Sunday, December 11, 2011

Tennyson in brief

Just for a little Sunday fun (?), here is the first poem in Tennyson's complete Poetical Works as published by H.B. Nims in 1886.  I love the fact that I had to look up a few of the words (lintwhite, mavis).  The phrase that first drew my eye to the poem when I opened to it was "At eve the beetle boometh/Athwart the thicket lone." Surely the start of a good story if there ever was one.

A Melody.

Where Claribel low-lieth
The breezes pause and die,
Letting the rose-leaves fall:
But the solemn oak-tree sigheth,
Thick-leaved, ambrosial,
With an ancient melody
Of an inward agony,
Where Claribel low-lieth.

At eve the beetle boometh
Athwart the thicket lone:
At noon the wild bee hummeth
About the moss'd headstone:
At midnight the moon cometh,
And looketh down alone.
Her song the lintwhite swelleth,
The clear-voiced mavis dwelleth,
The callow throstle lispeth,
The slumbrous wave outwelleth,
The babbling runnel crispeth,
The hollow grot replieth
Where Claribel low-lieth.

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Water damage -- not very jolly!

I started yesterday morning thinking the worst problem I was going to have was when I'd be able to get the rest of the Christmas decorations up, and when my shipments of various goodies and stocking stuffers would be arriving via UPS and FedEx. Silly me.

When I opened the door of the shop around 10:00am after running a few errands, I immediately smelled something very strange. Next, I heard the drip drip drip that I have dreaded hearing since the first leak the shop had, just after opening in 2009. I threw down my coat and bag and ran for the back of the store, and started moving items away from the water, starting with my computer.

Having a leak in a bookstore is bad enough, but the timing couldn't have been worse. :P The weekend of Black Friday? Are you kidding me?!! This is the short window of time when customers inject the economy with a much needed last hurrah before the months of winter drought kick in, namely January, February, and March. (Luckily, as they say, "That's what we have insurance for"...)

When I came in, water was dripping copiously from the area just in front of the counter and the area behind, where my work area and backstock sits. Water was trickling out near the counter from where it was flooding the ceiling crawlspace that covers most of the front part of the shop, and through the electrical fixtures (lights and smoke detectors) and vents over the first row of bookcases near the counter, and along the back wall of the work area and the side wall. Those of you who have been in the shop know just how many books are packed into this space. Miraculously a lot of them escaped unscathed, so while there were numerous book casualties, overall it could have been much, much worse.

I was told by the Trelawny workmen that someone upstairs stuffed a bunch of washcloths into a drain. Of course. Why wouldn't you? Seems perfectly normal to me. *smacks forehead with palm* Ahh, Congress Street. You are a wonder.

The shop is likely going to have to remain closed through Tuesday at least, which really stinks. I'm being hopeful, though, and waiting to hear from the ServPro and insurance assessors that I'll be meeting with on Monday. Catching the leak early on was a huge break, and ServPro's quick arrival and setup should make a big difference. With any luck no ceiling or walls will have to be replaced, just cleaned and repainted. (You can't see it, but I'm crossing my fingers.)

Today I'm spending the day tying up loose ends, updating everyone online, and then sitting down to the not very fun task of slogging through all the boxes of damaged books that will have to be thrown in the dump. Ugh.

But I'm just happy it wasn't worse (imagine if it had happened on Monday when I wasn't here), and that I DO have insurance, and I'm going to look at it as a chance to clean and reorganize my work area. Ack!!

I owe big, HUGE thanks to a bunch of folks who helped out.

The Portland Fire Department was quick to show up and diminish the chances of an electrical fire. Not only that but they helpfully brought in a bunch of tarps to protect the books in the at-risk area. AND they even helped lug books out of the way of the leak, definitely living up to their reputation of going above and beyond no matter how small the task. I hope that was their easiest call that day. Once they got called in, the Trelawny Building work crew did their best to fix what they could and assess the damage.

I had a crew of half a dozen friends who gave up their day off to lug books and help clean up the mess, all of whom are amazing lifesavers: Ross Kearney (and it was on his BIRTHDAY!!!), Jan Wilkinson, Amie & Dave Neikirk, Brandon Kawashima, Chad and Kristine Pennell -- you guys are awesome. I know who I can call if the apocalypse ever comes!!!

Even the local businesses in the area helped out -- Local Sprouts donated much-needed buckets, the Merchant Company donated boxes for sadly demised books, and Coast City Comics/Fun Box Monster Emporium for totes for the same purpose. As Jan said, "Small Business Saturday, indeed!!"

Sunday, November 20, 2011

New arrival: Devils' Drums from Medusa Press!

Although the Green Hand is ostensibly a used bookshop, we also try to carry a few select small press items that focus on our weird fiction interest. We have just restocked all the selections from Medusa Press's catalogue, with the addition of their new release, Vivian Meik's Devils' Drums!

Devils' Drums by Vivian Meik

Since its publication in 1933 as part of the Creeps series, Vivian Meik's short story collection Devils' Drums has long been an especially desirable book for collectors of weird literature. When one considers the scarcity of the title and the fact that it hasn't been reprinted for nearly eighty years, it's easy to see why sellers ask for very high prices for worn copies.

This wouldn't mean much if the stories were not as enjoyable and as thrilling as they prove to be. Vivian Meik's best horror fiction is unconventional, and it is probably for this quality that his work will be remembered.

