Saturday, October 3, 2009

birds in the bedroom (looking at books)

i’ve been working on books lately. i’ve amassed a pretty serious collection, and it’s beginning to be a problem. used books are just irresistible. unfortunately, they take up a lot of space. there’s no room in my room for another large piece of furniture, so until last night i had stacks of literature in front of my overflowing bookshelf, impeding access to the lower shelves and looking sloppy.

a while ago i decided i wanted to stack some apple crates to use as bookshelves, but i didn’t know where to find the crates. last week i happened upon an old crate in the “free stuff” dumpster over at the st. vinnie’s on state street. such an exciting find! i was on my way up to mccall so i set it up there with the few books i keep at the cabin.

the torn-to-shit “paradise apples” label dates back to the 1940s, according to one website. i don’t think the crate itself is that old, but i could be wrong. here’s a picture i found online of what the label looked like before being sun-bleached, water-damaged, ripped:

finding this apple crate of course made me want more to use in my room in boise. i put up a want-ad on craigslist and the next day someone responded with exactly what i hoped for: two nicely-weathered old crates, only $3 each! praise the gods of craigslist! the only bad part was i had to drive all the way out to buttfuck suburbia boise...almost meridian. i hate driving so much. worth it though.

last night i overhauled my bookshelves, made sure all my favorite books (and those i haven’t yet read) are accessible, sorted some to give away, and set up the new crates in front of my bookcase. they’re pulled forward a bit so i can still access the two lower shelves behind, but i stocked those shelves with already-read and less-desirable books because they are kind of hidden. i love my new shelves!

it’s been years since my room was last clean and organized enough to actually bother with any kind of interior design, so i feel pretty good about this. once i get more space (and more crates) it will look even better.

for a while i’ve been meaning to share some favorite books on here...both favorite-good and favorite-weird. here are a few treasures.

i just finished reading “a heartbreaking work of staggering genius.” i’ve wanted to read it since it came out. a decade ago! a whole decade! the fact that there’s a book i’ve been meaning to read for a full decade makes me feel very old. but i am glad i waited. this was exactly the right time in my life to read it. incredible fucking book.

the comical thing about this ridiculously racist, sexist...basically everything-ist book is not the retro drawings depicting strict gender roles and conformity; not the heavy-handed religious and moral messages; not the actual, honest-to-fucking-god “little black sambo” stories about heathenish, uncivilized “colored” children; no. the comical thing about “uncle arthur’s bedtime stories” is that nearly every story title sounds like a really, seriously dirty porno. consider:

“two dogs and a girl.”
“randy’s lost ball.”
“daddy’s birthday present.”
“donna’s disappointment.”
“georgie, the garage man.”
“birds in the bedroom.”
“on the queen’s lap.”
“when billy bashed bobby.”
“diana’s donkey ride.”
“helping mamma.”
“all by herself.”
“amanda’s pet.”
“susan and the sprinklers.”
“the wiggle-wiggle scissors.”
“betty and the milk bottles.”
“how johnny got wet.”
“the time to obey.”
“hand in the dark.”

and perhaps my favorite:

“timmy’s troublesome toy.”

these are not bedtime stories for children. these are bedtime stories for the creepy creepster who sits at the back of the bus with his hand down his pants, fantasizing about fisting your grandma. some of these stories involve acts so dreadfully kinky, so peculiar and illegal and deviant that even a sick, imaginative freak like me hasn’t thought of them before. where did betty put the milk bottles, and with what kind of milk were they filled? who half-castrated randy? what in hell are wiggle-wiggle scissors? do they hurt? do i want to try them?

this book is amazing. it’s full of 200 black-and-white portraits of sock monkeys that show more character than most humans. interspersed are around a dozen short stories or essays, by a random collection of writers and non-writers (jonathan safran-foer, penn and teller, neil gaiman, isaac mizrahi and others), each telling an imaginative tale about a particular monkey. some hilarious, some heartbreaking.

mock java. i don’t know why this book exists. it’s almost like a fantasy book, and the conceit is that there’s a bean shortage and coffee is outlandishly expensive. they even brag that the book is “your secret weapon in the battle against high coffee prices.” the illustrations are all strange caricatures of hippies and ethnic stereotypes. nearly all of the 23 recipes for “mock java” involve the same four ingredients: roasted ground wheat, roasted ground barley, roasted ground oats, and chicory. there is one very different, very disturbing recipe that involves an egg. “egg coffee.”

women see woman is one of my favorite photo books of all time. i dug it out of a dusty shelf in the bowels of the good samaritan store. a few favorite photos:

the photos are all of women, by female photographers. it’s a pretty rare book, long out of print, but if you ever get a chance to flip through a copy, do. it’s moving, fascinating and visually striking.

this is a never-opened, HUGE, hardcover copy of l. ron hubbard’s “photographic biography.” i found it, with two other books about hubbard, on the porch of the library in idaho city, in the middle of the night. the library sets out books for people to take, and they ask that you drop a donation in the book drop.

i have plans for this book now. i don’t want it sitting around my room taking up space, even if it does make me laugh whenever i look at it; so i’m going to leave it somewhere downtown. maybe in an alley. i’m going to leave sticky notes and a pen beside it, and put one sticky note on the cover with a question on it. i haven’t decided on the question, but i’m thinking of something along the lines of, “do you believe in science?” i’ll then check back on the book every fifteen minutes or so, to see if it’s been taken, if someone’s left a note, or if it’s getting any kind of attention. this will all be photo-documented, of course.

this is just a great reference book with very nice pictures. i found it at the thrift store in mccall, at a time when a bunch of wildflowers were blooming. the great thing is that it’s very specific to this region, so i actually recognize almost all the’s frustrating seeing picture after picture of beautiful flowers that don’t even grow in your state, which is the case with most guides i’ve looked through before. it even shows the calypso orchid i found earlier this year in the forest, then spent an hour trying to identify online.

gorgeous, weird illustrations in this book. for instance, the half-gone cat:

i like it.

i’ve had good luck finding rare, interesting literary journals, chapbooks and anthologies at the hyde park used book store, like this 1978 copy of BSU’s cold-drill. while the cover has seen better days, the inside is in great shape--it’s a series of loose signatures of varying sizes, sheathed in a flimsy red paper cover, with short stories, essays, poems, and monochrome photos, printed on textured paper, beautifully designed. i’ve never seen a book put together quite like this.

“Stranger stop and cast an eye,
As you are now, so once was I,
As I am now, so you will be,
Prepare for death, and follow me.”

despite how much i love graveyards, i haven’t actually done any gravestone rubbing yet. the carvings pictured in this book are unlike anything you can find in this area--they’re all east-coast, many from the 16-1700s, with ornate death’s-heads and effigies and other symbols. the book is a guide to the symbols and their history, and also a how-to guide detailing the different methods of gravestone rubbing.

the author’s bio cracks me up: “g. walker jacobs has been for years a devotee of the art of rubbing.” that line belongs in uncle arthur’s. it also says “with her husband, she founded oldstone enterprises, the major supplier of gravestone rubbing materials in the country.” my god, i just looked it up looks like they’re still in business.

i think that’s all i have to extol for now. i’ll leave you with this haunting image of sambo getting attacked by an alligator because he hasn’t accepted jesus as his savior.

No comments: