Being the Second part of my Southern Ontario Book Safari

Literary Tourist in Southern Ontario, Canada

I arrived at Rod and Joanne’s place in Welland, Ontario just in time for supper (there’s a name for people who do this: smellfeasts); and a delicious one it was at that.

Rod (Morris) and I worked together very successfully throughout the 1990s and into the 2000s in the feature news distribution and magazine contract publishing business(es). As Sir Stanley Unwin put it in his book, The Truth About Publishing, “Publishing is an unusually difficult occupation. It is at once an art, a craft, and a business, for which a curious and unusual combination of qualifications is desirable.” This holds as true for magazines as it does for books.

Early on I knew that Rod possessed the right qualifications. He is a great magazine publisher, and I’m lucky to call him a friend.

I love Rod as much as anything, for his fluffy french-toast – a substantial helping of which I consumed the next morning. Then it was out the door, into downtown Welland, and over to the home of one of Canada’s most knowledgeable, respected antiquarian book dealers.

I carted in a box of books I’d reserved especially for Steven’s eagle-eye, along with my newly acquired Powell novels, purchased here

Now here’s the thing – because they appear later on in the Dance to the Music of Time series – after it had become popular – my volumes aren’t as scarce as the ones preceding them. Not that they aren’t worth anything; they are: $50 – $75 each. Problem is, Steven and most other dealers, will only give me 20-25% of this amount (in Steve’s case, paid out in cash). In other words, about $15 each – which is roughly what I paid for them in the first place. While there might be a little profit here, it’s hardly worth all the effort.

I resolved to hold on to them – to play custodian for a while – and try my luck elsewhere, perhaps in the States where I’ll benefit from the exchange rate and the fact that they don’t see British editions down there all that often.

With this business out of the way, Steven and I got to rapping about his passion for finding and identifying lost Canadian literature – books that few others know about. It’s a fascinating project. You can learn more about it by listening to our conversation here:

From Steven and Welland I hit the road again back to Dundas, a little town just outside of Hamilton, Ontario. I had an interview lined up here with one of Canada’s great fine press proprietors, Will Rueter. He’s been operating his Aliquando Press since the early 1960s. We talked about Thomas James ( T.J.) Cobden- Sanderson this time round, and Will’s reverence for the man. Cobden-Sanderson was a lawyer turned bookbinder associated with William Morris and the Arts and Crafts Movement – a term that he, T.J., in fact coined. He set up the Doves Bindery in 1893, and later the Doves Press in partnership with Emery Walker. As a result of a dispute over the rights to the Doves Type, Cobden-Sanderson famously threw them, along with their punches and matrices, into the Thames. Listen to my conversation with Will here

In fact, Will has produced several books about Cobden-Sanderson, including Majesty, Order and Beauty, the hundredth volume off The Aliquando Press. It was designed, printed and bound by Will, “handset in Palatino and Sistina types with Primula ornaments and was printed on white mouldmade Hahnemuhle Bugra paper.”

I learned recently that Will was intricately involved in production of the early editions of a journal called The Devil’s Artisan (DA). Established in 1980, the DA is today billed as Canada’s ‘Journal of the Printing Arts’. First appearing under the editorship of Paul Forage, Will Rueter and Glenn Goluska, it was purchased by Tim Inkster’s Porcupine’s Quill in the spring of 1995 and has published two issues a year since then under the editorship of Don McLeod.

Several weeks ago I came into possession of about twenty of them thanks to a very satisfying biblio-transaction with Pradeep Sebastian, a fellow bibliomaniac who has written extensively on our shared affliction.

From Will’s studio, I drove several blocks over to Dundas’s main drag and James McDonald’s newish little bookshop The Printed Word. James has acquired part of Nelson Ball’s old stock, including, primarily, his extensive collection of Canadian literary periodicals. As a result his shelves are packed

with interesting editions of important Canadian poetry books, including this hard to find number by John Thompson

– a poet who died young, possibly by his own hand, and who is revered by many of today’s better practitioners, including Michael Lista (okay Michael has left the trade to become an investigative journalist, but his first book of poetry, Bloom, is one of the best ever written by a Canadian – IMHO).

I asked James if, at this late hour, he’d consider (you guessed it) looking at some books I had to trade-in. He kindly responded in the affirmative, and took most of what remained in the car. As a result I came away with several coveted items, including

Anthropomorphiks by Robert Fones (published by Coach House Press), which was featured on the cover of a recent issue of The Devil’s Artisan: yet another pleasing coincidence, the kind of which you’ll find frequently, in the wonderful world of books and travel.

Here ends my very successful book-trading and interviewing safari to Southern Ontario, undertaken in the late Fall of 2018.

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The Stones in Literary Oxford

Literary Tourist in Oxford

The first thing you notice about Oxford is the stones. They’re everywhere: under

foot,

in the surrounding walls,

covering the sides of churches and towers, on the roofs. It’s all rather beautiful. Oxford University has one of the best preserved groups of medieval buildings in the world. Back then, stones were obviously big. It brings to mind Shakespeare (what doesn’t?), and his use of stones to describe heartlessness: ‘flint-bosom,’ ‘harden’d hearts, harder than stone;’ ‘You blocks, you stones, you worse than senseless things;’ ‘thy stony heart;’ ‘No, my heart is turned to stone; I strike it, and it hurts my hand.’ Just one thing. It’s clear that Oxford has heart.