Devils' Drums contains his very best work.

With this book Meik found his m├ętier. Set in and around Portuguese East Africa (now Mozambique and Malawi), the ten chilling stories in Devils' Drums provide an abundance of zombies, curses, vengeful ghosts, and arcane witch doctors to appease the most pulp-hungry reader, and are a refreshing contrast to much of the British horror fiction of the early part of the twentieth century.

For this long-overdue reprint, the original contents have been augmented by two uncollected tales, and an episode from one of his autobiographical books that reads remarkably like his stories.

Douglas A. Anderson has also written a thorough, well-researched introduction to Vivian Meik's colorful career and adventurous life, with many anecdotes revealed here for the first time.

Medusa Press is proud to reissue Vivian Meik's Devils' Drums after decades of silence for a new generation to enjoy.

Edition limited to 300 copies, hardcover, 214 pages + xxx

Medusa Press is producing really wonderful little volumes that focus on too-often neglected authors and their work, including the astoundingly good fiction of John Gordon (a personal favorite of mine). Not only are they produced in small batches, like some sort of microbrew bookery, the designs they cook up are succinct and delightful. And if that wasn't enough, the quality of the bindings is solid, attractive, and engineered for enjoyable reading.

Devils' Drums features striking 5-color cover art (see above), but the design doesn't stop there. The book is bound in matching ochre yellow cloth, with additional design elements struck into the cloth in black. The endpapers inside are a rich chocolate brown.

As I started to write this post, and began casting about for some additional information about the press, I was shocked and dismayed to find no interviews with Medusa's members online. Of course, not being able to leave well enough alone (as usual), I felt compelled to drop them a line and assuage my curiosity the good old fashioned way!

Elysia Chuh juggles many roles at Medusa Press, including designer, art director, and partner at Medusa Press (as well as processing their online orders from bookshops like us!), and was kind enough to answer my questions. Her official title is "Co-owner/Book Designer,” but that seems to only cover part of the job. She also designs for other publishers, and just did a couple of covers for Centipede Press which will be coming out in January: “Night and the City” and “London Stories,” both by Gerald Kersh.

Q: When did Medusa Press start?
We started in 2004 with the publication of Frank Chigas’ The Damp Chamber, which garnered some very good press for us, and allowed us to continue forward with John Gordon’s great works.

Q: Why did Medusa Press start? What was the inspiration, the initial goal, and has that evolved at all?
I think our initial intention was to put out reprints of obscure supernatural/horror collections, along with new works that harken back to that style. I think we haven’t evolved much from where we started, but in our case, that may be a good thing! We’re very much of a traditionalist mindset (classic story structure, book design and artwork that compliments the vintage/retro look).

Q: Who was involved in starting Medusa?
Medusa Press was started by a small group of people in the San Francisco Bay Area who have a passion for the genre, and is definitely a homegrown, part-time effort, which we work on when when there is time to do so. We would love to someday get it to the level where it could be a full-time company like others who started small (Nightshade Books, PS Publishing) but that might be a far way off.

Q: Starting up a small press as the economy foundered so heavily must have thrown a fair number of roadblocks in your way. Did it make you more determined to succeed, make your decisions the result of a more careful process...?
With small press, there is always a big challenge with getting a return on investment, so you have to make sure there’s an audience for it. Short story collections don’t sell (which is why big publishers never put them out), so it’s a dying art of sorts, one we want to preserve. With small press, it’s very expensive to print the books (unless you’re doing print-on-demand), and they don’t fly off the shelves, as there is a very select group of fans and collectors of the genre that will buy them on a regular basis. Our process in choosing the right books to put out is determined by several factors, such as whether the author’s works have already saturated the market (another Poe or Lovecraft collection?), whether the rights are easily available, and whether there is some desire from readers to have this author’s works in their collections. So, when one adds all this up, it can be a slow, time-consuming process to put a book out. As an example, Meik’s Devils' Drums took eight months to put out, from start to finish.

Q: Have folks been discovering you, or are you our little secret still?
We have been getting larger interest in our press since first appearing on the scene, and now have regular customers who look forward to the next release, regardless of how long it takes us to get it out! I suppose we are a little secret still, if our still unsold inventory is any indication. It’s hard vying for space with reviewers, which ultimately gets the visibility we need.

Q: Do you have any tidbits to tantalize readers with regarding future endeavors of Medusa?
We have a few projects in various stages that we are working on, and hope to have something out soon. Look out for more reprints from horror’s golden age, along with another collection from Frank Chigas, which he is currently working on.

Friday, November 11, 2011

Come visit us @ Coast City Comicon!

This weekend we're taking part in our first convention, the Coast City Comicon (tickets are available at the door). It's being held here in Portland at the Eastland Park Hotel on Saturday and Sunday, and it should be a blast! We will have local guest authors at our table, and loads of the tasty new Philip K. Dick books on sale. Huzzah!

Our main author guest is Michael Connor, who just wrapped up his art exhibit Fuzzy Allotropes 2 here at the shop. He will be at our table throughout the weekend (when he isn't heading panel discussions at the SPACE Gallery!). Our other author is Mark LaFlamme, Lewiston native, crime beat writer for the Lewiston Sun Journal, and a terrific horror author. Mark is being held hostage by alpacas so he will only be able to visit on Sunday afternoon, starting at 2:00. I recently reviewed his short story collection Box of Lies:

Here is the schedule of events for the convention as it stands now:

8:00pm-1:00am Convention kickoff! Nerd Rave @ SPACE Gallery with DJ Pony Farm and Waranimal, plus Heloise and the Savoir Faire, plus a costume contest w/crazy prizes!

