The Hang Fire Books Blog

The rantings of a bookdealer in Brooklyn, New York.

Friday, September 28, 2007

Off to the World's Largest Garage Sale

Heading to upstate New York for the "World's Largest Garage Sale" tomorrow. Generally not great book-hunting territory but a camp-fire will be made and Genny Cream Ale and hot dogs will be consumed. I'll post photos.


Thursday, September 27, 2007

HFB Short Fiction Reading Guide: "Memorare" by Gene Wolfe

During my stint as an editorial assistant for Tor Books, I started a word doc of memorable short fiction. I've maintained the doc ever since and now I'm (slowly) transferring it to LibraryThing.

If you enjoy slipstream/dark/offbeat fantasy, horror and sf you might want to take a look and compare notes. WARNING: My quick summaries contain absurdly reductive spoilers.

Here's the link - Hang Fire Books Short Fiction Reading Guide

I'll eventually finish the transfer and mention new additions here.

Which brings me to:

"Memorare" by Gene Wolfe (The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction, April 2007)

I'm well behind on this one. April was a special Wolfe issue containing the novella-length story and appreciations by Neil Gaiman and Michael Swanwick. I wanted to savor this but it was buried under an avalanche of magazines which I've only just dug through.

Anyway, the story is concerned with a documentary "film"-maker (or the far future media equivalent) who's traveling through space, making a record of mausoleums that have been built directly into asteroids. The early days of space colonization were quite deadly and due to the difficulty of going home--and the presumable lack of real estate--the survivors entombed their beloved dead in space. These memorials are unique relics of diverse religions that became more... diverse...through the distance and isolation of space. Many of the long-departed builders had regressed to the more blood-thirsty origins of their faiths and their mausoleums are actually carefully crafted death traps designed to add the souls/essences/blood (methods vary) of unwary visitors to the memorializing effort.

A domestic dispute and two new crew-members follow the film-maker through his explorations and the drama plays to its conclusion in this unique and memorable setting.

Much to love. I hope some obsessive Wolfe fan is coding these tombs for a space-based Mmorpg (perhaps the rumored Joss Whedon-inspired Firefly game where they would fit in perfectly).

PHILISTINE ALERT: Gene Wolfe is a devout Catholic and his stories are thickly layered with religious symbolism and complex allegories (not to mention untrustworthy narrators, doubles, ciphers and every other trick you can imagine). I can sense and appreciate the richness but--having been an atheist for two and a half decades now--I'm just not going to worry over a puzzle that requires me to look up obscure saints and the Lord's prayer. I read Wolfe for the atmosphere and originality and there's plenty of both in this story.

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Poor Fool

The second in my series of really ugly books. Stiff, poorly- preportioned figures, no sense of perspective, an ugly palette, and about the most effeminate looking brawler I've ever seen. I'm pretty sure the dame behind him could tear his head off (and his manager looks like he knows it).

Hipster / Beatnik Bookplate

I just found this hep cat bookplate--"Ex Libris Stanley Rosenbaum"--in a copy of The Outer Edge by Charles Jackson (Signet 1950). I love the lettering and loose cartoony style. Looks like there's an artist's signature but I can't make it out.

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Down I Go

Numerous scans added to the pulp fiction gallery. This one is in my top ten, easy. Love the postures, the flesh tone, the broken chair, stubbed-out cigarettes, and the carelessly discarded shoe. I'll definitely watch for more de Soto covers.

Monday, September 24, 2007

Clever listing method for beat-up books

I just came across this auction titled Haunted House Library 110 Antique books. These are basically worn, non-collectible, vintage books sold for Halloween decoration (I guess the Addams family needs shelf-filler too).

The price seems a little ambitious (and they've been relisted at least once) but they're from a powerseller with 2K+ feedback so they probably know their business.

If I had more space it would be fun to compile theme lots like this. I firmly believe there's a way to squeeze a buck (or a quarter at least) from any book.

