a day in the country

As I’m travelling a fair bit the next few weeks, I extended my weekend slightly and had Monday off. A mate and I went for a drive down the Hume to the township of Berrima. I’ve only been there once and that was a couple of years ago. For most of my life, I would hear tales of the delights of the Berrima Book Barn – a barn full of secondhand books, many treasures to be found. As a young bookworm, it sounded like Aladdin’s cave. Many years back, the folk that ran the barn, expanded into Sydney and now have a few shops under the name of Berkelouw, for indeed, it turns out that the barn in question was the wonderfully alliterative Berkelouw’s Berrima Book Barn.

Berrima - a view of the town
Berrima - a view of the town

We spent a lovely day meandering about, having got there for brekky around 10. I wandered through shops and even bought  a jar of Rhubarb & Ginger Jam from Mrs Oldbuck’s Pantry; they did a nice limoncello based jam too, with a nice kick in the aftertaste. Oh geez, I sound like an old fart. Anyways, in the afternoon, we finally made it to the barn. Much to my surprise, and no doubt to that of most folk who know me, I emerged with only 4 books, and kept it under $70 too. A valiant effort. Though there was a rather nice leatherbound edition of Tim Winton’s Cloudstreet in the cabinet. It was a bit yum, though I think substantially overpriced at $300. There are much nicer books to be had for that sort of money. By nice, I’m referring to the container, as the content is good regardless. Then there was the lovely, leather bound set of Manning Clark’s “A History of Australia” – they were in really good nick, though an asking price of $1,850 put them firmly out of reach.

As to my purchases, they were an interesting bunch. I have, for some years, been collecting the Penguin wine guides. I like their style, the language used and the down to earth sense of engagement. I’m particularly fond of Huon Hooke’s contributions, not to mention Mark Shield; these days, the annual tome is authored by Nick Stock who seems well suited to continuing the tradition. On my first visit to the Barn, the first book I found was one of the few remaining omissions from my set. So too, this time and I now have the 1995-96 volume. I think this means I need only find one or two volumes to complete the set.The numbering has been rather erratic over the years, which does not help, but I now have these years:

1991
1992-93
1994-95
1995-96
1996-97
1997-98
98|99
1999|2000
2000-2001
2001-2
2002/3
2003/2004
2004/2005
2005|2006
2007
2009
2010

It wasn’t published in 2008. The 1991 edition makes reference to a 1990 edition which I don’t have and there is a 1993-94 edition. The 2005|2006 edition was published in 2005 and the 2007 edition was published in 2006 so there’s no gap there.

My second find was also interesting and fits another area of my interests, and that is the history of language and dictionaries. Side by side on the shelf, were copies of the 1945 and 1966 editions of “The Australian Language” by Sidney J Baker. I was somewhat fortunate a year or two back, to pick up a reprint of “A Dictionary of Austral English” by Morris and as Baker builds on his work, this was a nice continuation. Moreso however, due to a minor controversy, or rather that a work was referred to as being minor, the 1945 edition had additional interest. Acoording to clipped newspaper articles, that someone had placed inside the front cover, a paragraph was to be censored as it referred to the Weekly Bulletin as a “minor weekly” – this upset a few folk though I think the context was clear. So it was decided, according to the clipping, that the reference would be deleted from all unsold copies of the book. This copy was one of the uncensored versions, and the 1966 edition had a differently worded version of the same paragraph. So I grabbed the 1945 edition and left behind the 1966 edition; though I wouldn’t mind tracking down a censored version of the 1945 edition so I could have them sit side by side.

update: As I was adding my new acquisitions to my bookcase, I discovered that I have a paperback reprint of the 1966 edition of The Australian Language. In other words, it was just as well I didn’t buy it today. Yet another reminder that I need to get all my books catalogued into a portable list, if only to avoid potential duplication further down the track.

The remaining two books covered yet another of my interests, that being the history of libraries. The first is entitled “Early Public Libraries: A History of Public Libraries in Great Britain Before 1850” by Thomas Kelly. This looks intriguing and traces the history of public libraries in the UK and the blurb notes that the first public library in Great Britain was established in 1425. The reason this book covers the period prior to 1850, is that was the year that saw the passing of the first Public Libraries Act. The second book is “Australian Libraries” by John Balnaves. This book, published in 1966 purports to be a brief history (90 pages) of libraries in Australia and the author himself acknowledges such.

a note in time

Via a note on Teleread, I came across freely available versions of Rudy Rucker’s Ware Tetralogy, all downloadable in nice formats. I own the first two in print (both of which have received the Philip K. Dick award) though I’ve only read the first and it was very good. While you can get the titles from Rucker’s own site, I’m really liking the site I did download them from, manybooks.net. It pulls in freely available works from a variety of sources and makes them available for download. The bit I really like is that there is a dropdown menu on the book’s page from which you can choose your preferred format. There are lots of formats supported including .mobi (good for kindles, though it supports the native kindle format too), epub, html, plain text – all up there are 25 formats available. Select the one you want and hit download. Even better, it remembers your selection as you go on to download more and more books.

