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Friday, February 26, 2010

Space Cadets

I have a real affection for books as objects.  Plenty of books I probably will never read attract my interest and make it on to my personal bookshelves just because they're way cool-- as pieces of culture, in design or graphics, and out of sheer oddness and camp value.  The collection on the shelf just above my desk are candidates for The Museum of Weird Books, a project sadly lacking attention.  Some examples from this shelf are three different titles on poodle grooming (with great photos and diagrams), alongside a book called How to Set Your Own Wig.  We also have Swine Production, Secretion of Milk, and Our Tiny Servants:  Molds and Yeasts.

One way our focus has changed as an online-only bookstore, is that we carry a lot more non-fiction titles in all categories.  Someone was unlikely to walk into our Pike Street store looking for a book on swine production, (though I could see selling a How to Set Your Own Wig to a Sister of Perpetual Indulgence), but since now we sell to everywhere, even hog farmers are our customers.  When writing or thinking about books, it's more common to focus on art and literature as the main focus of the written word, but of course books are  great receptacles and transmitters of all kinds of information, even on milk secretion.

I have a special affection for old children's books, especially former library books with their decorative buckram covers, stamps, pockets (with check-out cards filled out in young handwriting), and special school library scent.  But I'm also fond of books from old children's sets with pictorial covers and decorative endpapers. Last weekend I picked up a copy of  A Tom Corbett Space Cadet Adventure:  Danger in Deep Space by Carey Rockwell (might he be related to Roy Rockwood of Bomba the Jungle Boy authorship?), Willey Ley (!) Technical Adviser, printed by Grosset & Dunlap, 1953.  I don't really know anything about Tom Corbett, Space Cadet or his author, but he seems rather, well, gay.  The picture on the cover emphasizes Tom's space-suited shapely bottom, he's holding a ray-gun, and the first few sentences emphasize manliness, phallic symbols, and thrusting:
        "Stand by to reduce thrust on main drive rockets!"  The tall, broad-shouldered officer in the uniform of the Solar Guard snapped out the order as he watched the telescanner screen and saw the Western Hemisphere of Earth looming larger and larger.
       "Aye, aye, Captain Strong," replied a handsome curly-haired Space Cadet.
It goes on...

Reading Notes

Sean and I are continuing to read True History of the Kelley Gang by Peter Carey aloud.  It's a good one for reading aloud because the diction, word choices, and minimal punctuation are unusual and very much the voice of the narrator, a boy very skilled at horsemanship and physical tasks, intelligent, but uneducated, he's learning to be a robber.  Other books that are fun to read aloud for similar reasons of dialect are Trainspotting and A Clockwork Orange (when I first read this, I didn't realize there was a glossary at the back; it was fun to figure out the vocabulary based on context).

Meanwhile, I'm still reading The End of Oil and I'm almost done reading Healthy Aging by Andrew Weil.  I've read quite a few of Andrew Weil's books, and find him very clear and objective in his explanations of scientific and medical theories and processes.  He's also written very reasonable, thoughtful books about drugs in human culture (The Natural Mind, and From Chocolate to Morphine).   I was amused, however, upon finding Andrew Weil brand calcium tablets at our local natural foods store.  Makes me a bit suspicious of his recommendations now...

I've found that since my plan to record what I'm reading on this blog, my reading has become a bit more reigned-in.  I have a couple of short story books I've been holding off on starting until I could catch up on writing this, and finish other books first.

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