Sunday, February 19, 2017

Birthday: As a one-time Charlottean said, "There's nothing that makes you so aware of the improvisation of human existence as a song unfinished. Or an old address book."


Lula Carson Smith McCullers (1917-1967)
Author, playwright

She called herself “the holy terror of American literature,” having largely achieved the aim she and her mother shared when she a child, declaring to a friend that she intended to be “rich and famous.” Her father ran a watch repair shop in Columbus, Georgia; her mother was of antebellum gentry stock, reduced in stature by the late conflict among the states.

Mrs. Smith considered her a prodigy, only in music, and the whole family tended to cock a snook at social convention. In The New Yorker's, Hilton Als wrote of them,

Unlike their neighbors, the Smiths weren’t very interested in religion, and promoted social awareness instead—a Yankee sensibility that was at odds with the town’s conservatism. Marguerite enjoyed tweaking the townspeople with such remarks as the now famous “Oh, yes, my daughter Lula Carson”—then a teen-ager— “and I have such a good time smoking together. We do almost everything together, you know.”

After a teenage bout with rheumatic fever, McCullers had doubts about possessing the stamina her mother saw in her future as a concert pianist, but Mrs. Smith was a hard one to argue with. So Lula Carson sailed off from Savannah to New York’s Juilliard School at seventeen, five hundred dollars sewed into her underwear. She was the classic rube gone to town, wrote Tennessee Williams:

According to the legends that surround her early period in the city, she first established her residence, quite unwittingly, in a house of prostitution, . . . and had not the ghost of an idea of what illicit enterprise was going on there. One of the girls in this establishment . . . undertook to guide her about the town. . . . While she was being shown the subway route to the Juilliard School of Music, the companion and all of her tuition money, which the companion had offered to keep for her, abruptly disappeared. Carson was abandoned penniless in the subway, and some people say it took her several weeks to find her way out.

It wasn’t the sort of story with which one returned in triumph to Columbus. Carson Smith, as she styled herself, hunkered down, working all kinds of jobs- real estate office clerk, dog walker- and taking writing classes at Columbia. She published her first story in 1936.

In 1937, She married Reeves McCullers, whom she’d met when he was a soldier at Fort Benning and she was home for a visit in 1935. They settled in Charlotte, North Carolina, where he aimed to quit being a debt collector and become a writer. His wife, however, was beating him to the punch, which was contra plan and the cause of much discord.

In 1940, McCullers- she, not he- published a sensational novel, The Heart Is A Lonely Hunter. It was true Southern Gothic at a time when Pollyannaish wartime optimism was the norm:

The book is set in an unnamed Southern town, and each chapter is told from a different character’s perspective. There is Mick Kelly, a teenage girl who lives in a boarding house run by her parents, where the deaf-mute, renamed John Singer, rents a room. There’s Jake Blount, a Communist alcoholic driven half mad by the local provincialism; Dr. Copeland, a black doctor who is dying of tuberculosis; and Biff Brannon, who runs the local diner and is erotically fixated on Mick. As the long, mean days of summer go by, the Depression grinds the town down, and the hopes that sustain the characters turn to dust. Mick is forced to give up her dream of becoming a concert pianist and goes to work in a department store. Dr. Copeland dies. Jake is more or less run out of town. Biff descends into sexual confusion. And John Singer commits suicide. Only after Singer dies does it occur to the others that they had never asked him anything about himself. None of them knew where he’d lived before. None of them knew that he had loved someone once—an “obese and dreamy” Greek named Spiros Antonapoulos, who had been committed to an insane asylum. Talking does not make a difference, McCullers seems to say in this book. We are all in our own cells, writing messages to the world which that world cannot read. Those messages, the stories within the story of “The Heart Is a Lonely Hunter,” include some of the most beautiful writing McCullers ever produced. The simplicity and lyricism here reveal the influence of Isak Dinesen, a writer to whom McCullers returned again and again for inspiration.

