Wednesday, September 20, 2017

Birthday: "I don't think Auden liked my poetry very much, he's very Anglican."


Florence Margaret Smith (1902-1971)
Poet, novelist

“Peggy”, her family called her, but after a friend saw her in a park and remarked she looked- with her bobbed hair- like a then-famous jockey, “Stevie” she became, and Stevie she stayed.

Smith was the anti-Romantic poet: no affairs, no scandalous travels. She was born in Yorkshire to a quarrelsome couple. Her dad went to see in her infancy and her life’s acquaintance with him came in the form of postcards scrawled on shore leave: “Off to Valparaiso, Love, Daddy”.

At three she and her sister moved with their mother to London’s Palmers Green suburb, and there she lived for the next sixty-five years.

Stevie Smith never married. At sixteen her mother died; she and her sister were taken in by their feminist aunt, whom Smith nicknamed “The Lion.” Her sister grew up and moved on. Stevie grew up and stayed put, living with her aunt until 1969.

She spent thirty years as secretary to a magazine publisher. In 1936, she published the first of three novels; a year later came her first collection of poetry. She won critical applause for a unique voice: what Poetry Archive calls

a combination of "caprice and doom" which remained characteristic of both her poems and the quirky line drawings that often accompanied them. The jaunty tone of the title is also pure Smith whose work thrives on co-existing contradictions: jokey and serious; colloquial and formal; sophisticated and child-like. Nursery-rhyme motifs, puns and seemingly light-hearted verse structures are used to explore unsettling depths...the word "playful" seems apt, but if so it's the playfulness of a cat; charming and elegant but concealing very sharp claws.

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After World War II, Smith became a popular figure on the BBC. She had a sense of performance art that accentuated the curious, unique and unquiet voice of her work, “playing up her eccentricity and ceremonially half-singing some of her poems in a quavering voice. She also made a number of broadcasts and recordings, her skilful and extensive use of personae lending itself particularly well to reading aloud.”

(It is hard to imagine, in these spavined times, that one people bought phonograph records of poets reading their work. A series clips from her BBC readings is here:

Late in life she collected honors; during her life, despite its pedestrian externals, she was friends with many of the leading writers of the day (“(many of them wrecked by her tendency to put them into her fiction,” Hermione Lee noted in The New York Review of Books last June), particularly George Orwell.

Though her unsettled childhood left her with lifelong preoccupations over death, anxiety and separation, Smith had a comic, even antic, side, and a fine ear for how people talked and wrote. A phrase she picked out of a parish newsletter’s description of a church picnic, in all its forced gaiety, she made into a commonplace figure of speech, titling her first collection of poems, “And A Good Time Was Had By All.”

New Directions published Smith’s collected works this year, prompting an overdue reappraisal. As Lee explains, Smith is a hard ‘un to pigeonhole:

More than with most poets, when people write and talk about Stevie Smith, they try to nail her down with comparisons. She is a female William Blake, an Emily Dickinson of the English suburbs, a mixture of Dorothy Parker, Ogden Nash, and the Brothers Grimm. Her reading style, which became legendary, with her cropped hair, baleful expression, little-girl dresses, and singsong lugubrious chanting voice, was described (by Jonathan Miller) as a cross between Mary Poppins and Lawrence Olivier’s Richard III. Seamus Heaney called it a combination of Gretel and the witch. He also compared her to “two Lears,” “the old King come to knowledge and gentleness through suffering, and the old comic poet Edward veering off into nonsense.”

She is often described as dotty, batty, silly, odd, childish, droll, or “fausse-naïve” (Philip Larkin’s term). Her English quirkiness and eccentricity are played up, as in Stevie, the play of 1977 by Hugh Whitemore (made into a film by Robert Enders in 1978), with Glenda Jackson as Stevie. Some readers throw up their hands in bafflement, as she told them they would, at the start of her 1936 Novel on Yellow Paper: “This is a foot-off-the-ground novel…and if you are a foot-on-the-ground person, this book will be for you a desert of weariness and exasperation.”