10:00-6:00 Vendor and artist tables open @ Eastland Hotel
10:00-4:00 Super Mario 3 Tournament in Dealer Room @ Eastland Hotel:
A timed, score based, big screen Super Mario 3 Tournament! Crazy prizes from Coast City Comics for winners! No Powerglove required.
10:00-6:00 Wet Paint Project demonstration @ Eastland Hotel
Guest artist Chris Dingwell will be demonstrating the dynamic painting techniques that allowed him to produce such masterworks as seen in his new book, Inside Out, copies of which will be available. Dingwell will be joined throughout the weekend by special guests who will throw their painting techniques into the mix. Prepare to be amazed.
12:00-1:30 Self Publishing 101 @ SPACE Gallery with special guests:
-- Comic artist & writer Ben Bishop (Nathan the Caveman & Lost Trail)
-- Comic artist and writer Michael Connor (Coelacanthus comic zine)
1:30-3:00 Breaking into Comics panel @ SPACE Gallery with special guests:
-- Comic artist & colorist Ray Dillon (DC’s Brightest Day & IDW’s Servant of the Bones)
-- Comic artist & creator/editor Renae De Liz (IDW’s Servant of the Bones, Womanthology, IDW’s The Last Unicorn)
-- Andy Schmidt (former Senior Editor @ IDW Comics, former Editor at Marvel Comics, founder of Comics Experience career school)
-- Comic artist, writer & editor Mort Todd (former Cracked Magazine editor-in-chief, owner of Comicfix)
--& other special guests TBA!
3:30-5:30 Deadly Spawn screening (78 min) @ SPACE Gallery, followed by Q&A w/director Ted Bohus.
4:00-6:00 Marvel vs. Capcom 3 Tournament in Dealer Room @ Eastland Hotel
6:00-9:00 Dinner break!
9:00pm Doors open for Warren Ellis: Captured Ghosts screening @ SPACE Gallery
9:00-11:00 Warren Ellis: Captured Ghosts – East Coast premiere screening
For the first time, see Warren Ellis’s work and life as seen by himself and others in this sharp new documentary by the team that brought you the critically acclaimed film Grant Morrison: Talking With Gods. This premiere screening is timed to coincide with the film’s West Coast weekend premiere at the Napa Valley Film Festival!
9:00-12:30 Doors open for Comiccon Rock & Roll After Party (21+) @ Empire. Hear the fantastic Flipsides with the Heeby Jeebies, and added attractive attraction the Whistlebait Burlesque troupe at Empire Dine and Dance, 575 Congress (corner of Forest and Congress). $5 cover or FREE w/your comicon badge!

10:00-6:00 Vendor and artist tables open @ Eastland Hotel
10:00-6:00 Super Mario 3 Tournament continues in Dealer Room @ Eastland Hotel
10:00-6:00 Wet Paint Project demonstration @ Eastland Hotel
Guest artist Chris Dingwell will be demonstrating the dynamic painting techniques that allowed him to produce such masterworks as seen in his new book, Inside Out, copies of which will be available. Dingwell will be joined throughout the weekend by special guests who will throw their painting techniques into the mix. Prepare to be amazed.
12:00-1:30 Cryptozoology in Comics discussion panel @ SPACE Gallery with special guests:
-– Perhapanauts comic artist Craig Rousseau and writer Todd Dezago
-- Loren Coleman, director of the International Museum of Cryptozoology
1:30-3:00 Philip K. Dick panel discussion @ SPACE Gallery w/giveaways from Houghton Mifflin Harcourt’s new edition of author Philip K. Dick’s books, including copies of Exegesis!
Special guests:
-- Author Alex Irvine (Marvel’s Hellstorm: Son of Satan, The Narrows, A Scattering of Jades)
-- Zack Handlen of the Onion AV Club
-- Sam Pfeifle of the Portland Phoenix
3:00-4:30 Guerilla Film-Making discussion panel @ SPACE Gallery with special guests:
-- Ted Bohus, director of Deadly Spawn
-- Rob Fitz, director of God of Vampires
-- Barry Dodd, director of Ragged Isle
-- Shawn French, director of Wrong House
-- Shoggoth Assembly members
4:30-7:00 God of Vampires screening (106 min) @ SPACE Gallery,
Followed by Q&A w/director Rob Fitz.
7:00-8:30 Grant Morrison: Talking with Gods screening @ SPACE Gallery. This critically acclaimed documentary about the life and work of comic writer Grant Morrison is crafted to feel in part much like one of his stories, and was produced in close collaboration with the author himself.

8:30-10:30 Coast City Comicon wrap-up party (21+ only) @ Geno’s Rock Club: The Geek Chorus presents that awful Captain America movie from the 70s

Game Geeks will be running Heroclix Superman Sealed Drafts all weekend, for $24 (clix included), as well as Magic The Gathering: Standard Constructed Draft tournaments. Check in at their table for more details, or you can also call their shop before the con at (207)767-1101.

