Thursday, April 17, 2014

Book sale afterglow

Ah, the warm glow of new book acquisition.  Though in this case, of course, I mean the glow of new-to-me book acquisition, which is even better really, since for me books are even more glow-inducing when one happens across them unexpectedly and at bargain prices than they are when they are pristine and crisp and smell of fresh ink and paper. (That glow is pretty warm too, but more expensive to acquire and necessarily more premeditated.)

At any rate, as most of you know by know from all the anticipatory references to it in the past week, last night was the spring version of our semiannual Friends of the San Francisco Public Library Big Book Sale, and I rushed home afterward and promptly (well, after a good dinner and a lot of ogling of the books) started scanning covers so I could share with you far more about my "new" books than you were ever likely to want to know.  It has taken me a couple of days to put it all together, but here it is.

First, although I've shared this before and it looks pretty much the same every year—even down to the lovely Bay Area weather—a glimpse of the line outside the sale:


And, also much the same as always, the view as we entered the lovely Fort Mason Center space:


Andy and I made our usual bee-line to those first few tables on the right of the picture, loaded down with fiction. These days, I mostly bypass the paperback fiction tables.  Now that my interests have led me deeper and deeper into obscurity, I instead dash to the hardcover tables, where I am far more likely to find the dusty, yellowed tomes by women writers, many long forgotten and never reprinted in paperback to begin with.


Some years at the book sale are better than others.  This year, I nabbed one of my best finds within 15 seconds, a new record.  Although I haven't reviewed it here, I have certainly mentioned my love for Margery Sharp's The Stone of Chastity, a zany novel about a stepping stone across a river upon which, supposedly, no impure or unfaithful woman can step without slipping and falling into the water. At a previous book sale, I found an old Tower Books reprint, a cheap mass-market edition, but still with a cute dustcover.  But that version can hardly hold a candle to a first U.S. edition from 1940, with, not a dustcover, but a gorgeous and amazingly well-preserved image on the cover itself:


Sharp's sales in the U.S. must have been significant to have warranted such a lovely edition, and this copy is as pristine as if I'd picked it up on its day of release.  I even have to share an image of the spine, also illustrated:


I was off to a great start, and by the end of the evening, I had come across several other great finds, which—although perhaps few other buyers would have given them a second glance—are coveted finds for me.  Two of them were naked (i.e. no dustcovers) but are no less desirable for that.


Susan Ertz was a bestseller in her day, but not a lot of people read her these days and I'm looking forward to sampling her work with Madame Claire from 1923 in a quite well-preserved American edition.  Also naked but also well-preserved is my "new" copy of Helen Ashton's The Half-Crown House from 1956.  I've actually read one Helen Ashton—probably one of her least-read works, a WWII hospital drama called Yeoman's Hospital—and enjoyed it, but somehow I've never gotten around to Bricks and Mortar, the one that is actually in print and readily available from Persephone.  Obviously, I just love the hard-to-find ones!


I've never read anything by Honor Tracy, best known for her humorous novels about Anglo-Irish culture clashes and for some works of humorous travel.  No idea what to expect from her, but I couldn't pass up a nice hardcover of her 1963 novel The First Day of Friday.


I always get excited when books have author photos and bios for writers who aren't very widely known, and this one doesn't disappoint:


But Honor Tracy is really only moderately obscure.  What would be really exciting would be a gloriously intact dustcover, author photo, and informative bio for an author I know almost nothing about (and originally had listed twice on my Overwhelming List, because I had no clue her pseudonym and her real name were one and the same person).  Wouldn't that be cool?  Well, it doesn't get too much more obscure than Margaret Mackie Morrison, who published under her real name as well as her pseudonym, March Cost:


Previously, I had a tiny, grainy photo of Morrison, but now:


And previously I knew almost nothing about her, but now I have a rather decent publisher bio for her:


Though now I wonder who else is part of the "well-known literary family in the West of Scotland"?  Hmmm.  But anyway, apart from the research benefit of this acquisition, it actually sounds kind of intriguing:


And the fact that this was a Book-of-the-Month Club selection only highlights the fact that even the fame and success of being a book club selectee doesn't guarantee longevity.  An amazing array of forgotten women on my list were Book-of-the-Month Club selectees in their day.  (One of my most coveted wishes, by the way, is a full list of selections of BOMC and Book Society and other such clubs. Does anyone know if such a thing exists?)  And of course, intriguing descriptions such as this one can be deceptive, so I will be reporting on it here soon...