Other readers are indulgent and curious, but reluctant to think of her as a professional poet, more as an amateur folk artist, a hit-or-miss ingenue (or enfant terrible). Fellow poets who have taken her seriously do so for different reasons. Heaney hears the accents of “a disenchanted gentility.” Amy Clampitt sees in her “the desolation of the ordinary.” D.J. Enright says she is “somewhat Greek”: austere, severe, and “bracing.”4 In the introduction to his edition of All the Poems, an invaluable and complete collection of her poems and drawings, Will May adds to the adjectival pursuit. He calls her trenchant, dogmatic, indignant, plaintive, stoic, eerie, shrewd, self-conscious, tricky, and uncompromising.

All these adjectives point to a poet who is hard to categorize and not really like anyone else at all. They also, often, suggest a writer who has been marginalized as an oddity. Now, forty-five years after her death, bound inside this large annotated collection, she can be celebrated as a major English poet of the twentieth century. She is a writer of astonishing skill, range, comedy, and depth of feeling; she is inimitable, strange, and utterly original. With her poetry collected as a whole, it becomes more apparent too that though she is a funny writer—funny-ha-ha and funny-peculiar—her work is melancholy and despairing, full of pain, terror, and grief: “Not waving but drowning.”

She left her novels, and twelve collections of verse when she died in 1971, three years after her aunt. Among her last honors was the Queen’s Medal for Poetry:

According to Stevie Smith’s version of this encounter, the queen remarked that she had been told that Smith lived in a house with nine rooms all on her own. Smith “thought this remark odd, considering how many rooms the Queen lived in, but replied that it was better for one person to live in nine rooms quite happily than for nine people to live in nine rooms and not get on.”

Not Waving, But Drowning

Nobody heard him, the dead man,
But still he lay moaning:
I was much further out than you thought
And not waving but drowning.

Poor chap, he always loved larking
And now he's dead
It must have been too cold for him his heart gave way,
They said.

Oh, no no no, it was too cold always
(Still the dead one lay moaning)
I was much too far out all my life
And not waving but drowning.

To An American Publisher

You say I must write another book? But I’ve just written this
You liked it so much that’s the reason? Read it again then.

Tuesday, September 19, 2017

With the world set to end Saturday, you have just enough time to order this Handmaid's Tale first edition and enjoy it before oblivion arrives!

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Thousands are seeking out copies of The Handmaid’s Tale these days, after the Hulu television series received thirteen Emmy nominations and won eight. As The Guardian reported after the inauguration,

Margaret Atwood has said worries about women’s issues after the US election have made her book The Handmaid’s Tale the latest dystopian novel to shoot back up bestseller lists.

The book, about a theocratic dictatorship in the US where women are forced to bear children for the ruling class, topped Amazon’s bestseller list earlier this week, and still ranks in the top 10.

In an interview during Cuba’s international book fair, Atwood said sales of The Handmaid’s Tale were also boosted by a trailer during the Super Bowl for its new televised adaptation by video streaming site Hulu.

“When it first came out it was viewed as being far-fetched,” the 77-year old said of her novel that was originally published in 1985. “However, when I wrote it I was making sure I wasn’t putting anything into it that human beings had not already done somewhere at some time.”

...“You are seeing a bubbling up of it now,” she said, referring in particular to moves under President Donald Trump to restrict the right to abortion. Trump said last year women should face punishment if they receive abortions, a comment he later retracted.

“It’s back to 17th-century puritan values of new England at that time in which women were pretty low on the hierarchy.”

The first-person narrator of The Handmaid’s Tale tries to escape to Canada. Some have already taken refuge there since Trump’s election, Atwood said, adding that it had historically been seen as a place of relative safety.

In the TV adaptation that debuts in April and features Mad Men star Elisabeth Moss, Atwood plays a cameo role.

Dystopian fiction is enjoying a moment. George Orwell’s Nineteen Eighty-Four, first published in 1949, ranks third on Amazon’s bestseller list.

