The World of Edward Gorey by Clifford Ross and Karen Wilkin,
Harry N. Abrams Publishers, 1996, 192pp, illus photos and b&w
and color art, bibliography, $29.95.
Both the autographed and regular editions are the same price, but there are only 1000 autographed. A Gorey bibliography is long overdue, as he has published nearly 100 books and illustrated a couple of dozen more for other writers in the last 40 years - his first was in 1953. I got this from Signals at their 24-hour toll-free number for credit-card orders, 1-800-669-9696. The item number is 50251 - and I got the autographed edition.
Margaret Cubberly told me about this book, and sent a xerox from the catalog - Signals is sent to supporters of public TV, so I should have gotten it myself, but I didn't. Apparently they got an exclusive on the autographed edition. The book bears no price on the d/w and may well be widely available by the time this issue appears.
Goreyography by Henry Toledano, Word Play (1 Sutter St),
San Francisco (94104) 1996, 192pp, wraps, illus by Edward Gorey,
This very attractive trade paperback was in the Spoon River catalog. A very detailed bibliography and price guide with some 16 or so illustrations. Even the New Yorker and TVGuide illos are listed!
The Exploits of Engelbrecht by Maurice Richardson, Phoenix
House, London 1950, 128pp, 9 illus. by James Boswell.
I have never seen the actual book - Vince Clarke kindly sent a photocopy of the text. These wonderful stories about Engelbrecht, the dwarf surrealist boxer, originally appeared in a digest-size British magazine called Lilliput, and I had read one of them in an anthology called The Bedside Lilliput.
Surrealist boxers, it seems, fight clocks; and one of the stories is about Engelbrecht's epic battle with a grandfather clock. There is also mention of his planning to battle Big Ben. But Engelbrecht is an all-purpose sportsman, and the other tales involve cricket, football (Earth Vs. Mars, on the Moon), shooting (witches), hunting, fishing, wrestling (a giant octopus), horse-racing, marriage, politics, and two based on theatricals by plants (very slow) and dogs (sounds much like regular opera).
The James Boswell illustrations are done as parodies of famous artists such as Dali, Dore', Fuseli, Bosch and others. There is not an illustration for each of the 15 chapters. Altogether something that is long overdue for reprinting!
Has Astromancer's Quarterly folded? The trade copy of IGOTS 16 to their POBox in Niagara Falls was returned with no forwarding address.
Hannes Bok Drawings and Sketches ed. by Nicholas Certo,
Mugster Press (Box 322), Circleville (NY 10919), 1996, 68pp.
This is the hardcover of the Certo book reviewed in IGOTS 16. A
beautiful job, and contains an extra color plate (`Witch of the
Winds', which I had seen only in b&w in Saavedra's Go South
Young Man) and an original sketch!
Lost Face / Children of the Frost by Jack London,
Macmillan, New York, 1919, 240/261pp.
Two short-story collections (each with its own title page) bound together as part of the `Sonoma Edition', a cheap reprint from the 1910 firsts, found in a local thrift store. These are grim tales, set in the Yukon. The only one I remember seeing before is the famous To Build a Fire, which I read somewhere as a child.
Spectrum III ed. by Cathy Burnett & Arnie Fenner with Jim Loehr, Underwood Books, Grass Valley CA, $24.94 (pb) and $34.95 (hc). Said to have 250 color plates by 100 artists. But they didn't send me a review copy, so the heck with them.
The Secret Societies of St.Franks & The `Death' of Walter
Church by Edwy Searles Brooks, Howard Baker/Greyfriars Press,
London, 1972, 528pp, illus in color & line, 2.75.
The price in pounds is pretty cheap for this reprint (Vol.2 in the series) of 12 issues of a 1927 weekly paper called The Nelson Lee Library. Each issue contains 44 pages of very small print. The prospective audience were schoolboys with 2d (about a nickle of 1927 money) to spend. If you ever read Kipling's Stalky & Co. (1897) you would have some idea of the flavor of these adventures in a British `public school' (actually more like one of our private boarding schools). The artwork is not credited. Each issue retains the color cover and the letters and ads. I tried reading a bit of it - some of the schoolboy slang has become quite obscure!
By coincidence I already had one other volume (No.3) in this series, The Haunted School (1974), whose cover promises Supernatural manifestations at St.Franks!, before I got this one from Chuck Connor - much thanks!
The Worst of Boiled Angel by Mike Diana, Michael Hunt
Pub. (Box 226), Bensenville (IL), 200pp, color cover, wraps, $16.95.
Or $16.66, depending on which side of the postcard you believe.
Mike Diana is the artist who was jailed and forbidden to draw because some Florida county didn't like his cartoons - the case is still on appeal. I don't like his cartoons either but, as Voltaire said, I would defend to the death his right to draw them.
Spella-Ho by H. E. Bates, Severn House, London & NY, 1989,
I bought this by mistake from a remainder list, confusing the author with another of the same surname... It appears to be a bad facsimile reprint of a story about a man haunted by a house.
A Steve Canyon Companion by Carl Horak, art by Milton
Caniff, 1996, Manuscript Press (Box 336), Mountain Home (TN 37684),
120pp, wraps, $25.
This review copy is from ex-SFPAn Rick Norwood, the editor. A detailed history of the comic strip with much biographical data on the artist. This strip ran from 1947 through 1988, following Caniff's famous `Terry & The Pirates', which had started in 1934. When Caniff died in 1988, the US Air Force created a personnel record and held a retirement ceremony for the comic strip character!