Friday, September 21, 2007

Femme Fatale Bookplate & W. J. Lugsdin Ad

Just found a couple of nice ephemera items. First this noirish bookplate belonging to "Ruth Parsons, anno 1944".

Click for larger version. It's looks better than it reproduces (my scanner isn't playing well with the printing dots).

And this ad card from W. J. Lugsdin Hats, Caps and Furs, 259 Yonge St. Toronto (Opposite Trinity Square)

Nice color, charming vintage bathing costumes and peeping toms. On the reverse is penciled "Ellsworth Rishel, Toronto, Ont, Canada"

I'm not finding anything about the business but here's an image of Yonge Street from around the period of the card.

Thursday, September 20, 2007

Our Stoop Sale

So we had the first of our pre-move stoop sales this past weekend and--being a bit of a connoisseur--I thought I'd post some images and talk about what I think makes for an attractive sale.

First off, you need a good sidewalk profile that shows from at least a block away. Pursuant to this we teamed up with 2 other households for volume (and company).

Use as much of the sidewalk as you--semi-legally--can but try not to inconvenience your neighbors as they can be your best customers.

You should mill about during your sale. Merchandise and rearrange your stuff as items sell. Another benefit of staying mobile is that you look like a shopper, and shoppers attract more shoppers.

Mix up your of display areas. Use hangers/clotheslines, boxes and tables. Go both high and low. You want accessibility...but mystery.

Make yourself comfortable. Play music (especially if you have stereo equipment to demo). Have donuts and/or pizza and be prepared to stay a while. Ideally a stoop sale should go for 6 hrs or so (unless you run out of stuff) I recommend 10-4, then pack-up slowly and keep selling.

Plus a few more Flickr images.

I've been doing this for a long time. My hometown hosts The World's Largest Garage Sale every fall and I've learned to "read" sales very quickly (because it's extremely uncomfortable to walk into someone's yard/garage/stoop/driveway and then awkwardly turn around because there's nothing to look at.).

Here are a few signs--that can be seen from a safe distance--that would cause me to give a sale the pass.
  • Pink plastic seen from 20 yards: Toddler syndrome. The parents probably cleaned out the good stuff before the baby was born and they haven't spent money on anything but the baby since.
  • Warped particle board shelving: Probable lack of disposable income and/or taste. Also implies careless or damp storage conditions.
  • More than 1 square foot of table space devoted to china figurines
  • Specialized display racks/tubs: Probably a "professional" seller with newish, overpriced (yet cheaply made) crap
  • Country Crafts: This might be my issue. I lost out on "most artistic" in my high school yearbook to a dude who painted Bob Ross landscapes on sawblades. I can't let it go.
  • A recurring sale (especially during a weekday)
That's all I can think of for now. Anyone else have any stoop sale dealbreakers?

Book pruning

I have a new post up at the Bookshop Blog on the painful but necessary process of book inventory pruning.

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

"My Panties!" "No, MY Panties!"

...and more naked steel hissy-fits.

Monday, September 17, 2007

Pulp Auctions

As promised, I've put up several eBay auctions that include many of the books I cover-scanned for my pulp fiction cover gallery. If any caught your eye, here's a chance to own them. Each lot contains around 35 books. They all end next Sunday, Sept 23 between 7-9pm (EST).

The links:
Cheesecake 1, Cheesecake 2, Cheesecake 3,
Mystery 1, Mystery 2

Saturday, September 15, 2007

Movie Break: Rob Zombie's Halloween

I just came back from seeing Rob Zombie's Halloween. It was packed with in-joke cameos and visual references to classic horror films of the 70s and 80s. Definite comfort food for a lad who meticulously applied fake blood to his hockey mask for three Halloweens running.

The first 30-minutes of the film are devoted to mapping out Michael Myers' psychosis; his stripper mom and sexually precocious older sister (for his homicidal sexual repression), his lazy abusive step-dad, his cruelty to animals, and his dependence on masks. All in all, a neatly worked-out background for a character who was never more than a "Shape".

