I just finished The Bone Clocks

I loved The Bone Clocks. That’s the short answer.

The long answer:

I have done a lot of travelling lately, which means not a lot of booksellng, but a lot of reading. To my shame, it also means not a lot of use of one of my other Great Passions, the Public Library. I’ve been reading everything on the Kindle app on my Great Big Phone. Which means that, to my shame:

1. I paid for books when the public library has them available to all, for free. I feel so dirty.

2. I can’t lend my copy to a friend.

But needs must, or whatever.

[Actually I am a huge fan of Amazon, for many very real reasons, many to do with the future of commerce or their ruthlessly customer-centric business model, and of course not least of those reasons is that without Amazon I would not be a bookseller. I love you, Amazon. I have to put it out there. But that’s a tale for another day.]

When drifting here and there across the American Southeast for 3 of the last 7 months and re entering Wine Country exhausted and completely disorganized but, one hopes, for a few solid travel free months, one needs something to read, and can’t carry heavy books, and can’t just stop at every public library along the way.

Inability to use every public library in every state in the nation is a shame of national proportions. Maybe that’s something I need to work on in my spare time- reciprocal lending in all 50 states and the territories. H’m. Can’t go there now though.

Something else I probably need to learn is how to use the free e book downloads my public library provides. I have always been proud of myself for being one of those early adapters. How can I have missed out on this? It’s something I advocated for in my previous life as a librarian. I am not getting old. I am not, I am not, I am not.  I have to make this right.

Anyway, The Bone Clocks.

This was my first David Mitchell, and I don’t think I could possibly love any of his other books as much as I did this one, so I don’t think I will read any more.

People complained of how it wandered between narrators, that the characters weren’t compelling enough and it was too much to keep up with and – whatever. It looks to me like much of what irritated people is just Mitchell’s current mode of storytelling. That’s what he does. You like it or you don’t.  That’s why it’s smart to get your contemporary fiction book free at the public library or borrow a paper copy from a friend, people. Then you’re not out any money. [But see above- I love Amazon. I do. Just saying…] I happened to love it, and hated to put it down until I finished it.

You can read all sorts of reviews on Amazon. I am not going to retell the story here or hit any highlights. I did find it a teeny tiny bit of a slog, for about sixty seconds here and a couple of minutes there, wading through subsequent narratives by different characters, but it was all worth it in the end, and if it didn’t hang together I didn’t notice. Your mileage may vary.

What I loved about it was that Mitchell invented a whole new (to me) narrative of the epic struggle between good and evil. That is just beyond difficult. He also explores why people might make the ‘wrong’ choice with a light touch. I appreciated that. And the reader sees that ‘doing the right thing’ is sometimes just putting one foot after the other, even when it doesn’t look good, when one is hurting and afraid, but that love- for comrades, for family, even for that old flame that died before it had a chance to burn- is a powerful, powerful motivator. I loved Holly Sykes, but I loved several of the other characters who made up this very satisfying tapestry as well.

Favorite quote? It’s 2039 or so in a teeny tiny village in Ireland and the mad consumerism of today has led to the savage dystopia of the near future. Oh, come on, you can’t possibly call that a spoiler. We all know it’s coming. Stop it. So there’s no fuel or electricity, there’s little food or medical care and even less internet connectivity with loved ones or the outside world, and there are so many bigger fish to fry when it comes along. I can’t go and look it up, but the essence is that there’s a proven link between bigotry and poor spelling. HAH!

If only giggling at poor spelling were enough to right the injustices of this world. And of course spelling snobbery helps no victim of bigotry and is in fact be its own species of bigotry. But still, thanks for that, Mitchell.

So. Bone Clocks. I loved it. If you try it, I hope you do too.


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Filed under contemporary fiction, reviews, what I'm reading

Pnin and Nabokov and his Butterflies.

Nabokov's Butterflies and Pnin

Nabokov’s Butterflies and Pnin

I never really ‘got’ Nabokov. I knew as a literature major I should. I just couldn’t.

At the ripe old age of eighteen or so I identified intensely with the narrator of Dostoyevsky’s Notes from Underground. I still do. And that was simply where I stopped with Russian Literature, forever and amen.

Recently a friend had the sad honor to act as executor for a former Park Ranger and biology teacher. She brought me the last of his personal effects, his books, to look through.

Among them I first found Pnin in an innocent looking paperback and set it aside for myself to read. It looked an approachable, non-intimidating Nabokov. Then I could claim to have at least read one.

Pnin hooked me from the first page with his idiosyncratic dress, his strong sense of what must be true at all odds with what is actually happening around him, his ineffectual life present life so deeply rooted in a rich, lost past, his challenged English, his rich sense of humor. Pnin is doing things po amerikanski (the American way), telling his life story in a nutshell- a coconut shell. Pnin, “to make a long story very short [one of the few English expressions he can use semi correctly]: habitated in Paris from 1925, abandoned France at beginning of Hitler war. Is now here. Is American citizen. Is teaching Russian and such like subjects at Vandal [Waindell] College (35).” This fiftyish professor reminded me of a nattily-attired old Latin American Literature professor from my university years and stole my heart.