More books wanted by Tom Cockcroft:
Beyond Midnight ed. by Kirby McCauley, Berkeley 1976
Lovers and Other Monsters ed. by Marvin Kaye, SFBC 1992
To Sleep, Perchance To Dream ed. by Dziemanowicz, B&N 1993
Shapes of the Supernatural ed. by Manley & Lewis, Garden City 1969
Pirate Ghosts of the American Coast ed. by McSherry & Waugh, August House 1988
Friendly Aliens ed. by Colombo, Hounslow Press 1981
Windigo ed. by Colombo, Prairie Books 1982
Also any books about Old Mechanical Banks.
The Baker Murder Case by Larry T. Shaw in Inside
#16, Sept'56, illustrated by Jack Gaughan, 9pp, xerox.
Curt Phillips sent this funny analysis of Lewis Carroll's The Hunting of the Snark. Free on request, as I have the fanzine myself.
An Anthropomorphic Bibliography compiled by Fred Patten,
YARF! (Box 1299), Cupertino (CA 95015-1299), 1996, 60pp, illus.
divers artists, wraps, $7+1.50 p&h.
This is a 2nd edition, much expanded over the one I reviewed in IGOTS 14. It gives details on 375 works of fiction in which animals have human characters, arranged by author with a title index. There is also a short bibliography of other books on the subject.
An excellent reference, and well printed. The art is very good, though all by artists I never heard of - the well-known fannish artists in the field (Vaughn Bode, Tim Kirk, Jerry Collins, Taral) do not appear. In order to keep things managable, only adult and `young adult' books are considered. Thus Walter Brooks is represented only by his Mr. Ed material, not the Freddy the Talking Pig books.
Ribald Tales by Martin L. Sommers, Gondola Pub. (HC1 Box
1295), Cedar Key (FL 32625), 208pp, wraps.
Seems to lack a price, and yet it's a review copy... And how could they send it to me by `Bulk Rate'? Fairly well printed. The material is quite crude and not very imaginative, though not badly written. For some reason the lurid cover informs us that the author is `alias Egon E. Jabs' - if this is a pun I don't get it.
SF on floppy disk - Mark Owings has sent me 13 more floppy
disks to which he has transcribed public-domain works of sf and
fantasy, both novels and original anthologies. His catalog follows:
Tourmalin's Time Cheques by F. Anstey, 1891
Solarion by Edgar Fawcett, 1889
Black Spirits and White by Ralph Adams Cram, 1896
Mr. Munchausen by John Kendrick Bangs, 1901
The Roots of the Silver Tree comp. by Mark Owings
Tarry Till I Come by F. T. Neely, 1901
The Ashes of a God by F. W. Bain, 1911
The Autobiography of Methuselah by John Kendrick Bangs, 1909
The Blue Germ by Martin Swayne, 1918
The Descent of the Sun by F. W. Bain, 1903
A Digit of the Moon by F. W. Bain, 1901
Douglas Duane by Edgar Fawcett, 1887
A Fearsome Riddle by Max Ehrmann, 1901
Hallie Marshall, a True Daughter of the South, F. P. Williams, 1900
In The Great God's Hair by F. W. Bain, 1904
The Orphans of Time comp. by Mark Owings
The Scarlet Empire by David M. Parry, 1906
The two titles compiled by Owings are original anthologies of material from pre-WWI fantasies. Mark's commentary on the first file of each disk is very enlightening. Address - 1113 West 40th St., Baltimore MD 21211-1749.
Throat Sprockets by Tim Lucas, Delta (Dell/Bantam
Doubleday Dell), New York, 1994, 232pp, wraps, $9.95.
Diane Fox asked me to get this for her, I had never heard of it. The local WaldenBooks listed it but couldn't get a copy. However, Mark Stevens at the SF&Mystery Bookstore (2000-F Cheshire Bridge Rd.NE, Atlanta GA 30324-4928, 404-634-3226) had it in stock. Lucas is a film critic, and the novel is based on the film/video business. It has to do with a man obsesses by an avant-garde film about a peculiar sexual perversion - I skimmed through it, and it seemed to be the sort of thing that would have made a good short-story. Perhaps I just don't have the patience for this sort of psychological analysis.
I hope this what Diane was looking for - parts of it were also published as a `graphic novel' with art by a Mike Hoffman, but apparently only in a magazine called Taboo.
Ken Slater at Fantast (Medway) Ltd (Box 23, Upwell, Wisbech, Cambs. PE14 9BU England) sent by mistake another copy of the Bob Shaw Dimensions, the British pb of the second Warren Peace novel - great stuff, but I already have it. Anybody want it at $10, including postage?
El Hombre Que Vendio la Luna by Robert A. Heinlein,
translated into Spanish by Antonio Ribera, Nebulae, Barcelona,
1955, 250pp, wraps, 25ptas.
I had asked J. C. Verrecchia in Buenos Aires to find me a copy of the Spanish translation of The Green Hills of Earth because I was curious how the poem was translated. He could not find that and sent this translation of The Man Who Sold the Moon instead. I see from the back cover that the same publisher had published a translation of The Green Hills of Earth, at least I would assume that's what came out as Los Negros Fosos de la Luna, i.e. `The Black Pits of Luna', which is another of the stories in that book, and a line from the poem as well.