Orwell’s book features an authoritarian government that spies on its citizens and forces them into “doublethink”, or simultaneously accepting contradictory versions of the truth. Sales spiked two weeks ago after a senior White House official, Kellyanne Conway, used the term “alternative facts”, an expression some denounced as “Orwellian”.

“We think as progress being a straight line forever upwards,” said Atwood. “But it never has been so, you can think you are being a liberal democracy but then – bang – you’re Hitler’s Germany. That can happen very suddenly.”

Cuba and Canada were alike in that they were small countries that both keenly felt the impact of international politics, said the author, who has made regular trips to the Caribbean island since a first cultural exchange in the 1980s. Birdwatching was one of the activities that kept her and partner Graeme Gibson coming back, she said.

Several new editions of her books are being presented at the Cuba book fair, which runs until 19 February and in which nearly 50 countries are participating.

What’s the fuss?

“Welcome to the Republic of Gilead, formerly the United States of America”, Mary Andrews wrote in a review last August:

There’s been a coup, the president has been murdered and an all-powerful, Christian fundamentalist army has imposed a terrifying new order on its citizens. The country’s borders have been shut. There is no escape. Women are the main target of the regime’s brutality. Their rights and personal freedoms have been abolished. They are no longer allowed to work, to own assets or to be in relationships not sanctioned by the state. They are now categorised according to marital status and reproductive ability. They are either Wives, married to Commanders, the founders and shapers of the new regime; Econowives, the spouses of lower ranking men; Marthas, too old to have children and now domestic slaves; Aunts, the regime’s propagandists; or Handmaids, considered fertile and forced to bear children for officials.

It’s the story of Offred, a Handmaid with a dodgy future:

Already on her second placement as a Handmaid, she knows that if this assignment fails she has one more go before she is declared invalid and shipped off to the Colonies to clean up toxic waste along with the other women that Gilead considers useless or dangerous.

Published to great acclaim in 1985, the book is widely considered a triumph of dystopian fiction with a decidedly feminist twist. But Andrews makes a persuasive case that- far from being a portrait of horror- Offred’s story, left behind on a cassette tape- is one to give us hope. She never gives up hope herself. She manages to find love. She survives against all odds and a rigged, hateful regime:

The book ends with an academic lecture on the Handmaid’s memoirs, set hundreds of years in the future. We learn that soon after Offred’s affair with Nick, the Commander’s house is raided by the secret police and that Offred is taken away. No one knows where to. The recording breaks off, but the implication is that the raid was staged by Nick and that Offred was very likely saved. We know that Gilead lasted many more years before collapsing. Now it’s a history lesson. Atwood’s final message is a promise. The regime which attempted to annihilate hope failed. The human spirit is, ultimately, indomitable.

Henry Bemis Books has an excellent first edition copy of The Handmaid’s Tale on offer:

Atwood, Margaret, The Handmaid’s Tale (Houghton Mifflin, 1st ed, 1st printing, 1986). Famed tale of the United States’ evolution into a monotheocracy whose people made the Puritans seem like an average night at Studio 54. A dystopian favorite! Hardcover, unclipped dust jacket, very good condition. HBB price: $79.95 obo.

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 to US locations; local buyers are welcome to drop by and pick up their purchases at our location off Peachtree Road in Northwest Charlotte if they like.

We accept electronic payments via Facebook Messenger, powered by Stripe.

We regret that until California Assembly Bill 1570 (2016) is struck down by court order or amended to relieve out of state booksellers from its recordkeeping and liability burdens, we are unable to do business with California residents.

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

You can also see Henry’s alter ego, Lindsay Thompson, on a three weekly Facebook Live programs: Rare Book Cafe, a 2:30-3:30 pm EDT Saturday panel show about books; Book Week- Rare Book Cafe’s weekly Thursday noon news program (both on Rare Book Cafe’s Facebook page); and Gallimaufry, an occasional program about literary history on Henry Bemis Books’ Facebook page.

#MargaretAtwood #HandmaidsTale #FirstEditions #HenryBemisBooks #Charlotte

Monday, September 18, 2017

At last, they officially call the wind "Maria."


"They Call the Wind Maria" is an American popular song with lyrics written by Alan J. Lerner and music by Frederick Loewe for their 1951 Broadway musical, Paint Your Wagon, which is set in the California Gold Rush. Rufus Smith originally sang the song on Broadway, and Joseph Leader was the original singer in London's West End. It quickly became a runaway hit, and during the Korean War, the song was among the "popular music listened to by the troops". Vaughan Monroe and his Orchestra recorded the song in 1951, and it was among the "popular hit singles at the record stores" that year. It has since become a standard, performed by many notable singers across several genres of popular music. A striking feature of the song in the original orchestration (also used in many cover versions), is a driving, staccato rhythm, played on the string instruments, that evokes a sense of restless motion...

In George Rippey Stewart's 1941 novel Storm, he gives the storm which is the protagonist of his story the name "Maria". In 1947, Stewart wrote a new introduction for a reprint of the book, and discussed the pronunciation of "Maria": "The soft Spanish pronunciation is fine for some heroines, but our Maria here is too big for any man to embrace and much too boisterous." He went on to say, "So put the accent on the second syllable, and pronounce it 'rye'".

The success of Stewart's novel was one factor that motivated U.S. military meteorologists to start the informal practice of giving women's names to storms in the Pacific during World War II. The practice became official in 1945. In 1953, a similar system of using women's names was adopted for North Atlantic storms. This continued until 1979, when men's names were incorporated into the system.

Although Stewart's novel is set in 1935, the novel and its impact on meteorology later inspired Lerner and Lowe to write a song for their play about the California gold rush, and like Stewart, they too gave a wind storm the name Maria, which is pronounced /məˈraɪ.ə/. The lines throughout the song end in feminine rhymes mostly using the "long i" sound /aɪ/, echoing the stress pattern and vowel sound of the name Maria.

American singer, songwriter and producer Mariah Carey was named after this song.

[Image of probabilities of 34-kt winds]

Birthday: "The true measure of a man is how he treats someone who can do him absolutely no good."


Samuel Johnson (1709-1784)
Poet, novelist, editor, essayist, critic, lexicographer
(unfinished portrait of Johnson, at 70, by James Barry, above)

Son of a bookseller, Samuel Johnson was an awkward, ungainly, strikingly unattractive man who, by sheer effort, made himself into one of the foremost men of letters in the English language.

He managed a year at Pembroke College, Oxford, but when his funds ran out he left without a degree and walked to London with his friend, the actor David Garrick. He made a hand-to-mouth living as a journalist and writer, but it was a threadbare existence.

Royalties and copyright protections were unknown; the first real British copyright and author’s rights law was passed when Johnson was a young man. You got paid a flat fee for your work and if it sold really well, your publisher made the money. If others pirated it, they made money. Printers held the monopoly on what people read.

Having married a widow much his senior, he enjoyed a happy life with her before she died in 1752. In between writing gigs, he tried his hand at school teaching, but without a degree it was hard going getting a headship.

He applied for an honorary MA from Oxford in 1738; they turned him down flat. He pulled his few strings to reach Jonathan Swift, hoping to get an honorary degree from Trinity College, Dublin he could bring back to Oxford. Swift did nothing.

From 1746 to 1755 he toiled on a great project: a dictionary of the English language, demonstrating the evolution of word meaning with examples drawn from literature. Once finished, the dictionary was a critical success but, priced at nearly $550 in today's money, it took years to turn a profit.

“When it was done”, The Writer’s Almanac notes, “the Dictionary of the English Language had over 42,773 entries and was 20 inches wide when opened. It weighed almost 21 pounds and was one of the largest books ever printed. Samuel Johnson pronounced it ‘Vasta mole superbus (Proud in its great bulk).’”

His advance for the Dictionary long spent (in his anger over a patron’s forgotten promise of support, he wrote one of history’s most famous letters, to Lord Chesterfield), Johnson launched a broadsheet, The Rambler, for which he wrote nearly all the copy, between 1750 and 1752.