The couple moved to New York, where her androgynous charm and ability to shock put them in the best literary circles. Reflections in A Golden Eye followed in 1941, the tale of a closeted Army officer. It was out there, theme-wise, even for a writer of the grotesque. The literary critics of the Ku Klux Klan denounced it for denigrating the white Southern male.

McCullers cultivated her own eccentricities with a will. She took up chasing after older women. At Yaddo, the writers’ colony, she threw herself at the feet of the august Katherine Anne Porter, whose hardscrabble rise to fame left little time for histrionics:

Miss Porter demanded that Carson leave. She shouted from within that she would not come out until Carson vacated the hall. It was 6:30 p.m., however, and time for dinner. . . . After a brief interval the elder woman cautiously opened the door and stepped out. To her astonishment, there lay Carson sprawled across the threshold. “But I had had enough,” said Miss Porter. “I merely stepped over her and continued on my way to dinner.”

McCullers had a stroke in 1941 and divorced McCullers. He re-enlisted, was wounded on D-Day, and returned to remarry her in 1945. While neither seemed to be able to bear the other for long, they couldn’t seem to find anybody else. The Member of the Wedding (1946), a story of a returned-home soldier’s nuptials as seen from the kitchen by his much younger sister and the family maid, was a success and led to a well-received Broadway play. She won two Guggenheim fellowships in four years.

In the postwar bohemia of New York, the McCullers- both bisexual, and he envious of her success as a writer- drank and brawled their way through endless affairs with other men and women and women and men. Carson tried suicide in 1948; in 1953 Reeves proposed they make it a double. She declined. He killed himself in a Paris hotel room.

She wore on some people, and charmed others with her mix of neediness, vainglory and bouts of neurasthenia. Gore Vidal, who seldom kept friends long, wrote,

Carson spoke only of her work. Of its greatness. The lugubrious Southern singsong voice never stopped: ’Did ya see muh lovely play? Did ya lahk muh lovely play? Am Ah gonna win the Pew-litzuh prahzz?’

After Reeves’ death, McCullers retreated to a house in Nyack, above New York City, and remained there, increasingly disabled by a series of strokes, smoking, and drink, until she died in 1967. Her best work was done before she was thirty-four. Her last major work, a novella called The Ballad of the Sad Cafe, was published in 1951. Like the rest of her work, it dealt with the world as seen by outsiders to its norms- blacks, gays, a hunchback dwarf, a drunken Communist. They explained life from its margins.

Through the Fifties McCullers remained an international celebrity, her writing praised by the first ranks of Literature. A 1959 chance meeting led to one of the more exotic early manifestations of jet age celebrity culture.  Eve Goldberg explained it in The Rumpus:

In 1959, Isak Dinesen had been invited by the Ford Foundation to travel to the United States to read and discuss her work as part of a film series on “the world’s greatest living writers.” Despite her failing health – the frail seventy-four-year old weighed just 80 pounds and suffered from advanced syphilis and anorexia nervosa – she accepted the invitation.

New York’s cultural elite feted this illustrious grand dame of literature.  Socialite “Babe” Paley, Truman Capote and Cecil Beaton took her to lunch at the St. Regis.  Sidney Lumet and Gloria Vanderbilt had her to dinner.  She joined John Steinbeck for cocktails; and Leo Lerman took her to the Met to see Maria Callas in “Il Pirata.”  Dinesen’s appearances at the Young Men’s Hebrew Association Poetry Center were, by all accounts, the place to be in January, 1959.  A cartoon in the New York Times Book Review shows two beat poets at a Greenwich Village coffee house talking.  “Did you catch Isak Dinesen at the Y?” one asks the other.

Dinesen had told her hosts that the four Americans she most wanted to meet were Ernest Hemingway, E.E. Cummings, Carson McCullers and Marilyn Monroe.  Hemingway was out of the country, but it was arranged that Cummings would escort her to the annual dinner of the American Academy of Arts and Letters where, as the guest of honor, Dinesen was to deliver the keynote speech.