A flyer stuck in with the book reveals that the Disney film The Hunchback of Notre-Dame appeared in a Spanish-language version as El Jorobado de Notre-Dame.
The Ring of Truth by David Lake, Void/Cory&Collins,
StKilda (Australia), 1982, 244pp, wraps, 3.95.
I don't know where I got this mass-market pb with its lurid cover - perhaps it was one that Diane Fox sent. I found it while transferring pbs to new shelving next door and started reading it - I'm a sucker for a fantasy with a map. Oddly enough, it seems to lack a title page - the back-of-title-page data is on the back of the table of contents.
A tale of a very alien world that starts off a bit awkwardly but gets much better as it goes along. The narrator is hereditary bard to the prince of a race of oviparous humanoids who turn out to be living on the inner surface of an Earth-sized void in some much larger lump. Gravity is variable and is partly caused by the pressure from a rotating `sun', so that one is lighter at `night'!
Stolen Years by Maita Floyd, Eskauldun Pub. (Box 50266),
Phoenix (AZ 85076), 1996, 245pp, illus photos, wraps, $12.95.
This is a review copy of a personal history by a Basque woman who spent WWII as a teenager in Nazi-occupied France. Eskauldun, it turns out, is the Basque for `Basque'. A well-written account of an important period.
Floreat Elizabetha by Ken Lake, 1996, 16pp, illus, 2.50. The price is in sterling, about $4. Ken is a stamp guru at 1A Stephen Court, Ecclesbourne Road, Thornton Heath CR7 7BP, England. This remarkable document is an account of an imaginary journey around the world in an `Imperial Airship' (with nuclear engines), illustrated with fantasy stamps. The stamps exist and can even be acquired, but they are not official issue - they are designed and made by Gerald M. King, 45 Baden Road, Brighton BN2 4DP. I particularly like the `Wonderland' issues, and the one with QEII in the pose so beloved of the Monty Python crew.
Zero to Eighty by Akkad Pseudoman (E. F. Northrup),
Scientific Publishing Co., Princeton 1937, 283pp, illus in b&w,
drawings, diagrams & photos.
I never found the copy of this book that I thought I had gotten in the '60s, but this better copy - it has the lurid d/w though with the price clipped off - was quite reasonably priced on the Pandora list. It is a 1st (and probably only) edition, printed at the Princeton University Press, and noting simultaneous publication in England.
It is somewhat hard to understand why Northrup, who was probably on the Princeton faculty, chose to publish his research on electromagnetic propulsion as science-fantasy. I suppose it might have been so radical at the time that he had no other choice - but he seems to have had working models! An example envisions a 1000-meter coil that would launch a projectile to 51 kilometers.
The 239-page (the rest being a Technical Supplement) fantasy component, alas, is pretty turgid. It is in the form of an autobiography of Akkad, from his early youth (b.1920) to old age in the year 2000. He does predict the Russian space program and circumnavigation of the Moon, but not the Moon landing - not surprising with rail-gun technology!
Pages are expended on an explanation of the name - Akkad from archeological discoveries about the Akkadians in the Near East and Pseudoman whimsically converted by his great-grandfather from Sodman. He even includes a portrait of his grandfather Lazarus Pseudoman. And then more detail about childhood adventures in taxidermy (with photos of stuffed birds)! He goes to Zurich for college and out West and finds gold.
Finally in 1949 he starts serious rail-gun design and experimentation - there is a photo of a 1000 kw motor-generator set that looks a great deal like what we were still using at B.640 a few years ago. And several photos of the guns, including a small one in operation with a blurred projectile above it - this may be faked, the badly-drawn human figure in it certainly is. Another photo shows opposing coils on the same rail, so that projectiles could be tested without actually firing them off into the distance.
In ch.XII we return to melodrama - his wife is kidnapped and a ransom of half a million demanded! But she's no dummy and escapes with the aid of some nitric acid that just happened to be in reach.
Then we get a chapter on the imaginary members of the imaginary `Weft-Warp Club', and another on a paper presented to them on theosophy!
After some folderol about using rail-guns for the defense of Switzerland, our hero finally gets off to the Moon (from Mexico - there is a sketch of Mt.Popocatepetl), flies around it, sees a lifeless Russian spaceship and the backside of the Moon, and returns to Earth. He gets rich off the rail-gun technology, now in use to deliver the mail, founds a university in 1962, and goes off to Moscow to visit the Lenin Underground Village, which has simulated stars projected on the inside of the roof. And then settles down to retirement and the writing of his autobiography...
As far as I can tell, the technical details of electromagnetic propulsion are correct, and detailed enough to build your own device!
NYC Destinies by Ellwood Hendrick, New Aura Pub. (355
Kennedy Dr.), Putnam (CT 06260) 1996, 18pp, illus Dwig, $1.95.
David & Su Bates collected these whimsical pieces from 3 pre-WWI magazines. One is a good exposition of the theory that we are all too big and the world would be much better off if people were only about 3 feet tall - see Asimov's explanation of the `Square-Cube Law'. Dave also sent their AURA Monographs #3 and #4:
Woman in the Year 2000 by Edward Bellamy, as above, 4pp, $1.95. A reprint from 1891 of predictions by the author of Looking Backward. He seems to envision full gender equality - but under a system (which he calls `Nationalism') that sounds very much like the disastrous German experiment with `National Socialism' (the Nazis).