He was imprisoned for debt twice after the dictionary came out, but as its significance be more fully appreciated, his fortunes began to turn. Oxford granted him its honorary MA in 1755; he became the “Doctor Johnson” of legend after his alma mater gave him the higher degree in 1765.

In 1762 the King granted his a life pension of 300 pounds a year, which eased the constant need to produce. Still, he launched two more periodicals, The LIterary Magazine (1756-58) and The Idler (1758-60); published a philosophical novel, The History of Rasselas, Prince of Abyssinia- still in print- in 1759; after ten years’ labor, an edition of Shakespeare’s plays in 1765; a survey of the great poets of Britain in 1781.

He ghost-wrote years of parliamentary debates so compelling they were taken as verbatim transcripts; sermons, law lectures for a friend who landed an Oxford professorship he wasn’t really up to; and political tracts. As one profile observed of Johnson’s legendary bad luck,

He even wrote a play, Irene, which had a successful run (1749), but was never performed anywhere, ever again, until 1999, making it the most unsuccessful play ever written by a major author.

Johnson, his his part, was more practical. “No man but a blockhead,” he famously observed, “ever wrote, but for money.”

Johnson never forgot his humble origins; having for years felt guilty for refusing to man his father’s book stall because he thought he had outgrown that sort of thing, he returned to the spot, an adult, and stood in the rain for a day, jeered by passersby, as penance.

In his old age he accumulated a menagerie of eccentric live-in companions: Mrs. Desmoulins, his godfather’s widowed daughter; Anna Williams, a blind poet who ruled the house;  Dr. Levet, a quack; Poll Carmichael, a streetwalker, and his personal servant, a Jamaican called Francis Barber- a slave freed at 12 when his master died- to whom Johnson left his estate. He spent rowdy nights in the streets with a troubled, oft-jailed poet, Richard Savage, whose life Johnson rescued from obscurity with a biography.

Johnson would have died a significant figure in British literary history on the strength of his work and his fortuitous friendships: Edmund Burke, Joshua Reynolds, David Garrick, Oliver Goldsmith, Edward Gibbon, and Adam Smith are among their number in the famous dining club he started to relieve his being widowed. But his name endures the world ‘round because a spoiled 22- year-old Scotsman, James Boswell, contrived to meet all the great men of London.

At their first meeting, in a bookseller’s, Johnson brushed him off in his usual gruff manner, but something clicked, and “Bozzy” was one of Johnson’s closest companions for the rest of the old man’s life.

The degree of familiarity Johnson gave the young fop startled and irked his friends: Boswell rifled through Johnson’s diaries and papers when the old man was out, and so assiduously recorded Johnson’s words and activities even his subject remarked “one might have thought he was hired to spy on me.”

One reviewer recalls, “People wanted to keep their distance from Boswell, fearing that he might record even their most off-hand comments.”

Boswell’s Life of Johnson, published in 1791, transformed the art of biography and brought to life the day to day world in which Johnson lived. Boswell captures his friend’s humor as well as his tendency to be the last word on every subject (second marriages, he said, were the triumph of hope over experience; in a discussion of Bishop Berkeley’s theory that existence is but perception, he kicked a large stone; his foot recoiling, he declared, “I refute it thus!”).

Generally considered a wastrel, an idiot and a womanizer (his constant VD cures make terrifying reading his his journals), Boswell had this one great thing in him, the like of which has proven almost impossible to replicate:

Johnson himself was a biographer, but the point of his work was to use the subject to be an example, make a point, or serve as a moral example. In his biographical technique, Boswell wished to allow the subject to speak for himself, and this was the reason the reason why he was so assiduous in taking notes, checking facts, and replicating dialogue. Sisman demonstrates effectively in his study that we might never have such a biography again, given the close relationship between Boswell and Johnson for two decades, and Boswell's prodigious memory and dedication to copious note taking. Building the biography around scenes in Johnson's life required an accurate and detailed accounting of Johnson's words and conversations (otherwise it would be an exercise in fiction), and that is precisely what Boswell had available to him.