On a snowy Manhattan night, the consummate raconteur delivered her Academy talk.  Entitled “On Mottoes of My Life,” she divided her life into five stages with their attendant mottos.  “Like the eagle I shall grow up” told the story of Dinesen as a young girl, casting about for direction in life.  “It is necessary to set sail, it is not necessary to survive” told the story of Dinesen as a young artist in rebellion against bourgeois life and values.  In “I Respond,” Dinesen the colonist, wife, farmer and lover in Africa discovers that “my daily life out there was filled with answering voices.”  In the fourth stage, “Why Not?,” a woman in despair returns to her native country and finds hope in her heart as she begins to write. And finally, “Be Bold” explicated her life as an aging woman with deteriorating health, and death clearly on the horizon.

After the speeches, Dinesen was seated next to Carson McCullers for dinner.   The two women discovered immediately that they shared a decades-long mutual admiration.  Just as Dinesen admired The Heart Is A Lonely Hunter and had read it many times, McCullers considered Out Of Africa to be her favorite book.  “I was so dazed by the poetry and truth of this great book that when night came I continued reading Out Of Africa with a flashlight,” wrote McCullers.  “The burning deserts, the jungles, the hills opened my heart to Africa.  Open to my heart also, were the animals and the radiant being, Isak Dinesen.”  McCullers would ritualistically re-read the book every year, finding comfort and support in its “luminous, sulphuric glow.”

When McCullers heard of her literary hero’s New York visit, she noted: “I hesitated to meet her because Isak Dinesen had been so fixed in my heart, I was afraid that the actual would disturb this image.”  Image-busting fears aside, McCullers did go to considerable effort to attend the Academy event.  

Though only forty-two years old, she was every bit as frail as Dinesen.  A series of strokes had left her paralyzed on one side. She walked with a cane, her left hand curled like a hook, and she required assistance to dress herself, to walk up and down stairs, even to eat.  But the effort was worth it; the two writers hit it off, and when Dinesen spoke of her desire to meet Marilyn Monroe, Carson was happy to oblige.  Marilyn’s husband, playwright Arthur Miller, was seated at the next table, “So, I had the great honor of inviting my imaginary friend, Isak Dinesen, to meet Marilyn Monroe, with Arthur Miller, for luncheon in my home.”

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Four of McCullers’ five novels were made into movies, each hobbled- as were the film versions of Tennessee Williams’ plays in the same era- by the felt need to scrub them up for mainstream, straight, audiences. She started her memoirs and was pleased by a successful Broadway run of The Heart Is A Lonely Hunter in the early ‘60s. When she died in 1967, McCullers was eulogized on the front page of The New York Times:

It is not so much that the [The Heart Is A Lonely Hunter] paved the way for what became the American Southern gothic genre, but that it at once encompassed it and went beyond it.... The heart of this remarkable, still powerful book is perhaps best conveyed by its title, with its sense of intensity, concision and mystery, with its terrible juxtaposition of love and aloneness, whose relation was Mrs. McCullers's constant subject.... Mrs. McCullers was neither prolific nor varying in her theme.... This is no fault or tragedy: to some artists a vision is given only once. And a corollary: only an artist can make others subject to the vision's force. Mrs. McCullers was an artist. She was also in her person, an inspiration and example for other artists who grew close to her. Her books, and particularly "The Heart," will live; she will be missed.

