|photo provided by Valparaiso Police Dept.|
There are two possibilities, I suppose. Either someone included the wrong book in a batch donated to Indiana’s Porter County Library system and hasn’t noticed the mistake yet, or someone died before telling his heirs what was hidden inside the book. According to Valpo Communities.com, sorters at one branch of the library system were a bit shocked to find a gun hidden inside the hollowed-out book shown above:
The book, which carries the title “Outerbridge Reach,” was hollowed out and contained a historic-looking handgun, according to Valparaiso police.
“Somebody just opened it up and said, ‘Oh my,’ ” said Assistant Library Director Phyllis Nelson.
The weapon was described by police as a gold, wooden handle, A.S.M. brand, .31-caliber, single shot, black powder gun.
Local police determined that the gun was not a stolen one, but librarians say they have no way of determining who inadvertently donated the little pistol. Perhaps strangest of all, this is not the first time something like this has happened to the county library – librarians there found a pistol hidden in a donated book about twelve years ago.
Just goes to show that anything can happen in a place as wild as a public library…
|Laura Ford illustration of Chapter 26|
Melville uses chapters 25 and 26 to introduce readers to other key members of the Pequod crew and to applaud the qualities of the working class. As George Cotkin points out in Dive Deeper, Melville also makes clear his allegiance to the Democratic Party of his day by heaping praise on President Andrew Jackson. Both chapters are entitled “Knights and Squires.” (See illustration to the left.)
Captain Ahab finally makes an appearance in Chapter 28, a chapter appropriately titled “Ahab.” Ishmael has grown more and more apprehensive in anticipation of finally meeting the captain, but the man has remained in his cabin so long that Ishmael no longer expects to find him on deck at the beginning of each new day. For that reason, he is very startled one morning actually to find the man himself standing there:
“…so soon as I leveled my glance towards the taffrail, foreboding shivers ran over me. Reality outran apprehension; Captain Ahab stood upon his quarter-deck.”
The chapter is particularly well read by Anthony Wall, whom I believe to be an award-winning BBC producer. Good readers make all the difference. I find myself becoming irritated with those who read the words as if they deserve no emotional input from the reader, and by those readers who continually flub their lines by skipping words or reading them out of order. The good readers, however, are a joy.
Then in Chapter 29, “Enter Ahab, to Him Stubb,” as Ahab hurls personal insults at one of his officers, it becomes clearer what the captain’s state-of-mind is as the voyage begins. In explaining Ahab’s tendency to pace the decks in the wee hours of the morning, Melville makes an observation that shows how little the sleeping habits of old men have changed in the last 150 years, “Old age is always wakeful; as if, the longer linked with life, the less man has to do with aught that looks like death.” I can attest to the truth of that one.
Chapter 30, “The Pipe,” sees Ahab toss his beloved pipe overboard as he dedicates himself exclusively to the task at hand: taking his revenge on the white whale that snatched his leg from him. Anything that distracts him from that task by giving him pleasure or by soothing him has to go.
Chapter 31 is a rather strange chapter during which Stubb shows how dismayed he still is by his confrontation of Ahab by describing a disturbing dream he had following their run-in.
And, finally, Chapter 32, “Cetology,” is a long one in which Melville discusses every type of whale likely, or unlikely, to be encountered during the voyage. The narrator displays a good understanding of the various classes and families of whale as known at the time, but comes down hard on the side of those who consider the whale to be a fish, not a mammal. The length of the chapter could make for a rather tedious reading experience, but Big Read reader Martin Attrill makes quick work of it while managing to keep it all interesting.
Because so many first-novels are coming-of-age tales, it is no great surprise that Dan Josefson’s That’s Not a Feeling follows the pattern. No, the real surprise here is how good this book is for a first effort. Within the confines of a boarding school for troubled teens called Roaring Orchards, the author creates a unique little world that is as appalling as it is funny – and he makes it all seem very real.
Although only those being completely honest with themselves would admit it, Roaring Orchards is a place for desperate parents to park children with whom they can no longer cope. Some of the teens are suicidal, some are borderline criminals, some are former addicts, and a few are simply incapable of coping with everyday life. Roaring Orchards represents the last chance their parents have to save them – and to reclaim a normal life for themselves. That Aubrey, the school’s headmaster, strictly limits contact between parents and children makes it that much easier for parents to rationalize the relief resulting from their children’s absence.
Benjamin, who has already tried to kill himself twice, agreed to tour the boarding school with his parents only because it “calms them down.” By the time he realizes that his is a one-way ticket, Benjamin’s parents are long gone. He does not want to be there, and he lets everyone know about it. But until he can figure out the system, he is going to have to take it one precarious day at a time.