Johnson’s posthumous fame at the hands of Boswell has guaranteed the immortality of his work, and its accessibility has endured for generations. His constant struggles with procrastination and writer’s block, his self-doubt and endless self-criticism, often expressed in prayers and annual self-appraisals, are inspirations for the troubled in every age.

His prose style, with its long, balanced considerations of one thing, then another, and luminous critical insights, can be seen in the works of Winston Churchill (both of whom also referred to their bouts of depression as “the black dog”). The Yale standard edition of Johnson’s works, launched in 1958 and planned to end with nine volumes in 1960, is now on its thirtieth volume, sixty years on.

Late in life, Boswell persuaded Johnson to travel with him in the Scottish Highlands, hoping to show off his homeland and ease some of the Doctor’s standard-issue Tory prejudices toward the Scots. In one tavern, a barmaid, on a bet, plopped into the surprised Johnson’s lap and planted a big kiss on his famously ugly face. “Pray, do it again,” Johnson exclaimed, “and let us see who tires of it first.”

His last years were troubled. His household members died, one by one; his health failed; his last patrons, the Thrales- a wealthy couple who pampered him endlessly at their country place- went broke, and Mrs Thrale remarried- in Johnson’s view- badly. He died in December 1784, and was buried in Westminster Abbey. Mrs Thrale was jealous of Boswell; her copy of the Life has been republished in facsimile, with her irritated comments in the margins of every page.

Saturday, September 16, 2017

Birthday Book of the Day: Henry Louis Gates' pursuit of Hannah Crafts

From today's Writer's Almanac:

It's the birthday of Henry Louis Gates Jr. (books by this author), born in Keyser, West Virginia (1950). He is a scholar, a literary critic, a historian, and a television host. "When I was a kid growing up," he said, "my friends wanted to be Hank Aaron or Willie Mays. I wanted to be a Rhodes scholar. I didn't know why. I just wanted to go to Harvard or Yale and I wanted to go to Oxford or to Cambridge." He studied history at Yale, and was the first African American to receive a Mellon Fellowship, which took him to Cambridge, where he earned his Ph.D. While he was in England, he fell in love with the study of literature. In the 1980s, he became co-director of the Black Periodical Literature Project, collecting overlooked or ignored 19th-century manuscripts. In 1983, he republished what at that time was believed to be the first novel by an African American in the United States: a book called Our Nig, by Harriet E. Wilson (originally published in 1859).

Some years later, Gates heard of a story of a slave's life written by a woman named Hannah Crafts. Crafts had escaped from slavery and took with her the makings of a novel based on her own life. She wrote about the distinctions slaves made among themselves based on skin color, house-versus-field jobs, and class. She wrote about sex but argued against slaves marrying and having children on the grounds that slavery is hereditary and can't be escaped. She portrayed the relationship of a white mistress and black slave as full of mutual intimacy.

As with Harriet Wilson's book, people assumed that the novel was really written by a white author who was adopting the persona of a slave. Gates didn't believe that white authors would pretend to be black in the mid-19th century. He was convinced the manuscript had been written sometime between 1853 and 1861, and that it may have predated Wilson's book, which would make it the first novel by an African-American woman. He won the manuscript at a New York auction for $8,500; it was recently valued at $350,000. Gates gave Crafts' manuscript the title The Bondwoman's Narrative and published it in 2002. It quickly became a national best-seller.

Henry Bemis has the book about the book:

Gates, Henry Louis, Jr., and Robbins, Hollis, editors, In Search of Hannah Crafts: Critical Essays on The Bondswoman’s Narrative (Basic Civitas Books, 1st ed., 1st printing, 2004). ISBN 0-465-02714-8. Essays by 22 scholars on the then-newly discovered mss of The Bondswoman’s Narrative, the first known novel by an African-American. Hardcover, unclipped dust jacket, very good condition. HBB price: $25.


