Brother can you spare a shiver?

It isn’t that I am bloody minded.  I am- I did, after all, just advise a friend whose husband was dropping dramatic hints that he might be starting the flu YET AGAIN to just smother him with a pillow. But that is a useful thought any time of the year, yes? And I love the original dark and violent Grimm’s fairy tales, Disney will never compare, and I love Angela Carter’s fairy tale collection The Bloody Chamber, and… and…

But no, it isn’t pain, gore, fear, Freddy, Jason, murder, mayhem, angry spirits back to exact revenge.

I love Halloween for its sense of possibility. The light is changing, the weather is changing, the dark folds its arms around us for longer and longer each night… there’s a funny energy of ‘not quite the same’ or ‘something may happen’ or perhaps even ‘not quite right’ (of course, ‘right’ isn’t always good…) Who knows what one might see or dream up and be able to create and share if one were only paying attention!

Every year Halloween sneaks up on me. This year I vow to enjoy the season,  starting the very late summer day the light began to slant and the shadows to lengthen as autumn came on, to let my imagination run wild over the emotional and visual landscape of the possible.

So many wonderful literary works are available to light up the dark corners of our imagination in the most delicious ways.

Share a shiver, would you? What are some of your favorite reads, chilling, yet full of possibility?  Here are some that for me evoke that sense of loss, longing, wonder that is particular and peculiar to a time of year set aside for pondering the thinning of the veil between the worlds.

Goblin Market, with its sense of being trapped by our own desires- try illustrating that in your mind!

The intertwining of fate, romance, and a shiver of the supernatural of  Halloween by Robert Burns, the sober observations of Poe’s Spirits of the Dead and the lovely dramatic longing and grief of his Lenore,  even the Princess books by Mac Donald – The Princess and Curdie is available free on Project Gutenberg, hurrah!!

A. Conan Doyle’s fairy books, and other Victorian era books on magic or spiritualism- Aleister Crowley, Edgar Cayce anyone?

One of the Cottingly Fairy Photos

One of the Cottingly Fairy Photos

Share a shiver, would you?

Rakshasa

Rakshasa

We might branch out and  move on to the tricky, angry demons and other wonderful beings of world religions and mythology, or perhaps the eerily almost-true scientific and biological landscape of the most wonderful series I have ever read, Philip Pullman’s His Dark Materials  trilogy.

The possible, the possible, the possible…  don’t shy away from the darker works. They  invite us into the closet of our imagination, where we hide our creative vision and sense of wonder.

What about the doors Neil Gaiman’s books or Isabel Allende’s The House of the Spirits (lightweight compared to, say, Gabriel Garcia Marquez, yes, but soulful!) open in our imaginations to how these many creatures and spirits must look? What about the droll, dark Roald Dahl stories for kids? Why didn’t I read more carefully that copy of Vampires, Burial and Death I sold a few weeks ago?

Never mind.

I will re post this next year, with the same question- what, to you, is the most delicious read you can think of, related to other worlds, unknown creatures or beings, magic? Inquiring minds want to know. Today, next year, share a delicious shiver, would you?

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On Sermons, Separatists and Supremacy, or The Merry Chase Part II, 1951

This week I photographed a bunch of oldies in preparation for offering them for sale online. Old books, not old people, folks. 

Ernest Sevier Cox’s Teutonic Unity, an attractive little volume, came across my desk, and I had to take a closer look. 

 

As I learned, I thought, should I dignify this work with a blog post?

‘Racial’ separatism and the belief that those of ‘different races’ should be not just separate but often killed off completely still exist in our society, so… yes. Ick.

Cox was born in Knoxville Tennessee, home of my alma mater. A quick search reveals no known connection to the family of Cherokee-killer John Sevier, who homesteaded and populated those mountains, but perhaps Earnest’s thoughts were borne from the Indian killing generation to his mind and heart by bloodline. And on the other hand, to be fair, Sevierville Tennessee was anti slavery and anti-secession in the Civil War era. (“Sevierville Tennessee,” Wikipedia). Perhaps Earnest’s loss of his father at a young age left him emotionally stunted and scrambling for something he could believe in and fight for.  Who can’t have at least some grain of compassion for that 12 year old boy Cox once was?

And this copy is signed with a gift inscription in the careful, crabbed handwriting of a sick old man. This wouldn’t be the first time I have felt some compassion for old men isolated from loved ones and society by their misdeeds or so deeply immersed in their principles that they cannot see the truths of the human condition. The recipient passed away in Virginia in 2008, I believe. I can’t find any trace of their association other than this.

 

I lived in the South most of my life, but the verbiage he chose for his titles somehow still made my jaw drop.   

  • White America (1923)
  • Let My People Go (1925)
  • The South’s Part in Mongrelizing the Nation (1926)
  • Lincoln’s Negro Policy (1938)
  • Three Million Negroes Thank the State of Virginia (1940)
  • Teutonic Unity (1951)
  • Black Belt Around the World at the High Noon of Colonialism (1963)

He helped pass the Virginia anti-miscegenation laws that were finally and famously overturned by the United States Supreme Court in the case of Loving v Virginia. 

Cox worked with both former Nazi believers in ‘racial purity’ holed up in Argentina and Northern Europe AND with African Americans like Marcus Garvey who saw repatriation to Africa as the only way to heal and rebuild from the evils and abuses of slavery in America.  Some Americans of African descent were also against mixing and wanted the political, geographical and cultural haven from persecution that might be provided by a nation of their own. 

Toward the end of his life he self-published this volume and distributed it for free, in service to his ideals. 

The thoughts espoused by Cox and his international Nazi and Nordicist buddies are so distasteful, and as we now know in this era of genetic testing to prove ancestry, they are largely fiction. We have many skin colors. We are geographically culturally and perhaps ethnically diverse. But we are One Human Race.

I also believe ‘kids today’ are eradicating prejudice. They just couldn’t care less. Say what ya want about them, and it’s probably almost all true, but I believe they are our hope for an end, at least in developed countries, to hate  harm or marginalization of people due to traits they were born with and cannot help. Thank God.

And people self identifying as two or more races continues to be the fastest growing group on the US Census. The word self identifying is important though, because if your family has been on this continent for more than a century, you most likely have some fraction, no matter how invisible, of some oppressed group’s blood in your veins- indigenous American or African American, Jewish, what have ya.   

But while oppression continues- abuse of children, marginalization and ignorance of the culture and voices of women and minority groups, uses of our environment and natural resources that poison those who live nearby and ultimately our entire human family, anywhere a sense that we can somehow silence or overpower another group of humans in some way for our own benefit and peace of mind still exists, it is important to understand this sort of thinking and how these thoughts are ‘justified’ to keep ourselves off of certain slippery slopes. I worry that in the backlash against ‘political correctness’ we will forget why it matters.

A useful quick dose of Cox’s views and his role on the American and world stage in the White Supremacist or Nordicist movements from the 20’s through the 50’s can be found on Google Books on the scanned pages of a tome called Science for Segregation by one John P. Jackson.   Apparently Cox thought that keeping ‘races’ separate was part of survival of the fittest. Since I have always understood that a diverse gene pool helps keep recessive dangerous traits at bay- Hapsburg jaw? Haemophilia anyone?  I am not sure where he got that. I didn’t feel like pursuing it though. 

A more personal account of his lonely, angry, wandering life can be found on Encyclopedia Virginia’s website- “Earnest Sevier Cox” 

Wikipedia is, as always, invaluable for quick, concise, broad strokes on any given matter or person. “Earnest Sevier Cox”

 Someone take this book off my hands, preferably to study how to peacefully eradicate thoughts like these for good. 

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Filed under African, American, Antiquarian, History, Latin American, Signed, social currents, Southern

On Sermons, Separatism and Supremacy or The Merry Chase Part I, 1834-35

The Burning of the Houses of Parliament, J.M.W. Turner, held by Cleveland Museum of Art, copied from wikipedia’s article on The Burning of the Houses of Lords and Commons.

This week I took photos of a big batch of oldies this week, getting ready to offer them for sale.

First to lead me a merry chase was Volume VIII of  The Preacher Containing Fifty-Seven Sermons by Eminent Living Divines, July 17 1834 – May 23 1835, 

It was printed for John Chidley of London, by Bensley, Printer, Phipps-Bridge Mitcham. 

I couldn’t find any other copies of this or any volume of this series anywhere on the internet. It is listed in various old library catalogs, though. 

In the name Bensley, of Phipps-Bridge Mitcham, I smelled History of Books and Printing. I did find reference to a printer named Bensley, but it appears that if something was printed post 1799 it isn’t really that big a deal. I had to let the trail go cold and move on. 

A quick glance through The Sermons was a little more gratifying. They are such a mix of faith, hope, encouragement, social justice, and brimstone. I think matters of faith were much more present in the daily life of normal people- those who had the luxury for such thoughts, that is, and I imagine not just present but compulsory. Nonetheless, to an Episcopalian (as in, post Anglican, or Anglican Communion), a believer (loosely) in the One Holy Catholic and Apostolic Church of 1835 (5) (along with bits of other world religions and meditative traditions, as it suits me, but Episcopalian is my formal affiliation) it’s kinda cute, on its surface.