How I Write My Stories by Oliver Optic, as above, 4pp, illus, $1.95.
A reprint from 1891 with a picture of the popular author (1822-1897 - his real name was William Taylor Adams) of formula boys books in a short article on his writing methods. He used a typewriter, and produced some 5000 words a day, before noon!
In The Wet by Nevil Shute, Pan Books Ltd, London 1953,
281pp, wraps, 5 shillings.
I forget who recommended this, but I had enjoyed Shute's Trustee From the Toolroom and so got this used pb from Mike Don. It turns out to be sf on two counts - there is an alternate history of the latter half of this century (a very curious one, in which there is a third war, this time with Russia; and Australia and then England adopt a curious system by which some citizens have more votes than others in national elections), and the hero is reincarnated (from an Aussie outback drifter to a quarter-Aborigine jet pilot for the Queen). Curious to read a historical account in which the US is not mentioned!
Changing the Past by Thomas Berger, Little Brown, New York
1989, 285pp, $18.95.
Another sf novel by a mainstream author - I have not read it as yet. Here the gimmick is that the hero has the power to change the past - and change it again if he doesn't get what he wants. Sounds rather like John Crowley's Great Work of Time.
Jesucristo en la Plaza de Mayo by Jose' Manuel Lopez
Gomez, Vinciguerra, Buenos Aires 1993, 167pp, wraps.
This political sf novel was sent to me by the author, who is interested in having it appear in English. The action takes place in the period 1976-2028 and involves Argentine politics and the Persian Gulf conflict - I think. My Spanish is weak, and some of it seems to be written in stream-of-consciousness or other irregular prose. There are holograms, lasers, and android soldiers, I can tell that much.
Peake Studies edited by G. Peter Winnington (Les 3
Chasseurs, 1413 Orzens, Switzerland; e-mail 100031,3620@Compuserve.com)
The 60pp Autumn'96 issue includes 15 wonderful advertisements that Mervyn Peake illustrated for the Brewers' Society, and one for Jamaica Rum. Subs run about 3 issues for $25, and contributions are invited.
Feast by Michael Rank, illustrated by Jeff Hill, 1995,
Peter Winnington sent me this book (one of 370 copies of the paperbound edition). Very impressive fantasic imagery, which seems to call for music, or an audio version. It is set in two archaic fonts that take some getting used to, but I enjoyed reading it. The artwork is quite grim.
"Never Try to Teach a Pig to Sing..." by Donald E. Walker,
Lathrop Press (Box 19306), San Diego (CA) 1996, 235pp, index,
This trade paperback is an unsolicited review copy - the rest of the proverb in the title is it wastes your time and annoys the pig. In this volume of `new-age philosophy of leadership', each righthand page displays some such adage, followed verso by an explanation. In my opinion, if you need the explanation, you probably aren't ready for a position as a leader of men! But I must admit that the final aphorism serves admirably as a comment on the book: If you ain't used to a whole lot, this may not be too bad.
Interrupted Autobiography & Aurora by Kieran Tunney,
Quartet Books, London 1989, 154pp, index, illus photos, 12.95.
The price is in pounds. This remainder was gotten in a `Big Lots' store of all places, for a dollar. I never heard of Kieran Tunney or his play Aurora (of which the full text is included) - I bought it because the Prologue is set in a `cavern over the ruins of London; Time, the future'. Seems to be a comedy.
The Tale of Don L'Orignal by Antonine Maillet, translated
by Barbara Godard, Clarke Irwin, Toronto 1978, 107pp, illus, no
Another dollar remainder from `Big Lots'. The single illustration seems to be by the same Ken Steacy who did the d/w art. This odd short novel by a French-Canadian received the Governor-General's Award when it first appeared in French in 1972. About all I can make out is that the title character is the King of Flea Island, which is an island of hay. Perhaps something has been lost in translation - imagine if Carl Sandburg's Rootabaga Stories were translated into French!
Ernest Mann, who for years sent me literature about his `Priceless Economic System', in which all goods and services would be free and everyone would work for nothing, was found dead this past March, apparently killed by his grandson Eli, who then killed himself as the police closed in. Ernest's real name was Larry Johnson. A recent mailing by his family and friends to his old mailing list shows has photos of him - I had corresponded with him for years but never knew what he looked like. He was 69 at the time of his death. His books, I Was Robot and I Got Free were reviewed in It Goes On The Shelf 7 and 10. The only address in this last mailing is that of Duncan Ryan, Box 640, Elk River MN 55330.
The Sunderland Calamity by Wm. McGonagall, Wolfs Head
Press (Box 77), Sunderland (SR1 1EB, UK) 1994, 16pp, illus,
Steve Sneyd sent this booklet. The price in $US is specified as a dollar bill. This is said to be the first publication of the poem, so I wouldn't expect to find it in the large collection of his work that Duckworth published in 1980. William McGonagall (1830-1902) was the Arthur N. Scarm (or Scram) of Victorian versifiers - or for the post-literate generation the analogy might be made to Ed Wood as a movie director. The introduction quotes McGonagall on how he became a poet - it seems to have been almost a religious experience. Another proof, I suppose, that inspiration does not guarantee excellence. The poem, like most of his efforts, is about a real event. Some 2000 children were in Victoria Hall in 1883 for a magic show, and at the end of the show were invited to file past the stage to recieve a gift. The children in the balcony piled up against a door that opened inward (which would not be allowed under modern fire codes) and 183 were crushed to death. The poem, as a poem, is also a tragedy - not one line of it scans!