Aubrey uses an inflexible set of rules – bordering on rituals – to keep his Roaring Orchards students in line. The students, ranging in age from 14 to 16, are divided into three groups, or “dorms,” with distinctive sets of privileges and obligations for each group. At the top of the hierarchy are “Normal Boys and Girls,” followed by “Alternative Boys and Girls,” and “New Girls and Boys.” “Normal Kids” have the run of the school and the headmaster grants them a status almost equal to that of his teachers. “New Kids,” the group with zero privileges and special work obligations, is where everyone begins his stay at Roaring Orchards – although for some it is a revolving door of a dorm they never seem to escape for long. Consequently, “Alternative Kids” are very much aware that they are always one slip-up away from returning to the “New Kids” dorm.
This is not a happy place for anyone but Aubrey. Teachers are as unhappy as their students, the main difference being that teachers can escape (as they regularly do) by quitting the school, while students are limited to desperate prison break runs that never gain them freedom for long.
Immensely observant and insightful, Benjamin is also quite the chronicler and That’s Not a Feeling is a wild ride – sometimes horrifying, sometimes hilarious, always unforgettable.
(Review Copy provided by Publisher)
Music is as big a constant in my life as my love of books and reading. Never does a day go by that I don’t spend hours listening to music from the collection stored on my computers, iPad, iPod, and that nebulous “cloud” up there somewhere. I grew up on sixties rock, soul, and country and was lucky enough to have parents who bought four or five new singles every week (some of which I still have around here), so I was exposed to the hits on a regular basis.
Although I spend more time with bluegrass than any other single genre these days, I find myself longing to hear the deep catalogs (not just the signature songs) of some of my old favorites from the sixties more and more. So, imagine my surprise last weekend when one of the bluegrass bands at the Bloomin’ Bluegrass Festival was a band specializing in Beatles songs. Now, further imagine my surprise at how good the blend sounded…Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Bluegrass Band…
(Video I shot in Farmers Branch, TX, on Saturday, October 20)
Peter Clarke’s new Winston Churchill biography, Mr. Churchill’s Profession, focuses on a less often explored side of the man who will always be best remembered for his defiance of Adolph Hitler during World War II. This is a book, as the subtitle clearly states, about “the statesman as author.” Not having much considered this aspect of the great political figure’s life before, I was pleased by how revealing a portrait of the man such a focus makes possible.
Randolph Churchill died still a young man and, after Winston’s mother largely ran through the remainder of the family fortune, he relied upon his writing income to support them until his mother remarried. But an income tax loophole and his need to publish as often as possible combined to put Churchill on a writing-treadmill that he would spend his lifetime trying to dismount. The tax code allowed taxes on book advances (which were extraordinarily large in many cases) to be deferred for three years, with one-third of the resulting tax obligation payable in each of the three years following receipt of the cash.
(Review Copy provided by Publisher)
Photos are more impressive today than ever before – but they are also so easily faked that I am seldom all that impressed. Rather, I start as a photo-skeptic and, unless I can find proof that a spectacular photo is not faked, I discount its value.
That’s why the book trailer for Dancers Among Us is so much fun. The trailer shows exactly how some very interesting photos were posed and that they are both spectacular and legitimate. Dancers and fans of dance will love this one.
Take a look:
13th Book Trailer of the week in a continuing series of unusual and memorable book trailers spotted by Book Chase (it’s been two weeks this time around).
|Robert and Rich Kalich|
I have a lot to do before I leave for Farmers Branch (near Dallas) in the morning for a really great two-day bluegrass music festival, but I want to give a little taste of the kind of music I will be enjoying up there.
This first group calls themselves The Traveling McCourys because they are essentially Del McCoury’s band, and two of the members – including lead vocalist Ronnie McCoury – are his sons. In this video the guys are performing one of my favorite Del McCoury songs, “A Deeper Shade of Blue.” Ronnie sounds so much like his father that it’s kind of eerie, sometimes.
Even Rhonda Vincent, the Queen of Bluegrass, is on the bill. Here’s Rhonda and the Rage performing one of her signature songs, “All American Bluegrass Girl.”
And, finally, here’s a taste of The Gibson Brothers with “Walkin’ West to Memphis.”
I have some light packing to do and need to charge all kinds of batteries for my sound recorder, video camera, and two still cameras. The weather should be great, with lots of sunshine and relatively cool temperatures. I. Cannot. Wait.
|Chapter 24 illustration (untitled) by Ann Hamilton (2002)|
Chapters 20-22, “All Astir,” “Going Aboard,” and “Christmas Day,” respectively, finally see Ishmael and Queequeg on the open sea as they begin what they hope will be a successful three-year whaling adventure. Everything required for the journey is now on board the ship, having been topped off by the little extras personally carried aboard by Captain Bildad’s sister, known as Aunt Charity. Charity owns a share of the ship and its profits and has more than “charity” in mind. She wants this voyage to be a successful one as much as Ahab and his crew want it. And so, on a cold and icy Christmas day, the voyage has finally begun.