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 to US locations; local buyers are welcome to drop by and pick up their purchases at our location off Peachtree Road in Northwest Charlotte if they like.

We accept electronic payments via Facebook Messenger, powered by Stripe.

We regret that until California Assembly Bill 1570 (2016) is struck down by court order or amended to relieve out of state booksellers from its recordkeeping and liability burdens, we are unable to do business with California residents.

We offer 25% off to fellow dealers.

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

You can also see Henry’s alter ego, Lindsay Thompson, on a three weekly Facebook Live programs: Rare Book Cafe, a 2:30-3:30 pm EDT Saturday panel show about books; Book Week- Rare Book Cafe’s weekly Thursday noon news program (both on Rare Book Cafe’s Facebook page); and Gallimaufry, an occasional program about literary history on Henry Bemis Books’ Facebook page.

#HenryLouisGatesJr #HannahCrafts #AfricanAmericanLit #FirstEditions #HenryBemisBooks #Charlotte

Friday, September 15, 2017

Eight new titles in our door today-


Just-in Preview Catalogue, September 15, 2017

Eight new, over-the-transom titles for your review. Inquire re pricing via Facebook Messenger (Lindsay Thompson), or email henrybemisbookseller@gmail.

5513 Beam Lake Drive, Charlotte NC 28216 (hours by appointment)

Copyright 2017, Henry Bemis Books

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Theodore L. Shaw, Art’s Endurance, Boston: Bruce Humphries, Inc, 1939. 249 pp, hardcover, unclipped dust jacket. Good condition.

One account has it that “Theodore L. Shaw is an obscure writer who published a series of books in the ’50’s and ’60’s with titles like Precious Rubbish and Don’t Get Taught Art This Way! As So Many People Do. I think it’s this guy’s time to shine.  Shaw was singing the gospel of level-playing-field relativism about 20 years before post-modernism legitimized the practice.

“Shaw filled multiple volumes with diagrams, gag cartoons, and barbed, contemptuous prose, all seething with resentment at the Art Establishment and the mechanisms by which we are taught to appreciate “art” as opposed to “entertainment.”   Shaw attempted to objectively prove that every kind of expression had its appropriate value, and that, though certain works were “more complex” than others, none were necessarily better than any others for it.  He sought to prove this through a series of dubious diagrams involving concentric circles and dots, applying pseudo-scientific reasoning to what is essentially a class-based argument against snobbism posing as expertise.”

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James Allan Cabaniss, A History of the University of Mississippi, University of Mississippi Press, 1949. A centennial history of Ole Miss by a professor of history (1946-19770) there whose main scholarly interests lay in ecclesiastical history.

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Paul Ralli, Nevada Lawyer: A Story of Life and Love in Las Vegas, Murray & Gee, stated 2nd edition, 1949, “revised and enlarged.” Good condition, unclipped dust jacket in Brodart cover. Inscribed by the author “To Ida Gross with my best”.

Born in Cyprus in 1903, Ralli read law in London, then came to the US on a six month visa. He worked as a lumberjack, steelworker, and laborer before getting some bit parts on the New York stage. Mae West sized him up as a prime cut in Diamond Lil; he went to Hollywood and acted in a handful of silents before sound and contract disputes turfed him out of Hollywood.

Ralli escaped to Mexicali ahead of the Justice Department (his visa had long since expired) and obtained fast re-entry as a British citizen; he passed the Nevada bar in 1933 and soon became a deputy DA and was elected city attorney of Las Vegas. He resigned to join the Army in World War II and died in California in 1953. A rollicking account of life when Vegas was so small there was almost no room for what happened there to stay there.

Ralph Nading Hill, Sidewheeler Saga: A Chronicle Of Steamboating, Rinehart & Co., 1952/53, LOC #52-9605. Hardcover, unclipped dust jacket, Brodart cover, 342 pp., very good condition.

A history of steamboats in America over the century and a half of their rise and gentle decline, culminating in the salvation of the Lake Champlain steamer, Ticonderoga. Tipped in is an envelope containing four well-preserved newspaper clippings on the “Ti” campaign in 1954.