Main Convention Floor:
The Eastland Park Hotel is at 157 High Street, near the major intersection of High, Congress, and Free Streets, where the Portland Museum of Art is located. Opened as a grand establishment in 1927, the hotel has maintained itself over the decades as one of Portland's most prominent hotels. The convention is being held in one of the large event halls at the hotel. If you reserve rooms at the Eastland, make sure to mention you are attending the convention for a discount.

Discussion Panels and Film Screenings:
The SPACE Gallery is at 538 Congress Street, about a block and a half from the Eastland Hotel, where the convention floor is. This venue is small and heavily involved with the very young and vibrant local arts scene, as it is located in the same block as both the Maine College of Art, the Artist Studios Building, and the Institute of Contemporary Art.

For a Google map which shows the distance between the two locations, which will allow you to get driving directions to either spot:

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

REVIEW: Mark LaFlamme's Box of Lies

This review is really, really late in coming, because I wanted to do it up right, and I didn’t want to skimp on it. Chances are you wouldn’t have known if I hadn’t told you, because chances are you haven’t heard of the book, Box of Lies, even though it’s been out a full year as I write this. You may not have even heard of the author, Mark LaFlamme, unless you live in the Lewiston-Auburn area. Why this is, I can’t explain. LaFlamme has been steadily writing and releasing excellent horror and weird fiction books since 2005, and each one has had a slightly different but equally captivating overall character. I’ve liked and admired every single one of his books I’ve read, and that’s most of them. Why one of the big publishers hasn’t picked up his contract is beyond me.

LaFlamme was born in Waterville, Maine, and continues to live here with the rest of us loonies. Clearly this has affected his brain, and has fertilized his imagination to an ungodly level. As if that wasn’t enough, for the last 17 years or so he has been writing the Lewiston Daily Sun’s crime beat, and has been the author of their “Street Talk” column for many years. The influence of this journalistic work on his fiction is a straightforward approach that takes the reader on roads that would never have been taken otherwise (one hopes).

I know in the past I’ve compared some of his storytelling skills to Stephen King’s, but truly his voice is his very own, and a strong one at that. Unmistakable and somehow honest even though what he tells us word by word is a string of lies. That, I suspect, is because he knows the truth, intimately. Working the crime beat in Lewiston, Maine, is a hard way to learn about reality, yet that is what he does, every day, every late night shift. Yet somehow within him a spark of light still lives – though perhaps that light simply serves to throw darker shadows as he speaks in these stories.

Page by page in Box of Lies, LaFlamme giveth and he taketh away. Is what we imagine real? Is that which we think real imagined instead? In "Table for One," LaFlamme turns the fancies of the paranoid mind of the restaurant diner into solid worse-than-you-could-imagine reality. In "Pepper," a visiting alien finds out what makes Earthmen tick. In "The Bender Argument," LaFlamme gives us a scenario that posits what you might get if you like philosophy a little TOO much, a story which would make one hell of a nightmare movie, a perfect Twilight Zone episode, and would make Philip K. Dick himself proud.

Those of us who spend time musing about the unknown histories of our local street people may notice that LaFlamme has the talent to transmute these blanks into new stories, such as Elsy in "Find a Penny," wherein we find out what happens when you can’t tell a bad penny from a good one until its spell is woven in intractable time. Others of us who wonder what happens in communities after the press is done reporting on the latest icy winter sport fatalities will find out perhaps more than we wanted to know in "Bone Lake," where the search goes on for the dead that have left land for the cold dark waters.

The 28 stories in Box of Lies vary in size from 5 pages to 31 pages in length, which gives a wonderfully varied pace to the collection, and subject matter ranges from the graphically horrific to the futuristically normal, which reminds me of some of my favorite horror/weird fiction authors’ collections, like Ray Bradbury and Stephen King. But when I asked him if he prefers writing scifi or horror, LaFlamme answered, “I'm constantly telling people that I don't write either. I don't set out to write horror or science fiction. It's just that my characters tend to do things that are: A) horrifying, or B) in defiance of known physical laws. I like to think of myself as a perfectly normal writer whose characters misbehave. I even tried to write a romance once. The heroine ended up dead, hacked into a dozen pieces and shipped to Venus. Not really. But that sounds pretty good. I might write that one.”

As a Mainer, his stories are often set here in the Pine Tree State, but as he succinctly explains, “The slithering freak plants in Vegetation are no more creepy because they are set in Homefield, Maine. I could have set that book in Dork, Utah and the substance of the tale wouldn't have changed a bit.” Yet somehow his home state creeps its way into the tales, for whatever reason. It may have something to do with the long winters, which form the impetus for him to create: “I absolutely hate winter. It's cold. It's dark and it seems endless. I can't ride my motorcycle much and there's no point in going to the beach at all. Maine winters are harsh and long. With all that time spent indoors, it's easy to become introspective and gloomy. Which I do. If I didn't have fictional worlds to turn to, I'd probably go into my basement and never come out.” (Maybe that’s another story for you to write, Mark!)

Like me, he has pondered why Maine does seem to stand out from other settings. “There IS something about Maine. It's rugged. It feels isolated from the rest of the world. The people here have their own way of doing things. I think that gets overplayed in Hollywood sometimes, but there's no doubt that living here is conducive to creativity. And perhaps lunacy.”