And finally, this one isn't particularly rare or obscure, but somehow I had missed out on it.  Artist Gwen Raverat's memoir of her late Victorian childhood, Period Piece (1952), looks to be quite entertaining.  She was the granddaughter of Charles Darwin and grew up in the scholarly environs of Cambridge, and I have already been thoroughly charmed by a glimpse through the introduction.



Of course, in addition to exciting unexpected finds, the book sale is always a good place to expand one's collections of old favorites.  This was an extraordinary year for Elizabeth Cadell titles, all of them found by the incomparable Andy when we divided to conquer.









I also fleshed out my mystery collection a bit with two titles by Christianna BrandCat and Mouse (1950) and her classic WWII-era thriller, Green for Danger (1944)...



...and two by my new favorite Patricia MoyesThe Coconut Killings (1966, originally To Kill a Coconut) and The Curious Affair of the Third Dog (1973).  Although dog-racing isn't an atmosphere that seems very enticing to me, I'll trust that Moyes' charming style and loveable main characters will carry me through.



I picked up two Georgette Heyer novelsPowder and Patch (1923, originally The Transformation of Philip Jettan) and The Foundling (1948)—in rather nice Book-of-the-Month Club hardcover editions, and I will now be able to replace my tattered old Virago edition of Gladys Mitchell's The Rising of the Moon with an enticing hardcover edition.  



But more exciting still was my one (intentional) American acquisition.  I don't think I've mentioned Mary Lasswell here before, but she's one of my favorite Americans.  She's what is sometimes condescendingly referred to as a "regional humorist," best known for her series of six novels (1942-1962) following the exploits of three beer-swilling middle-aged women who make their home together in the San Diego junkyard one of them owns.  They're a slightly bawdy, rather tipsy, broadly funny, and completely life-affirming, rollicking good time—even if they're not British!  I came across Lasswell's debut, Suds in Your Eye (1942), at a bookshop a few years ago and promptly borrowed the rest from libraries, but I'm always on the lookout for copies to grace my own shelves.  At last year's Big Book Sale, I came across the fifth, Tooner Schooner (1953), and this year, happily, I've added the fourth, Wait for the Wagon (1951), complete with a well-preserved dustcover.



Lasswell's books are also entertainingly illustrated, as you can see from the endpaper below.  But what made me laugh at this was the notation and price in the upper right-hand corner: "Rare 50¢".  I guess for that bookseller rarity didn't add much value!



And finally, a couple of question marks, and maybe you smart, incredibly well-read folks can help me out.  I found a charming original Jonathan Cape edition of Beverley Nichols' 1932 novel Evensong.  I know I've heard of Nichols in relation to his humorous gardening books, but I know nothing whatsoever about his novels.  I couldn't resist picking it up, but is it something you think I'll enjoy?



And I've always meant to read one of the handful of mysteries written by Irish author Eilís Dillon, but what I came across the other night was one of her children's books, A Herd of Deer (1969).  Glancing through it, it seemed intriguing, though I know nothing about it.  Have any of you read it?



And while I was at it, I picked up another children's book. Although I haven't yet been seduced by all the many horse stories that are out there, I know that a lot of readers are devoted to them, so when I saw one I didn't recognize, I figured that if nothing else I could find it a good home.



It turns out Young is an American writer, which perhaps makes it even more likely I will put the book up for adoption, but are any of you familiar with the book or with Young's work?  Is this something I simply must read?  Or is it something one of you simply must have for your own collection should I decide it's only paying a short visit to my bookcase?

And that's that: more than you could ever possibly have wanted to know about my book shopping!  Although there were some particularly exciting finds, I actually showed admirable restraint—I only acquired 25 books in all this year, which pales by comparison to years when I came home dragging as many as 50...