The autumn setting is nice too. Lots of blood is spilled over crackly golden maple leaves. And the shout-out to Suspiria--with the main girl crawling though a claustrophobic maze of irrational interior spaces--is a lot of fun.

The innovation of the original Halloween though was that it was one of the first horror films to show bottomless evil rising from the suburbs (Myers was a direct descendant of The Bad Seed). Unfortunately Rob Zombie can't do tract housing, only trailer parks. All the teen-age characters swear like sailors, the head cheerleader and her clique are dating implausible scruffy hair-bags, and the family dialog was cribbed from the Jerry Springer Show. So the suburban milieu is kind of wasted.

Globe Wernicke Co. Art Nouveau Bookplate

I just turned up this uncut set of two bookplates and a bookmark from the Globe Wernicke Co., long-time manufacturers of legal / barrister glass-fronted bookcases. The Art Nouveau-style art looks a bit like Mucha.

I guess I officially collect bookplates now. Does anyone have any suggestions for a good display book?

Friday, September 14, 2007

Sunday Stoop Sale

Here's the link to my Craigslist stoop sale ad.

Pay a visit if you're in the neighborhood. Mention the blog and you can have a free book...after 3PM and you can have 6.

Has anyone noticed that you can't post tinyurl links on Craigslist? I had to leave in the ugly Google maps url that runs off the right margin.

My Hunting Grounds

The New York Times recently ran an article on stoop sale culture in Brooklyn.

It focuses on the tension between friendly "old-fashioned stoop sellers" and the "aggressive", "vulture" dealers "who are often not from the neighborhood."

It hits a lot of my buttons. First off, if there were no "vultures" most sellers would end lugging most of their crap back down into the basement or leaving it by the curb (plus the plains would reek from the rotting carcases of dead buffalo).

Secondly: "With eBay, anyone can be a dealer" (the article quotes an indignant stoopsaler). Sure it's easy to do a basic listing on eBay, but it takes work to do it right. Item research, presentation, and copy-writing are skills that most people do not have. I snipe half-assed eBay listings all the time and I frequently pay less than I would have for the same item at a stoop sale.

Thirdly: Just because a seller finds some outlier auction that ended at $50, does not mean they can print the page and use it as a price tag on their chipped/faded/disintegrating piece of crap. eBay shoppers pay a premium to browse from their desk and have an item shipped to their door. If you aren't offering that service, you can't expect the premium.

Okay, vent concluded. This Sunday I'll be on the other side of the stoop. We're having the first of a couple of sales in preparation for a move. I'll post the Craigslist ad when it goes up.

Glenn Danzig's Library

That book isn't in the stacks right now sir. Would you like to fill out a call slip and retrieve it....from HELL!? LidiLidiLidiLidiLidiLidiKerangKerangSKRONK! (Damnation-tempting guitar solo)

As long as a bad-ass image requires forbidden tomes--to match six-pack abs and demon tattoos--there will be a place for the humble bookseller.

....I gotta play Guitar Hero now.

Link via Paper Cuts (A New York Times Book Blog).

Monday, September 10, 2007

That Woman is Lost to Shame

Found these ads for Sapolio and Vitalized Phos-Phites in the rear of Bulwer Lytton's Last Days of Pompeii (The Caxton Edition, 1884). Click on image for larger version.

They really had the shame/ostracizing pitch down pat in those days....and I think "Vitalized Phos-phite" is the same substance--"Nerve giving principles of the ox brain and the embryo of wheat and oat"--they give to cows to make mad cows. "I have not had a severe headache since I began its use."..."Thanks to all the heathful and invigorating holes in my brain."

Revenge of the "T-House"

The creepy metal house I blogged a while ago was brought back to my attention by my uncle who's a more adept Googler than me.