George Cotkin notes in Dive Deeper that Bulkington, a respected whaler first encountered by Ishmael at the Spouter Inn, has Chapter 23, “The Lee Shore,” to himself. Admittedly, this is a very short chapter, but because it is the last mention in the book of Bulkington, scholars believe that Melville must have had bigger plans for the character at some stage of plotting Moby-Dick. Some, in fact, believe that he was to be the book’s central character before Melville decided to place Captain Ahab in that role.
Chapters 24 and 25 (“The Advocate” and “Postscript”) are interesting because of the spirited defense that Ishmael offers of the history of whaling and the good character of those who pursue that occupation. Cotkin uses his own notes to these chapters to share history of a different nature: that of Led Zeppelin drummer John Bonham whose most famous drum solo is part of a song titled “Moby Dick.” As Cotkin says, “Alas, neither Ahab nor Bonham was able to vanquish the demons that haunted them.” I am learning quickly that Dive Deeper is full of such surprises – and not at all the dry read one might, at first glance, expect.
My favorite reader from this group of chapters (and it is a close call because this is an outstanding group) is Irish actress and stage director Fiona Shaw who reads Chapter 25.
|Backlist Books (Massillon, Ohio)|
I’ve made it pretty obvious that, for the most part, I am not a big fan of e-books. My biggest gripe about them involves the outrageous ownership restrictions placed on e-books by major publishers, including the ridiculous use-restrictions placed on the world’s public libraries. And then, of course, I find reading an e-book to be an immensely inferior experience to reading a printed book…not even close. But that is old news here on Book Chase.
There is, however, one use of e-books for which I enthusiastically applaud e-book publishers – publishing from backlists. Thousands and thousands of wonderful books, many of which probably never saw even close to 10,000 printed copies, disappear every year. Unless a reader stumbles upon them in used-book bookstores or during eBay searches, they remain dead to the world. Not every great book is written by an established, or commercially popular, author. Generally, the best books are buried by enormous piles of the same popular trash that covers the shelves and floors of used-book stores everywhere. James Patterson books, most of which are worthy of little more than doorstop-duty, are everywhere. Good books are the needles lost in the James Patterson haystack.
Most publishers are sitting on backlist goldmines if they will just wake up and mine them. Publishers already doing so don’t seem to be doing enough to get the word out about their efforts. Dedicated readers will jump all over the chance to discover the books they missed from the eighties, nineties, and oughts. If – and this is a big if – publishers will price them reasonably. After all, publisher cost will be minimal because readers will not demand major formatting changes (they will probably prefer seeing the original formatting, actually) other than to fit them to the electronic page. Authors should be happy to accept the windfall this represents, so royalty negotiation could be relatively easy.
This can be a win-win situation in which all sides benefit. I would love access to noir mysteries from the fifties and sixties, literary fiction from the last fifty years, and out-of-print science fiction. The possibilities are endless.
The Guardian newspaper’s book section mentions two publishing ventures that are already moving in this direction: Bello a Macmillan imprint and the Bloomsbury Reader imprint. I suspect there are others, hopefully some of them by American publishers, but I have yet to find them. Holler at me, publishers…I’m listening.
I’ll buy a ton off the backlists at $3 to $5 a pop. Let’s do it.
|Illustration for Chapter 16 by London artist Alison Turnbull|
Chapter 16 (The Ship) and Chapter 18 (The Mark) introduce two memorable characters: Captains Peleg and Bilbad. These two elderly Quaker gentlemen are in charge of the Pequod while she is in port being readied for the upcoming three-year whale hunt which Ishmael and Queequeg hope to join. Even though they share the same religion, and responsibility for preparing the whaler for the voyage, the two men are very different in temperament. One is rather pious – and stingy. The other often offends his old friend with colorful language and outrageous behavior but is more generous in allotting profit-shares to the crew.
In Chapter 18, Ishmael brings Queequeg back to the ship, as he promised the captains he would, so that Queequeg can be added to the ship’s roster. The old men have immediate misgivings about adding a heathen like Queequeg to the crew, but eagerly sign him up after quick display of the islander’s harpooning skills.
|Chapter 16 reader, Chad Harbach|
Chad Harbach, Chapter sixteen’s reader, made a big splash last year with his debut novel The Art of Fielding, a novel about college life and relationships as seen through the eyes of several members of the school’s baseball team – an excellent novel. His delivery of this long chapter is delivered in a rather deadpan, but easily followed, tone.
George Cotkin, in Dive Deeper, notes that Melville named his whaling ship after the Pequot Indians, the first American Indian tribe to be targeted for extermination by settlers of the New World. Is Melville telling his readers that the Pequod is as doomed as its namesake tribe? It will not be the last such hint from Melville before the ship finally leaves port to meet its destiny.