Alas for Wolfs Head's research department, the poem did appear in Yet Further Poetic Gems published by Duckworth in 1980.
Borderline by Leanne Frahm, MirrorDanse (Box 3542),
Parramatta (Australia) 1996, 128pp, bibliography, illus Gavin
O'Keefe, wraps, 11.95.
Gavin sent me this trade pb - signed by both the artist and the author. The price is in Australian dollars. Three of the five stories are from magazines and the other two original. These are excellent in a sinister way, both grotesque and funny, as is Gavin's artwork. There is also an interview with the author, whose father was an American GI - she lived in Indiana as a child.
The Tartarus Guide to First Edition Prices 1997 ed. R. B.
Russell, Tartarus Press, England 1996, 254pp, wraps, 8.99.
This reference covers some 15,000 titles, arranged alphabetically by author and then by categorey and date. The value estimates are given in pounds sterling, as is the cover price above. Beautifully printed and easy to use, but of course it does not cover all authors. If you want a copy, the address is: 5 Birch Terrace, Hangingbirch Lane, Horam, East Sussex, TN21 0PA, England. The cost in $US including postage would be $30.
The Pentagon now admits that thousands of rounds of depleted uranium shells were fired at the Iraqis in the Gulf War - this stuff is radioactive and burns on impact, producing a highly toxic smoke. Did anyone stop to think that our own troops would be affected by it, and that the whole point of `winning' a war is to leave the territory in an inhabitable state?
Trigon Press is preparing their 1997 International Directory of Book Collectors. Anyone interested in getting a copy or being listed (which is free) can contact Roger Sheppard, Trigon Press, 117 Kent House Road, Beckenham Kent BR3 1JJ, England.
Robert Whitaker Sirignano writes that he works for the USPS and has noticed that `Priority', `First Class', and `Air Mail' items are often not treated appropriately unless they are marked and have the correct postage. Except for standard white envelopes, I stamp FIRST CLASS on any mail to go that way.
I Recall - Collections and Recollections by R. H.
Croll, Robertson and Mullens, Melbourne 1939, 188pp, illus
photos and art, index.
Gavin O'Keeffe kindly sent this Australian memoir - it includes a Sidney Sime bookplate design and some remarks about him and about Lord Dunsany; and a Norman Lindsay cartoon as well. Croll was born in Australia in 1869 - this was his twelfth book.
The Wild by David Zindell, Harper Collins 1995, 477pp, 15.99.
That price is in pounds. I think I have mentioned this series before - the previous titles are Neverness and The Broken God. I am currently in the middle of this third book, using the 1996 Bantam pb edition. I like these books - whereas Stephen King is too longwinded because he apparently feels compelled to present the same idea again and again in different words, Zindell is longwinded because he is so inventive. These novels bristle with concepts that have little to do with the plot except as trying to show the nature of a galactic civilization, where the borderline between man and machine or god and machine is lost in advanced technology. Zindell, like Tolkien, has a talent for naming things, so that his exotic characters and concepts always seem to have the right name, though it is rather hard to see where the basis of such a judgement lies. The hero is Danlo wi Soli Ringness, whose father may have become a god and who is currently held captive by another god called The Solid State Entity. Unlike Gene Wolfe's Severian and Stephen King's `bull goose screw' in The Green Mile, rather odd heroes who are torturers and executioners, Danlo worries a great deal about treating others kindly and in fact has taken a vow of ahimsa (not to kill any living thing) - this and a number of other concepts in the Zindell series are lifted from Hindu theology. The flyleaf of the hardcover edition gives little information on David Zindell, noting only that he was trained as a mathematician and lives in Boulder. The mathematical connection will not surprise anyone who has read the books - the starship pilots of Danlo's Order 0f Mystic Mathematicians are able to cross the galaxy by using subspace topological manifolds, but in the process are required to continuously use complex theorems to keep from losing their way.
The Dilbert Principle by Scott Adams, HarperBusiness 1996,
336pp, illus in line, $22.
My nephew Joseph gave me this from Christmas. While the main attraction is the cartoon art, the text is a hilarious attack on TQM-type psychobabble, written in an gonzo style something like that of Dave Barry.
Zine World is a 1-page mailing from a gang of editors in
San Francisco (924 Valencia St. #203) - but I never heard of any
of them or their zines. They offer the first issue of a 60-page
digest-size issue for $3, to be sent in cash (!). This zine,
which is to be quarterly, is also offered on 5 cassettes at $12
($6 for the blind). They say they have to be paid in cash
because they have no bank account - anybody know more about
this? They must have some fan connection, as the envelope is
addressed by hand to `Ned Brooks'.
Aha - Fred Woodworth kindly sent me a copy of the first issue of this magazine. It's 60-pp double-column digest-size, with a rather rude color cover. The content is almost entirely zine reviews, some 400 of them. And they do insist on cash - if you send a check they want four times the rate. Neatly printed and clearly written. Some zines are reviewed by more than one person. As far as I can tell none of these are sf zines - the only one I have seen is Woodworth's own The Match.