#LiteraryBirthdays #CarsonMcCullers #HenryBemisBooks #LGBTAuthors

Saturday, February 18, 2017

Black History Month Birthday Books: Two by Toni Morrison

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It’s the 86th birthday of Chloe Wofford, better known to readers as Toni Morrison. She was born in Lorain, Ohio, on this date in 1931. Lorain was a small town, with one high school. “We all played together,” Morrison remembers. “Everybody was either somebody from the South or an immigrant from east Europe or from Mexico. And there was one church and there were four elementary schools. We were all pretty much [...] very, very poor.” She never lived in a black neighborhood, and everyone just went to school together and didn’t think anything of it. “I didn’t really have a strong awareness of segregation and the separation of races until I left Lorain,” she said. She grew up listening to her mother sing — all kinds of music, from opera to the blues — and her chief sources of entertainment were radio plays, and the ghost stories and folktales that the grown-ups around her would tell.

Henry Bemis has two of Morrison’s best-loved works in first editions:



Henry Bemis Books is one man’s attempt to bring more diversity and quality to a Charlotte-Mecklenburg market of devoted readers starved for choices. Our website is at Henry Bemis Books is also happy to entertain reasonable offers on items in inventory; for pricing on this or others items, kindly private message us. Shipping is always free; local buyers are welcome to drop by and pick up their purchases at our location off Peachtree Road in Northwest Charlotte if they like.

What’s your favorite social media outlet? We’re blogging at We tweet as Henry Bemis Books. Have you liked us on Facebook yet? Henry Bemis Books is there, too. And Google+!

#ToniMorrison #BlackHistoryMonth #FirstEditions #HenryBemisBooks #Charlotte

Friday, February 17, 2017

Trautman: "Rambo, are you still reading me?"

From Fine Books & Collections:

It might be hard to square Rambo with rare books, but then again, people can surprise you. It turns out that actor and director Sylvester Stallone, best known for his beefy roles in Rocky and Rambo, amassed a private library of roughly 1,000 volumes, which will be offered in 40+ lots at Heritage Auctions in New York on March 8-9.

James Gannon, Heritage Auction’s director of rare books, told HA’s house magazine, The Intelligent Collector: “The collection includes attractive and desirable library sets by the greatest authors of the 18th and 19th centuries ... Sir Walter Scott, Washington Irving, The Bronte Sisters, Jonathan Swift, Voltaire, Ralph Waldo Emerson, Emile Zola, and Charles Dickens are all represented.”

Walt Whitman, too. Stallone owns the Paumanok edition of The Complete Writings of Walt Whitman (1902), limited to 300 sets and bound in blazing red morocco. The $4,000 estimate reflects the fact that an extraordinary 1890 handwritten postcard from Whitman accompanies this set. 

Other highlights include a 10-volume leather-bound set of Sir Walter Scott’s The Waverly Novels (c. 1910), which includes a one-page autographed letter, signed by Scott (estimate: $2,000), and a 22-volume example of the Complete Writings of Nathaniel Hawthorne (1900), signed by Hawthorne on a tipped-in Liverpool customs certificate dated 1854 (estimate: $1,500).

Bookin' it on Facebook

Q: Anybody read twilight?

A: I have

A: yes and loved it.

A:  Yes

A: i read it

A:  one does not read twilight, one endures twilight.

A:  I read the series and loved the books at the time. Now the books are a great read if you're looking for fast, cheesy, cliche reading.

Me: I wanted my time back. Then I read 50 Shades and nominated Twilight for a Nobel Prize.

Black History Month Books: "For the writer, there is nothing quite like having someone say that he or she understands, that you have reached them and affected them with what you have written."

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Today Henry Bemis Books remembers the African-American writer Virginia Hamilton:

Virginia Hamilton, The People Could Fly (Knopf, 1st ed., 11th printing, 1993). ISBN 0-394-86925-7. Newberry Medal and Coretta Scott King Award-winning author Hamilton brings 24 classic African-American folk tales to life, aided by forty illustrations by Leo and Diane Dillon, Caldecott Medal winners. A remarkable, delightful work. Hardcover, unclipped dust jacket with a few slight nicks; very good condition. HBB price: $20 obo.


