Archive for the ‘Books’ Category
It’s Thesaurus Day, brought to you by the man who can’t have just one of anything. Read the rest of this entry »
When I began reading “How To Sharpen Pencils” this week, I felt sure that author David Rees was turning my crank.
Rees begins his little pencil-yellow book with “The Pencil Sharpener’s Tool Kit,” listing, among other items, his favorite sharpeners, including the Alvin Brass Bullet single-blade pocket sharpener; the Palomino-KUM, a two-step pocket sharpener that he says “produces a lovely, long point”; the Dahle 166 single-burr hand-crank; and the El Casco double-burr hand-crank. “This is the finest hand-crank pencil sharpener in the world,” he says. Okay, so this smacks of parody, I thought, suspecting he invented those names to convince gullible readers those sharpeners truly exist, like the bit at the end of the movie “American Graffiti” that tells each character’s history subsequent to the movie to add realism to the story. But I found every sharpener on Amazon, so that shoots that theory. Maybe he is serious, I thought. Read the rest of this entry »
This two-volume 1908 Funk & Wagnalls Standard Dictionary of the English Language dwarfs the collegiate-size New Practical Standard Dictionary beside it. The dictionary is the 20th Century Subscription Edition, with a title page bearing the owner’s name in what looks like under scrutiny to be hand-lettered calligraphy and signed by Editor-in-Chief Isaac Funk. Read the rest of this entry »
I carried this little book with me nearly every day on my recent vacation to Virginia and North Carolina. The National Park Service Passport program offers a fun, informative means to log visits to our national parks through hand stamps at visitor centers and sticker sets that are confusingly called stamp sets. The book has a map of national parks, opens with a section on national parks and the Passport program, and is divided into a national sticker section and regional sections. The program began in 1986 and includes one stamp set per year, each set including one national stamp and a stamp for each region. I learned on this trip that every visitor center in a park has a slightly different stamp, and many centers have a small basic stamp and a larger illustrated stamp, so I nearly filled the pages in the Southeast section. For example, Cape Hatteras National Seashore has centers at Ocracoke Island and Bodie Island, and on Hatteras Island we visited Cape Hatteras Light Station and Pea Island National Wildlife Refuge, each with its own stamp or stamps. Eastern National, the marketing arm of the NPS, sells books for additional stamps, but I’ll just use a three-ring binder and good paper as I need more room. See http://www.eparks.com/store/product/22515/*Passport%C2%AE-To-Your-National-Parks*/. Read the rest of this entry »
The novel “7 1/2 Cents” opens with a sample of blue-collar Iowa conversation:
When I woke up in the morning, even before I had my eyes open, I knew I wasn’t in Chicago anymore. …
Then with breakfast, across the street at the Elite Cafe, I had to listen to this with the coffee and elastic toast:
“Was you to the dance last night out at the Royal?” says the waitress, talking through her nose.
“I was there, was you?” says a milk truck driver likewise.
“Yeah, I was there. I never seen you though.”
“Well I never seen you neither.”
“That’s funny, I was there.”
“Well, I never seen you.”
“Where was you at? I never seen you.”
“Well, it’s funny we never seen each other.”
Written by American novelist and playwright Richard Pike Bissell, “7 1/2 Cents” portrays pajama factory superintendent Sid Sorokin, fresh from Chicago, ready to give Iowa a try, but not too sure he likes it. It’s “The Music Man” a generation later, a scrutiny of a midsize Midwestern Iowa city, but in this case the sham artist is not Harold Hill, it’s Myron Hasler, the boss of Sleep Tite pajama plant, who obstinately refuses to grant the workers the raise for which the novel is named. Read the rest of this entry »
Tonight I’ll play violin in “Oliver!,” one of my favorite musicals, my affection for it dating back to 1977 when Hoover High School performed the show and my younger brother and two friends were on the stage crew. I glimpsed the inner workings of theater as cast and crew produced magic, and I entered that world of magic in 2000 when I joined Carnation City Players as a pit musician. Over the years I’ve played violin, mandolin, guitar and even ukulele at CCP, and tonight I return after a three-year absence to accompany Fagin as he ponders his future and Nancy as she declares her love for the most despicable of thieves. Read the rest of this entry »
What bookplate, I wonder, should be affixed to “Steal This Book”?
Bookplates are artistic little labels affixed by bibliophiles to their tomes to indicate ownership and the owner’s interests. Many say “Ex Libris” followed by a space for the owner’s name. “Ex Libris” means, literally, “from the books” and more generally “from the library.”
I have some bookplates that belonged to my maternal grandfather, a gunsmith and historian with a keen interest in the Civil War and the American frontier. They are made of traditional style parchment paper and show a Revolutionary War soldier looking into the distance. They are still in the original cardboard box, and the plate stuck on the cover has my grandfather’s name written on it. Read the rest of this entry »
I read “Early Railways” by J.B. Snell this week. I received the book as a gift 40 years ago or so, and I wondered if reading it would entail history I know well, so I was pleased when I found facts that intrigued me on the first page. 1. The Greeks made ruts in rocks in which they ran wagons. 2. Railroads at the start of the Industrial Revolution started as an extension of horse-drawn coal mine tracks in England, and it was a natural next step to extend the tracks to the dock at the rivers, followed by development of stationary steam engines and conversion of those engines to motive power. Read the rest of this entry »
Good historical fiction can present history as accurately as any nonfiction book and has the added advantage of portraying the thoughts and emotions of everyday people. It can give the reader a greater sense of immediacy than nonfiction. I wanted to write that, because many of my favorite works are older books, it is hard to find them at area bookstores, but all the area bookstores have decamped. Now walk-in bookstores are as easy to find as most of the following books, which are some of my favorite early American historical fiction titles. Read the rest of this entry »