Welcome to Bookchat! Where you can talk about anything; books, plays, essays, and audio books. You don’t have to be reading a book to come in, sit down, and chat with us.

This year the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune have included hurricane winds, an earthquake, a pandemic, deaths of beloved friends, but also my increasingly urgent need to choose which books I want to keep, why to keep them, and what to pass along to others. Each decision takes a measure of thought and passion, so measure by measure this campaign continues.

“Shakespeare! What shall I do with this slim little paperback? It has more useful information than many volumes of scattered Cliff Notes. Methinks it belongs side by side with this hardbound single-volume of Complete Works.”

I once called my collection of books “my library,” and that was an accurate description for many years. The library increased in size by means of author signings in towns and cities we were fortunate to visit, exploring regional bookstores, large and small, oddball antique shops, thrift stores, and de facto yard sales in old Masonic Halls, gigantic malls, and neighborhood garages. How about that signed autobiography by Lawrence Welk in that nondescript backyard, or Ginger Roger’s signature amongst that heap of discards in Ellensburg, Washington?

We also corresponded with some notable celebrities, like Miss Rogers, and continued exchanging letters with authors who became friends with us while they were on the road during book tours.

cfk sent these books to me from her former TBR pile, like fortunate others at DKos, but they are useful, and belong right there on the shelf.”

We supported our local libraries by acquiring books of interest VERY cheaply, reading them, and donating them back when we were done. Of course, there were always a few keepers.

“What can I do with all these lovely volumes of Western Art? They were once necessary for my work at the art museum in Montana, but not anymore. Let’s see — I remember someone who deals in Western Americana!”

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The Hockaday Museum of Art devoted a show to frontier photographer Laton Alton Huffman of Miles City, Montana (1854-1931) who supplied many of the photos used by Mr. Remington in his New York painter’s studio after journeying westward.

Inevitably, as I ran out of shelf space, these books devolved into ‘collections’ — which were often kept in labeled  liquor store boxes according to subject(s) concerning writing projects and old favorites.

“Taken together, all this stuff about Post WWII America makes sense as Cultural History, but these books and memorabilia about Atomic Weapons, Military Aircraft, the Space Race, Howdy Doody, Early Television, Rock & Roll, and JFK need to be written up in context before they are scattered again.”

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Flub A Dub, Mayor Bluster, Howdy, Princess Judy Tyler of ‘Jailhouse Rock,’ Dilly Dally, and Clarabelle.

I am no longer able to intelligently deal with this mountain of cardboard containers, accurately curate volumes for research purposes, or properly display my most collectable books, even though I have strategically downsized several times during my travels.

“All my autographed political books should be GOING, dammit, but here I am holding back some items relating to President Obama until I get autographs by Michelle and Barack to anchor this collection.”

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We purchased these in Cranbrook, British Columbia, while traveling northward to Banff National Park on the mountainous border with Alberta, Canada.

There are metal bins in local parking lots that will take obsolete technical stuff and other unsalable items for re-use or recycling. However, I’m having fun taking quality reading material, in good shape, that will look appealing on the shelves of a classy exchange shop called the Book Garden, where I’ve declined any credit, saying that I’ll pay cash if there’s anything I want there, and always thanking them profusely for helping me. I would much rather see these things in the hands of people who know their basic value. Brothers Karamozov is at the Book Garden, with a spare bookmark intentionally inserted at the beginning of Grand Inquisitor.

I have also done my part in helping the USPS by sending books to friends in other states. Sometimes they will send some to me in return, but I ask them to just send recommendations, since I’m trying to make room for what I already own.

“This darn box is so heavy because it contains a substantive mini-library concerning classic Oriental Art and Cultures. Studying this subject literally changed the course of my life for the better, and the overall collection, beyond this box, needs further meditation before I make any decisions.”

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(L) Photo by my late mentor and ‘Monuments Man’ Dr. Lennox Tierney of Kinkaku-Ji in Kyoto, Japan, after it was rebuilt following an arson fire. (R) Historical black and white picture of the Golden Pavilion.

Eighteen cartons of autographed volumes, first editions, and art books are being assessed and cataloged by a friend of mine who has been in that business since he was a teenager. (Experienced R&BLers will guess his identity.) Anything that I’m keeping goes on a shelf in my writer’s cottage, or so I say, but there will continue to be cartons in the storage shed, organized somewhat better, fewer in number, and much more accessible – Hmm, perchance I’m dreaming.

“Cary Elwes’ memoir As You Wish is mostly about co-star Andre the Giant in The Princess Bride. It is a fun read, and I’m sure that someone might even buy it for its autograph alone. He came to Salt Lake on a book tour and spoke in a large auditorium in the 9th & 9th neighborhood. Once I got to the front of the autograph line, I congratulated Mr. Elwes for his solid acting in a movie called Comic Book Villains. He was pleasantly surprised by this unexpected compliment, and was further amazed when I informed him that one of the events which made up the movie’s plot happened in that very same neighborhood — There was a pristine Golden Age comic book collection involved, competing antique stores (before comic book shops existed,) and a sleazy burglary, but no other elements used in the film. Elwes further appreciated my news that the surrounding area looked much the same as it had 40 years earlier, and that most of the collection was sold legitimately once it came to light.”

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This one will be fun to pass along to others, as well as other cool books signed by celebrities — including Jane Seymour’s “Remember Sinbad!” inscription, and her praise for director Ray Harryhausen: “He was a genius!” she asserted with admiration.

“Comic books and publications about comics creators and creations have been with me for a long time, and I’m far from being done with this subject. Dang, but there’s still a lot of work to do!”

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Art by Alex Schomburg circa 1952. He’s also famous for ‘Captain America’ covers and ‘Good Girl’ comics.

Thank goodness there’s a museum in Columbus, Ohio, that now owns my old, much larger, comic collection, and will take these when the time comes – IF arrangements are made, items are grouped, cataloged, and made ready to transport. (Whew!)

“Those references for my current 500 page book are about to lift my coffee table right off the floor from underneath. I think I’d better invest in some transparent tote boxes, so I can see them, including some more totes for the primary materials already sorted and in storage. They can’t stay here in the living room!”

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My previous book, “The Great Salt Lake Mime Saga and Amsterdam’s Festival of Fools” devoted only 22 pages to the festival. My co-author and I are easily filling half a thousand pages about it all.

In conclusion, since there seems to be no conclusion yet — If this “play” is a “thing,” we are still in Scene One. Seems like some questions may be in order:

Do you “cull” your books like cattle from a herd? If not, how many volumes of Zane Grey or Louis L’Amour are still in your possession, cowboy?

Do you still shop book sales, in libraries and elsewhere, for short term “readers” or occasional long term “keepers?” Do you physically check out “readers” from actual libraries and take them back? (Try it – still works!)

Are “To Be” or “Not To Be” too fraught to be easily contemplated when faced with TBR* piles? (*To Be Read/To Be Recycled)

Did your collections become an actual library?

Are those books around you organized in ways you could call collections?

Are you able to own books without books owning you?

Feel free to adjust your mask, pick up one of those spare dust rags, and see if we can clean up our act together in the comments.

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9:00 PM Books So Bad They’re Good Ellid

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