You are currently viewing archive for August 2016
Posted By DMB
I have been seeing all sorts of quite impressive doctors who tell me I have a rare disease called vasculitis which affects the sensitive blood vessels, such as those in the lungs and the feet – hence the “dropped foot” – which I am still attempting to pass off as a romantic Byronesque limp, hinting at mystery and the promise of a deeply intriguing person. So far it has been quite unsuccessful, except that young women hold doors open for me and look faintly sympathetic. Someone suggested an eye patch might help, so I’ll try that next. However, all the doctors agreed it is quite appropriate that a rare book dealer should acquire a rare disease. I was a bit skeptical that their concept of rare might not measure up to the antiquarian trade’s view of rarity. I was forced to question them closely, in case they might be confusing the “rare” with the lesser “excessively scarce” or the mere “extremely scarce”. Since all antiquarian book people are aware that many over-enthusiastic sellers of books are prone to over-describe rarity – at least for their own books – I was afraid the doctors might be doing the same. So, this is doctor’s “rare”, not rare book “rare”.
“And now for something completely different…”
Reading a wonderfully eccentric travel book by Paul Theroux called The Kingdom by the Sea about traveling in England in 1982 during the Falklands War, I encountered this quote he got in a pub about the war,
“The Argies. They say they’ll eat the sheep, when there’s nothing else left. That’s not fair, eating the sheep. They have no right. The Falklands may belong to Argentina, but those are British sheep.” Could there be a better example of that English sensibility which gave us the immortal Monty Python? Theroux’s book is one of the weirdest travel books I ever read – all sorts of stuff like the above for Anglophiles.
Posted By DMB

Today Debbie sold a collection of the works of Marie Corelli which I’ve been building for forty years vindicating another of my theories and helping some with the business transition we are in the middle of. Marie Corelli, the most famous writer of her period (even though you never read her) and one of the weirdest literary personalities in all literature, will get a bookish essay soon. Deb had been negotiating with an institution for a year (the usual reasons, not interest or passion, but money). She and the librarian she dealt with ought to be proud and very pleased with themselves. The book world and its followers still go on.

And to finish Canada lost one of its great hockey legends, Gordie Howe, a man who inspired several generations of young hockey players and seems to have also been a lovely man.

But for me, more important than all the rest of my triumphant personal happenings we watched them bury a truly great man last week. Muhammad Ali was a true hero in the classical sense. He superseded greatly all his component parts. When we are very close to an event or great person we can miss how they will appear in a hundred or two hundred years. But booksellers have much practice. His true moral greatness for me lies in the events of the sixties. Here is a man who had everything: fame, beauty, celebrity, plus being the most exciting heavyweight boxer seen in living memory. He had adulation, wealth, everything. This man had everything our society considers the most important things in life. And he threw it all away on a matter of moral principle. He refused to do what his conscience told him he mustn’t do. He could have slipped out of draft status in a hundred different and easy ways. He could have gone and made himself a public soldier-patriot as Presley did, while he spent a pleasant couple of years. But he wouldn’t go along. He not only refused, he lost everything he’d already earned, he defied then further. He threw away everything. I would urge school teachers to have their students google back to the newspapers of the time to demonstrate what it really cost him. He said no, he wouldn’t play. He wouldn’t bend. Such men (and women) are the ones who change the world. The journalists, especially the sports journalists of the time crucified him.

Our young have been shown a true hero. And for me, on a great personal day, I found that event the greatest.

"Of course real readers read for excitement."
​Michael Dirda.


These blogs will not continue as long – I simply couldn’t help it.

Posted By DMB
The downside to adapting to my new regime has so far been having to cancel recent social occasions I really wanted to attend. George Jonas’s memorial, my niece’s graduation from Massey, the Munk Institute, a dinner with some dear old friends and their family who we only see every few years or so since they retired west, and several short visits from visiting collectors.

The upside is that Debbie, Halina, and Norm have the store running smoothly and I have time to write all those emails to friends and colleagues, I’ve been meaning to do but didn’t. I’m also buying some nice things and can pretty easily arrange buying within the Toronto area.

The paper edition of The Pope’s Bookbinder has been issued with an added chapter, details and information can be found by clicking here. Biblioasis, as usual, has made a beautiful book.
The romantic Byronesque limp is still not working very well and no one seemed to think I was mysterious. The ankle, while completely painless doesn’t do what it used to do. So the limp is still more a lurch. It needs some practicing. I took my father’s old Irish walking stick but it was too long – not much help walking, but still a serious weapon for beating off perils if needed.

“The proper study of mankind is books.”
Aldous Huxley

A note by McLuhan I saw in a letter to Claude Bissell, found many years ago in Bissell’s papers, “Did you know that the North American goes out to be alone and stays in to be social? And that for the European it’s the exact opposite.” Bissell continues, “He [McLuhan] had the renaissance humanist’s belief in the power of literature to illuminate life and conduct.”
Posted By DMB
I can’t use most of the internet so I’ve never read a blog and now I’m doing one (I don’t use twitter, facebook, or even a cellphone for that matter). Not knowing what I’m supposed to be doing I’m free to do whatever I want. It’s fun except it’s a bit like talking to yourself in an empty room.

A great day today! My publisher called me to tell me that the second, revised and expanded, edition of The Pope’s Bookbinder with a new chapter on the Hemingway heist and an index (our biggest lapse in the first edition), came from the printer and it’s in the store now. Reggie Turner, a friend of Oscar Wilde’s and reported to be wittier than even Wilde (hard to imagine that one) – a minor figure in the 90s and early 20th century literary world – wrote several novels which are near impossible to find. Although they have been sought after by people like me for over thirty years – unsuccessfully. Turner famously said, “It’s my second editions that are rare,” meaning, of course, that there never were any. It’s a shame some publisher doesn’t prove Reggie wrong. By all accounts, slight as they might have been as literature they demonstrated the famous wit.