The Ghost Story Society was organized by Barbara and Christopher Roden - Roger Dobson writes that they have just moved from England to Canada (POBox 1360, Ashcroft, BC V0K 1A0). Roger also sends a copy of his review of the Robert E. Howard movie The Whole Wide World, and the latest issue of The Redondan Cultural Foundation Newsletter.
Mr. Wilson's Cabinet of Wonder by Lawrence Weschler,
Vintage 1996, 168pp, illus b&w, notes, wraps, $12.
This is the paperback of the 1995 Pantheon hardcover which I have never seen, but even the endpapers are retained. It is based on an essay that appeared in Harper's and is an attempt to grasp the nature and motives of David Wilson's Los Angeles storefront, the Museum of Jurassic Technology (9341 Venice Boulevard, Culver City CA 90212). This is a private museum with very marginal funding, open only a few days of the week, in which you can never be sure whether the continuously changing exhibits are about something real or the product of a rather peculiar imagination. I enjoyed the book about it very much - it reminded me in a way of those Arthur Machen stories that seem to lie in some mysterious overlap of journalism and fiction.
Strange Objects by Gary Crew, Mandarin 1994, 270pp, wraps,
The price is in Australian dollars - Diane Fox sent this from Down Under with a half-dozen other pbs. A very spooky story based on a mystical link between a modern teenager living at a remote truckstop in the Outback and the survivors of an 18-century shipwreck on the Australian coast.
Absolute Hush by Sara Banerji, Black Swan 1992, 190pp,
This also came from Diane Fox, though it was published in England and cover price is in pounds. An appalling but funny story of a brother and sister growing up in rural England at the start of WWII. It is fantasy only in that the product of their incest seems to be a failed demi-god.
The Gods Are Thirsty by Tanith Lee, Overlook Press 1996,
This massive tome is not sf, but it is by Tanith Lee and so I had to have it. I had time to read it over the Christmas holidays, and enjoyed it - though not as much as her fantasy. It is a very carefully researched novel about the French Revolution and the subsequent Terror, as told from the viewpoint of Camille Desmoulins, one of the major political writers of the period. I had been through that history during my years at a French School in Concepcion Chile, but I had forgotten much of it - Danton, Robespierre, Marat, Marie Antoinette, Lafayette (fresh from the success of the American revolution). And always the shadow of the guillotine.
This is the first book that I bought by putting a credit-card order through the Internet.
The Opposing Shore by Julian Gracq, Columbia University
Press 1986, 292pp, $19.95.
Tom Cockcroft sent this - amazing that he should remember for 20 years some very minor discussion of Gracq's The Castle of Argol. I found both of them unreadable - I could get the sense, but the point eluded me. I don't remember what The Castle of Argol was supposed to be about and my copy has disappeared, but this book is marginally fantasy, in that it takes place in an imaginary (and to me, utterly dull and unbelievable) country. I have sent it on to another fan who wanted it.
Noctet - Tales of Madonna-Moloch by Albert J.
Manachino, Argo Press (Box 4201, Austin TX) 1997, 190pp, illus
in line by Larry Dickinson, wraps, $14.95.
A review copy, but not only undefaced but signed by the author and artist! The wraparound cover art is striking, and would have been more so if the blurbs had been relocated to, say, the inner side of the cover stock. The colors are unsettling to me - perhaps they were chosen to match the art.
This is a collection of short stories, all set on the planet Madonna-Moloch, where nothing is really quite alive but nothing ever quite dies. The over-the-top invention reminds me a bit of Bunch's Moderan stories, but the details are much more gruesome. The interior art is not, to my mind, very good - but perhaps it is just as well, considering the subject matter.
The Mummy by Jane Loudon, Univ. of Michigan Press 1995,
I don't remember what I paid for this trade pb. It is an abridged reprint of a book published by Henry Colburn, London, 1827. The only art is the cover from a painting by John Martin, `The Celestial City'.
Subtitled A Tale of the Twenty-Second Century, this is obviously an attempt to capitalize on the success of Mary Shelley's Frankenstein. The author (1807-1858) was only 20 at the time of publication. Once you get used to the hideously verbose pre-Victorian style, the story moves fairly well. There is even a butler who speaks in a parody of this style. His dialog reminds me of an old family substitute for `I don't know' - Not knowing, I would feel a vast amount of delicacy in articulating, for fear of deviating from path of rectitude, thereby endangering my reputation for veracity.
The mummy of the title is that of Cheops, revived by the hero out of scientific curiosity. In the process we get to hear a great deal about the social and scientific conditions imagined for the 22nd century - very peculiar, of course, from a writer who was familiar only with steam engines and hot-air balloons, with only the vaguest hint of electro-magnetism. Our hero gets from London to Egypt by taking his balloon beyond the Earth's influence and waiting for Egypt to rotate into position beneath him - but he does realize that he will have to correct for latitude.
The House Without Windows by Maurice Sandoz, Campion 1950,
101pp, d/w, illus in color by Salvador Dali, 15s.
Many years ago I bought a copy of The Maze by Sandoz, similarly illustrated by Dali, but somehow I had missed this book - and in a reference recently I discovered that there is at least one more such, On The Verge. I much prefer Dali as a book illustrator - here and in the Cellini autobiography - than as a painter of melted watches.
Life Rarely Tells and The Roaring Twenties by Jack
Lindsay, The Bodley Head 1958/60, pp224/240, illus Norman Lindsay,
These are the first two volumes of an autobiography of which I read the third, Fanfrolico and After (The Bodley Head, 1962), some 25 years ago. I had never seen them until Tom Cockcroft sent these from New Zealand. Jack Lindsay was the eldest of the three sons of the great artist Norman Lindsay.
