Saturday, January 07, 2006

So, Private Collectors, Any of These on Your Shelves?

Some of nation's best libraries have books bound in human skin - "The best libraries then belonged to private collectors. Some were doctors who had access to skin from amputated parts and patients whose bodies were not claimed. They found human leather to be relatively cheap, durable and waterproof, Hartman said.

In other cases, wealthy bibliophiles may have acquired the skin from criminals who were executed, cadavers used in medical schools and people who died in the poor house, said Sam Streit, director of Brown's John Hay Library.

The library has three books bound in human skin -- the anatomy text and two 19th century editions of 'The Dance of Death,' a medieval morality tale.

One copy of 'The Dance of Death' dates to 1816 but was rebound in 1893 by Joseph Zaehnsdorf, a master binder in London. A note to his client reports that he did not have enough skin and had to split it. The front cover, bound in the outer layer of the epidermis, has a slightly bumpy texture, like soft sandpaper. The spine and back cover, made from the inner layer of skin, feels like suede."

What's Up with these Irish Guys?

They were already importing cosmetic from France 2300 years ago!

Top News Article | "LONDON (Reuters) - The preserved remains of two prehistoric men discovered in an Irish bog have revealed a couple of surprises --- one used hair gel and the other stood 6 foot 6 inches high, the tallest Iron Age body discovered.

'He would have been a giant...the other man was quite short, about 5 foot 2 inches,' said Ned Kelly, head of antiquities at the National Museum of Ireland.

'The shorter man appeared to attempt to give himself greater stature by a rather curious headdress which was a bit like a Mohican-style with the hair gel, which was a resin imported from France,' Kelly told BBC radio."

The Wizard of Oil

Usually I don't link to political sites, but I thought the pictures on this one were hilarious. Some people have a lot of time on their hands.

Friday, January 06, 2006

Robert E. Howard's Grave

Not so very long ago, on May 18, 1980, to be exact, James Reasoner paid us a visit in Brownwood, Texas. There's not a lot to do in Brownwood, so we took James out to Greenleaf Cemetery for a look at Robert E. Howard's grave. That's James on the left of the headstone. Angela and Allen are behind the stone, and I'm on the right. James and I look pretty much the same, but Angela and Allen look a lot older. (Click on the picture for a better look.)

And check out James's blog for some information on a big REH event on January 21.

Best and Worst List from the Arkansas Times

Arkansas Times: "Best tallywhacker
The Arkansas Democrat-Gazette began a feature story in April about a Red Cross blood drive in Searcy with this lead: “With a small prick, Three Rivers residents are asked to save a life.”

Worst tallywhacker
It was reported in November that the prude editor of the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette had discouraged headlines that included the last name of the Razorback quarterback Casey Dick. "

Thursday, January 05, 2006

The Doo-Doo Man

Lucky for you, I'm far too classy to link to an item like this: | News | The Poop | 2006-01-05 | Printable: "He said in a written statement to police that he sprinkled his own dried feces on the doughnuts at the Fiesta Mart as a kind of practical joke in retaliation for unfriendly treatment: 'They made me very angry that they showed me no respect,' he wrote. 'I decided I would play a joke on them.'"

The Cap Cod Lighter -- John O'Hara

When I was in high school, I developed a real interest in reading John O'Hara. At this late date, I have no idea why. Maybe it had something to do with the movie version of Butterfield 8. Elizabeth Taylor never looked better, believe me. At any rate, I consumed a lot of O'Hara's books, including Appointment in Samarra, Butterfield 8, and From the Terrace, along with some of the short stories. It's impossible for me to explain how excited I was when I read about the publication of Sermons and Soda Water, and I rushed to the library to be the first one in town to read it. The collection was published as three slim volumes in a slipcase, which I thought was the ultimate in coolness. I hoped that if I lived long enough and was very, very good, God would let me publish a book like that someday.

Didn't happen, of course, but that's not the point. The point is that the collection was a best seller, as was The Cape Cod Lighter, which I've been reading for a couple of days. It's a collection of stories published in 1962. The copy I have is the Bantam paperback edition, the third printing from 1969. The Random House hardcover went through five printings between November 1962 and February 1963. A short story collection. Hard to believe, right? And these aren't just short stories. They're New Yorker short stories. What in God's name was the reading public thinking? I'm sure this couldn't happen now. Tastes have changed, and hardly anybody reads O'Hara anymore. He's out of favor with the people who decide on the literary canon, and that's a shame, because he was a heck of a writer. Great insight into characters, great ear for dialogue, and he knew how to put together a story.

Even more entertaining than the stories is the introduction. O'Hara clobbers critics and talks about the importance of fiction. Great stuff.

Wednesday, January 04, 2006

New Blogger on the Block

The mild-mannered Kevin Burton Smith has started blogging, and I'm sure the blogoverse will never be the same. Check him out. Anybody who quotes Lou Reed is bound to be worth reading.

Candy Barr -- R. I. P.

Abilene Reporter News: Obituaries: "Candy Barr, famous exotic dancer, dies at age of 70

By Celinda Emison / Reporter-News Staff Writer
January 1, 2006

Candy Barr, who made headlines as a burlesque dancer and for her drug arrests before living quietly near Brownwood, died of pneumonia Friday at a Victoria hospital. She was 70.

