Thursday, June 24, 2010

EVENT: New Philadelphia Poets LIVE! Saturday

On this Saturday evening, June 26th, members of the poetry collective New Philadelphia Poets will be reading at the Green Hand Bookshop. Additionally guitarist Jeff Brennan will be performing songs. The event is free!

WHAT: New Philadelphia Poets live poetry reading!
WHEN: Saturday, June 26, 5:30pm
WHERE: The Green Hand Bookshop, 661 Congress Street, Portland ME 04101
COST: Free!
FMI: Call the shop at (207)450-6695

You can RSVP online at the Facebook event page:

The New Philadelphia Poets ( is currently composed of nine members: Debrah Morkun, Patrick Lucy, Sarah Heady, Angel Hogan, Matthew Landis, Carlos Soto Roman, Marion Bell, Jamie Townsend, and Gregory Bem. Based throughout the city of Philadelphia, the group is always rearranging its perspectives and fluctuating in its activities.

NPP’s primary focus is on arranging events that encourage the poetic culture of Philadelphia and welcome the influx of traveling writers and artists in a diverse spectrum of venues. Recent events have included Reckoning the Decade at the Bowery Poetry Club in New York, where NPP presented a retrospective on the first decade of the 21st century, and Invisible Keepsakes, an alchemical carnival put on in Isaiah Zagar’s Magic Gardens on South Street in Philadelphia during the 2009 Philly Fringe Festival.
Individual Performer Information:
Jeff Brennan comes from many places and has many homes, but currently lives in the Northern Liberties neighborhood of Philadelphia. He went to Roger Williams University where he experienced an existential decapitation via the academic scythe, and then moved to New York and suffered harsh employment conditions in every borough. Now in the City of Brotherly Love, he works with the estranged staff of the Philadelphia International Airport. He maintains his sanity in this madness by selling books about dysfunctional families, writing short fiction on the desert, dogs, and mothers, and by composing albums that comment on the destructive force of escalator life and pharmaceutical determinism.

Sarah Heady grew up in New York's Hudson Valley and moved to Philadelphia in 2007, after graduating from Oberlin College with degrees in art history and creative writing. She has been writing and producing events with the New Philadelphia Poets ever since, including the recently-birthed Jubilant Thicket series in South Philly she has started with Debrah Morkun, which features poets of all types and wine from the Philadelphia region. She is currently working on a poetic project centered around abandoned American spaces, Ohio and Bruce Springsteen. Sarah's day job consists of doing incredibly boring tasks for an incredibly cool organization, the City of Philadelphia Mural Arts Program. She likes to bike around the city and lose herself in nostalgia for American artifacts tossed aside by others. Ask her about the theme park.

Gregory Bem was born in Illinois, grew up in Gorham, Maine, lived in Rhode Island for a minute, and now finds his home in an ex-teddy bear factory in central Philadelphia. The screams of faux bear birth are loud and uncomfortable. Four days a week he works as an academic support aide at Olney High School West in North Philadelphia, which has the worst attendance and strongest academic failure in the city. The other three days are spent performing community service projects throughout the city, and working at Reading Terminal Market, the country’s largest covered urban market, as a gourmet grocery clerk. He’s an advocate for exploring urban decay, believes in the happiness of baking, runs Lone Byte Presson and off line, and with the New Philadelphia Poets hosts events and initiatives all over Philadelphia.

Debrah Morkun is one of the founding members of the New Philadelphia Poets. After hopscotching across the country in search of nameless wonders in places like San Francisco and New York City, Debrah aligned herself with the stars over Philadelphia. She currently lives in the Fishtown neighborhood with all the old ghosts and poets, and teaches college courses at a variety of local colleges and universities, but can be seen in many realms seeking out memory tapes, exploring structures of abandonment, and trying to find the historical heart and soul of American fortune, misfortune, and tradition. Her first full-length book of poems, Projection Machine, was released by BlazeVox Books in April 2010. She currently curates series and events with a community of others and is collecting inspiration for her current project, Hera Calf (working title). Says Debrah, “For this project I have a palette of influences, including The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, National Geographic Guide to American Railroads, abandoned Detroit, Cleveland, Frick's Lock, Chippewa Lake Park, etc. Early Rock 'N Roll, auctioneers, train schedules, Detroit Techno, POP! art, amusement parks, Arthur Miller's The Price, nostalgia. Tall Tales, John Chapman, Brother Jonathan, Old Nick, Samuel Wilson, John Henry. Motown. Memory Tapes. Documentary folklore.”

