saturday

Quiet. Uneventful. Of no fixed mood. Minimal creativity.

I am however sipping a rather nice beer, Zoooom choc-pecan mudcake stout from Sauce. First released last year early on in lockdown and I wasn’t able to grab any. Walked into the local bottle shop a couple of weeks ago and they had some. Wow! Way tasty, a hint of nuts and a silky smooth texture. This might be a new favourite. Strong at 9% or 2.7 standard drinks per can.

I went to a brewery twice last year, once to meet a couple of friends as things opened up a little, later for a friend’s 50th. I’m still not going out much; I s’pose while covid continues to be ever present and the risk of another outbreak in Sydney remains, I continue to be cautious.

Weekends usually involve the newspaper in a cafe and time with family. Definitely not keen to go to bars and people-y places much. We have cautiously booked flights for a week in Tassie in August, fingers crossed we’re still good then.

Had my first shot of the AstroZeneca vaccine on Monday, with no side effects. Second injection is scheduled for a few days after I get back from Tassie. Fingers crossed.

I miss travel. A lot.

I’ve even investigated train trips across the country…actually it’d be nice to visit Perth again too, perhaps head north to Broome. My partner mentioned a trip to the Kimberley and that’d be fab, always wanted to go there. I am fortunate in that I have managed to visit every state and capital city at least twice and driven across great swathes of the country. Yet there is still so much to see.

I’d love to return to Uluru though I wouldn’t climb it even if it were allowed. I will confess I did so as a teenager in the 80s. It’s an odd parallel as in the 70s dad used to take me on land rights’ rallies for first australians yet in the 80s I still wanted to climb the rock. My past sins. We also did a tour round the base and my sister and mum flew over it in a small aircraft which did not agree with my sister.

book folk online

I have had an abebooks account for many years, and have bought from secondhand booksellers from around the world. Often buying a book is a little anonymous and disconnected and you don’t often get the chitchat you might get in person. Then again, I tend to be shyer in secondhand bookshops and never chitchatted much. Online often meant I could buy the thing and avoid the conversation :-)

Perhaps I’m coming round to being the person it would have been nice to have been 30 years ago. I lamented elsewhere, my lack of engagement with book conventions and worldcons for science fiction. I am the person I am now and that’s fine. The beauty of sites like abeooks is that they provide easy access to bookshops around the world and at times an easier way to buy from bookshops that aren’t english, yet have interesting wares.

Occasionally, these bookshops from around the world will send chatty emails, sometimes I respond though the challenge is that I don’t end up being a regular as it were. Though that is less and less true and I have ended up with membership accounts on a couple eg Kathmandu Books and Camelot Books in the US. Camelot for example, are able to hold books for me and package together to save on postage – postage rates out of the US these days are horrible.

I s’pose I’m building up a list of my own trusted retailers. Bookshops that provide accurate descriptions and pictures, pack well, and engage. Some descriptions online don’t always match what you end up with. Visiting a bookshop in person you can see what you’re getting and assess the worth on the spot. Buying online is a different experience with a little more trust involved. I’ve mostly bought well but have had occasional issues with for example ex library books that didn’t indicate sufficiently the extent of library markings and stickers.

I commented elsewhere that I’ve been joining a few facebook groups on books and collecting. I’ve even bought some books from other participants eg the recently arrived Broken Earth trilogy. I ordered a book last night via abebooks (A Scanner Darkly by Philip K Dick, Suntup Artist Gift Edition) from a bookshop called Barsoom Books and it turns out I’ve chatted to the guy from there occasionally in the facebook groups. Was nice to be dealing with someone familiar, and from the scene as it were.

more piles of reading

Yesterday I talked about my piles. I sorta like talking about my piles so I think I’ll do it again. Books that is. Perhaps mental piles as they’re mostly on shelves whereas a pile may imply a lack of order. I s’pose the next pile is the stuff waiting to be read though even then it’s not simple as there’s stuff I’m keen to read as soon as possible, stuff I’d like to read in the next few months, and stuff I’d like to read eventually. Things can move from pile to pile at will, and with new books arriving, there is not a fixed amount of books to read or even re-read, some books can be even be re-read multiple times – I’m looking at you Miles :-)