I can see a gentleman (or -woman) or a country vicar taking his tea and soft boiled egg (or whatever, back then) and enjoying a quiet moment to dwell on the contents of these pages before or after a long day. In the context of what was happening in England in those years, it is both heartwarming and chilling.

In 1834 Slavery was abolished in England; The Poor Law was also amended to state that the able bodied may not receive aid unless they go to the workhouse. (1) But Charles Dickens was soon to be on the scene to plead the cause of the poor. After living with poverty, desperate attempts to get his father out of debtor’s prison, and multiple interruptions to his education, his Street Sketches were published in this year. (2)

It was a year of cultural and historic turmoil. Samuel Taylor Coleridge followed Blake and Shelley to the grave, and though Wordsworth still lived, perhaps the era of poetry – idyllic, intense, reclusive, drug-enhanced, oriented toward the heart, philosophy, language and beauty- had ended, giving way to the up and coming rough and tumble of radical social action.

England had four different Prime Ministers (1). Trade unions were gaining membership and power in snowball fashion. (3) The Houses of Parliament, Westminster Palace, burnt on my birthday in this year, the biggest fire since 1666. The fire was accidental, caused by flues overheated with the burning of the outdated Tally Sticks (whatever those are), but accidental or not it was certainly timely and symbolic. (4) In 1835, protection from cruelty was extended to animals, yet the last two people to be executed for conviction of “buggery” were hanged at Newgate. (6) Talk about yer full spectrum from social justice and human decency to the lack thereof.  

The sermons themselves are actually really lovely- impressive labors of scholarly and spiritual love. The book is really old, and that is really cool. I loved my unplanned tour of this book’s cultural and literary milieu, as I do every time another one sweeps me away.  

Available at ABE and Amazon. Feel free to contact me directly at winecountrybooksnapa at gmail and make me an offer. 

The Preacher Containing Fifty-Seven Sermons by Eminent Living Divines Volume 8 VIII Nos 197 Thursday July 17 1834 – 224 Saturday May 23rd 1835
Crossman, RFG. Parsons, J. Beamish, HH. Busfield, W. et al

Published by Printed for John Chidley, London. Bensley, Printer Phipps-Bridge Mitcham (1834)
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Item Description: Printed for John Chidley, London. Bensley, Printer Phipps-Bridge Mitcham, 1834. Hardcover. Book Condition: Good. no jacket. Considerable foxing to brittle pages. Cloth boards with brown faux leather finish have edge wear, fading, faint staining, rips at top and bottom of spine, and fraying at corners. Cloth is separated just over halfway up the spine on the back. Fragile but whole and square and tight with all pages present. Outside of text block, deckle edges, darkly foxed. Spine label rubbed/scraped with edges torn away. Please contact seller for additional photographs or other details. Will ship bubble wrapped in a sturdy box. Bookseller Inventory # 01304

Sources: 

1. wikipedia, 1834 in the United Kingdom

2. shmoop.com, Charles Dickens Timeline 

3. wikipedia, Trade Unions in the United Kingdom

4. wikipedia, The Burning of Parliament 

5. wikipedia, Catholic Apostolic Church

6. wikipedia, 1835 in the United Kingdom

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Filed under Antiquarian, England, History, social currents, United Kingdom

hello from the latest incarnation of the Wine Country Books office

Hello from the latest incarnation of the Wine Country Books office

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June 18, 2014 · 4:16 pm

The Road to Hell

Every once in a while a friend will give me a stack of books. ‘If these are worth anything, sell them. If not, donate them,’ they say.

I work through them. I can say with confidence that popular fiction and mass market paperbacks are almost never worth a thing. I always check, though.

I love getting a window on their past reading lives- or their not-reading lives, as the case may be.  The road to overcrowded living room bookshelf hell or unusable garage hell is paved with beautiful brand-new books on child development, art, sex, religion, love, high literature, nutrition. They are throwing it all away, often unread, and it cracks me up.

We meant to inform ourselves, to learn, to mull, to take time to enjoy. We really did.

But Raising Your Child the <insert wise popular child development expert name here> – unopened. We all just muddle on through without Kafka, without a solid grounding in Italian language or the folklore of Ireland. We really meant to have at our mental fingertips those witticisms from the latest acerbic popular progressive- whose wisdom seems to be dated almost the minute we buy the book. And those volumes of classical homeschool curriculum with fresh shiny workbook to match? Not so much. Never even started.

