Saturday, July 4, 2009

The glorious 4th/ John Updike

Thinking back to ca.1930 when I was about 6, I remember going out of the house early with a fistful of chinese firecracker packs and waking up the neighborhood with the stuttering bang bang, Today I didn't hear one firecracker until 9:30 PM. Things have come to a pretty pass.
For a year or so I went to Shillington (Pa) High School, where Updike's father taught. The son was always a person of interest, since his roots were so near where we later lived. A few minutes away in the next county was the little country crossroad village of Plowville, where the Updikes lived. And his early novels (and at least one of the later ones) took place in and around Reading, just down the road. When the first novel was made into a
movie, part of it was filmed in an empty store that had been a market, on Penn Streetr in downtown Reading.
At one point we participated in a book fair in Salem, Mass., and the star attraction was John Updike. When he made the rounds, ever so obliging and polite, we presented him with a 6-pack of Old Reading beer. He seemed to get a kick out of this. Tonight on C-SPAN there were a half dozen eulogisers lamenting his death and remembering their association with Updike and it seemed to me that each one had a precious little piece of him to call their own, but none of them had the whole man, even his daughter by his first marriage. Will the real John Updike please stand up ?

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

oh, the pity of it

Maureen Dowd's oped piece in today's NYT (Wed., May 20) is, sadly, right on target. Our new President is proving to be a paper tiger.

Answering Beth Ann

The 'old bookie" is a play on words, since I have been in the old book business for over 50 years.

The first ABAA fair that I remember doing was in L. A. We made a liesurely transcontinental trip in our wonderful Renault (16 ? - the one with the seats that could be arranged in about 20 different ways) having made arrangements to stop at a number of National Parks, &c, en route.(Michal had a degree in Anthropology and had done fieldwork in the West.) Anyway we steamed into the rear of the Ambassador on the appointed day and started to unload our books, &c (we had brought some of our material in the car.) (That may also have been the year in which UPS was on strike and some boxes were late arriving.) There was some confusion among those arriving & I was confronted by a young rentacop who told me to stop, that there was a procedure, &c. Having travelled thousands of miles and arrived in a good humor I was not about to listen to whatever it was that he was yammering about. Words were exchanged and fierce looks; finally, someone emerged to say, OK, let them in, and in we marched. The fair was in charge of the (then) wife of a young L.A. dealer. We were as green as corn in May but since between the two of us we had 5 university degrees we did know something about books, if not about the book business. One of our books was a large early 16th Century world history which (in its earlier first edition) was the first book to mention America. Our leader's husband and fellow dealer came over and looked at it in some wonder and said, "Is it real?" Dumbfounded, I didn't know quite what to answer but assured him, yes, it was a real book, and, yes, it was over 400 years old, and yes, he could have it for the ridiculously low price we had on it, less discount, of course, and, if I remember rightly, he did buy it. There were dealers there , now legendary, whom I got to know over the years, very, very few of whom, I am sorry to say, are alive today. The tumult and the shouting dies; The captains and the kings depart . . .
why booksellers grow gray

I once concieved the clever (?) notion of stripping the binding from worthless books and using that to protect the book being shipped. Didn't do it for long as supposedly intelligent customers began complaining that that wasn't the book they had ordered.
Apropos of printed publications metamorphising into online postings

The printed newsletter or whatever is a ding an sich. You can hold it, put it down, pick it up again, read it at your leisure, rather than sitting in front of this confounded screen. Until you consign it to the vertical file, it is there, a readable, tangible, physical object, and not something that will get lost in the swirl of words, words, words that appear and disappear every second on the internet. (Call me a Luddite; my gt. grandfather came from Rochedale, where Robert Owen harangued the natives to cooperate.)

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Apropos of the medieval Dance of Death

. The only ancient example I have seen (outside of books) is the famous Spreuerbruecke in Lucerne. One could spend a whole day just looking at those drawings within the covered foot bridge. I have a question: is not the gravedigger scene in Hamlet an echo of this traditional preoccupation? nk

Sunday, May 10, 2009

death in the holy land in the new year

and thus commence the circuit of this world
disgraced, dishonored - hurled

to an abyss
where hate and seething avarice
compete amidst tumulting chaos.

what is the gain and what the loss?
and who can say this flesh divine

that drinks such bitter wine?

Saturday, May 9, 2009


I always enjoyed the Algonquin: the tiny bar, the king cat who had his own chair which you should not sit on, the head waiter who bowed low for a (in those days) ten buck tip and the food which I always found good. True, some years back they cut the suites into small rooms to make money, but, after all, we ARE talking New York. But my favorite restaurtant was Sweets down near the Fulton Fish Market - wonderful pompano broiled in butter was always on the menu, good cheap N. Y. State wine, and the ancient black waiters who were as old as the hills.

The good (?) old days

In response to a query as to whatever happened to Railway Express

Now that you mention it, Railway Express was used by purveyors of pornography to avoid Post Office prosecution. There were also post offices on trains where mail was sorted as it was picked up by hooks that hung out and snatched the mail bags at whistle stops where the train was not going to stop. Mail was also dropped off in the same manner. Imagine sorting mail in a rocking train! I sorted mail in the post office for a few summers in the '30s and it was hard enough to get it right standing on terra firma. Gone, man; man, gone . . . Norman


My name is Norman Kane and this is my first blog post.