Currently in the wings pile – stuff I’d like to read sooner

  • The Gold-Jade Dragon by Janeen Webb – nice edition by an Australian author published via PS Publishing – I’m collecting all their Australian releases. They previously did a novella of her’s, The Dragon’s Child, so I’m looking forward to the next book. I managed to score book 6 of 100.
  • The Broken Kingdoms by NK Jemison – this is book 2 of the Inheritance trilogy and I loved the previous book, The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms which picked up the Locus award for best first novel.
  • The Broken Earth trilogy by NK Jemison – I have recently picked up the SubPress editions in matching numbers of this later trilogy by Jemisin. Each book in the trilogy separately won a Hugo award, the first trilogy to do so.
  • Bitter Seeds by Ian Tregillis – book 1 of a trilogy set in alternate history of world war 2. I tend to avoid, with exceptions, alternate histories but this popped up in a few specialist groups on facebook with good comments. It’s a nice edition too.
  • Piranesi by Susanna Clarke – I recently picked up a signed first edition relatively cheaply US$65) as I really enjoyed her earlier work, Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell – the latter I’ve recently discovered I’ve lost the paperback of, so I’m looking out for a nice edition to replace it.
  • Colditz: The Full Story by PR Reid – as a teenage lad I loved Reid’s stories of Colditz, full of escapism. This a folio edition and I am unsure as to how much overlap there is with the old paperbacks I have. I need to sit and compare properly.
  • Malazan Book of the Fallen – Steven Erikson – I have talked of these at length and have been collecting the SubPress editions. The final book arrived a few months ago and I hope to do a full re-read using these beautiful editions. On my first read through I read the first couple in print and the rest as ebooks. On the 2nd and 3rd re-reads, I read them all in ebook format. I am curious how how I will go reading these hardcover editions…they will be so heavy to hold, particularly the later books.
  • The Dark Forest by Cixin Liu – this is book 2 of the trilogy, following The Three Body Problem. I really should have read this last year and had started but things got in the way and I haven’t got back to it yet. SubPress editions of course
  • The Prisoner of Heaven by Carlos Ruiz Zafón – this is book 3 in his 4 book series of the Labyrinth of Forgotten Books set in Barcelona. I’ve recently re-read the first two so that I can read through the last 2 now that I have nice editions of them all.

piles of reading

Piles. Endless piles. Books to read. Books I’m reading. Books I’ve paused. Books I want to re-read. Books virtual. Books physical. Books to look at. Books to admire. New arrivals. Old arrivals. I shuffle. I rearrange. I shelve. I re-shelve.

Currently reading:

  • The Midnight Library by Matt Haig – I’ve got about an hour to go according to my ereader. I think I’ve had an hour to go for nearly a month. It was fun and I must get back and finish it but I keep getting distracted by other books.
  • In Darkness Visible by Tony Jones – Jones is most recently known as the former host of Q&A and has written a couple of political thrillers, this being the second. I enjoyed the first and started this one recently on the ereader, forgetting I was still reading Midnight Library.
  • Unfettered 2 – edited by Shawn Speakman. A collection of fantasy tales. This was a wee bit eccy and I did um and ah over buying it, but ultimately the cause is good and the book pretty; bound in leather and housed in a slipcase. It resides in the pile beside the bed.
  • The Absolute Sandman Vol 3 by Neil Gaiman – I’m doing a slow re-read of these and truth be told I don’t think I ever read the series in its entirety. Plus there’s been further instalments which need to be read too.
  • Tales From Two Pockets by Karel Capek – inspired by a post on Librarything, I sought out a copy of the folio society edition and found one cheaply (about US$20). I’ve read a couple of stories and so far so good. This lives in the book bag/shelf thingy that hangs off the bed
  • The Gifts of Reading: Essays on the joys of reading, giving, and receiving books, curated by Jennie Orchard. Also in the book bag/shelf thingy where the ereader also resides
  • Walking Home: Travels with a Troubadour on the Pennine Way by Simon Armitage – I like reading tales of folk walking the Pennine Way and have a somewhat forlorn hope of walking it one day myself – though at the same time it sounds wet, chilly and miserable. This is on the ereader as told by the poet author, I dip into this occasionally and I’m almost finished. Like Midnight Library, I think I have about an hour to go.
  • The Lost Gutenberg: The astounding story of one book’s five hundred year odyssey by Margaret Leslie Davis – this resides on a shelf at the foot of the bed, just under the shelf with the Absolute Sandman. I’ve read two chapters and need to return, particularly as my partner has recently finished it :-)