Barr was born Juanita Dale Slusher, on July 6, 1935, in Edna.

She rose to fame in the late 1950s as a burlesque dancer at The Colony Club in Dallas. She also performed Los Angeles and Las Vegas, making her one of the most well-known exotic dancers in the country. At one point, Barr earned $2,000 a week.

Her sister, Kay Slusher Anderson, 77, of Houston, said Barr had been a recluse for the past three years, living in a small house in Morales, 11 miles north of her hometown of Edna.

''I am proud to be her sister,'' she said. ''She deserves the recognition. She was the most famous dancer ever.''

Gloria Carver (formerly Gloria Orr) was Barr's friend for more than 40 years and helped her after she moved to Brownwood.

''There will never be another one,'' she said of her friend. ''She was beautiful.''"

I lived in Brownwood when Candy Barr moved there, and I drove by her house at Lake Brownwood several times, hoping to catch a glimpse of her. Never did. She wrote poetry and self-published a collection of her work. She did a signing at the Walgreen's drugstore, and I got to see here then. She was a Texas original.

My Office

Okay, so Lee Goldberg wants to know what my office looks like. Here's what I see when I enter the room (the books, as you've probably guessed, are double-stacked). You can get a better look by clicking on the pic.

This is what I see when I look to my left when I'm sitting at the computer. More double-stacked books. I just hope Judy never finds out I posted these pics. She's embarrassed by my clutter.

This is the secondary computer, which is to my back as I write. More books (double-stacked) are on the left (or my right if I'm sitting at the primary computer).

Tuesday, January 03, 2006

Zane Grey -- Swinger

Ed Gorman has the details.

Gmail Accounts

I have invitation to gmail accounts if anybody wants one. Just send an e-mail to me here , and I'll send out the invitation.

The Savage Tales of Solomon Kane -- Robert E. Howard

This year is the centenary of Robert E. Howard's birth, and the World Fantasy Convention in Austin will have a strong REH flavor. I plan to be there, and I'm thinking about the possibility of self-publishing a novel featuring Howard that a friend and I wrote about 25 years ago. I'm not sure I'll do it, but it might be fun.

At any rate, what better time to be reading some of Howard's stories than this year? I believe some people like the Solomon Kane stories better than the ones about Conan. I'm not one of those people, but I like some of the Kane tales quite a bit, including "The Moon of Skulls" and "The Hills of the Dead." Great titles!

This volume is supposed to be as close to Howard's original words as possible. Where typescripts weren't available, the texts from Weird Tales were used. The book includes all the Kane material, including unpublished fragments. Some of that material isn't top-notch Howard, if you ask me, which nobody did, and I could have done without it. But for Howard fans, it's a must.

Monday, January 02, 2006

Deadville -- Robert F. Jones

Thirty or so years ago I bought a book strictly because of its cover. The book was Blood Sport by Robert F. Jones. I wasn't sure the contents could live up to the cover, but wow. I was bowled over. If you haven't read Blood Sport, you should give it a try. It's a sort of like Hemingway on crack, the ultimate macho surreal fantasy. I went on to read Jones's next novel, The Diamond Bogo, and then I lost track of him. I didn't forget him. I don't think that would be possible. I just didn't keep up with his career. Then, a few years ago, I spotted a couple of his novels on a remainder stack and grabbed them. Now I've finally read one.

Deadville is a western, or a historical novel, or a mountain-man book. Take your pick. It's about two brothers who seek their fortunes in the West in the 1830s. They begin by trapping beaver but soon discover a gold mine. And then things start going bad. After that the book becomes a novel of revenge and reconciliation, and the final battle is worth waiting for. If you're looking for something a little different in the western line, I highly recommend that you give Deadville a try.

Flipper in Love

I wouldn't want you to think that I'm so perverted that I'd blog about a woman marrying a dolphin. I'm only doing it because someone (*kaf* Paul Guyot *kaf*) who was ashamed to do it himself sent me the link.

Key Quote: "It's not a perverted thing. I do love this dolphin. He's the love of my life," she said Saturday, upon her return to London.

Challenge to the Reader

No, not from me. From Mystery*File. You can bet I wouldn't mention this if I hadn't met the challenge and come up with the right answer.

Sunday, January 01, 2006

This Side of Parodies

Via The Little Professor, here's a link to a wonderful anthology of parodies. The writer begins with an anagram of the author's name. The anagram is used as a title, and the author then produces a work in the author's style, based on the anagram. As for the titles themselves, I'm partial to "Hen Gonads," derived from Ogden Nash.

I Dreamed I Saw Dick Clark Last Night

We got in about 11:30, and I turned on the TV set to see if I could catch a glimpse. But surely that wasn't Dick Clark I saw. Give the guy credit for guts and gumption, more than I'll ever have, but I wish he'd stayed off the air. I don't want to think of Dick Clark like that. In fact, I'm going to pretend I didn't see anything and that I was just having a bad dream.

Cross Plains, Texas

The drought in Texas has caused a lot of problems, and wildfires are likely to cause even more if it doesn't rain soon. The little town of Cross Plains, birthplace of Robert E. Howard, was just about wiped out by fire the other day. The Howard house and museum escaped damage, but over a hundred homes were burned to ash. The REHUPA site has information on the fires and on how you can contribute money to help.