Celebrating her birthday, The Writer’s Almanac says:

It's the birthday of children's author Virginia Hamilton (1934). She was the youngest of the five children Kenneth Hamilton and Etta Perry Hamilton raised on a farm near Yellow Springs, Ohio.

Hamilton's grandfather, Levi Perry, was an escaped slave. He came to southern Ohio via the Underground Railroad in the late 1850s. Virginia was named for her grandfather's home state.

Virginia grew up in the embrace of a large extended family. The family was full of tale-weavers. Her grandfather "sat his ten children down every year and said, 'I'm going to tell you how I escaped from slavery, so slavery will never happen to you.'" Hamilton called her parents "unusually fine storytellers." They encouraged her to read — and were not surprised when the child began writing her own stories.

In 1958, after college, Hamilton moved to New York. She held a variety of jobs there, including accountant and nightclub singer, while she pursued her dream of writing. She also met and married poet Arnold Adoff and had two children. In 1969, the family settled permanently in Yellow Springs, on a corner of the old family farm.

Hamilton wrote 41 published books for children and young adults, including The House of Dies Drear (1968), The Planet of Junior Brown (1971), M.C. Higgins, the Great (1974), Sweet Whispers, Brother Rush (1982), and Her Stories (1995). M.C. Higgins, the Great, an Appalachian coming-of-age tale, was the first book ever to win the "grand slam" of children's literature: the Newbery Medal, the National Book Award, and the Boston Globe–Horn Book Award. During her career, Hamilton won almost every award that exists for children's literature.

Virginia Hamilton died of breast cancer on February 19, 2002.

Virginia Hamilton said: "There are three things I can remember always wanting: to go to New York, to go to Spain, and to be a writer. It feels nice to have done all three. I haven't had to want anything for some time."


Henry Bemis Books is one man’s attempt to bring more diversity and quality to a Charlotte-Mecklenburg market of devoted readers starved for choices. Our website is at  Henry Bemis Books is also happy to entertain reasonable offers on items in inventory; for pricing on this or others items, kindly private message us. Shipping is always free; local buyers are welcome to drop by and pick up their purchases at our location off Peachtree Road in Northwest Charlotte if they like. #VirginiaHamilton #BlackHistoryMonth #LiteraryBirthdays #Book of the Day #RareBooks #HenryBemisBooks #Charlotte

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We’re blogging at We tweet as Henry Bemis Books.  Have you liked us on Facebook yet? Henry Bemis Books is there, too. And Google+!

When life handed her the life of a presidential child, Margaret Truman passed on making lemonade and turned the big lemon into books

margaret truman.jpg

Mary Margaret Truman Daniel (1924-2008)
Entertainment personality, author

After seeing “It’s a Wonderful Life,” President Harry Truman told the press if he and his wife Bess had had a son, he’d have been actor Jimmy Stewart. As things turned out, they had a daughter, and she turned out like Myrtle Mae Simmons, Elwood P. Dowd’s niece in another Stewart film, Harvey.

Her mother Bess disliked Washington. She spent most of the year at home in Missouri, returning to DC for the social season. This left Margaret, who graduated George Washington University in 1946, to shoulder many of the First Lady’s social duties in The White House. She disliked the duties and the residence, comparing it to living in a museum.

Margaret wanted to pursue a career as a classical singer, and made her debut on radio in 1947. RCA Records signed her two years later.

Her career got decidedly mixed reviews. In 1950, Washington Post music critic Paul Hume wrote that Truman was "extremely attractive on the stage... [but] cannot sing very well. She is flat a good deal of the time... and still cannot sing with anything approaching professional finish."

President Truman wrote to Hume, "Some day I hope to meet you. When that happens you'll need a new nose, a lot of beefsteak for black eyes, and perhaps a supporter below!" Truman was upset by the death of his press secretary and longtime friend, Charlie Ross, a few hours before the concert.

Margaret simply responded that “Mr. Hume is a very fine critic. He has a right to write as he pleases.”  