Since it was right around Christmas when we visited, the libraries and theatres were closed, so we had to settle for admiring their exteriors. Not all bad. The Radcliffe Camera (built between 1737-48) was the first round library in England.

Sheldonian Theatre (1664-7) is modelled on a U-shaped open-air theatre in ancient Rome, it’s Oxford’s first Classical building and the first large building designed by Christopher Wren.

It’s located across the street from Blackwell’s Bookstore, which it turns out, was open.

Here you’ll find an enormous selection of titles, an amazing basement containing the world’s largest single display of books, and a good second-hand/antiquarian department up on the Third floor. Plus the shop puts surprisingly recent stuff on sale

The tourist information office was open too. I knew literature was in the air when I saw these for sale

Next door to Blackwell’s you’ll find the Bodleian Weston Library, also in stone, new and sleek, Canada’s contribution to British education. The library was named in honour of the £25 million donation given in 2008 by the Garfield Weston Foundation. Continue reading “The Stones in Literary Oxford”

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It started at the New York Public Library

Literary Tourist in New York

We decided to park the car at the hotel, stay overnight in Poughkeepsie N.Y., and take the one hour train ride into Manhattan the next morning; not however, before visiting the Bocuse Restaurant at the American Culinary Institute that evening. It’s recognized as ‘the world’s premier culinary college’, and is beautifully situated in what was once the St. Andrew-on-Hudson Jesuit novitiate in nearby Hyde Park. Though nothing about our meal really stood out, the food was uniformly good, the price was reasonable and the setting, as I say, was very impressive. Well worth a look at the $45 fixed menu.

Next morning the train took a bit of a milk route; it wasn’t full, so we gathered deep breaths, stretched out, and enjoyed the Hudson Valley scenery. The train went right to Grand Central station. This

reminded me a bit of the famed Platform 9 3/4 at King’s Cross Station in London, although here you don’t have to run into a wall to catch the right train.

First stop on the big apple literary itinerary was the New York Public Library at 42nd St and Fifth Avenue.

It’s pretty well impossible to tell Patience

from Fortitude. These are the names Mayor Fiorello LaGuardia gave the library lions back in the 1930s. They were the qualities he felt New Yorkers needed in order to survive the Great Depression.

Inside I was greeted by this punchy quote

perfect slogan for the book podcast I host called The Biblio File.

One of the things I love about the bookstore at the NYPL is that it sells ex-library and donated books, cheap.

NYPL Bookstore, ex library

If that’s not your thing, there are plenty of other fun, bookish accessories to go round. For example, you might want to adopt this Justin Trudeau ‘library look’

Down the hall there’s always something interesting going on in the special exhibition space. Today it was a sixties revolution exhibit

filled with powerful images of protest and complaint (Napalm was manufactured in the U.S. by the Dupont Chemical Company – 388,000 tons of the disgusting stuff was dropped on Vietnam between 1963 -1973).  In 1964 millions of middle-class young white kids started rejecting their parents’ infatuation with money and status. They created what would be called the Counterculture, and became ‘flower children’ looking for “meaning in Eastern spirituality, communal living, and free love”. Struggling against the system, they believed, would bring on a ‘New Age’ of peace and love.

This is the main – Stephen A. Schwarzman Building – branch of the NYPL

(Schwarzman is an etched in stone billionaire friend of Donald Trump’s, but let’s not hold that against him), here you’ll also find a Rare Books room, the Berg Collection of English and American Literature, and a Children’s Center, home to the original stuffed bear Winnie-the-Pooh and his four closest friends: Eeyore, Piglet, Kanga, and Tigger; plus, LIVE from the NYPL a regular conversation session with ‘notable writers, artists, and leaders’, hosted by Paul Holdengräber.

On a nice day it’s worth venturing around to the back of the building. It opens up onto a lovely square, called Bryant Park. Here you’ll find a large patio where you can read your new/ex book acquisitions and enjoy a refreshing squeezed orange juice, or something.

To be continued.

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Book, cat and dog lovers’ paradise in Tokyo

Literary Tourist in Tokyo:

Did you know that Tokyo has it’s own Times Square? It’s called Shibuya Crossing, near the Metro station of the same name, and it’s chock full of huge video screens, bright lights, brand-name stores,

and hordes of orderly people crossing a broad, orderly intersection (hard to tell that this is one of the busiest in the world). There are also lottery tickets if that’s your thing,

and a resident faithful dog beside which thousands get their photos taken every day.

At the end of each day, so the story goes, Hachiko would wait for his master at the train station to greet him after work. One day, in 1925, the master failed to show up. He’d died of a heart attack. Nobody told Hachiko, who continued to go to the station every evening for nine straight years until he himself finally died.

Away from Hachiko, the noisy tourists, and the blaring billboards, along a small car-lined side-street, the book-lover will find tranquility. Book Off is a popular Continue reading “Book, cat and dog lovers’ paradise in Tokyo”

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