27 comments:

  1. Not more than I could want to know! I'm green with envy: that sale looks like the world's biggest jumble sale only without the tat. They have sales like that in Australia, I believe, but I've never been lucky enough to find one in the UK.

    Period Piece is a classic autobiography, one of the best. I love Beverley Nichols, but his house and gardening books rather than the novels.

    What a wonderful haul; I'd be high after a spree like that. Thank you for sharing it with us.

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    1. Thanks, I'm so glad it wasn't too much information for you! It was great fun. And I'm about halfway through Period Piece and really loving it.

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  2. Oh what a treasure trove Scott - it will take me awhile to absorb it all. I'm green with envy at the Cadells, and the Moyes. As to Beverley Nichols I read a huge number of his books in my teens - he was one of our local celebrities - he lived at the bottom of Richmond Hill, I lived at the top, and I remember visiting his garden on an Open Day once.

    I have no memory at all of any of his adult novels though. His four children's books completely spooked me and I remember having nightmares after reading The Stream that Stood Still. I have never dared to revisit it to find out why, though there is a copy on my bookshelves.

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    1. Hmmmm, I might have to look at The Stream that Stood Still--what better recommendation than that it was thoroughly spooky! How interesting about Nichols being your neighbor, and how lucky that you got to see his garden firsthand. I haven't looked closely at Evensong yet, but am thinking I might have to read it just to see...

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    2. I rather think I actually met him on the Open Day but I was only a child and would not like to swear to it.
      I have just made one of those discoveries when one connects up puzzling elements in one's life - I looked at the synopsis of The Stream that Stood Still and discovered two things - firstly, I think I was probably given it because I share a first name, albeit spelled differently, with the main protagonist and secondly I think this bit: "In order to rescue her brother Jack, who has been kidnapped by the wicked pair and imprisoned in the stream, Jill plunges into an underwater world full of magic and danger" may account for my extreme aversion to the Czech water sprite the Vodník (http://www.czech.cz/en/Life-Work/Living-here/Customs-and-traditions/Czech-bogeymen-and-fairies). My Czech friends assure me he is good-hearted. I remain unconvinced......

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    3. I never even read The Stream that Stood Still, but I'm still not at all sure how I feel about Vodnik! It's amazing how much of our lives are affected by forgotten childhood experiences. I remember going to a parade and being terrorized by Big Bird from Sesame Street. I wonder what effects that has had on me...

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  3. Oh I may have to move to San Francisco! The book sale looks very heaven. Gwen Raverat's book is wonderful and the Christianna Brands are great fun. As a teenager I worked in my local library in the summer holidays, which is how I know names like March Cost and Honor Tracy and Margery Sharp, but I've not read them and will now have to find copies. The book jackets and illustrations and author photos and bios are all so evocative.

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    1. If only there were some way to download your library memories into my database, I bet I would find even more authors for my list! Margery Sharp is uneven but when she's good she's very good, the others I'll have to let you know about...

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  4. Oooh, you've given me all kinds of books and authors to look up! Margery Sharp and Susan Ertz are two of my all-time favorite authors. That looks like SUCH an epic book sale. I'll bet you have lots of envious readers now!

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    1. Thanks, Bree. Oh, good, I'm glad the Susan Ertz really is something for me to look forward to!

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  5. What a very productive day out! I've read Madame Claire although it was a few years ago now & I can't remember much except that I enjoyed it. It was one of the first ten Penguins published & I have a boxset of them that was produced for the 50th anniversary so that's why I read it. Gwen Raverat is also a favourite & Green for Danger is a great mystery. there's a movie too, with Alistair Sim, Trevor Howard & Leo Genn which is worth seeing. I love the WWII atmosphere. I haven't read any Elizabeth Cadell but am tempted to try her now. those covers are beautiful. I don't know if you have an e-reader, but, if you do, you might like Open Library. I've only just discovered it but you can borrow ebooks for 2 weeks to read on an ereader or iPad/tablet. They have lots of lesser-known authors who are out of print. The ebooks have been scanned from library copies so aren't perfect but the few I've had so far were perfectly readable. The link is in my recent review of DES's House on the Cliff.