Later I found Nabokov’s Butterflies, a substantial hardback collection of letters, biographical essays and photographs. September 27 1945 he wrote to Edmund Wilson from Cambridge Massachusetts “I am doing the same things I was doing last year: dissecting butterflies at the Museum and teaching Russian to girls in Wellesley… The urge to write is something terrific but as I cannot do it in Russian I do not do it at all…”

Thank heaven Nabokov later managed to write in English.

These endless details, these tremendous run on sentences are an example to us all.

According to Wikipedia Pnin is supposed to be narrated by the unreliable Vladimir Vladimirovich N___ and Professor Pnin based on an unfavorable and humorous character study of a real professor Nabokov knew at Cornell. But for me Pnin and Nabokov are each other-both ever  wanderers, both teaching at the college level, both passionate thinkers, both with names which will forever and ever be mispronounced by all posterity.

Nabokov couldn’t possibly have produced the humor and compassion of this funny and sad character without somehow seeing himself in Pnin’s shoes- or, to be more precise, “His sloppy socks… of scarlet wool with lilac lozenges; his conservative black oxfords [which] had cost him about as much as all the rest of his clothing…” [ I am a sock and shoe person myself. I wear only smartwools and own 3 pairs of one or two hundred dollar shoes instead of dozens of cheap shoes.]

I understand that Pnin, ever the refugee, ends up drifting again at the end, but reappears in Pale Fire, so Pale Fire is next on my list. Perhaps I won’t claim or bother to ‘get’ Nabokov, but what a joy Pnin is, and I look forward to learning what else Nabokov’s discerning, richly detailed, emotionally searching, gently ridiculing, ultimately unreliable narrator has to offer.

Meanwhile I have Nabokov’s Butterflies here for you, a very nice gently used edition for $25 plus 3.99 media mail shipping. winecountrybooksnapa at gmail.

Best wishes, and happy reading.

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Filed under 1950's, Biography, illustrated

The Rise and Destiny of the German Jew

The Rise and Destiny of the German Jew 1934 Union of American Hebrew Congregations

According to a review in Foreign Affairs, April 1935,

scholarly account of the Jews since 1871, the author maintaining that they will stay in Germany and adjust themselves to new conditions.


Text block is darkened with age. Black cloth cover is lightly faded but overall clean and clear with silver gilt and red stylized stamped round motifs relevant to Jews in Germany in 1934- swastika, menorah, industry, burning at the stake. Former owner bookplate on front end paper. Text block lightly darkened with time otherwise tight and clean. Corners lightly bumped with two corners beginning to fray.

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Filed under 1930's, Antiquarian, Germany, History, Judaica

All the Love Poems of Shakespeare Eric Gill Engravings

All the Love Poems of Shakespeare Eric Gill Engravings Sylvan Press 1947



All the Love Poems of Shakespeare Eric Gill Engravings Sylvan Press 1947


Near fine / Good. “Privately Printed for Sylvan Press” but no numbering or edition statement. Gold stripes at edge of protective clear plastic jacket are beginning to pull away a little at the edges, and the jacket is brittle and scratched. Black leather finish boards with faded gilt or green engraving design. End papers are quite yellowed but pages are only lightly yellowed, clean and unmarked. Top of text block is dyed wine red. Other surfaces of text block are yellowed with dust / time. Engravings in the fashion of the era; please contact seller for additional photos.


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Filed under 1940s, illustrated, love poems, Poems and Poets, Shakespeare

The Waves, Virginia Woolf

Found it in my inventory today. What a gift.

Even though mine is only a First American Edition, not Hogarth Press, I can’t quite price it to sell.

In my late teens Virginia Woolf, Kate Bush, James Joyce, Billy Bragg, Joni Mitchell and Prufrock were my best friends. <heart>, as the kids say.  I still cry every time I watch the movie Orlando, one of the few movies that take liberties with a great book yet capture the point beautifully.

Hogarth House VW Waves DJ VB


Virginia Woolf’s The Waves with Vanessa Bell cover art. First American Edition (NOT Hogarth Press), Harcourt, Brace and Company, 1931. Dust jacket and text block darkened with age. DJ has chips and a one inch rip, is soiled and lightly price clipped. Former owner name and dealer marks on end papers.  winecountrybooksnapa at gmail – 25% discount for anyone who purchases via this blog, or make me an offer.

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Filed under Antiquarian, art, first editions, Women writers

A poem for our time – Children kept from the sun


New Poems Dylan Thomas winecountrybooksnapa at gmail

New Poems Dylan Thomas 1943  winecountrybooksnapa at gmail


Some books I just can’t let go. This one… nope.  When I opened this book, as I usually do before I list something interesting, the first poem hit me right in the chest. This beauty is mine for now.