Chapter 17 (The Ramadan) offers another glimpse of Queequeg’s religious beliefs – beliefs Ishmael claims to respect, in one breath, and make light of in the next. Try as he might to be openminded about such an alien culture, Ishmael struggles mightily to achieve his goal. Ismael, however, displays his true feelings about his new friend when he frets that Queequeg cannot possibly survive the rigid, stationary posture he assumes for an entire day of Ramadan fasting.
Chapter 19 (The Prophet) offers the next hint of a bad ending for the Pequod, and all associated with her, when an old sailor confronts Ismael and Queequeg as they leave the boat – and again the next morning when they return to board the vessel. Ishmael, already filled with doubts about the mysterious Captain Ahab he still has not seen, does not want to hear it. But his efforts to run off the old man are in vain, and he cannot help hearing things that make him even more uneasy about the captain than he already was. Ominously, this mysterious prophet (as pointed out in Dive Deeper) shares a name with the biblical prophet Elijah, giving added weight to what he has to say.
The drawing of New Zealand Chief Ko-Towatowa, on the right, is thought by some to be an inspiration for Melville’s Queequeg. It was used to illustrate an 1845 book pertaining to a “voyage of exploration” conducted by an American ship a few years earlier.
(You will notice that I do not make reference to readers of Chapters 17-19: Warren Cole, David Coslett, and Mark Sealey, respectively. Even though these names do not seem to be particularly common, I have been unable to determine which person by those names are working on this project.)
Tell you what, guys, if the short stories in Marie-HelenSafe as Houses are half as funny and cool as this book trailer, it is going to be good. God, was Bob Dylan ever really that young? My search for a copy begins…right…now.
(What could be better than this for the 2000th blog post in the life of Book Chase?)
I reviewed The End of Your Life Book Club back on September 19 and expressed my admiration of the book. That’s why I’m pleased to see that the book’s publisher is making an effort to get it the attention it deserves – especially from the very people who read a few book blogs every day -us. This one is a perfect fit for people like us.
While this book trailer is not one of my Book Trailers of the Week, it does a great job in explaining the concept behind the book. So, do take a look:
You might also enjoy getting better acquainted with the book’s author here:
“They (books) were Mom’s companions and teachers. They had shown her the way. And she was able to look at them as she readied herself for the life everlasting that she knew awaited her. What comfort could be gained from staring at my lifeless e-reader?”
|Chapter 13 art by New York artist Alexis Rockman|
“We cannibals must help these Christians.” – Queequeg, Chapter 13
Chapter 13 (The Wheelbarrow) is one in which Melville uses humor to make a point about cultural differences and how anyone can be confused by those differences.
Ismael and Queequeg are making their way to Nantucket in search of a whaling ship whose crew they can join together. Soon after they board the packet schooner that will carry them there, an unfortunate fellow makes the mistake of ridiculing Queequeg’s appearance within range of the cannibal’s hearing. Queequeg, justifiably offended by the man’s rudeness, proceeds to teach him a lesson he will never forget – and then wins his eternal gratefulness.
Melville has Queequeg tell Ishmael two stories that vividly illustrate the kind of foolishness that can happen to a person immersed in a culture not his own. The first recounts Queequeg’s reaction to the first wheelbarrow he ever set eyes on; the second is about a white man attending a wedding on Queequeg’s island. Our cannibal, it seems, is a very wise man.
This chapter is wonderfully read by Mama Tokus, a British singer/poet who breathes real life into Melville’s words. She does so well with the reading, in fact, that I plan to learn more about her soon.
Chapter 14 (Nantucket) sees our newly minted friends arrive in Nantucket, a city which in Ishmael’s mind is still the most important whaling city in the world. Ishmael is still impressed with this “ant-hill in the sea,” but as George Cotkin points out in Diving Deeper, Nantucket is already past its prime and will never again be what it was.
This short, two-page chapter is read by Nathanial Philbrick, the American author who won the National Book Award in 2000 for In the Heart of the Sea: The Tragedy of the Whaleship Essex.
Chapter 15 (Chowder) describes the Nantucket lodging that Queequeg and Ishmael snare for themselves – an inn that serves a quality and quantity of clam and cod chowder that a hungry man should not be reading about. The innkeeper’s wife is in charge of The Try Pot inn upon their arrival, but she is more than a match for Queequeg, insisting that he leave his harpoon downstairs as she allows no weapons in the sleeping quarters. Before retiring for the night, in anticipation of finding themselves a whaling ship in the morning, the pair order bowls of both chowders for their breakfasts.
Sadly, I cannot determine which Peter Burgess reads this chapter, too many legitimate possibilities, but he does not sound British.
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