Review: A Dark Matter

“No more than a dark shimmer in the air.” --Howard “Hootie” Bly

A Dark Matter is Peter Straub’s latest novel. Don’t let the fact that his work is classified as horror scare you away. This categorization glosses over the fact that in reality Straub writes speculative fiction of a highly literate nature, with a special focus on the shadows, which is true in this case and in past novels such as Shadowland.

As A Dark Matter opens, Lee Harwell is in search of his past. More correctly, he is in search of the past of his wife and friends, who experienced something one night in 1966 that they never explained to him, never let him in on, and never shared, though it shaped their lives and his from that night on.

In the mid 1960s, the ripples of world change were striding across the American landscape. There were those who adroitly gauged the effects of the growing social unrest and seized upon that wave. One of these was Spencer Mallon, a young adventurer guru, who swept into Madison, Wisconsin, and wowed his way into the hearts, minds, pantries and bedrooms of a series of young students.

All that talk of heady epiphanies ended on a night in mid-October, leaving behind Lee’s friends, forever altered, and another student’s mangled body in a field. There had been a transformation, as Mallon promised, but it wasn’t what any of them had expected.

Four decades later, Lee tries to put the pieces back together again, one person at a time.

Peter Straub’s books hold for me a certain type of enchantment, an allure that makes it difficult to nail down in my own words an accurate impression of his work. It has to do with mystery. It has to do with fleeting impressions and momentary glimpses that make you wonder. What was that about? Where did it come from? Did I really see that? Did I really hear that? Would a “yes” in answer to those last two questions really be a good thing?

Perhaps this quote from Lewis Carroll’s Through the Looking Glass will make matters a little clearer:
`The name of the song is called "Haddocks' Eyes."'
`Oh, that's the name of the song, is it?' Alice said, trying to feel interested.
`No, you don't understand,' the Knight said, looking a little vexed. `That's what the name is called. The name really is "The Aged Aged Man."'
`Then I ought to have said "That's what the song is called"?' Alice corrected herself.
`No, you oughtn't: that's quite another thing! The song is called "Ways and Means": but that's only what it's called, you know!'
`Well, what is the song, then?' said Alice, who was by this time completely bewildered.
`I was coming to that,' the Knight said. `The song really is "A-sitting On A Gate": and the tune's my own invention.'
You see?

I’m pretty sure I need to sit down and read the book again, because I want to. It’s been a few months now since I finished reading it for this review. It’s taken me that long to try to really process how the book captured me (and I still can’t quite do it). A lot of other reviewers have complained about the lack of oomph in the ending. I can see that – I think I myself felt a little let down, after the highs of the story itself. But if Straub really was doing an experiment with this book, in which time and perception weave their layers as bizarrely as they do in real life and its memories, why does the story really need an ending?

“You’ll see. Everything stops when you open the door.” --Spencer Mallon

Thursday, June 17, 2010

New Arrivals - 6/17/10

Lots of P.G. Wodehouse, a bunch of mysteries from Soho's excellent authors, a couple of Agatha Christie hardcovers, and some tasty cookbooks!

Heart Of A Goof by P.G. Wodehouse
King Of The Golden River by John Ruskin, illustrated by Iassen Ghiuselev (Victorian fairy tale)
Legend Of Sigurd and Gudrun by J.R.R. Tolkien
Meet Mr Mulliner by P.G. Wodehouse
Mr. American by George MacDonald Fraser
Mulliner Nights by P.G. Wodehouse
Very Good, Jeeves by P.G. Wodehouse Young Men In Spats by P.G. Wodehouse