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    1. Now I had to look up the first 10 Penguins. Imagine that they actually contained 5 women writers! That's a better average than the majority of publishers since. Ertz must have been popular and acclaimed to be in such company, and one of Beverly Nichols' novels was in there too, I see.

      I'll look at Open Library again. I think I checked it out at one point, but they weren't supporting Kindle yet. Even now I might have to upgrade my Model T Kindle, but it certainly sounds enticing!

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    2. Scott, I'm still not sure about Open Library & Kindle. They have different categories of books. Some of them you can Send to Kindle & you can keep those, they don't appear on your list of loans. The books for loan need to be opened with Adobe Digital Editions which means you can't use a Kindle. However, if you have iBooks or Overdrive on your device (maybe a new Kindle Fire could do this? I have an iPad which is what I'm using), you can search the website on the device & it gives you the option to open the file in iBooks or Overdrive which is what I do as my Kindle is a basic one. They have quite a few Elizabeth Cadells if that's any incentive!

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    3. I've been thinking of upgrading to a Kindle Fire. This might be just the excuse I need, Lyn!

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    4. I've just been reading OL's FAQs (about returning a book early. I can't bear to know that someone's waiting for a book I've just finished but it won't expire for another week. I can't help it, I'm a librarian) & apparently you can read their books on a Kindle Fire if you download Overdrive Media Console so it's the same process that I've gone through on my iPad.

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    5. That's great, Lyn. Thanks for letting me know. When I upgrade to Kindle Fire, you can bet I'll be on Open Library soon after!

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  6. Sooooooo jealous - what wonderful finds! Beverley Nichols is a particular passion of mine but I don't yet have Evensong - this is one of his novels, apparently based on aspects of Dame Nellie Melba's life - he was her secretary for a while and I believe he ghost-wrote her memoirs. Basically, I think anything by Beverley is worth reading - he has such a wonderful way of phrasing things. Enjoy!!

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    1. Oh, great, I'm glad to have a recommendation of his novels, and it will be fun to see another version of Nellie Melba. It sounds like this was a lucky find, and though the pic doesn't show it very well, it's a quite nice 1932 original edition, so I will have a sense of his contemporary fans having enjoyed my copy hot off the presses!

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  7. Another thought - Beverley Nichols' first volume of autobiography, "Twenty Five" was I think one of the first ten Penguins and can still be got reasonably priced.

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    1. Yes, Twenty Five is one of the first 10 Penguins. I read it a few years ago but don't remember much. I thought he had a lot of chutzpah writing an autobiography at the age of 25!

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  8. So sad to have missed this sale! I moved from SF to Sweden a couple of months ago and I really mourn the library. I was even a volunteer at the donation center for a while. I wonder how often we might have bumped into each other at previous sales.
    I just read Evensong last week and really enjoyed it. I'm looking forward to finding more of his fiction.
    I read The Stone of Chastity and The Half-Crown House in the exact editions you picked up. In fact, the Ashton might well be the copy I read, as I donated it when I was done.

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    1. Hi, Lisa. Wow, we are really on the same page (so to speak) with our reading. Glad to have another recommendation of Evensong, and how nice to think I may have your copy of The Half-Crown House on my shelf! SF's libraries really are the best, I think.

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  9. Yes, they're great. The interlibrary loan system is amazing. Though, I really prefer to own the books, if at all possible. Hey, I have an author you can add to your master list. Should I email you or tell you here?

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    1. That's great, Lisa. Either is fine with me. You can leave the suggestion in a comment or feel free to email me at furrowed.middlebrow@gmail.com. Thanks!

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  10. E. M. Butler wrote only two books as far as I can tell. Her first was Daylight in a Dream in 1951, and her second, Silver Wings in 1952. Both were published by Hogarth Press. I found the latter at the big blowout Serendipity sale in Berkeley last year. The fun thing is, it has a blurb on the back for one of Celia Buckmaster's books. :)

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    1. Oh, wow, how interesting, Lisa! I'm envious of you finding any reference to Celia Buckmaster at all. If you are ever able to scan the blurb and/or the cover of the book, I'd love to add it to my collection. Meanwhile, I'll add Butler to the next big revision of the list. Thanks for sharing!

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  11. I'll take a couple of photos for ya later today. No problem.

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