#blogjune…i’m running out of snappy titles

I am unsure if #blogjune will be a thing this year, to be honest, I think I’m rather past it and the care factor. I suspect I’ve said variations of that since the beginning. Oh I forgot, my first post of #blogjune usually begins with:

Aaaaaarrrrrrrggggghhhhhhhh!!!!

or similar, perhaps less h and more r.

So 2021 here we are. Perhaps this I will try recycling ideas from the start of this instance of this blog ie the stuff that is still easily accessible. I have talked too much of older versions so I figure this might be the year to recycle the current version, but with new bits [narrator: unlikely] and new images [narrator: likely but they’ll just be more books].

There were murmurings last week of doing stuff for #blogjune. Someone even threatened I take up a variation of a suggestion of a Lem idea and write reviews of movies that don’t exist.

Though I drink whisky regularly [narrator: nightly] I think I’ve moved on from my obsession in that direction. These days I’ve moved back to books and collecting books [narrator: I warned you about the books] so I could chat about collecting I s’pose and post pictures of the pretty books I have [narrator: I warned you about posting images of books].

Mostly I don’t care. Some years I start with a plan. I still have lists of things to blog about from years gone by. Blogging every day is sometimes easy, sometimes hard, sometimes I just don’t care.

Some years I fudge day by day.

This year, Sydney filmfest has been moved from June to August depriving me of much content, and content about content. I might have to work a little harder this year to churn out daily posts. To be fair, even with filmfest, some years I struggle. If I am in the mood, there will be posts. If I am not in the mood, there may not be posts. Perhaps.

Anyway, #blogjune is off again.

a list of folios

The last post was supposed to be a list of books I wanted from The Folio Society. Instead it was a late night digression down other pathways of my mind. Here is a list of interesting things that I wouldn’t mind having. Of course, it would also be useful if I could win powerball or some such lottery. So far I have been unsuccessful in that direction. Someone suggested that my chances would improve if I actually bought a ticket but I fail to see the logic of that assertion.

Anyways, here is a list of books from The Folio Society that I wouldn’t mind getting:

  • Dune by Frank Herbert – my preference is for the Centipede Press edition but I am tempted by this one too
  • The Dam Busters by Paul Brickhill – I’ve seen an old movie which was based on this and it’d be nice to read the book itself
  • The Great Escape by Paul Brickhill – I have read this and own it in paperback. I also love the movie that was based on it. It’s on sale at the moment so extra tempting.
  • Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury – I have a nice edition pre-ordered already so this is now less tempting but…
  • Planet of the Apes by Pierre Boulle – the book on which the movies were based, I think I read it long ago and may own a dodgy secondhand paperback
  • The Dispossessed by Ursula Le Guin – possibly my favourite work by Le Guin. To my shame I am yet to read The Left Hand of Darkness but do have an Easton Press edition
  • American Gods by Neil Gaiman – I have read and own a first edition of this but the Folio Edition is more colourful than their usual fare
  • Do Androids Dream of Electric Ship/A Scanner Darkly by Philip k Dick – colourful and interesting approach to joining two books together. I have an ageing paperback of Androids that cries out for a nice edition. I loved it as a teenager and I loved it as a movie, Bladerunner. I keep hoping that someone produces a really fancy edition one day, Subterranean Press has published all his short stories
  • Small Gods by Pterry* Pratchett – possibly one of my favourite books by Pratchett. I own almost all his works in first edition hardcovers, with covers by the inimitable Josh Kirby. They are perfect. I am a little curious as to what folio has done with it and they have done Mort as well, possibly a couple of others. *the spelling of “Pterry” I vaguely recall as an old humour in alt.fan.pratchett
  • I Am Legend by Richard Matheson – I haven’t read the book and it’s been adapted to movies a few times and I remember watching The Omega Man in my teens. Will Smith starred in a later version I also loved.
  • The Structure of Scientific Revolutions by Thomas Kuhn – dear Kuhn and his paradigmatic shifts in telling the story of the progression of science. I read it, studied it, own it in paperback. It is a key work in the historiography of science. I don’t really agree with his philosophical thrust and lean more toward a Feyerabendian approach.
  • On the Origin of the Species by Charles Darwin – a pivotal work that I have never read in its entirety. It would be fab to do so with a nice edition