Alive In Necropolis by Doug Dorst
Chorister At The Abbey (Norbridge Chronicles Murder Mysteries) by Lis Howell Curse Of The Pogo Stick by Colin Cotterill (Soho)
Deep Night by Caroline Petit
A Grave In Gaza (Omar Yussef Mysteries) by Matt Rees (Soho)
Headhunters: An Inspector Hen Mallin Investigation by Peter Lovesey (Soho)
Hurting Distance by Sophie Hannah
Murder At The Vicarage by Agatha Christie
Murder Of Roger Ackroyd by Agatha Christie
No More Dying by David Roberts
Siren Of The Waters (Commander Jana Matinova Investigation) by Michael Genelin (Soho)
State Counsellor: Further Adventures of Fandorin (Erast Fandorin 6) by B. Akunin
Year Of The Dog: A Detective Jack Yu Investigation by Henry Chang (Soho)

Baker's Odyssey: Celebrating Time-Honored Recipes from America's Rich Immigrant Heritage by Greg Patent, Dave McLean, and Kelly Gorham (cookbook)
Good Spirits: Recipes, Revelations, Refreshments, and Romance, Shaken and Served with a Twist by A. J. Rathbun (cocktail recipes)
Luscious Creamy Desserts by Lori Longbotham (cookbook)

Enigma Of The Knights Templar: Their History and Mystical Connections by Marilyn Hopkins (pictorial history)
Far Out: 101 Strange Tales From Science's Outer Edge by Mark Pilkington
Kali by Sarah Caldwell
The Last Fish Tale by Mark Kulansky (Gloucester MA history)
Monster Of Florence by Douglas Preston and Mario Spezi (true crime)
Spellbound By Beauty: Alfred Hitchcock and His Leading Ladies by Donald Spoto

Monday, June 14, 2010

EVENT: Hidden History of Maine author!

WHAT: Author appearance
WHEN: Saturday, June 19, 2010 at 12:00 noon
WHERE: The Green Hand Bookshop, 661 Congress Street, Portland, ME
FMI: call (207)450-6695 or email michelle.souliere[at]

Come to the Green Hand Bookshop for a reading and signing of the Hidden History of Maine by Harry Gratwick!

The history of the Pine Tree State would be bare but for the contributions of hardy and impassioned individuals—generals, governors, settlers and activists whose lives of leadership make up the story of Maine’s “hidden history.”

Author Harry Gratwick creates intimate and detailed portraits of these Mainers, from the controversial missionary of Sebastien Rale to Woolwich native William Phips, whose seafaring attacks against French Canada earned him the first governorship of the Massachusetts Bay Colony.

Gratwick also profiles inventors who “challenged the assumptions of [their] time and place,” such as Robert Benjamin Lewis, an African American from Gardiner who patented a hair growth product in the 1830’s, and Margaret Knight, a York native who defied nineteenth-century sexism to earn the nickname “the female Edison.”

Discover over four hundred years of Maine’s history through the tales of its unique residents, from soprano Lillian Nordica, who left Farmington to become the most glamorous American opera singer of her day, to slugger George “Piano Legs” Gore, the only Mainer to have ever won a Major League batting championship.

Harry Gratwick is a lifelong summer resident of Vinalhaven Island in Penobscot Bay. He is an active member of the Vinalhaven Historical Society and has written extensively on maritime history for two Island Institute publications, the Working Waterfront and the Island Journal. Harry and his wife, Tita, spend the winter months in Philadelphia. Hidden History of Maine is his second book.

Friday, June 11, 2010

Marguerite Henry's horse books

When I was a kid, I went on a tear through the series of horse books that Marguerite Henry wrote. Between the stellar illustrations inside and out, and the remarkably clear descriptions of horse life and human drama within their pages, these books captivated me. Beyond her books and the horse classics, like Black Beauty and the Black Stallion books, I never felt inclined to read any other horse books. And in all honesty, her books seized me far more than the other equine classics did.

To this day, I still remember story elements from them.

We have a stack of the nice vintage oversized editions of a number of her books now in stock at the shop, and hopefully they will go on to delight a new generation of readers from here!

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Review: Arcadia Falls

I was pleasantly surprised to find that Carol Goodman’s latest book, Arcadia Falls, is an excellent page-turner. It opens by introducing us to Meg Rosenthal and her daughter Sally, as they leave behind a life that ended abruptly with the premature death of Jude, Sally's father and Meg's husband. Used to the affluent and high-profile environment that his financial trading job had demanded, they had been blissfully unaware of the debts he had incurred to maintain their lifestyle, and of Jude’s treacherous survivalist maneuvers which included cashing out Sally's college fund to cover the failing hedge fund investments of his clients.

Faced with these facts after his death, they had to sell everything, from their Great Neck house to almost the last stick of furniture they owned. Meg is forced to jumpstart her academic career, which had been suspended in order to start their family. This brings them to Arcadia Falls, a small upstate New York town that is home to the Arcadia School, once a breakaway artist colony, now a boarding school that challenges youngsters to explore their talents and develop their minds away from the crush of the urban world. Meg is to begin teaching a class in folklore to the students, and Sally is allowed to enroll and continue her schooling in the midst of a strange environment and a new set of peers.

However, it was not these elementary plot lines that drew me into the story. The allure for me is in the thread of darkly beautiful folklore and fairy tales woven into and around the school, its history, and its current day events. The tales, told within the storyline of the Rosenthals’ encounter with the school, are exquisite and challenging. Published by the school’s founders, Lily Eberhardt and Vera Beecher, in order to help fund the shift from artist colony to academy, the tales are magic, pure and simple. When retold on the school’s grounds, where apple orchards lift their gnarled arms to the sky in imitation of the storyteller’s sentient woods, and rumors of a white-gowned ghost that haunts a treacherous gorge recall other tales, they become all the more real.

Author Carol Goodman creates Arcadia Falls so well that it truly exists, a living symbiosis of trees, rocks, old barn studios and school classrooms, peopled by the students and teachers of today and their inescapable ties to the artists of the past. As Meg explores this world, so do we. From secret panels in the old school cottage she lives in, to luminous allegorical paintings, to collections of old letters and school documents, and chance conversations with artists who are now residents in the small town nearby, bit by bit the story comes to light.

What is made abundantly clear is that nothing is simple, or simply explained, when humans are involved. Our need to create stories, and to bind or sever our ties with the past, overrides common sense, overrides what others might see as the truth, and rewrites history with every breath.

This book will appeal to mystery-lovers, fans of folklore and fairy tales, those curious about the fabled havens of artists, and students of the human condition in general. It also reminded me of certain enchanting elements that attracted me to the book Garden Spells, by Sarah Addison Allen, an atypically fluffy read for me. While this is the first of Goodman's books I've read, it is likely that I'll finally pick up some of her other books to read now that I've had such luck with this one. She is best known for The Lake of Dead Languages and The Night Villa.

Saturday, June 5, 2010

Insel Bucherei treasure trove

The other weekend I picked up a stack of slim, intriguing volumes in German.
Printed in Leipzig by Insel Verlag under their Insel Bucherei (Island Library) imprint in the early part of the 20th century, this series of books went on to inspire the well-known and highly collectible series of similarly designed King Penguin book series.

Insel Verlag began by exclusively printing exquisitely crafted high-cost books. However, with the start of the Insel Bucherei series in 1912, they recognized the need to produce affordable and attractive editions designed to appeal to customers with more modest financial means.
Book lovers still rejoice over these attractive volumes, which focused on shorter works by well-known authors. Subject matter ranges from fiction, to poetry, to art, to scholarly and philosophical texts. Some have quite lovely illustrations, and many are graced with the heavy script of old-fashioned German text.
For those curious about the equally delightful King Penguin books, there is a terrific gallery at Stella and Rose's Books here:

The stack I acquired shows a wide range of wear. A common issue with these volumes is the loss of the spine. Chipping, yellowing, and soiling are evident in many cases as well. However, a small number of the books in this particular lot are remarkably free of wear.

The Green Hand, as of this morning, has the following titles in stock. Please, please, please -- forgive my very hack German translations! Titles with an asterisk next to the volume number are in excellent condition. With the exception of the first listing, all texts are in German, many of them in old blackletter type.

