Category Archives: American

Trap

for sound track click at the end of the post
Thank you to Interesting Literature, for bringing this across my desk.

“If he had not been consumed by ambition and convinced that one day some newly-discovered rubbish heap would reward him, the disappointments he had suffered, let alone the fatigue and derision, would have made him give up the pursuit.”

Virginia Woolf’s “Solid Objects”

As a former literary scholar, as a person who questions the worth and meaning of the responsibilities of every day life, and as a person who collects and struggles with a clutter of odd things I find valuable,  I am grateful to think about this story.  My solid objects are china, truly interesting (to me) rocks, and art supplies or now-useless items with ‘potential’ for found art. Without that collecting and cluttering, might I give up the pursuit, not just of my collecting but of bothering with life at all?

It’s a somewhat middle class / first world problem, though. To a hammer everything looks like a nail, so I assume Virginia Woolf must have struggled in a similar, though probably harsher, ‘trap.’ She seems to have been too sheltered and just barely financially secure enough that she had no need to fight for life, but too smothered by gender and class norms and too unskilled to really break out into an independent life.

Writing and mental illness were the arenas where she fought her good fight. There was no resolution. There was only cessation.
I certainly question the worth of my aesthetic, my beliefs, my collections, my efforts, efforts I make and efforts I shirk. I wonder if she did as well. The lion’s share of my sense of meaning in my life comes from creative work- but the lion’s share and more of my time and energy are spent in the repetitive acts of living.  I am sifting my solid objects and my life every day, trying to discern whether and in which areas to bother. How very 2019. 
Some early Trap Music and a reference

 

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Filed under African, American, art, British, Music, quotable, reviews, social currents, Southern, trap, United Kingdom, virginia woolf, women

From Harlem to the Rhine in World War I: In France there is no color line, or, African American History IS American History

Update: WordPress found me this article about James Reese Europe,  one of the Harlem Hellfighters, on blackmail4u.com. Europe was an eminent musician and New York City club owner who played an important part in nourishing African American music and culture. I love synchronicity! A link to a video of one of Lt Europe’s compositions, On Patrol in No Man’s Land, is embedded at the end of my post. Thank You Blackmail4u Special Delivery!!

My article:

I have the coolest book in my stacks. Well, I have a lot of the coolest books in my stacks. But I sat down with this one today. From Harlem to the Rhine: The Story of New York’s Colored Volunteers by Arthur W. Little, copyright 1936. Little created this detailed and well written history from his first hand experiences, as detailed in his own war diary.

The author details the abuse and threat the African American soldiers suffered on their own American home soil before they even left for the war. Little goes on to catalog in clear and unexaggerated prose these soldiers’ bravery, resourcefulness, great strength of character, senses of humor and musical talents. They endured great privation and danger within the warzone and without. They served our country with the greatest of bravery and honor.

The “Men of Bronze”, Harlem’s Hell Fighters, one of the great fighting units in the the shock division of Gourard’s Fourth Army of France, are well represented here and I am grateful. Many black and white photo illustrations are included, courtesy of Major Gourard himself and of the U.S. Army Signal Corps. The book is indexed and contains appendices of letters and military communication.

I consider From Harlem to the Rhine a primary source on World War I history, African American History and a deeply affecting book. Our popular / mass media and education system still has not gotten the memo that white Europeans were not the only key players in our history and culture.  It chaps my book loving a– er, my book loving cheeks. The only thing I wish is that we had narrative from the soldiers themselves. Works like this are ever so important to help remedy the ‘colorblindness’ that erases the immense contributions offered and trauma endured by our brothers and sisters of nonwhite ethnicity since the birth of this nation and continuing today. We are not color blind. We are colluding with the whiteout. Books like this can help us right the wrongs done by our dominant and oppressive culture.

