all are made well and out of the best things. It is a cathedral of and monument to a particular brand of colonial Britannic Protestantism. In the giant stained glass window over the altar Jesus rises triumphant and white with his arms outstretched and the awed onlookers include a be-kilted soldier holding a Union Jack. The weekly bulletins explain that the faded flags that hang in rows on slightly bowed poles above the heads of the congregation are the colors of the Black Watch, and that the church is the regimental church of the Black Watch. [N.B.: When I got back to church at A&P this summer, the banners were still there but the explanation about the Black Watch was gone. I wondered what that was all about...]

I have never been particularly active in any church organizations but I grew up going with some regularity to the Methodist Church in my home town of Schenectady, New York. We may have made it to church about once a month. We were the family that was late every spring when they changed the clocks.

I bonded with those services and my fellow middle-Americans. In the ‘70s at our Methodist Church, everyone was nice and the emphasis was on reflection rather than fervency. The service went basically like this: Call to worship, hymn (choir entering), reading, children’s sermon, prayer (exit children), hymn, collection, sermon, hymn (choir exiting), blessing, cofffee, doughnuts. Once a month, on the first Sunday, we did communion, usually in our seats but sometimes at the rail. The hymns were the same ones my great grandmother sang.

Since then, this has seemed to me the right way for a church to be. As an undergraduate in Montreal in the mid-80s I was in search of a church in the poor man’s Paris that a Methodist girl from Schenectady could attend without making a fool of herself. McGill University, which is largely the product of that same group of people that endowed the city with St. Andrew and St. Paul, is in the same neighborhood as the Church. I decided to chance it. It was Presbyterian, but I figured that was close enough. Furthermore, I recalled that my maternal grandfather, Floyd Stark, had been raised as a Presbyterian by his mother, Ella Macumber, (though he had gone Methodist under Grandma’s influence) so I figured could claim some reasonable heritage connection.

We shall be changed . . .

It is one of the hazards of Protestantism that those born into any of its branches are likely at some point to go in search of church that speaks to them instead of simply submitting to the authority of their natal church. I respect the Catholic and Orthodox traditions, but 500 years of Protestant ancestry has disabled me from an honest embrace of them. I can’t help weighing up the belief systems on offer. At the Church of St. Andrew and St. Paul, I found my church.

The service followed the same outline as the Methodist one to which I had become accustomed. The hymns were the same, although the Presbyterians went in for something called metrical psalms. I loved the way they did things, though I couldn’t help a little bit of inner chuckling at the Presbers (church leaders) who periodically appeared, marching solemnly through the church and sat in the row of high backed carved gothic chairs at the back of the altar. They were not all older white men, there were plenty of women and people obviously not of Scottish heritage. They were all, however, so extremely dignified… The Church of St. Andrew and St. Paul still looks back to Old Scotland. I think the Queen Mother dedicated the Organ or something back in the 80s (I wasn’t at that service). I did hear a reading at the A&P one day by a very florid visiting gentleman named, believe it or not, Lord Elphinstone.

This is not to say that the church is snobby. There were quite a few students in the congregation with backpacks and casual clothes and I always felt quite at home there. I enjoyed these little cultural flourishes. They were so obviously not put-ons, but a genuine expression of the heritage of this Church. And the congregation was full of people of many stripes (the superintendent of the apartment building where I lived during law school, Mr. Ong, was a member of the A&P choir back in those days). People were exactly the right amount of friendly: they always smiled and nodded and said hello. The minister invited people to church events from the pulpit. No one tackled you to get your home phone number. Perfect. There were no guitars. No stopping the service midway to run around the church shaking hands and hugging.

The church has always had, and retains, a commitment to great church music. There is a professional music director and a choir that sings Christmas carols for the CBC each year. The massive organ can boom through the church to vibrate the stone pillars. Just as important, and what was such a treat, nay, blessing, for me on my recent revisit, is a minister with genuine literary talent. Back in the ‘80s and ‘90s when I went regularly to church at the A&P the leader was the Rev. James Armour. This last weekend when I was back in Montreal, the Rev. Armour, now retired, was filling in for whomever the new guy is. When I saw the Rev. Armour’s name on the sign in front of the church, I knew I couldn’t miss the service.

Q: Where have all the Rev. Armours gone? I studied English lit. as an under graduate and was marked forever by John Donne and John Milton and a handful of other religious geniuses who were also literary geniuses. The sermon is an art form, or can be. The Rev. Armour was clearly an offshoot of the root that is found way back in that tradition. I wouldn’t embarrass him by classing him with Donne and Milton but he could think, write, and deliver a sermon of beauty and logic week after week. More than just afflicting the comfortable and comforting the afflicted (the role expected of ministers, as he joked once) he mined the Bible for insight and gave sermons that demanded reflection. He did the same when I lucked back into church last week. I was so grateful to have a chance to hear him again this last weekend, I was almost overcome - which is not really the done thing there. Thank God – really, for all of it, and to all those Saints who from their labors rest who made the A&P what it is.