Some folks who read LaFlamme’s work in the Lewiston Sun Journal develop the idea that he’s from away, but that may be due to the fact that he, like many Mainers, has felt the need to roam. “I spent some time in the south - Charlotte, NC and Newport News, Virginia, specifically - but didn't last long down there. Like so many others, I came back. It was almost a subconscious decision, some homing mechanism I don't fully understand. Someday, I'd like to move out to California or Arizona. Could I stay out there? Remains to be seen. In the meantime, I'm here in Maine, my roots getting thicker by the hour.”

Since I couldn’t figure myself out why none of the big publishers has picked LaFlamme up yet, I asked him directly. He said he hadn’t initially planned to stick with his independent publisher, Booklocker, beyond his first book The Pink Room, but “six years and four novels later, I have no plans to go anywhere else. Why would I? Right now, I have final say on things like title, cover and layout. Once my novel gets through tweaking, editing and design, it gets to the market fairly quickly. It's out there getting read and making money instead of sitting on some big publisher's slush pile along with five hundred others. It's the golden age of indie publishing, although too few people know that right now.” For LaFlamme, going indie has allowed him to focus his time on book writing instead of spending futile hours trying to craft proposals to big publishers and agents, a gamble which doesn’t often pay off in the floodtide of material coming through their office doors each day.

LaFlamme made an observation on the newly rejuventated state of independent publishing in a growing electronic book market: “A lot of authors are turning down respectable offers from traditional publishers these days because they like the freedom and earning potential of the indie way. And yet, a lot of people still believe that authors are self-published because they have no other choice. There's still that stigma, but I suspect it won't last forever. With more and more indie authors out there, chances are good that your next favorite book will be written by one of us. Hopefully by me personally. There are plenty of authors doing extremely well just by selling their books on Kindle. Look up Amanda Hocking, Joe Konrath or John Locke to find out just how well.”

In September 2011 he released his newest book, Delirium Tremens, which lands solidly in the horror genre. This latest accomplishment from LaFlamme leads readers into the terror-laden life of alcoholic Stephen Boone, soon to die if he doesn’t cease his liquor habit. Problem is, if he stops drinking, all the dead people that visit him when he’s sober will come back. A Catch-22 erupts when spirits of a mother and daughter involve him in the details of their murder, and there is no going back. You can find this book on Amazon in either print or electronic versions, along with his prior volumes, such as Box of Lies, Dirt, and The Pink Room. You might even find copies of a few of his titles at your local independent bookshop, such as Portland's Green Hand Bookshop. You never know!

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Philip K. Dick book release!

In a rare foray into the world of new book selling, I am happy to announce that, as of today, the Green Hand has in stock the 8 newly released titles from the Philip K. Dick catalogue that Houghton Mifflin Harcourt is printing. The cover design is simple and sharp, I'm really enjoying the aesthetic they landed on for the series. For those of you tired of piecing together a mix-matched collection, here is a chance to pick up freshly minted copies in this swanky but affordable softcover edition! Come on in and check them out!

The titles I now have in stock are (as shown, L to R, top row then bottom):
The Simulacra
The Transmigration of Timothy Archer
Lies, Inc.
The Divine Invasion
The Three Stigmata of Palmer Eldritch
A Scanner Darkly
Now Wait for Last Year

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Sacred & Profane 2011

FYI folks, no advance sales of tickets this year for the Sacred & Profane festival!! Buy 'em Saturday at the Casco Bay Lines terminal when embarking for Peaks on the 2:15 ferry, or get 'em @ the Peaks Island dock when the ferry lands @ 2:35pm.

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Poetry as an object

There is something about a book that is pure poetry in and of itself, in physical form. Of course, often there is wonderful poetry within as well, such as this great little piece from a 1936 edition of Rachel Field's Fear Is The Thorn:
Black Alder Berry

Under mid-winter skies I stood
Before red berries by a wood.
With these two eyes I saw them plain
Strung on bare twigs like scarlet rain.
There in that withered, frosty field
My throat went dry, my senses reeled,
And who I was and why I came
I could not say. My very name
Was lost to me -- I only knew
Color that breaks the heart in two.

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

On not operating in a void

Some of you may or may not know that I list about shelf's-worth or so of items on at any given time, mostly specialized items that might command a higher price than the general Portland ME public would be interested in paying (e.g., textbooks, some odd rarities). The money I make from doing this helps pay utility bills at the shop each month, and lets me take in some books that would otherwise sit on my shelves for an eternity or get dropped into the free bin.

I focus on my bricks and mortar shop for 99% of my sales, and enjoy doing that. I sold online for years on eBay, and especially with all the email automation they've instituted, the experience is just not the same, and certainly can't hold a candle to dealing with people face-to-face in my shop. Besides, I don't want to cherrypick what comes into the shop -- my Congress Street customers should be able to walk through my door with the expectation that on my New Arrivals table or on the general shelves there will be a treasure waiting for them that they weren't expecting to find.

I don't let that affect the amount of care I pay to outgoing books that I've sold online, however. Each one gets carefully packed and sent on its way in the hopes that it will arrive at its new home in the same condition that it left my shop. Rarely do I hear back from the buyers, and it really does feel like I'm operating in a vacuum most of the time when it comes to online selling.

And then... once in a while, something happens like this, and it makes my heart sing:
I just wanted to thank you (or whoever packaged my book) for impressing me to the hundredth degree. To start, your box is one of the safest boxes I've ever received any package in, book or otherwise. When I finally opened it, I was surprised by the packaging peanuts; no one has ever put packaging peanuts in a textbook delivery box for me in the past.

Then, after all of that, there was the book in gift wrap. ARE YOU SERIOUS? That is awesome. GIFT WRAP? You/your company are/is amazing. AND THEN THERE WAS THE LITTLE HANDWRITTEN NOTE! Seriously, that is amazing. I have never wanted to not throw a box out so much before, but I guess there's a first for everything.

Thank you for making my textbook purchasing experience astounding. I will definitely remember to check your company first for any future purchases. THANK YOU! I LOVE YOU!
It was a terrific way to start the day. I just wanted to thank everyone out there who goes out of their way to tell someone that they noticed what they were doing, and how much care they took to do it each time -- and I do so on behalf of all of us online sellers who feel like we're floating in outer space through much of our online transactions.

Sunday, August 28, 2011

CLOSED Sunday this week

Hullo everyone -- I don't usually do this, but since the International Cryptozoology Museum is already closing because of the storm, and the ghost-town like state of Portland's streets as the hurricane weather begins to set in, I'm going to leave the store closed today, Sunday, August 28, 2011. Sorry if any of you were planning on visiting today!! Stay home and stay safe and dry! :) And we'll see you again on Tuesday as usual.

Friday, August 19, 2011

The Inaugural Bird Visit

Well, it's official. So far we've had a fish, many dogs, and a rabbit visit the Green Hand. But never before had we been visited by a feathered friend!

All that changed this evening when a traveling customer, Sean, began browsing the shelves with a covered cage in hand. Who was his traveling companion? None other than Harry, a cheerful and attentive green parrotlet! He had been seeing the world with Sean, starting out at Newark NJ that morning, and jaunting about upon arrival in Portland in preparation for a ride out to an island later. Thanks to Sean for humoring my fascination with the little guy! Of course, his bright green feathers nicely match my shop's plastic bags, so when they left the store, Sean's luggage matched Harry quite nicely.

I felt that it was worth commemorating the occasion with a portrait or two of Harry ensconced in his cage. :)
* * * * *
Many of you remember and ask after Oscar, the jumbo oscar fish, who is back living with my brother in his apartment now, happily eating 20-30 goldfish a week and growing ever more giant.
Above is a picture I took of him when I visited. To replace the constant hubbub of being in a public place, he has taken up watching television from his tank, but apparently does not approve of explosions, and takes off to the other end of the aquarium when movies and shows are rude enough to include kabooms in their plot arcs.

Monday, June 27, 2011

Old, cautiously optimistic bookmark

Here's another cool bookmark find, an old souvenir from Portland ME with a cautiously optimistic message. Wonder when it's from?  Most of my bookmarks come from between the pages of books that wander into my shop, but this one I found at a local outdoor flea market, down in Arundel on Route 1.

Sunday, June 26, 2011

Sea Pieces - charming sheet music

Here's another photo essay for your amusement and enjoyment! This time it is a type of material I rarely deal with, but it was too charming for me to walk away from. It is a paperbound edition of the sheet music collection Sea Pieces, written by Edward MacDowell, featuring a lovely cover designed by P.L. Jung of New York. This edition is dated 1899, and is published by the Arthur P. Schmidt Co., of Boston and New York.

While the cover is attractive, the contents are at least as enchanting. Titles of the piano pieces include To the Sea, From a Wandering Iceberg, Starlight, From the Depths, Nautilus, and In Mid-Ocean.

But Mr. MacDowell's delightful ingenuity does not end there, no sir, no ma'am! If you flip the booklet open, you find each piece sprinkled with such personable requests for the player's fingers as "In unbroken rolling rhythm," "Tenderly," "In languid swaying rhythm," "Ponderously," and "Gradually faster, but without hurrying. Mysteriously." Clearly Mr. MacDowell did not want any wishy-washy, landlubbery players mucking up his pieces' intended execution!

I snapped pictures of several of the most intriguing directions for posterity:

Friday, June 24, 2011

The art of the North Wind

Now and again, a book comes through my hands here at the shop which makes me stop in spite of the hurry of business. Today as I was pricing a 1950 copy of George MacDonald's At the Back of the North Wind, I had one of those "stop and smell the roses" moments. The binding of this book, while fairly solid, is not what makes it special. What makes it special (beyond its lovely storytelling) is the series of wonderful illustrations that pepper its pages.

George and Doris Hauman illustrated this edition, and their work is simple, lively, and enchanting without being too airy-fairy, just as it should be. Working in bold but fine black linework, paired with a pale aqua-blue ink to offset it and give shade or color where needed, these pieces are enough to charm any reader.

I thought you all might enjoy seeing some of the pieces as much as I did as I leafed through these pages. You can click on the images to see more detail.
The facing title page
Each chapter heading is graced with a drawing.
Little Boy Blue calls to everything in the woods
"Now let's go and dig for stars."

The Haumans are also the ones who did the illustrations for the 1961 edition of The Little Engine That Could.

Friday, June 3, 2011

TONIGHT! "fast on the ground, fast in the air" art opening

WHAT: First Friday Artwalk! "fast on the ground, fast in the air"
WHEN: opening Friday, June 3 · 5:00pm - 8:00pm, on display through June 2011
WHERE: The Green Hand Bookshop, 661 Congress Street, Portland, ME

Drawings of airplanes and racecars by the inimitable Carlotta Valdez will be zipping into the public for the first time tonight during the Portland Artwalk! Plus, don't miss the grand opening of our new neighbors across the street, the Merchant Company! They're going to be packed with all sorts of nifty art, and tonight they have enough celebratory refreshments and groovy music to keep everyone happy.

Friday, May 20, 2011

REVIEW: Performed by Lugosi

I was very pleased to receive a review copy of this book as part of the Early Reviewer program over at

Performed by Lugosi: A bold new look at the stellar icon of fantastic cinema and the tales that inspired his greatest roles
by S. Michael Wilson
2010, Idea Men Productions

Performed by Lugosi is a unique pairing of literary and cinematic sensibilities. In one volume, S. Michael Wilson has collected the original pieces of fiction that inspired Lugosi’s on-screen performances and his own thorough and sharp-witted responses to how the film studios adapted the texts to their own use, with a special focus on Lugosi’s role in the process. Stories include classics by such renowned authors as Edgar Allan Poe, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, Bram Stoker, and Robert Louis Stevenson.

I was pleasantly surprised to find, alongside his informative and well-researched account of the films’ histories, a running current of Wilson’s own particular sly wit and his backhanded brand of movie reviewing, a style which is near and dear to my heart, and aptly suited to the callow treatment that film studios of the day often gave to their scripts’ literary roots.

Shining through the historic accounts and casual commentary is Wilson’s genuine regard for Bela Lugosi. Long a fan of Lugosi myself, I found this a very appealing mix of elements, and can only imagine that anyone curious about Bela will be likewise rewarded by their reading of this painstakingly assembled compilation. Drawing from a number of texts about Lugosi’s strange and complex relationship with the Hollywood studios of the day, Wilson discusses others’ ideas as well as his own about how Bela responded to the very particular requirements of the industry he found himself a part of, a sometimes-uncomfortable arrangement for all parties involved.

Each original story is present for the reader to absorb on their own, followed by an account of the movie that resulted. This section introduces the film’s vital statistics, including the studio’s often heavily-distorted, character-driven plot line, and the pre-screen treatment of the material, production notes, Bela’s involvement in the film, and, like a tasty dessert at the end, food for thought in the form of Wilson’s musings, which often provide an insightful and appreciative view of the movie.

Sunday, April 10, 2011

Run-on sentences in the land of the West!

I've been sorting through a mixed lot of old Western paperbacks, and I'm having a lot of fun in the process, because they are a hoot!

Here's a heck of a run-on sentence from the back of "Gringo Gun" by E.E. Halleran:

"Caught in a vicious power struggle between feuding factions, fearful of betrayal by the intense, dark-eyed Jessie, who has a long memory for the past and more courage than most men, and menaced by the wild Chiricahua Apaches with fierce grudges of their own, Tom finds he must draw upon every ounce of his nerve and cunning just to live."


Other things I've come across?

Apparently the "EDGE" paperbacks make up "the most violent Westerns in print," w/titles like "Massacre Mission" & "School for Slaughter"!

"He rode south to Texas to face a juggernaut of death." -- Blurb from paperback of "The Outlaw Josey Wales" by Forrest Carter.

Another great Western blurb:"His six gun brought law to the river and hell to him!" from Forbidden River by Al Cody.

Gringo Gun image borrowed from the great Retro Hound blog site.

Thursday, March 31, 2011

EVENT: First Friday Artwalk "Mysterious Waters" opening

Mysterious Waters: A series of ink and watercolor drawings by Brandon Kawashima, inspired by themes from Japanese folklore and images of environmental pollution.

Opening during First Friday Artwalk, April 1st, 2011, from 5:00-8:00pm at the Green Hand Bookshop, 661 Congress Street, Portland, ME.

This show of drawings, crawling with labyrinthine lines but colored with delicate simplicity, attempts to grapple with the mystery of our relationship with the natural world, which we adore and abuse simultaneously. The show will be on display through the month of April.

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Free tickets to ZooZoo by Imago Theatre!

Look closely-- these are great costumes!
Anyone out there a fan of performance art and animals? We have a pair of tickets to ZooZoo, performed by Imago Theatre, at 7:00pm this Friday night, April 1st (Merrill Auditorium, Portland, ME)!

Drop us a line and we'll pick a winner tomorrow!

"Defying classification, they have populated the stage with characters and beings such as comedic amphibians, acrobatic larvae, circus boulders, and metamorphosing humans in works which tantalize the senses, the intellect, and the passions. From adaptations of classics to excursions into vaudevillian existentialism, Imago's repertoire is as vast as the forms they shape. With commissions for stage, film, and television, Imago blurs the lines of the expected to break new ground, exploding performance boundaries yet maintaining humor and humanity."

"Imago Theatre tours internationally while also producing a season at its home base in Portland, Oregon. The company's critically acclaimed FROGZ opened at the New Victory Theater on Broadway in New York, in April of 2000 and returned to the New Victory in May 2002. FROGZ also performed a smash hit month-ling run at the award-winning American Repertory Theatre in Cambridge, Massachusets in the summer of 2005."


Saturday, March 19, 2011

Closing early Tuesday for talk in Augusta!