Hill, a Vermont historian and preservationist (1917-1987) ran the Ticonderoga for a grandson of Cornelius Vanderbilt for three years; edited Vermont Life for decades; and published history and biographies, including 1949’s The Winooski in the famed Rivers of America series.

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E.L. Dayton, Give em Hell Harry: An Informal Biography of the Terrible-Tempered Mr T, New York, The Devin-Adair Co, 1956. LOC # 56-9833. Good condition, hardcover, unclipped dust jacket, Brodart cover.

Eldorous L. Dayton, a New York journalist, chess master, and early television newsman, doesn’t seem to have liked ex-President Harry Truman much. Dayton wrote and published this enthusiastic screed as a rebuttal to Truman’s memoirs: “entertaining, accurate as a bomb sight, pulverizing as a bomb,” the dust jacket claims. Lyons was also the author of a secret life of Hitler and a Trumanesque expose/bio of auto workers leader Walter Reuther.

Lawrence Schoonover, The Prisoner of Tordesillas, Little, Brown & Co., 1959, stated 1st edition. LOC #59-7337. Hardcover, 309 pp., unclipped dust jacket, Brodart cover, some foxing of the end pages. Biographical novel of Mad Joanna (1479-1555), daughter of Ferdinand and Isabella, and mother of Emperor Charles V.

Joanna married Philip the Handsome on 20 October 1496. Philip was crowned King of Castile in 1506, initiating the rule of the Habsburgs in Spain. After Philip's death that same year, Joanna was deemed mentally ill and was confined to a nunnery for the rest of her life. Though she remained the legal queen of Castile throughout this time, her father, Ferdinand II of Aragon, was regent until his death, when she inherited his kingdom as well. From 1516, her son, Charles I, ruled as king, while she nominally remained (1479-1555), daughter of Ferdinand and Isabella, and mother of Emperor Charles V.

Schoonover (1906-1980) was mainly an author of historical novels that were praised for their factual detail and accuracy.

Goffrey Trease, The Grand Tour: A History of the Golden Age of Travel, Holt Rinehart & Winston, 1967, stated 1st edition. L)C #67-12648. Very good condition, hardcover, unclipped dust jacket, Brodart cover. 251 pp.

A popular, well-documented history of the three-to-four year pilgrimages the rich and powerful of Great Britain made of the Continent between the Elizabethan Age and the mid-19C. Trease (1909-1998), a Fellow of the Royal Society of Literature was the author of 113 books, many in the fields of children’s and young adult history, genres he singlehandedly lifted to academic and critical respect.

Michael Shaara, For The Love of the Game, Carroll & Graff stated 1st edition, 1991. ISBN 0-88184-695-3. Hardcover, unclipped dust jacket, very good condition. 152 pp.

The last, posthumous novel by the author of The Killer Angels is about the last game of a legendary MLB pitcher. Widely regarded as one of the best baseball novels ever.

Donald Gallup, ed, The Journals of Thornton Wilder (1939-1961), Yale University Press, 1st edition, 1st printing, 1985. Hardcover, unclipped dust jacket, very good condition. Brodart protective cover. 354 pp.

Two decades in the life of the writer and critic Thornton Wilder (1897-1975). Novelist, Playwright, Screenwriter, Educator. Winner, The Pulitzer Prize (Fiction 1928; Drama, 1938, 1942). Charles Eliot Norton Professor, Harvard; Recipient, Presidential Medal of Freedom, 1963; Screenplay, Alfred Hitchcock's Shadow of A Doubt, 1943. Author, Our Town; The Skin of Our Teeth; The Matchmaker*; Author, The Bridge of San Luis Rey, Theophilus North, The Eighth Day (*first performed as The Merchant of Yonkers, 1938; revised and presented as The Matchmaker, 1955; revised as a musical and presented as Hello, Dolly!, 1964).

*first performed as The Merchant of Yonkers, 1938; revised and presented as The Matchmaker, 1955; revised as a musical and presented as Hello, Dolly!, 1964