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Happy Library Book Sale Season!

It's trite and banal, but nevertheless true,that all the Big Holidays have been corrupted by commercialism and, by the time one is my age, (43), freighted with emotional baggage. New Year's Day has been my personal favorite for the last few years since no one expects that you are going to do much of anything that day (except recover from the bigger holidays and maybe clean house). I hadn't really thought much about the failure of the regular holidays to generate much genuine happiness in me until I started thinking about how happy I felt the other day when I noticed the Friends of the Stowe Library "book sale" sign back on Main Street. Oh, hooo-rray!

OK - I recognize that a book sale appeals to what I might have to call my character flaws - books (as objects, since I can always get things I want to read out of the library), treasure hunting, bargain shopping. But it's just so fun to shop these sales. I am not even going to try to resist.

In recognition of the little thrill of joy this stirred in me, I have declared a personal holiday season; akin to the 12 days of Christmas; the Vermont Library Summer Book Sale Season. No one else I know shares my keen interest, so this is not a group holiday (at least not yet). My budget for indulging this holiday season will be less than $40. The Season extends here in Vermont from the second week of July to the first week of August.

Stowe is selling books on the porch and in the gazebo and in a tent from July 8 to August 14. Most books are $1 or $2 but you can get a bag of kids books for $3.00. Stowe has my favorite book sale. You never know what you will find on those tables - the population of Stowe, as I have noted here before, is an interesting one and the books that appear at the book sale reflect this. Last year I bought about 10 books. I kept some and sold some. (One on Cyprus fetched $50 on Ebay...). I got a calendar from around 1910 decorated with all kinds of art nouveau pictures and featuring the art treasures of the Schleswig (sp?)-Holstein area of Germany. Stowe, however, isn't the only game in town, so to speak. Every little Vermont village and burg has a library and most of them offload their discards and unusable donations at a sale held in July. The libraries use the money to buy new stuff so it's all good. The Stowe Library web site says the sale netted the library $10,000 last year.

My second favorite sale is at the Waterbury library. I spent a happy lunch hour on the back porch there this week and picked up a few little gems (all for home use, by the way). I had to stop buying because I was on foot and had to schlep the books about 3/4 of a mile back to the office. I couldn't carry all the ones I had picked out so I was forced to leave a few behind. Here are a few of the treasures I snagged this last week on the library porches. I photographed only a few to give you a sense of the range of what I found. I don't go for the newish bestsellers, though there are lots of those. Total expenditure in the realm of $20 so far.

Re: the first picture: when Kid 1 was a baby Wooolfoot Husband insisted we find and buy a copy of Charles and Mary Lamb's Tales from Shakespeare. Out of touch with the 21st century as he sometimes is, he was dumbfounded to learn it was out of print. He ordered a "turtle back" version, which is a paper back that has been cardboardized. Not a handsome book. He has tried on a couple of occasions to persuade the kids that this book would be a positive party for them if they would read it or allow him to read it to them. Still, when I spotted this nice big new-looking hard cover (kids have not been biting for at least a generation, it appears) and the great 1960s illustrations, I had to buy it. I doubt the kids will develop an interest now but who knows...

This one just screamed "buy me!" at the Waterbury sale ($2). It's a beautiful reproduction of the famous "Tres Riches Heures de la Duc de Berry" a/k/a Belles Heures of Jean, Duke of Berry. This one was printed in 1974 by the Metropolitan Museum of Art. The real book is there, at the Cloisters, a place I have always meant to visit. And, as you can see (I hope you are sitting down) this book included a slip cover, and all those engravings for Cripes sake! A beauty. It must weigh four pounds. Quality. I considered leaving it on my desk but it came home with me so I could show Woolfoot Husband. I bought him a 1960s cookbook (not photographed) of famous recipes from great restaurants around the world. It was signed by the author and numbered. I looked at Addall Used Books and found that everybody's copy seems to be one of these 5,000 - but still, it was cool.

We have been visiting with our horsey friends again and Kid 1 is clamoring to recommence riding lessons. As an object, this little leather book had a certain appeal. A pocket guide that has been in some pockets. Kid 1 was happy to get it (although she was happier about the brand-new-looking paperback about Kit, the American Girl, that I picked up for 50 cents at the same time).

The Modern Library has always been appealing to me. Nice little hardcovers and I love their Art Deco Prometheus trademark. And Edgar Allan Poe - and a beautiful dust jacket. What better way to spend $2? I'll actually read some of this one.

Great '50s artwork on the dust jacket here caught my eye and we are forever wondering on our various walks and hikes around northern Vermont what kind of animal left a track (or a poo - I mean "spore" - copiously illustrated here [not photographed, thank goodness). I gave it to Kid 2 who can't read it but who is always happy to get anything.