Hume, whose paper had refused to wrote about the episode and was scooped by another, issued the statement, "I can only say that a man suffering the loss of a friend and carrying the burden of the present world crisis ought to be indulged in an occasional outburst of temper."

The episode generated 10,000 letters to the White House, two-to-one in Hume’s favor.

Margaret tried acting, and appeared on television variety and quiz shows in the 1950s. At 32 she married a New York Times writer, Clifton Daniel, and they had four sons. Living in New York, she raised and ran the family, looked out for her aging parents, and served on the board of her father’s presidential library.

When a Harry Truman nostalgia boom arose after Watergate, Margaret was ready with an affectionate, best-selling biography that sold a million copies. She earned $200,000 on the paperback rights alone.

Launched as an author, she wrote a number of other White-House related books, a best-selling biography of her mother, and her memoirs. In 1980 she launched a popular, if lightweight, murder mysteries set in Washington DC institutions: the White House, the Supreme Court, the Pentagon; twenty-seven in all.

After the 2000 suicide of the writer Paul Christianson- who ghosted a meretricious series of detective novels featuring Eleanor Roosevelt, under her son Elliott's name- among his papers were found claims he also wrote the Truman novels.

The issue remained unsettled until 2014, when the writer Donald Bain- who also turned out 43 novels “by” the television detective Jessica Fletcher, of Murder, She Wrote- wrote an article for Publishers Weekly claiming authorship with his “close collaborator” and adding his name to the covers of novels published after Daniel died.

Clifton Daniel rose to head The New York Times’ London and Moscow bureaus in the Cold War and was the paper’s managing editor in the mid-’60s. He died in 2000; their son, William, died four months later after being run down by a New York cab.

Margaret Daniel moved to Chicago to be near her oldest son, Clifton, and died after a brief illness in 2008. Clifton wrote his own memoir of his grandparents, and has been active in reconciliation projects associated with Hiroshima and Nagasaki, Japan.

Paul Hume was music critic for the Washington Post from 1946 to 1982 and won a Peabody Award for his work. He also taught at Georgetown and Yale, and was a commentator on the old Texaco Metropolitan Opera Broadcasts. When I worked as a congressional intern in Washington the summer of 1976, he was still hosting a classical music program on WGMS-FM.

In Kansas City to cover a Maria Callas concert in 1958, Hume called on President Truman. As The Post put it in Hume’s 2001 obituary, “The president played both of the pianos he had in his office, and the two became friends. They had seats across the aisle from each other for the concert that night, and Truman introduced Hume to his wife, who admired his work.”

#LiteraryBirthdays #HenryBemisBooks #MargaretTruman

This weekend, go bookmobiling with Bucks on the Bookshelf!

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It’s Bookmobile Week at Bucks on the Bookshelf! And not the creaky, lovable old WPA bookmobiles of the Depression and war years, meandering the back roads of the South, either.

Yes, host Steven Eisenstein is hitting the road with Julie Turner of Charleston, South Carolina-based Itinerant Literate Books, a mobile, pop-up bookstore whose she calls  “a community-oriented bookstore with a selection of new and used titles reflective of the community. We engage in knowledgeable bookselling that puts our readers first and abide by the values of respect, thoughtfulness, inclusivity, intellectual individuality, and community empowerment. Our goal is to hand-sell to each adult and child in our community his/her/their (new) favorite book” (they also have a Facebook page: go at once and Like!).

Turner and her co-venturer, Christen Thompson, saw a niche in the Charleston booksphere two years ago. Let City Paper pick up the story of

...a two-woman pop-up and mobile bookseller which will operate out of an Airstream trailer in the upper peninsula. It's the modern incarnation of the bookmobile: stylish, streamlined, and, we expect, endlessly Instagrammable. Currently, the new booksellers are exclusively doing pop-up events around town, but they plan to have their bookmobile up and running by the fall. Depending on when they open their doors, they'll be only the third or fourth commercial bookmobile in the country.