I'll be closing the shop early, at 5:00pm, this coming Tuesday in order to get up to Augusta, where I'll be giving a short talk about my book, Strange Maine: True Tales from the Pine Tree State
WHEN: 6:30 p.m. Tuesday, March 22, 2011
WHERE: Reading Room of the Lithgow Public Library, 45 Winthrop St., Augusta, ME
COST: The program is free and open to the public.
FMI: Call (207)626-2415 or visit

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Path to Storytelling workshop

In May 2011, Lynne Cullen will be offering a three-part storytelling workshop at the Green Hand. The cost is only $65; this covers all three sessions and also includes a graduation performance evening to which students can invite friends and family (the date will be determined at the last class). Spaces will be limited, so book early!

To sign up for this workshop, or for further information, please contact Lynne Cullen at:
207-846-1321 or
Workshop website can be found here:
Storytelling is a social art form, and can be a powerful medium in our personal lives. Whether you wish to use storytelling in your work (teachers and health workers, for example) or would like to perform stories at storytelling clubs (such as Seanachie Nights or MOOSE), this workshop will give you a firm grounding in storytelling skills.

During this workshop, you will explore your natural abilities and learn how to remember and tell traditional stories, using simple imaging and memory techniques. Not only will you have fun, but you will leave with the beginnings of your own collection of stories.

This workshop is suitable for people at all levels of experience, including anyone who has never told a story before.

* MAY 10-- The first session will introduce participants to the rich world of traditional storytelling, through a combination of discussions, handouts, and games.

* MAY 17-- In the second session, we will delve more deeply into stories and storytelling, through exercises to aid visualization and language. At the end of this session, participants will be given a short, traditional story to learn.

* MAY 24-- In the third session, each participant will tell their story in front of the class and receive constructive feedback on presentation and content.

* Finally, each participant will have the opportunity to perform a traditional story at a graduation performance.

Lynne Cullen is a local (seanachie) storyteller and a playwright. She is a member of LANES (League for the Advancement of New England Storytelling), MOOSE (Maine Organization Of Storytelling Enthusiasts), and the Society for Storytelling. She is the creator, producer and host of Seanachie Nights, a monthly storytelling evening decidated to traditional stories and music. In 2009, Lynne was awarded a MaineArts Grant to finish her full-length play: 'The Amazing Life and Mysterious End of Ragana: Mistress of Illusion'.

Friday, February 11, 2011

EVENT: Open Music Sky Jam storytelling event

The Open Sky Music Jam is participatory storytelling in musical form -- a potpourri of musical delights from land and sea. In celebration of the February school vacation week, the Jam will be arriving at the Green Hand Bookshop and inviting folks to join in on a rollicking ride of fun. Families are invited to come and play along on rhythm instruments!

Jenn Bliss is a founding member of Moonship Productions.

Moonship Productions is an eclectic, energetic, esoteric vessel created by JENN BLISS and JASON BERUBE which produces engaging theater, art and music installations, festivals, circuses, giant puppets, field recordings, which is tied in with their travels around the world. They recently participated in the procession at the Sacred and Profane arts festival on Peaks Island, Fall 2010.

For more information on Moonship Productions:

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Free tickets to Doug Varone!

Anyone out there a fan of modern dance and a booklover? We have a pair of tickets to this in-part literary themed dance performance next Wednesday night!

Drop us a line and we'll pick a winner at noon tomorrow!

"The performance concludes with Chapters from a Broken Novel, a new work co-commissioned by Ovations along with Bates Dance Festival. Created from a collection of hundreds of phrases, snippets of conversations, found quotes and vivid images gathered together in the pages of Varone’s journal — these “chapters” revel in a multiplicity of meanings that live between the lines. From the smallest gesture to full-throttle bursts of movement, Varone’s work can literally take your breath away."


UPDATE: Our winner is Mike B.! Thanks to everyone who threw their names in the hat! :)

Saturday, February 5, 2011

Pre-Storm Special!

For all our loyal Green Hand customers: All sci-fi and mystery books -- buy 2 get 1 free! Stock up for the next storm! Mention this post at checkout!

-- Store credit cannot be used (gift certificates are fine).
-- Sale runs through Saturday and Sunday, February 5-6.
-- Paperback, softcover, and hardcover are eligible!

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

EVENT: First Friday Artwalk "Streets of New Orleans" opening

WHAT: First Friday Artwalk opening of STREETS OF NEW ORLEANS, street photography by Teressa MacHugh
WHERE: The Green Hand Bookshop, 661 Congress Street, Portland ME
WHEN: Friday, February 4th, 2011 from 5:00-9:00 (on display through the month of February 2011)
FMI: contact Michelle Souliere at (207)450-6695 or michelle.souliere[at]

This First Friday we kick off our 2011 Artwalk exhibit series with a showing of photographs by Teressa MacHugh, in "Streets of New Orleans."

A taste of the sultry realm of New Orleans via camera is given to viewers in this collection of recent photographs taken on Bourbon Street last summer. Feel a little southern exposure, give your eyes a little taste of Mardi Gras this February!

Mysterious musical visitors, the Watchers, will be returning to ply their sonic wares from 7:30-8:30pm.

RSVP at the Facebook event page!

Friday, January 21, 2011

Early snow closing: Friday 1/21

Hello everyone-- we're going to close a little early today, at 3:00pm.  Please drive safely, and stay warm!!

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Happy Snowpocalypse!

On my way to open the shop today, I snapped a few shots. Enjoy!

The East End -- windblown and covered in snow.
The trusty Subaru awaits!
Heading out from our lucky parking garage spot into the windtunnel of High Street.

This cameraman was shooting footage of snowbound pedestrians at the corner of High and Congress. A thankless job!!!