Thursday, July 10, 2008

Speaking of Book Covers... New Acquisitions

Continuing our theme today of bookcovers I wanted to share photos of two books I ordered recently after I saw them on "Handsome Books." I feel duty bound to give them a plug because after looking at everything on their site, I ordered my copies from cheaper sources. Well, the real prize for me is this one, The Spell of England (The Page Company, Boston, 1912) and the "Handsome Books" copy had been sold anyway.

This arrived while I was off on my recent trip and I was very happy to find it wating upon my return. Needless to say, sucker for Romantic England that I am, I love the cover, and the spine too, though it is a little faded. The Handsome Books website has a nice bit of information about this "Spell of" series of books, aimed at American tourists in the early part of the 20th century, and lots of wonderful images of these beautiful covers.

I just started reading this and it's interesting in a sociological sort of way. The author,one Julia deW. Addison, begins by recounting a discussion she had with a friend about whether England had any "spell" to speak of. England was too practical for spells, was the main point of contention. The author concluded the argument this way:

"If I write about the spell of England will you promise to read it?"

"Yes, I will see what I can make of it," answered my matter-of-fact friend.

"Very well, it is a bargain. And if you don't make anything out of it either you or I will be to blame. It will not be England."

I liked that. There's a lovely fold out map just inside the cover that shows the main cities of England and the surrounding bodies of water. No roads or anything so practical. Anyway, it is charming object and that was the reason I wanted to have it and now I do. Total cost was about $15.00, delivered. Very fair, although I see it has been previously price marked at $3.75. Oh well.

The other book, In the Days of Giants by Abbie Farwell Brown (Boston 1902) was a bargain find. My copy does not look so glamorous as the one on Handsome Books - what looks like an embossed cover and gilding on the Handsome Books site looks like yellowish ink on my cover. This is what happens when you go trawling for bargains. (There was no picture on the listing from whence it came). Still, it is a very nice book, I paid about $12.00 for it and I think that was just fine. It has wonderful illustrations of Norse giants by "E. Boyd Smith." This is the kind of thing that inspired Tolkein and maybe I'll find some inspiration too.

A Quick Note on the Joy Street Annuals - Dust Jackets Sighted on Ebay

I was having a little look around ebay just now and I see that someone is selling a little passel of Joy Street annuals complete with the dust jackets. I blogged at some length about this series from the 1920s and 30s a few posts back and I noted there that I had never seen one with a surviving dust jacket (the boards are cloth covered). Like this:

So, if you have any interest here's a chance to have a look at these rare survivors. You can search "Number Joy Street" in the "books" category and that will bring up quite a few results. The seller is asking a pretty penny ($199 for the best covers). We'll see how that goes. If you nip over there and run that search, you'll see that there are several other volumes on offer right now and those without covers are not terribly expensive, though there is quite a range.

My friend Juliet has an interesting post on the deceptive nature of the cover of a recent book that she read and enjoyed. I recommend that as food for thought about the purposes, legitimate, deceptive or otherwise, of book covers.

The Joy Street covers are as good as I suspected they would be. The series was marked by a consistent high quality.

Tuesday, July 08, 2008

Where Have You Been?

I have returned to my perch on the wing chair in the living room of the Last House here on the Canadian border, having been up and down the Eastern Seaboard.

I got as far south as central Florida. I flew there from Albany, New York, (where Kid 1 and Kid 2 were deposited with my Dad and his wife for "Camp (Step)Grandma 2008"). I needed to get to Florida to see my mother (as per my last post). I also saw my sister while I was there (and my brother-in-law and nieces). I flew back last Tuesday to New York where we (kids and I) spent a couple of days before hauling back north to Montreal, stopping en route at a big amusement park in Lake George. Here are some of the things we saw along the way...


Mom lives in a place called "Heritage Harbour." There is no heritage and no harbour, however. Well, the heritage they have stretches back to about darkest 2001 when the roads for Phase One were laid out on the table-top flat land about 10 feet above sea level that constitutes almost all of the state. The "harbor" or "harbour" with the high-tone extra vowel as per our English cousins, must be the alligator infested lake dug in the middle of the golf course and adorned by a cardboard-looking "lighthouse".

When you get out of the subdivisions, however, Florida is strange and beautiful. We visited a struggling little museum of Old Florida and I got some idea of how tough it must have been to have lived there before roads and air conditioning and what have you. The plants and animals have (to my northern eye) an exotic quality.

Lake George, New York

Kid 1 was forced by me to ride this "baby ride" with her brother. Her expression here is for dramatic purposes. Check out the guy in the swing behind her.

The "Great Escape" Six Flags Amusement Park in Lake George, New York. My kids would not go near the Martian. I told them I would take a picture with someone else's kids and they said, "go ahead." This place is heaven for a 10 year old, but a form of hell for me.


It was time for the jazz festival and the city never looked better. I was struck by just how fabulous a place it is. Florida does not contrast favorably.

And, last before heading home to the Last House on Sunday, to Church at my Beloved Church of St. Andrew and St. Paul. I will repost my essay on The A&P soon...