#9 Vittoria Accoramboni: Les Cenci (in French, Insel Bucherei's Pandora No. 9) by Frederic de Stendhal

#67 Dialog vom Marsyas by Hermann Bahr (a philosophical discussion of art)

#74 Portugiesische Briefe: Die Briefe der Marianna Alcoforado (Portugese Letters) by Rainer Maria Rilke

#76* Herodias by Gustave Flaubert

#81 Von Gottes: und Liebfrauenminne: Lieder aus Deutscher Mystik (Of God and Love of Our Lady: Songs from German Mysticism, translated into modern German) by H. A. Grimm

#88 Dantons Tod (Danton's Death: A Drama) by Georg Buchner

#113 Gottfried Keller by Ricarda Huch

#210* Das Gericht des Meeres: Erzahlung (The Court of the Sea) by Gertrud von le Fort

#220 Die Ballade vom Zuchthaus zu Reading (The Ballad of Reading Gaol) by Oscar Wilde

#221* Bilder des Todes (Images of Death) by Hans Holbein (illustrated)

#222 Die Vierundzwanzig Sonette der Louize Labe (The 24 Sonnets of Louize Labe) by Rainer Maria Rilke

#224 Aus dem Leben eines Taugenichts: mit Doppeltitel von Emil Preetorius (The Life of a Scoundrel) by Joseph von Eichendorff

#241 Beethovens Personliche Aufzeichnungen (Beethoven's Letters and Personal Records) collected and explained by Albert Leitzmann

#250 Die Kleine Passion (The Little Passion) by Albrecht Durer (illustrated)

#251 Das Evangelium und die Briefe S. Johannis: In der letzten Fassung der Lutherschen Ubertragung (The Gospel and Letters of St. John, Low Lutheran translation)

#252 Sonette aus dem Portugiesischen: Ubertragen von Rainer Maria Rilke (Sonnets from the Portugese) by Elizabeth Barret-Browning

#257 Fragmente (Fragments) by Novalis

#257* Gedichte und Gedanken (Poems and Thoughts) by Novalis

#260* Aus dem Irrgarten der Liebe: Verliebte, launenhafte, moralische und andere Lieder und Gedichte (From the Labyrinth of Love) by Otto Julius Bierbaum

#263* Malerei und Zeichnung: Mit einer Federzeichnung Klingers (Painting and Drawing with a Pen) by Max Klinger

#269 Uber die Aufgaben des Geschichtschreibers (On the Task of the Historian) by Wilhelm von Humboldt

#287* Ehegeschichten (Getting Married: short stories) by August Strindberg

#295* Lucinde (Lucinde: A Romance) by Friedrich Schlegel

#300 Einfuhrung in Die Phanomenologie des Giestes (Introduction to the Phenomenology of Spirit) by Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel

#312* Die Betenntnisse des Hochstaplers Felix Krull (The Confession of Felix Krull) by Thomas Mann

#315 Von dem Fischer un Syner Fru (The Fisherman and His Wife: A Fairy Tale) by Philipp Otto Runge with 7 illustrations by Marcus Behmer

#452* Das Hausbuch: Bilder aus dem deutschen Mittelalter (The House Book: Images from the German Middle Ages) by an Unknown Master (illustrated)

#454* Vom Baum des Lebens: Ausgewahlte Gedichte (From the Tree of Life: Selected Poems) by Hermann Hesse

#457* Die Schellenkappe: Alte Deutsche Schwanke aus den Sammlungen des 16 Jahrhunderts (The Cap and Bells: Old German Tales in Verse [farces?] from the collections of the 16th Century) selected by Severin Ruttgers

#464* Schiller und Seine Welt (Schiller and His World) by Eugen Kuhnemann

#469 Quellen des Lebens (Source of Life: Outlines of a World View) by Richarda Huch (this volume is the only paperback in the lot)

#477* Deutsches Handwerk im Mittelalter: bilder aus dem hausbuch der Mendelschen Zwolfbruderstiftung in Nurnberg (German Craftsmanship in the Middle Ages: images from the house book of the Mendelschen Zwolfbruderstiftung in Nurnberg) with a foreword by Frederich Bod [NOTE: the Mendelsche Zwolfbruderstiftung was a home to old, feeble, or sick craftsmen]

#478* Schein und Sein: Gedichte (Illusion and Reality: Poems) by Wilhelm Busch

#482* Goethes Spruchweisheit: Spruche in Prosa (Goethe's Proverbial Wisdom: Proverbs in Prose)