01 April 2010

Christmas Reading: In Appreciation of Books

I read a lot and am thankful for friends that feed my habit. Unfortunately, the past few years, I was engaged in a research project that entailed reading hundreds of books and articles, and thousands of pages of government documents and archived correspondence. My "reading for pleasure" took a big hit. The project is now largely completed and I've had a chance to get into those Christmas gifts.

Sir Edward Grey's Fly Fishing (1899) was a gift from Andy Wilson, my old friend from grad school, a history professor with Keene State in New Hampshire, and a serious aficionado of fine, old books like this:

Although 100+ years old, the book was brand new in the sense that it had never been read! How do we know this? Unopened pages--i.e. the pages were folded and bound, but the edges never cut open:

In addition to many good fishing stories for fly fishermen who love trout fishing as I do, the book is a fine example of the printer's art, with yummy color plates of salmon flies:

Trout flies:

Lovely sketches (published back in the day when anglers didn't feel guilty for killing a mess of trout!):

And photographs:

Also of historical interest is a nice copy of Foxfire 5 (1979) edited by Eliot Wiggington, a gift from Don Kieffer, another old friend and a denizen of upstate New York. This book in the Foxfire series is devoted to "ironmaking, blacksmithing, flintlock rifles, bear hunting, and other affairs of plain living:"

It will teach you how to build a forge:

Sing a hunting song ("The Hunters of Kentucky"):

Or shoot a bear while playing a banjo and singing a hunting song:

My young friend Ben Carter is working on the other end of a major gap in my knowledge--the world of graphic literature. He started me out with Alan Moore & Dave Gibbons Watchmen (1986-87):

Although there is plenty of narrative, the graphics carry much of the story, in some cases with few or no words:

As a postmodern novel, Watchmen is a delightful alternate history of 20th century America, and I recommend it highly: an over the hill gang of Superheroes try to stop WW III while a comic-book-within-the-comicbook tells a sort of Moby Dick meets Robinson Cursoe story. Great fun, with more than its fair share of profound philosophical questions and insights.

Ben's sister, Chelsea Carter, is trying to ease me out of my William Faulkner-Thomas Pynchon-Cormac McCarthy fixation with Charles de Lint Someplace to be Flying (1998):

 As urban fantasy, Someplace to be Flying fits in perfectly with my recent interest on human animal - nonhuman animal communication. I haven't figured out yet whether the war between the Raven People and Coyote People is necessarily something that Human People ought to get involved in, but it's a great ride!

Thanks be to good friends & fine books!


troutbirder said...

A great little tale and even better, a turn to book reviews. Although history and biography now rate at the top of my current preferences, omniverous has always been my basic reading mode. That's why I started a second blog a year ago. I hope you'll put up more reviews as time allows...

Should Fish More said...

In sporting books I recommend an author from the east of us, the painter Russell Chatham, for his book of essays "Dark Waters". Also a nearby neighbor of his, Thomas McGuane, who has a couple books that are worth reading. Steve Raymond, a Seattle author has a great book on fishing for Kamloops rainbows, he wrote it over a period of months at Hihume Lake, in a cabin run by Circle W ranch, north and west of Kamloops. I have some of these, let me know if you want to borrow them.

Megaladon said...

I really love Faulker, McCarthy and Pynchon, but have really been eating up Haruki Murakami lately. You might try the Wind Up Bird Chronicles or Hard Boiled Wonderland and the End of the World.

Cutthroat Stalker (Scott C) said...

Wow, too cool with the Sir Edward Grey book! I too love those sketches found in the old fly fishing books. Foxfire brings back some great memories. My day had a bunch of those and I remember looking through them as a kid (I think he had the first 4 or 5 of them). Book-giving friends are a rare treat!