He found out this:
Built in the early 90s by architects Simon Ungers and Tom Kinslow, the house belongs to a writer and houses a 10,000 volume library. It's clad in heavy steel with a nickel and chromium finish. The top bar of the "T" (44' x 12' x 16') contains the library.
Excerpted from The Architectural Record, full entry here.

Maybe it's not as evil a house as I thought....still I wouldn't turn my back on it.

Have You Seen the Gun Show?

Bam! 85 points.

I maybe have gotten--a few--more points on a Scrabble play but never with such a sexy word as "lacunae" (plus "tic", "pa" and the all-tile, 50 point bonus).

I get my kicks from forbidden feats of wordplay.

Saturday, September 8, 2007

...Just Dynamic Tension

They Got Their Kicks from Forbidden Feats of Strength

Most men fall in love with women. But some men fall in love with themselves--men like the weight-lifters of muscle beach.

For these body worshippers, their physique is their fortune. Whether it's being exhibited performing feats of strength, or leered at in glossy photos by thrill-seekers of every sex and taste, there's big money in those biceps. And it's often dirty money!

Teen-ager Jerry carpenter found that out when he, for kicks and vanity, got himself involved in the sordid dealings of a notorious photographer and the strange characters that surrounded him.

What you've heard about in whispers is frankly, startlingly revealed in MUSCLE BOY, a novel that bares the naked truth about the Beefcake Kings.


Wow! It would take a "forbidden feat of strength" to keep me from reading this.

Friday, September 7, 2007

Mountain of Paperbacks

The floor by my desk is blessedly clear since I conquered the huge buy of vintage pbs I've been tripping over for weeks.

Some decent stuff. A first pb of Highsmith's Strangers on a Train, another copy of Felsen's Fever Heat, some Nightstand/Evening Reader/Leisure smut, Charles Williams' All the Way, an Eric Stanton cover and lots more.

Most of them were common but I got some great scans for my cover gallery (If you saw a book you like but don't see it for individual sale, watch for it in my PB lots in the coming week or two).

A book with an isbn or barcode would be a sight for sore eyes right now. I think I typed frakkin War and Peace, three times over.

Unfamiliar Armed Services Edition

Just found this special discount sticker for men in uniform on a digest-size paperback of Erle Stanley Gardner's Murder Up My Sleeve (Bestseller Mystery / Lawrence E. Spivak B29). I've seen many variations on the ASEs but this is the first time I've encountered a sticker as an indicator. I wonder if this is the way they were "remaindered" since these were digests instead of mass markets?

Hell Hath No Fury

Thursday, September 6, 2007

Jim Palmer - Hard-Boiled Regency Cop

Since everyone seems to like my galleries of pulp fiction art and book eye-candy, I thought I would start another set covering the dark side of book design. This set will include the most crap-looking books I can find.

I'm not going to dig through my stacks or anything (because that would take more effort than was expended creating these atrocities) but as they find me, I'll share the horror.

My first entry is Die, Lover by Harry Whittington (Uni Book / Modern Promotions 1960). This cover would probably warrant inclusion for its badly printed, sub-Kincaidian painting alone, but when you read the copy (click image for larger version) you realize this art has absolutely nothing to do with the text. The cover features two pensive-looking, courtly lovers, traipsing about a dewy country estate; the book inside is about a tough cop driven by a lust for revenge.

So wrong genre, wrong historical period by century or two...nicely done Uni Book. I'll keep my eyes peeled for your fine publications.

Wednesday, September 5, 2007

Procrastination Central

I have a new post up at the Bookshop Blog on creating a comfortable and interesting bookstore environment (B+M and online). Please visit and contribute ideas.

Monday, September 3, 2007

I got Boingked!

Also known as being Boingled in some circles.

My pulp fiction cover gallery was included in a Labor Day link roundup. Wish they'd gotten my business name in there but I'll take a link from one of the top two or three blogs in the world (and one I've read rabidly for years) any way it comes.