The women behind the Itinerant Literate are Christen Thompson and Julia Turner, two publishing professionals who hail from Atlanta. After graduating in 2012 from two different colleges in the Atlanta area — Thompson attended Agnes Scott College, while Turner went to Georgia Tech — both went on to the Denver Publishing Institute, an intensive four-week program at the University of Denver that gives students a crash course in the publishing industry. That's where they met and became friends, and after that, both wound up working at The History Press in Charleston (where they still work today).

That's also where they hatched their bookstore idea — Thompson and Turner are book people to the core, with a deep love for not only books themselves, but also the business of books, from publishing to selling. Opening a bookstore was a kind of back-burner dream for both of them. "We'd had a conversation about opening a bookstore," Thompson says. "It happened weirdly naturally and slowly. It would be little things we'd see in Shelf Awareness [a leading e-newsletter for the book industry], or seeing these little ideas for really cool things bookstores were doing. We'd say, 'We wish there was a bookstore here doing that.'"

So they started keeping a Google doc of ideas for their fantasy bookstore, and over time it grew into a feasible plan. "I think at one time we were talking about a seven-year plan," Turner says. "Five seemed too short and 10 seemed too long."

But about six months ago, the duo decided to scrap the seven-year plan and start making their bookstore a reality. They attended the American Booksellers Association (ABA) Winter Institute, a yearly three-day conference for booksellers and ABA members. Before they left for Winter Institute, Thompson and Turner had brainstormed some options for how to get their store off the ground so that they'd be able to get feedback and advice from other booksellers at the conference. That's when they came up with the mobile concept. "We were like, 'How can we prove we're serious about this before we actually have a space? We thought about doing pop-up events, maybe having a trailer we could sell out of. Then we decided we should just do everything mobile — do a bookmobile," Turner says.

The feedback they got at Winter Institute was overwhelmingly positive, and they came back energized — and with 13 bags of free books, courtesy of Winter Institute's galley room. Those 13 bags became their first round of inventory, which they used to furnish their first Itinerant Literate pop-up event back in April. They hosted a kids' Story Hour and raffle at the Revelry Brewing-sponsored Our Neck of the Woods fundraiser for Hampton Park, and Artist and Craftsman offered face painting of the characters from the books Thompson and Turner read.

Shortly after that, Itinerant Literate participated in the Dig South Spacewalk, offering a small selection of tech and creative books for sale at Lowcountry Local First. "Something we're hoping to be able to do more and more is offer really heavily curated title lists," Thompson says. "For Dig South we were looking for entrepreneurial books, outside-the-box and creative thinking, left brain-right brain — and of course, books by Dig South presenters." Those included a children's book that Thompson describes as "halfway between a children's book and a graphic novel" called Sidewalk Flowers, by JonArno Lawson and Sydney Smith, and a little self-affirming book called You Are Doing A Freaking Great Job.

This kind of sales model is something the women want to continue to offer. "When we have our mobile unit, we're hoping to be able to do the same thing, but in a larger volume for corporate events or festivals," Thompson says. "It would be amazing to do that for Spoleto, or the Charleston Wine + Food Fest — to have very specific titles in there." Once they have their mobile unit, they also plan to offer book club packages and party rentals for both kids and adults.
The daring duo launched a crowfunding campaign that would leave most breathless: to raise $65,000 for the purchase of an Airstream trailer, rehabbing the inside with custom bookshelves, a computer, their first round of business-related fees, and their first inventory purchase, which will be about 3,000 titles.

