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Showing posts from July, 2014

The American Way of Death Revisited by Jessica Mitford

Once upon a time, straight out of college, I almost took a job in funeral sales. I'm glad I steered clear of that lucrative career path.  The money would've been great, but not at the expense of all that absurd psychological manipulation and sales shenanigans I'd of had to have conned the bereaved with, every day, 9-5.

"Wouldn't your loved one have wanted to be buried in this gold embossed coffin?  I understand he was a man of modest means, and made great personal sacrifices for you and your family, doesn't he now deserve the best now for his eternal rest?"

What shysters, just a small step removed from their sleazy, used car salespeople, next of kin. I wouldn't be caught dead working in the funeral industry, preying upon people's raw emotional weakness in their greatest -- and gravest -- time of need.  What a disgusting, self-serving industry the funeral business became in the twentieth century in the U.S.A., and remains so, even now, despite oc…

Ana Menéndez's autograph (Loving Che)

I found this signed and inscribed first printing of Loving Che, the first novel by Ana Menéndez, at a local Goodwill last weekend. It was half-off; I paid one dollar for it, even though it's worth, minimum, fifteen times that. 
I don't know why people get rid of, or donate, signed and inscribed first printings of first novels in almost brand new condition by talented writers like Ana Menéndez.  But I'm glad they do.  What they so carelessly toss, I carefully treasure.

more autographs

Doris Lessing's autograph (The Grass is Singing)

Another serendipitous thrift store find: A signed copy of Doris Lessing's first novel, The Grass is Singing.  Adding to the serendipity and unlikelihood of the find (I do love that word, "serendipity," one of my all time favorite words, in fact) is finding out this Paladin edition of The Grass is Singing (the book cover is pictured below) is a UK, Australia, New Zealand, Canada edition that was never for sale in the United States.

On the dedication page, the next page after the title page, in the top right corner, in beautiful cursive script (though the pencil lead has faded over the years), the previous owner -- perhaps the original owner? -- left their own mark for posterity:

"P D Beach
Aug. 1993

more autographs

Joseph Brodsky's autograph (To Urania)

Keep at it



Joseph Brodsky
3 . III. 1990


Joseph McElroy's autograph (Ship Rock: A Place)

I suppose I could be wrong, but I'm pretty sure the bookseller I bought my limited edition, signed copy of Ship Rock: A Place, from -- an online book seller based in Albuquerque, New Mexico -- did not understand the true value of the slim volume by Joseph McElroy that he'd listed for sale.  Understandable.  Suppose you were a book seller without an appreciation for, or knowledge of, the so-called-critic/academic-labeled "postmodern movement" in U.S. literature of the 1960s-90s, why wouldn't you think automatically to yourself at first glance that this diminutive book, if it can be rightly called a "book" at less than fifty pages, was not in fact just a local guide about the real place, Ship Rock,a mere 160 miles as the crow flies from Albuquerque.  After all, the book, Ship Rock, even has "A Place" in its title, right? so why wouldn't you think it anything more than some touristy spiel regarding that mysterious rock outcrop in New Mexico&…

Reyna Grande's autograph (Across a Hundred Mountains)

Having grown up and lived within ninety minutes of the Mexico-California border for most of my life, I'm drawn innately, it seems, to movies, novels, or true life accounts involving border/immigration issues in what are typically sad, harrowing, and sometimes tragic, stories of survival and rescue.  Reyna Grande has one such harrowing (though ultimately hopeful) long story to tell, forged from her own hard times as an orphan and undocumented immigrant, in her debut novel--a 2007 American Book Award winner in fiction--Across a Hundred Mountains.

I salvaged this autographed copy yesterday afternoon from one of the local thrift stores I regularly haunt.  I had never heard of Reyna Grande before until yesterday, drawn to the book both by its title and its rugged, southwestern cover featuring what appears to be a VW bus (but may just be a regular city bus) attempting to navigate what looks as much like an impossible rocky arroyo as a so-called "road".  Terrible terrain and m…

Up Above the World by Paul Bowles

Been in a recent Paul Bowles bender of late -- just his novels, autobiography and letters -- not the smoke of incense or hashish wafting out of the waiting pages of, say, Midnight Mass or A Hundred Camels in the Courtyard, two of his story collections.  Perhaps its the close proximity of svelte palms ensconced in the seagrass'd hollows of sand dunes, the drowsy ssh of the evening waves, the warm aroma of Lamb Tagine carried on the offshore breeze from the Moroccan take-out just down the beach -- "Tariq's" -- that makes Bowles so resonate with me this past relaxing week on holiday.

"At lunchtime the hotel's dining room was crowded with the sleek upper-class local population.  Here where they don't need it they've got air conditioning…"

So true, Mr. Bowles, even here on the California coast, half a century later, our balcony sliding glass door is open to the ocean with the air conditioner going…

"You'll never be happy until you do what you…