Consequently I have downloaded lots with a mix of science fiction, literature, history and even an Australian Dictionary, Austral English by Edward Ellis Morris. This one was a nice score as I also have it in print, having happened upon it in Berkelouw’s secondhand section in Newtown. Though it’s over 100 years old, it does at least mean I have an Australian English dictionary on my kindle to balance the US dictionary it came with. I’d be tempted to delete the US one but it’s nice having a more recent dictionary at hand. Other curiosities include a short story by Frederik Pohl, “The Tunnel Under The World” which I read many years ago, and was then reminded of a few years back upon seeing Dark City. There’s even a couple of tracts published by the Society for Pure English, some members of which were involved in the development of the first edition of the OED. I actually own a few of the tracts in print too, having found them in a massive bookshop, in a town of bookshops in Wales, called Hay-on-Wye – which I think has more bookshops per capita, than any other town in the world. The first booktown; I will return one day…preferably with a large, empty suitcase…or two.

However, despite this afternoon’s happy wanderings through archives of legally free books, I remain in something of a quandary. There’s an Australian book I want, that being Truth by Peter Temple, especially as it’s recently won the Miles Franklin. It is available via the Borders ebook store, however that’s in epub format, which my kindle doesn’t support (one of the kindle’s several shortcomings). According to Borders, they don’t support the kindle at this stage, though they do say that their epubs will run on many devices that support the epub format. This suggests that they’re using standard epub rather than DRM-heavy epub, but I don’t know for sure. If they’re using standard epub, that means I’d be able to convert it, via calibre, to the .mobi format which the Kindle recognises. However, I don’t want to spend $21 to find out either way. To that end, I have just sent Borders an email on the matter and will report back here as to their response.

In other news, there’s been a new development in the study of the works of Plato. Dr Jay Kennedy (Uni of Manchester) has been examining the original texts and eventually worked out that there was a code hidden within the text, based around musical scales known to Plato’s comtemporaries. Kennedy has set up a page on the topic including a link to the recently published article [PDF 155k].

george r.r. martin is not your bitch

Sexual politics of the title aside, I think Neil Gaiman’s comments on the nature of the muse and writing are well worth a read. I recently subscribed to Gaiman’s feed and am finally after many, many years reading The Sandman properly. In his blog, there is a down to earth honesty that appeals. He is a writer first and foremost; and human being too. I subscribe to feeds based on my interest in the content, and I like what Gaiman writes. I also like his physical stuff:  Sandman and The Graveyard Book and so forth; stuff that’s published. In print and nice bindings. I’m currently midway through Vol. 3 (of 4) of the Absolute editions of The Sandman. Beautifully bound, enlarged, etc…mmmm. As a bookaholic, or bibliomaniac or other such term, the 4 volumes of The Sandman are some of the best in my collection. They sit well.

While my life is spent, or not spent…I am spending on books at least. Living still, in the home of my childhood, surrounded by boxes, depressed by many things, not least, my inability to gain a home in my favourite neighbourhood. I missed out on a house and was gazumped on a warehouse conversion. I’m in the running for another conversion that is above the one I missed out on. Though I don’t feel sufficiently lucky at the moment

My own writing has faltered as has my reading much. Just in time I squeezed out a dodgy abstract for VALA, I suspect it’s even dodgier than my last effort. That last one was accepted and I think this one would bookend it nicely. Oh well, if it fails to make the grade, that’s ok. An attempt was made. I have time but no mental space for writing. I miss my words; I have confidence they will return though I know not when.

In the mail today arrived yet another purchase, perhaps I should blog about my new arrivals as they arrive. That might inspire other things, other thinking. Today’s acquistion is a new work, of old, by JRR Tolkien, edited by his son, Christopher. This one is “The Legend of Sigurd and Gudrun” which I think is based on the old Norse myths of the dragonslayer. Wanker that I am, I have the deluxe edition, nicely bound, and in slipcase. There is a satisfaction in holding a nicely bound volume in your hand. Paperbacks rarely come within cooee. I’ve mostly avoided the Tolkien publishing industry but I’m happy to have acquired this edition. It cost about AUD $80 delivered from the UK, and will be available locally for about $150. A score.

Speaking of Gaiman, I was recently in Kinokuniya, and scored a first edition, also nicely bound with artwork on the cover (once the paper cover is removed), of his Anansi Boys, for AUD $41. There is one more in the shop.