I am grateful for this understanding. I am grateful to have been swamped with approximately two tons of books, one thousand cataloged and offered for sale in the past year and a half, certainly that many left to go through, with more speed I hope. And though I try to ‘be good,’ more lovely, lovely books are coming in from friends and book sales all the time.

Because of this experience, I have firmly resolved, in our own household, that no books shall be stored inside the house except those we are currently reading and a few truly valuable collectibles we choose to keep.

The public library shall be our bookshelf. All books shall be fodder for the book business, or donated posthaste.  It is hard to enforce- but I can assure you vigorous purges occur on a very regular basis.

And so, back to work.

 

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Filed under social currents, the book business, the holidays, the public library

Read a little James Dickey, shed a little tear, do a little dance

James Dickey: Poems 1957 – 1967. Wesleyan University Press. First Edition.

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Photo of James Dickey’s Poems 1957-1967 from Wesleyan University Press http://www.upne.com/6715230.html

I almost always crack each book I list, unless it is just a numerous and easily available edition of a well known title.

Today I took a minute to randomly read a James Dickey Poem. It was Buck Dancer’s Choice, from the section of the same name.

Then I had to go listen to the song, in several varying styles by several artists. Then I had to go look at videos of buck dancing, which according to Emmylou Harris’ teacher is NOT the same as clogging.

Then I had to wipe a tear.

And now I need some tap shoes. I want to wear them all day all around the house.

The poem and links to some of what I found in my explorations below.

http://www.poetryfoundation.org/poem/171429

Buckdancer’s Choice

BY JAMES L. DICKEY

So I would hear out those lungs,
The air split into nine levels,
Some gift of tongues of the whistler
In the invalid’s bed: my mother,
Warbling all day to herself
The thousand variations of one song;
It is called Buckdancer’s Choice.
For years, they have all been dying
Out, the classic buck-and-wing men
Of traveling minstrel shows;
With them also an old woman
Was dying of breathless angina,
Yet still found breath enough
To whistle up in my head
A sight like a one-man band,
Freed black, with cymbals at heel,
An ex-slave who thrivingly danced
To the ring of his own clashing light
Through the thousand variations of one song
All day to my mother’s prone music,
The invalid’s warbler’s note,
While I crept close to the wall
Sock-footed, to hear the sounds alter,
Her tongue like a mockingbird’s break
Through stratum after stratum of a tone
Proclaiming what choices there are
For the last dancers of their kind,
For ill women and for all slaves
Of death, and children enchanted at walls
With a brass-beating glow underfoot,
Not dancing but nearly risen
Through barnlike, theatrelike houses
On the wings of the buck and wing.

James Dickey, “Buckdancer’s Choice” from The Whole Motion: Collected Poems 1945-1992. Copyright © 1992 by James Dickey. Reprinted with the permission of Wesleyan University Press, www.wesleyan.edu/wespress.

Source: James Dickey: The Selected Poems (Wesleyan University Press, 1998)

A variation of the tune by the great Taj Mahal
Emmylou and Bill Monroe buck dancing to Scotland
 The Meaning of Buck Dance sponsored by The Kennedy Center
Directed by D.C. choreographer Emily Oleson, this work features Urban Artistry with Good Foot Dance Company and Baakari Wilder. The piece investigates the origins behind the term “buck dance,” which in tap dance history is used to describe an early American percussive dance style. Drawing on a short video of buck dance taken by Thomas Edison in 1894, the dancers use the technique of freestyling to compare different dance styles in conversation. Part of Local Dance Commissioning Project.
And this is how cataloging and listing a single book can take up my entire morning.
Off to buy me some cowboy boots with taps.

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Filed under Appalachiana, Poems and Poets, Southern

Two figs

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I am digging through my books this morning. I often find the sweetest things.

I found these and loved them.

First Fig
My candle burns at both ends;
It will not last the night;
But ah, my foes, and oh, my friends–
It gives a lovely light!

Second Fig

Safe upon the solid rock the ugly houses stand:
Come and see my shining palace built upon the sand!

For some time I have been wanting certain friends to ‘play hooky’ with me and spend a day sipping fine spirits and reading poetry. I put play hooky in quotes because with our lives and obligations we will have to plan hooky ahead.

A while back we were listening to M read one of her father’s poems and I mentioned this again. Then H reminded me of Bloomsday. I wrote papers on Joyce in school and I am ashamed to say that I could not name Leopold Bloom and had forgotten about Bloomsday. What kind of literature lover, Kate Bush fan and librarian am I, anyway?

Never mind. Now we know. June 16 2014, 110 years later- Hooky, poetry and fine spirits on Bloomsday it is.

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Filed under Poems and Poets, quotable, Women writers