 

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Filed under African, American, Antiquarian, France, military, World War 1

It’s beginning to look a lot like…

I hope your Chanukah and Thanksgiving and any other holiday to include lazing about, introspecting, eating, being with family, escaping from family, being thankful or worrying or commemorating… I hope you are well and wish you a close of the year celebrating and remembering as appropriate,  and a fresh hopeful New Year.

Eat and drink for tomorrow we die. Not really, I hope.  My  heart is with those who struggle and hurt and my joy is in my family, mi vida. And books of course.  Give generously to the charity of your choice (find out which charities use your money the way you intend at Charity Navigator) and then remember that charity, and changing the world, begin at home. Mwah.

So here are photos of three lovely books for this year. I have some wonderful Judaica as well and will share those. Please contact me at winecountrybooksnapa at gmail if one looks interesting to you. More will be listed in the coming days. Warmest wishes.

Beasley's Christmas Party Booth Tarkington

Beasley’s Christmas Party Booth Tarkington

Yes Santa, there is a Charlie Brown

Yes Santa, there is a Charlie Brown

The First Christmas

The First Christmas

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Filed under American, Antiquarian, Christmas

Summer Reading

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Wine Country Books in the House! We have been back East.

Much like the cobbler’s children have no shoes, the Wine Country Books family rarely gets to read for pleasure much less purchase an actual book new in the shop.  However, in the airport on our way to catch our flight, these tireless advocates for public libraries and reduced clutter were suckered into two delicious looking paperbacks to read on the plane. Sigh.

I made it about 100 pages into Never Let Me Go by Kazuo Ishiguro and then moved on to Summer Hours at the Robbers Library by Sue Halpern.

I loved Ishiguro’s Remains of the Day. Then there’s that Pulitzer seal on the front. This one has to be good, right? But anyone who has read Shirley Jackson’s “The Lottery”, Lois Lowry’s The Giver, watched The Expanse on Amazon / SYFY, or knows about Soylent Green (thinks they) can see where this is going. I am just not up for another round. I know I will have to skim or skip to the end, or read some reviews, to try and figure out whether to finish it up or just pass it on.

So I moved on to Summer Hours at the Robbers Library. This book requires slight suspension of disbelief- what are the chances this configuration of this type of outsider and loser will not just share space but actually get to know and come to care about each other? The first few pages were a slight slog, but keep going til you get to the library. The book is so far very satisfying in its plot and characters, with perfect levels of emotion and rate of reveal about each character’s past and problems.

Just my two cents. Either way, $30+ this reader will never get back. At least I have paperbacks to share with any reading friend who would like a copy.

Email me at winecountrybooksnapa at gmail and I will send you the Ishiguro free.

Click Below to get your copy of Summer Hours at the Robbers Library on Amazon.

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Filed under American, books and movies, British, contemporary fiction, England, free, reviews, Summer Reading, the public library, travel, United Kingdom, what I'm reading, Women writers

Music Alone Shall Live: Collections of American Song

 

Collectors, fans, and musicians may find these two works of interest.

I am watching a BBC documentary about earliest human history. The presenter suggests that what allowed European Homo Sapiens to outlive their more robust, better adapted cousins the European Neanderthals was – can you guess? – art and music. Art and music created cultural identity across broader geographic regions and for larger tribes and served to preserve the weaker, smaller brained Homo Sapiens.  With this perspective, the importance and influence of the arts for any culture has greater urgency than ever.

Song in America our Musical Heritage by Burl Ives (1962) collects 311 folk songs, arranged by Albert Hague. Even in our modern era the words of folk songs can vary widely from region to region, artist to artist, and decade to decade. It is good to have another reference, especially one so complete.

A Treasury of Stephen Foster (1946) includes historical notes that lend context to Foster’s work, including his use of themes from African slavery and minstrelsy. Cultural theft? A good faith attempt to strike universally recognizable sentimental notes of loss, longing, and fun in spite of it all?

“Foster composed about two hundred songs and a few instrumental pieces… a half dozen rank with the world’s greatest ballads; at least twenty-five of them have become American folksongs and more than fifty are well worthy of preservation.” Collected songs are arranged for piano by Ray Lev and Dorothy Berliner Commins.