The Road from Coorain and True North by Jill Ker
Conway, Vintage 1989 & 1994, 238 & 249pp, wraps, $11 & $12.
Autobiography of a woman who grew up herding sheep in the Australian outback. The first volume, which goes through her college years, is quite interesting. I may never get to the second. I found these separately at a local thrift store.
The Taverner Novels by Mary Butts, McPherson 1995, 373pp. Bought new because I remember being impressed (and puzzled) by her Ashe of Rings long ago. I have forgotten the price, and there is no d/w of the usual sort for it to appear on - the nicely-made hardcover has only a stiff glassine wrapper. The two novels reprinted here are Armed With Madness and The Death of Felicity Taverner and seem from the description to be at least marginally fantasy. One of the umpteen books that I mean to read Real Soon Now.
The Maximus Poems by Charles Olson, Jargon/Corinth 1960,
the 100-odd pages not numbered.
I bought this from a thrift store only because I had just seen two other `Maximus' titles by the same author at remarkable prices in a used-book store - normally I would not touch such so-called poetry. The art all seems to be in the typography - one `poem' is essentially a laundry list - and in the back even that gets very silly, with the lines running off the horizontal. Perhaps Steve Sneyd knows what it supposed to be for.
The Arthur Machen Society has been taken over from Rita Tait by R. B. Russell of Tartarus Press fame - address 5 Birch Terrace, Hangingbirch Lane, Horam, East Sussex TN21 0PA, England. I have been a member for years and they have an excellent magazine, Avallaunius.
CHI is a newsletter from the China Healthways Institute, all about how you can improve your Qi with a $695 Infratonic QGM - and they prove it too, with Kirlian photography photos. Cheapskates can get the $119 Chionizer, which seems to the layman's eye to consist of a magnet on a string. Someone must have given my address (and the name of the zine) to these people as a joke.
Convicting the Innocent ed. by Donald S. Connery,
Brookline Books (Box 1047, Cambridge MA) 1996, 220pp, illus
photos, index, wraps, $16.95.
This anthology has an introduction by William Styron. It documents the abuses in the criminal justice industry, centering on the case of Richard LaPointe, who has been in jail in Connecticut for ten years on a murder charge - I remember when he was interviewed on 60 Minutes. The problem seems to be that once the police decide that they `know' who committed a crime (or get tired of looking for a suspect), they turn their efforts to extorting a confession rather than to finding hard evidence. It is usually easy enough to find someone of marginal intelligence like LaPointe who can be pressured into confessing or tricked into making conflicting statements. The situation stinks to high heaven in my opinion, but in the current political atmosphere I doubt anything will be done except in highly publicized cases.
Audio Version Science Fiction Stories Vol.I, narrated by
Lawrence Kaiser, art by Jeff Swan, music by Michael Boldt, 3
Joy Smith sent me notice of this - there are seven stories on two cassettes, one of them by Joy herself. Shipping is $2.50 from Audio Version Inc., Box 551, Hawthorne NJ 07507.
Just an Ordinary Day by Shirley Jackson, Bantam 1997,
I got this from the BoMC, so the retail price does not appear on the d/w. Of the 52 stories included, 30 are previously unpublished - found in a barn in Vermont and returned to the author's children. The other 22 stories are previous uncollected from magazine appearances - several of them in The Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction.
I have always thought that the premature death of Shirley Jackson (1919-1965) was a great loss to fantasy literature. She is perhaps best remembered for The Lottery, and the title of this volume comes from one of her equally dark F&SF stories, One Ordinary Day, With Peanuts. I also enjoyed The Bird's Nest, The Road Through the Wall and We Have Always Lived in the Castle. Even though it was unfinished at her death, Come Along With Me was well dramatized for TV.
It is hard to imagine why these stories were not published when they were written. Some are funny and some are chilling, and most are both. Her style is deceptively plain and simple, so that the weirdness of her characters sneaks up on you. I was pleased to see that Bantam managed what should be easy with modern computer technology and a little care but is so seldom seen - a book with no typos.
We also heard from (CC denoting a Christmas card):
The Agatha Christie Mystery Collection Sweepstakes, who claim
that `Cuyler Cuyler' is a winner in the $25,000 category - yeah,
right. I suppose some computer hiccuped, the address is correct!
Harry Andruschak, who says he only reads sf from the public library, and is planning a vacation in Antartica in 1997!
Dave and Su Bates CC
Sheryl Birkhead CC, a beautiful Real Musgrave dragon.
Dainis Bisenieks, who says that Mervyn Peake's Titus Groan, as a 1946 novel, would be eligible for the 1997 retro-Hugo. Dainis also wants my spare copy of Musrum, if no one else is after that - I finally found it. And he offers to send me a xerox of the Gorey d/w for The Making of a Moron!
Margaret Boothroyd, who also used to live in Chile.
Camille Cazedessus, who notes that my sub to Erbdom/Fantastic Collector, now renamed Pulpdom, lapsed some time ago. Caz has also had a COA to Box 2340, Pagosa Springs CO 81147 (a big change for an old Cajun) and acquired a website - www.stationlink.com/pulpdom.