The “bookmobile ladies of the Holy City” are making good on their visions, turning up to host book club meetings at restaurants, food truck lots and book fairs. Who’d’a thunk it, as my dad used to say. Indeed, City Paper wrote two years ago,

That community is what's really at the heart of this fantasy bookstore-turned-reality, anyway, say Turner and Thompson. In fact, that's one reason they started doing these events in the first place: to find out what people want. There are so many different niches for bookstores to fill, Thompson says, and each one can add something unique to the local fabric. "We don't want to be just the bookstore that we want — we want to be the bookstore that the community wants and needs. And we don't pretend to know everything the community wants or needs."

In addition to an on-air joyride around Charleston, Steven will also get a report from the Village Book Fair in New York, and there will be contests! And prizes! (Can you keep a secret? Here’s the great bit- it’s internet radio, so you can LOOK UP THE ANSWERS before you call in! Candy from a baby, I calls it).

Bucks on the Bookshelf can be heard at and, noon-2 p.m. EST with repeats at 8-10 a.m. EST Sundays; and 2-4 a.m EST, Mondays.

You can now listen to the show anytime on BOB$’ Facebook page after the live broadcast ends.

Calls from listeners make Steven exceedingly happy! The number is 727.498.0459. Steven can also be reached by email at

Thursday, February 16, 2017

This weekend, Rare Book Cafe goes to prison.

“Henry James once said he was a reader moved to emulation. I can relate. I love crime fiction - especially series, so when I started writing, that's what came out.

“I really wanted to bring two worlds, two genres together - that of the clerical sleuth and that of the hard-boiled detective. I thought prison chaplaincy was the perfect intersection.

“I also wanted to take readers where they rarely get to go - North Florida and deep inside a state prison.”

-Michael Lister

That’s how Michael Lister- author of 27 books (last check, more may have been published this week), former youngest chaplain in the Florida Department of Corrections, newspaper editor, college instructor, Ford Mustang enthusiast and Big Brother- brought the world John Jordan, his ministerial detective in a series of New York Times bestseller-listed murder mysteries.

Think Father Brown in San Quentin.

As if writing about murders inside a giant lockup-turned grad school for crime isn’t enough of an imagination workout, Lister also runs a series involving a classic 40s-style noir PI Jimmy “Soldier” Riley and the sizzling streets of Panama City.

On the side, Lister works out some unresolved issues about the apocalypse in a line involving life after everything falls apart. Oh, and there’s the Remington James books about the North Florida guy who inherits his dad’s gun & pawn shop, putting aside a much calmer career as a nature photographer.

Then there’s the spiritual meditations....

How does he do it all?

Something seems to hinge on the "where"- as you can see from this video:

Rare Books Cafe is sponsored by the Florida Antiquarian Book Fair. It’s broadcast every Saturday from 2.30 to 3.30 pm EST and features interviews, panel discussion and stuff you can learn about book collecting whether you are a regular at Sotheby’s or just someone who likes books.

The program airs live on Rare Book Cafe’s and the Florida Antiquarian Book Fair’s Facebook page; the Book Fair Blog, and the Book Fairs YouTube channel. Shows are archived on YouTube and can also be viewed on the Facebook pages and the blog after their first run.

Hosted by Miami book dealer, appraiser and’s Bucks on the Bookshelf radio show creator Steven Eisenstein, the program features a revolving set of cohosts and regular guests including Thompson; Thorne Donnelley of Liberty Book Store in West Palm Beach, Florida; miniature books expert Edie Eisenstein; and program creator/producer T. Allan Smith; and Lindsay Thompson, owner of Henry Bemis Books in Charlotte.

This week's program will also feature guest cohost Cynthia Gibson, owner of the website and an avid reader of Listeriana!

Who'll be next?

US Poet Laureates and the Presidents They Served Under
US Poet Laureates and the Presidents They Served Under, by My Poetic Side

Quotidian Chesterton

The way to love anything is to realize that it may be lost.

-G.K. Chesterton (1874-1936), UK author, editor, essayist, poet, philosopher, playwright, radio commentator, critic, biographer, and Christian apologist, among other careers. Henry Bemis Books' biography of him is here.