If you are interested, please contact us at winecountrybooksnapa at gmail. Best wishes, and happy reading – or in this case, playing and singing.

nbpmome

 

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Filed under American, illustrated, Music

Firsts the Book Collector’s Magazine Back Issues February 1998 The Book Business is Changing

If you are a collector or book lover, you may find our vintage copies of Firsts the Book Collector’s Magazine interesting or helpful.

All are priced $7 with free shipping in the US. All are in very good or better condition.

For shipping outside the US please contact us at winecountrybooksnapa at gmail.

February 1998 contains articles including

Women of the New West – Kingsolver, Hogan, Erlich

The Firsts Guide to Grading Books Part 1 “Firsts begins its series on grading books with the best condition, very fine…”

Collecting Howard Norman – Northern Lights, The Bird Artist, fascinating stories, children’s books and translations of Eskimo and Northern Native American folk tales…

Book Hunting in Cyberspace

 

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Filed under American, book collecting, contemporary fiction, firsts the book collector's magazine

Military History January; Headcount February?

Happy New Year!

In January, 89% of Wine Country Books sales were military history books. H’m, wonder what social currents are at play at this time? Train! Prepare! Be ready!

Our first sale of February is a book of essays analyzing the way African Americans have historically been portrayed in photography.

‘Tis the season when we remember that the history and current reality of our nation, our communities, our personal lives, rests on rather poor representation for Americans who did not win the demographic lottery.

One of the low risk – high yield things we can do to ease the divisions and harm done in American society is actively seek out narratives from people we don’t hear from or see much in mainstream media.

It goes hand in hand with doing the headcount, another easy step those of us distressed about injustice can take to start getting acquainted with the who what why.

Caveat! Diversity does NOT mean equality. I am just talking about gathering information over time.

I know the in-person headcount is kind of tough when many of us live in bubbles of people pretty much exclusively just like us.  That is our bellwether that something is wrong.

Perhaps we have “that one friend” or coworker who is in a wheelchair, or aged, or of African or other nonwhite descent, or dealing with loss, chronic illness, mental health issues, gay, name it. Here’s why this is not as helpful as we might think. That one unique person cannot, does not, and probably is sick to death of people asking / expecting them to, embody or speak for the experience of the larger group.

Perhaps we were raised to see people as people. Perhaps we ourselves have struggled with poverty, with abuse by institutions or persons of power in our lives, or even attack or abuse by people from one of those groups. But humanity is humanity, and we have forgotten that, somehow, and regressed into biologically programmed behaviors without examining those behaviors’ impact on ourselves and those in other walks of life.

So you can do the headcount in a low risk, high yield way, too.

Begin to notice – how much of the news and entertainment we consume features authors, characters, or narratives about and created by people who are different from us?

If a particular group- people over 50. Women (in leadership roles or college or pro athletics, this is big). People of native, indigenous, African or Latin descent. People with chronic illness, a difference in processing or physical difference, differently oriented people- is x% of the population of a city or state or nation,  shouldn’t they be getting, at minimum, x% of representation, jobs, publication, money in the media we consume, the people we hire, the people we elect to represent us, the businesses we buy from?

It takes time to absorb. And it is easy to misstep. This is because cognitive dissonance  – constantly moving goalposts regarding okay / not okay, constant difference between the dominant narrative and what individuals experience – is the rule, the very foundation of American society for so long. Divided, a few of us stand and thrive, and the rest of us fall. And some of us have been falling generation after generation after generation.

Watch. Read. Notice. Question- do your research. You’d be surprised how much you can learn just by typing your question into Google. I got the best stuff, for example, when I typed in “Why aren’t these jokes funny?”

Synthesize or assimilate information for yourself. Take your time. Best wishes and happy reading.

 

 

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Filed under 1940s, African, American, Antiquarian, military, social currents