There was a saviour
Rarer than radium,
Commoner than water, crueller than truth;
Children kept from the sun
Assembled at his tongue
To hear the golden note turn in a groove,
Prisoners of wishes locked their eyes
In the jails and studies of his keyless smiles.

The voice of children says
From a lost wilderness
There was calm to be done in his safe unrest,
When hindering man hurt
Man, animal, or bird
We hid our fears in that murdering breath,
Silence, silence to do, when earth grew loud,
In lairs and asylums of the tremendous shout.

There was glory to hear
In the churches of his tears,
Under his downy arm you sighed as he struck,
O you who could not cry
On to the ground when a man died
Put a tear for joy in the unearthly flood
And laid your cheek against a cloud-formed shell:
Now in the dark there is only yourself and myself.

Two proud, blacked brothers cry,
Winter-locked side by side,
To this inhospitable hollow year,
O we who could not stir
One lean sigh when we heard
Greed on man beating near and fire neighbour
But wailed and nested in the sky-blue wall
Now break a giant tear for the little known fall,

For the drooping of homes
That did not nurse our bones,
Brave deaths of only ones but never found,
Now see, alone in us,
Our own true strangers’ dust
Ride through the doors of our unentered house.
Exiled in us we arouse the soft,
Unclenched, armless, silk and rough love that breaks all rocks.

I didn’t find much in the way of scholarly analysis and that’s fine because to me this is very clearly about US, Americans.

We are dead because we are numb and disconnected.

We have attached ourselves to processed substitutes and intermediaries for our joy, our wellness, our communication and connection with others, our society’s laws and values.

Not all substitutes and intermediaries are always inherently bad, no more than a piece of art is somehow not as good as the item or concept it was created to reflect. They are just what they are- they do what they do, they offer what they offer.  Art, Media, Facebook, and other substitutes and intermediaries allow us to share, express, preserve, learn, coordinate.

Some, though, are death wearing a handy benign mask provided by the greed and fear that we allow to pervade our society from within our own hearts to the highest halls of learning and government.  Sometimes they are inherently evil; sometimes they are only killing us because we allow them to because it is easier to find something to numb us than to just connect.

We have been lulled by benign and evil substitutes and intermediaries into letting go of real contact, connection, nourishment, education, competence, and skill.

We are are silent when murder is done and our earth cries out and we ignore the pain of other humans and we cannot cry when we see death. The anger pain and prurient pleasure constantly whipped up by our media, portrayed for ‘entertainment’ and substituted for news by our journalists, keep us complacent and unquestioning of what is really going on and how we really need to engage.

We keep our children out of the sun, literally. They have no time to play outside, and they must not learn for themselves. They have lost the wilderness of childhood, both literally in the sense that children do not get to play outside and in the sense that we pound their joy out of them in favor of conformity, grades, good behavior, shake it off and suck it up and drive on.

We are lost but never found and there is no redemption and we are fine with that.

I have pretty much ignored John Cale, but he did set it to music if you like that sort of thing.  I am sick at heart but thankful for the message. Although, as I read it, I do wonder if, in fact, things truly are all according to plan, all good, all Maya and not worth worrying about because Heaven is always right here, within and all around us, simultaneously with the suffering and evil I, we, choose and prefer to see in every little movement, shadow, difference or change. Is my perception, or lack of it, the real problem here?

In any case, I am off to go really connect with my family in the sunshine.


“Poem” from poemhunter.com 

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Filed under Antiquarian, Poems and Poets, quotable, social currents

Reprint, Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol

Charles Dickens A Christmas Carol date and publisher unknown $25 winecountrybooksnapa at gmail

Charles Dickens A Christmas Carol date and publisher unknown $25 winecountrybooksnapa at gmail

Marley was dead: to begin with. There is no doubt whatever about that. The register of his burial was signed by the clergyman, the clerk, the undertaker, and the chief mourner. Scrooge signed it: and Scrooge’s name was good upon ’Change, for anything he chose to put his hand to. Old Marley was as dead as a door-nail.

Mind! I don’t mean to say that I know, of my own knowledge, what there is particularly dead about a door-nail. I might have been inclined, myself, to regard a coffin-nail as the deadest piece of ironmongery in the trade. But the wisdom of our ancestors is in the simile; and my unhallowed hands shall not disturb it, or the Country’s done for. You will therefore permit me to repeat, emphatically, that Marley was as dead as a door-nail.

Scrooge knew he was dead? Of course he did. How could it be otherwise? Scrooge and he were partners for I don’t know how many years. Scrooge was his sole executor, his sole administrator, his sole assign, his sole residuary legatee, his sole friend, and sole mourner. And even Scrooge was not so dreadfully cut up by the sad event, but that he was an excellent man of business on the very day of the funeral, and solemnised it with an undoubted bargain.

The mention of Marley’s funeral brings me back to the point I started from. There is no doubt that Marley was dead. This must be distinctly understood, or nothing wonderful can come of the story.

– from the full text and images at Project Gutenberg A Christmas Carol

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Filed under Antiquarian, Christmas, the holidays