Today, I went out twice with my new oxygen machine, once to the store, then later up to our local pub with a friend for the first beer in a month. And an hour of watching all the beautiful young people courting and enjoying the glorious day. It was very pleasurable and I’ve learned a few more tricks and got some more confidence with the new machine.

And that’s only the beginning.

I have had my first venture out using four hours of oxygen with great success. In fact, some how, I don’t understand how, I spent five hours at the store did too much work and arrived home with the oxygen right on empty. Every incident like this teaches new things and gives more confidence. Soon I’ll be scouting again and your good books won’t be safe.

Last week Paul Whitney, a new friend, retired Chief Librarian of the Vancouver Public Library and now a bookman and scout at large, was in Toronto for meetings and I had to tell him that I couldn’t be in my store to greet him due to my medical complications. Friday afternoon having a beer with a friend in my corner pub – and with thousands of pubs in Toronto to choose from - who should walk in but Paul Whitney. So, Mason, apparently too ill to open his store for a collector, is found drinking in a pub with a woman, not his wife. My reputation continues to plummet.

On June 16, 1904:  James Joyce met a chambermaid called Nora Barnacle and took her for a walk through Dublin. Some years later, Leopold Bloom took a fictional walk also through Dublin. Many years later, also on June 16th, I got married for the first time. I’d like to say it was a literary homage but it was pure coincidence.

At least I always remembered, and didn’t get in trouble by not responding with the proper degree of gratitude and adulation.

Posted By DMB

Starting a blog for one reason – in my case to inform friends and clients of my status as an aging bookseller begins to pay his dues – has made me realize that there is no reason why I can’t throw in all my latest enthusiasms and current opinions into the mix. Having a captive audience will be just like having me back in the store.

Yesterday we found out that Stephen Fowler of the Monkey’s Paw must move for the usual reasons – those same ones that have moved or closed some twenty to thirty new and used bookstores in the last years. I sent Stephen a note saying that after being kicked out of five stores over my time, it broke my heart every time, but that once moved I found it had been time. I was ready for expansion, more space, more room for the ideas and stock to expand.

I shall have a lot more to say about the real implication of this but for the moment I’ll stop and talk of Stephen. People said of his store, “Quirky”, “Hodgepodge of weird and interesting”, “You never know what you’d see”, “Fascinating and often arresting window displays.” And much more. All this is true, what you got at Monkey’s Paw was what all real bookstores, especially used and rare ones, should be. You got the owner’s personality, his or hers likes and dislikes, opinions and prejudices (even towards the books which, of course, affects the sales and therefore the income of the bookseller). You get a personality at a real bookstore and inevitably it’s more than you expected.  If you liked that, you went back and found always some new adventure, or a book you never knew existed. And if the ambience suited you, you become a regular there, just like at your favourite coffee shop. Stephen Fowler will flourish. You might have to go a bit further but I expect you will get an expansion of what you already liked. And his new neighbourhood will be enhanced in a manner that only a bookstore can provide.

More on the whole phenomena will appear later.

As for me, I see doctors and adjust.

Now I have, I’m told, diabetes too, along with 3 million other Canadians, so more adjusting. I saw my GP a couple of days ago and left till last the new development – that trying my pulmonary exercises on the weekend one of my ankles refuses to flex. Like all elderly paranoiacs I knew what it was instantly. Diabetes affects blood flow to the lower legs and feet and then they chop your leg off, one by one, and put you in a wheelchair. When I told my doctor she looked at it and said, “that has nothing to do with diabetes, I think you have some sort of nerve palsy, related probably due to pinching or affecting a nerve in the leg in the hospital. I’m sending you to a neurologist.” So they aren’t going to chop off my feet.

Because of the inflexibility I have already developed a slight limp, which I have chosen to call a “romantic Byronesque limp.” I’m going to the flea market as soon as my oxygen is regulated to buy a 19th century walking stick (maybe one with a sword hidden in the shaft to fight off the rabble) which I will use as I limp along the street, hinting of a mysterious and romantic past.

A sign on the wall in my hospital room pictured Lucy holding a football and Charlie Brown trying to kick it, the caption said, “Never, Never, NEVER – give up.”

“People never grow up; they just get tired.”
Jim Harrison.

Posted By DMB

David Mason wishes to report to his friends and clients a very curious development.

He is out of the hospital and while the procedures followed seems so far pretty successful he has been told he can’t leave the house for the foreseeable future, till we find out what has developed. The problem is they are unable to supply and control his oxygen needs except in the house. This proves conclusively that the moon landings were indeed a hoax. They could apparently put a man on the oxygen-free moon fifty years ago but I can’t go to work, a ten-minute walk.

We will find a way around this, but until some later time I won’t be able to go anywhere.

As it happens I feel great and am in good spirits – and luckily with all this electronic stuff we now have I can still run my business and communicate. I also live in a house which is stuffed with books, many still unread.

Poor Debbie, you will be no doubt thinking. She’s been great except she keeps emphasizing that she made it plain thirty years ago – she doesn’t do diapers. We’re a long way from that. I’m still at the rows of pills to figure out stage, and have to be careful not to trip over breathing tubes.

This blog seems an easier means of communicating with friends and clients and I shall continue to do this.

Debbie, Norm and Halina can still sell you a book though.

STRONG NOTE: Because of erratic medical appointments we can no longer guarantee that someone will always be at the store between 9am and 5pm Monday to Friday, we strongly suggest you phone first before dropping in, otherwise all is usual.




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