That seems a good spot to stop. Again unexpected as it was only supposed to be a list of books but ended up being something more. A list of books and the reasons for wanting the books and the value I place on them. It feeds a little into that imaginary list of things I collect and broadens its reach. Ultimately the books I buy represent some sense of things that have piqued my interest. Not necessarily representative of me as that is perhaps a broader topic, or I’d like to hope that I am more than my books.

a rumination on folio books

In my last post, I started to think about books I want nicer editions of and the sorts of things I want to collect…though as is usual for me…alas…I got distracted by the items and my thinking on bigger things was rather shallow. This post too is also shallow, and continues on by listing a bunch of interesting things from The Folio Society that I’d like to own. I oscillate between bad librarian and good librarian. I fail to borrow books from libraries yet at the same time I see value in cultivating collections that are of interest.

My work as a librarian is also associated with purchasing and acquiring collections. Luckily the work I do professionally does not intersect with the collecting I do personally. I have made it known at work that I do collect books and the areas in which I collect. At work, it is about ensuring that acquired material meets the information seeking needs of residents of NSW and aligns with the Library’s Collection Development Policy. However there is often a difference between what the Library collects and the sorts of questions that folk seek to explore. That describes a little, the tension between the Library as a collector of a history, and the Library as a reference service. Sometimes they overlap, sometimes not.

Hmmm I have digressed and perhaps this post is a little less shallow than is my wont. This was supposed to be a simple post, listing books I wanted to buy from The Folio Society. There are memories here too. What I like about folio society books is that they are usually nice printed and bound, with slipcase…I don’t recall whether they had a ribbon or not. They tend to be a little utilitarian, lacking colour and life in their physicality…I s’pose leaving that to the dreams and visions that the text inspires. They do look good on a shelf and I occasionally wonder what my books would look like if I ever attempted to arrange by publisher. Book arrangement…hmmm there’s a blog idea for another day.

On memories. My dad, late in life I think, took on a subscription to the Folio Society which required him to purchase 4 releases each year, usually at a discounted rate. He ended up with a bunch of nice books, many of which I have retained, and here and there, ensured that his friends ended up with a few too. They were too nice to box up and send to the Salvos. They needed to be assigned a home of folk that knew and loved dad.

Oddly, I never got round to taking out a membership myself, or buying them new. I have bought a bunch here and there, secondhand but in good nick. As special editions go, they’re not too expensive for the basic ones; at minimum, they are a well bound hardcover with a good printing aesthetic. They have regular sales where you can pick up nice books for reasonable prices, there is even a sale at the moment.

This post was supposed to be a simple post listing interesting titles from Folio that I might want. This post is no longer that post and adjustments have been made. Perhaps the next post will be that simple list….

future pretty books

I was pondering my post the other day about refraining from buying a pretty book (1984 by George Orwell) and that sense of things that would fit that list in my head. The list does not actually exist and if it did would be a in a state of constant flux, each book I come across, assessed and re-assessed. Some seem instant “must-haves”, others not.

I recently bought the Subterranean Press edition of Use of Weapons by Iain M Banks. While I like it and Banks generally, I don’t think I actually want to collect them in special editions. So I’ll stop at one. Honest :-) 1984 from Suntup Editions was very nice but I don’t want a special edition of it though I came close to ordering it.