I refuse to buy the OED, though it is still a mere AUD $1,300. It will not be bought until I have my own place to put it in. If I get the place I want, then too, I will get a large painting for the wall…as that is how I want to honour my father…something larger than life, something that dominates the room, something that brings pleasure, something that is looking for a reaction, something that encapsulates the ol’ bugger.

fetish; words.

Words and books and texture. Something of a fetish have I. While I have decided against the OED for now (finding a place to live seems preferable for the moment), I have occasionally indulged, in recent weeks, in my passion for nice books. I have at last, embarked on a proper reading of The Sandman in a lovely faux leather, hardcover edition (made possible by Amazon’s large discount). I am part way through and have found pleasure reading such a nice tale in such a nice edition. To be followed by Watchmen. Both Sandman and Watchmen are things I should have read long, long ago. My lack of reading was not for wont of availability; afterall I knew folk who were buying the individual comics of Sandman as they appeared. Oh well, I am reading it now and I read other things then.

Then there are the words themselves. I have found, though have yet to purchase, a full copy of “A Dictionary of the English Language” edited by Samuel Johnson. It is admittedly, on CDROM, and ultimately I would like a physical copy one day. Also on CDROM from the same publisher is “De Revolutionibus Orbium Coelestium” by Copernicus. Just recently, I dipped into one of my favourite blogs, which I’ve not read in a while, to find discussion of a new book by OUP entitled “The Oxford History of English Lexicography” by AP Cowrie. A mighty work on the history of English. From the points raised and quoted in Hat’s initial comments, it sounds fantastic. And delightful. And intriguing. Though at US$350 I think it’s an unlikely purchase for now. Perhaps when the exchange rate improves or Amazon heavily discounts. While it is cheaper from UK sources, as often seems the case at the moment, it is not sufficiently cheaper.

library 2.0: the hard yards

We’ve done the courses, we’re flash with our flickr, faced the space, blah blah, social networking/ning/twitter/facebook/irc. All the fun of the fair. Do we still have a clue about our users, our patrons, are we talking to them or each other? Stephanie Rosalia (bugmenot.com) does and other folk do, but does it matter if we do or don’t?

I dunno if I’ve said it online, I’ve certainly said it offline…one of the coolest things about the whole, bloody library 2.0 movement…is that it’s got librarians thinking about what it is they bloody well do. It’s shifted a whole bunch of folk out of rutts (hmmm is that one t or two – can’t be arsed walking to the Shorter in the next room), some of their own making, some they’ve fallen into. Some folk will return to their rutts, others will become super librarians, others still, will do something else altogether.

What matters is that folk have had a shake, looked around, and gone hmmm…what next? Library 2.0 has been a useful tool to kick people into gear, into reassessing, into self evaluation. Where to next?

I’m interested in surveying folk in a few years time (always putting work off lazy bugger that I am) and seeing where they’re at. Seeing what they’re doing in the future now and whether they’d be doing that if 2.0 hadn’t come along. I’m interested in the effect of 2.0 as a catalyst for change.

Where do you think you’ll be in 5 years time ? How far have you come in the last year or two? How much further do you want to go?

There’s a PhD in that question alone I reckon. Nevermind the effect of professional change on personal change and vice versa…bugger that, it’s never possible to have a clear delineation of such…what’s interesting is the mix…

hmmpf

There’s so many things I should be doing at the moment: finding a place to live (though being back in Bankstown is sort of like being back home (which it literally is) and with a certain comfortable familiarity that I never, ever anticipated in my wildest dreams/nightmares – odd, but needed), blogging, getting my head sorted out, simply working out “me”. However, in 2 days time, the cheap rate for the full OED disappears. I already have the current Shorter (in leather…mmmm…fetish), which amply meets my needs but…I have had a hankering for the full, 20 volume edition, for as long as I can remember. Sicko am I.

a’twitter

I have discovered that I am a little out of touch with my old home in Newtown. Not very out of touch but at least a month. For a month ago, Berkelouw opened premises in a side street, sort of like a barn, with a reasonable selection of new and a tidy collection of old. It feels like a nice space. To whit, I have made my first purchase, A Dictionary of Austral English by Morris. This was first published in 1898 and this is the second impression dated 1972. This is a re-issue of the 1898 edition and the work is interesting in that it came about via a request from the folk responsible for the OED for words from this neck of the woods. So many words were gathered that Morris put in some extra work and published it as this standalone, prior to the publication (by a few decades) of the full OED. It was with amusement then, that I read the opening sentence of its introduction:

“About a generation ago Mr Matthew Arnold twitted our nation with the fact that “the journeyman work of literature” was much better done in France – the books of reference, the biographical dictionaries, and the translations from the classics.”

So wrote Edward E. Morris on 23 February, 1897.