The Martian Chronicles - in slipcase

I have ordered Suntap’s Artist edition of Fahrenheit 451 as it is Ray Bradbury and I think is a key work of the 20th century. More importantly it feels like it would fit my imaginary list. I already have a few nice editions of Bradbury’s work:

I usually prefer limited over lettered, in part because lettered are too expensive and also sell out really quickly. I am happy to have nice books and they don’t necessarily have to be the best or most expensive. Like 1984, there’s a couple of other classics I am umming and aahing over:

Both of these are classic texts done up in pretty ways. Jekyll and Hyde is somewhat affordable while Dracula not so much. Both editions look interesting through I am unsure about the “glow-in-the-dark” features of the latter. I have some liking for vampire novels but can’t quite commit to these either. Not yet. I alas missed out on Centipede’s release of The Delicate Dependency and am occasionally tempted to track it down on secondhand markets.

Dune. Frank Herbert. Mmmmm…I have an Easton Press edition of this that was felt nice to read as well. I am keen for a nicer edition and ideally, keen for a nice set of all 6. Folio Society has produced a nice slipcased edition which I’m tempted by and I read a rumour somewhere that they may be able to publish the all the Dune novels. Centipede Press also have a nice edition of Dune in the works though it will be significantly more expensive. However I love Centipede’s releases the most and will aim for it.

Ender’s Game. Orson Scott Card. Centipede Press released a gorgeous edition of the first book which I was able to acquire. According to their site, Speaker for the Dead, the next book in the series is forthcoming, hopefully I’ll get it and the third book further in the future.

I think a part of my head would love a set of special editions for Bujold’s Miles Vorkosigan series though that could be rather eccy as there’s a lot of books in the series. I would also be keen on a set of Asimov’s Foundation novels though alas I vacillated too long on the folio release and missed out. There is an Easton Press edition but it looks a little chunky.

the value of possessions

For eventually, we come to hold our dearest possessions more closely than we hold our friends. We carry them from place to place, often at considerable expense and inconvenience; we dust and polish their surfaces and reprimand children for playing too roughly in their vicinity – all the while, allowing memories to invest them with greater and greater importance. 

A Gentleman in Moscow by Amor Towles [reviews: NYT, SMH, Canberra Times]

I came across this book last year and once started, consumed it eagerly. It had a light, deft touch playing with ideas, feeling at times a sort of philosophy-lite though that sells it short. It’s not for everyone but it resonated with me not so much for context but the interplay of ideas. It’s been but a year and I feel like I need to revisit it already.

On the next re-read, I want to keep track of more quotes. I liked the one above in that sense of the emotional value that can be rooted in objects. Though all who know me would agree that concepts of dusting and polishing don’t exist in my world.

I commented recently on things that reminded me of my parents and I sometimes find it odd the things I have and the recollections they evoke. Moving stuff gets harder each time, particularly the books. They have weight and arrangement yet are a visible part of who I am, my past, my history. Titles from different parts of my life: SF, history, childhood, philosophy, travel.

sometimes pretty is not enough

I had a moment, but moments ago. A book. A pretty book. A fancy book. With slipcase. An interesting book. A book I have read. A book I respect. A book that would not be out of place on my shelves. A temptation. A nice version exists.

I. Must. Have. It.

Must I?

Why?

Its existence is not a sufficient reason for ownership. It’s not a book that I have thought of wanting in a nice edition. It’s not a book that I have hunted down. It’s not a book I desire in a pretty format. Oddly perhaps.

A newsletter from a publisher and suddenly I am racing for the credit card. It’s added to my shopping cart. But wait, do I actually want it…is there a thought process involved?

I like my special books and I have some very pretty ones. I could even argue that this one sort of fits my personal collection development policy. If I had written such. There are clear areas in which I collect and yet I don’t want everything. Some things. Not all things.

If I had a list of things…some would be specific books, some specific authors. Sometimes I know what is on that list. Sometimes I do not. But that idea of a list is important. Does this title fit? Does this title sort of sit on the imaginary list in my head?

This time it did not.

I did not buy.