Bob Chambers, who incloses a xerox of the Hannes Bok article Why I Quit Science Fiction from a 1954 issue of Inside, much thanks. Bob is looking for a May 1969 fanzine called Starspinkle - I have a vague notion I have seen this, but can't locate it here.
Vincent Clarke, who sent the Exploits of Englebrecht (see above) and complains about the lack of art in IGOTS 16, and asks if the `Blake House' in the Gavin O'Keefe cover is a reference to fictional private detective Sexton Blake - I think it was an anagram of Bleak House. Vince also gives a good sample of Franglais, a language invented by Miles Kington which now fills five books, including The Franglais Lieutenant's Woman.
Tom Cockcroft, who sent copies of the electric cannon photos from Akkad Pseudoman's Zero to Eighty; and the beautiful Virgil Finlay artfolio done by Nova Press (when? - long ago anyway, it was priced at $2!); and a Gerry de la Ree bookplate with Bok art that I didn't recall seeing before but that's just my lousy memory, as it's the inside front cover to Gerry de la Ree's 1976 Hannes Bok Sketchbook.
Roger Dobson, who says he was an extra in a film about Oscar Wilde, but never actually got on camera - well, even if he had and I ever saw the film, I wouldn't know him, as we have never met... He says Wilde is played by Stephen Fry, who was Meg Ryan's boyfriend in the movie where Walter Matthau played Einstein. Roger also wants all the details (director, cast, writer, etc.) on the Robert E. Howard movie The Whole Wide World - I know it did show at the Seattle Film Festival and found some data on the WWW to send him, everything but the running time.
Ken Faig, who says that, except for most of the names and the fact that HPL did visit Foster RI in August of 1896, his story pamphlet Boy In Summer mentioned last issue was entirely fiction, something that I didn't realize when I read it. Ken also sent a review of the Robert E. Howard film biography, The Whole Wide World.
Eric Ferguson CC (Mickey Mouse in a sleigh pulled by Goofy)
George Flynn, who explains about the old (1810) 13th Amendment mentioned last time - it was passed by Congress and ratified by 12 of the then 17 states, rejected by 4, and Virginia never voted, so it never actually became law. George also confirms the existence of the quipu, and says that the Sinai desert is on the migratory route of the quail. He later explains further about the quail (Coturnix coturnix), but it is too much for me. They do migrate in `immense numbers' in March.
Diane Fox, who sends 7 very interesting pbs from Down Under - I may get some of them read in Atlanta over the holidays.
E. B. Frohvet, which is not his (?) real name, says that his zine Twink 7 (Oct'97) will be a `Gormenghast special issue' - address 4725 Dorsey Hall Dr - A 700, Ellicott City MD 21042.
Thomas Gary, who sent color photos of the electric cannon that he built in his kitchen, which inspired me to look for my copy of Zero to Eighty by Akkad Pseudoman, which has a photo of such a device.
Stephen George, who was shocked by the appearance of another IGOTS - it's so long between issues that he forgets how crazy I am, I guess. Steve asks if William Sloane's 1939 The Edge of Running Water is in the public domain - under the law of the time it would be just out of copyright this year, but I don't know what the effect of the 1978 revision of the law is, or whether that depends on when Sloane died (1974). If the new law applies, the book is copyright until 2024.
Jim Goldfrank CC (with a picture of his dog Pamina).
Mary Gray of the local Hampton Roads SF Assoc., who sent me a birthday card and noted that HaRoSFA's 20th anniversary is coming up.
John Haines, who sends his Dunnock Press paste-up zine Handshake with news of poetical sf events in England.
Dave Hall, who is starting work on a condensation of H. M. Bien's Ben Beor, a very strange space fantasy.
Thomas Hall, who says he got a catalog from White Devil Records, who carry Charles Manson books, tapes, and records; and also a $95 leather-bound gold-stamped translation from the Italian of The Grand Grimoire, said by A. E. Waite to be the magnum opus in that field.
Richard Harland, who wrote The Vicar of Morbing Vyle mentioned in #15, say that a few copies may still be had from the publisher - Karl Evans Publishing, Box 134, Wollongong East, NSW 2500, Australia - for the equivalent of $12 Australian ($9.50 US on 9-30-96), including postage. Richard's next book is called The Darkening of Planet P-19.
John Howard, who notes a COA to Birmingham (UK).
Kim Huett, who notes that G. Peyton Wertenbaker was only 16 when his first sf story, The Man From the Atom, was published in Science & Invention in 1923. He only did five sf stories under that name, the last in 1930. But Chester Cuthbert says he also wrote as `Green Peyton' - what sort of stuff was that? Kim later sent a nice xerox of the Hannes Bok Why I Quit Science-Fantasy Art from Inside; and a 2-page review of that sf classic Space Train.
Binker Hughes CC, who I have known a long time through the Southern Fandom Press Association. The Herb Booth art on this card is obsessively detailed realism, very impressive. I was surprised to see that it is printed with soy inks, I didn't know the technology had gotten that far - you have to look close to see it isn't a photograph.
Alan Hunter, who sent two excellent copies of the Bok article Why I Quit Science Fiction from Inside, and also found a sort of roundtable on censorship in the same zine to which Bok had contributed.
Ben Indick CC (by Edd Cartier!), who asks why the Dickens titles on the cover were misspelled - maybe Gavin will tell us.
Terry Jeeves, who says that his Erg 135 is on the way, and asks about the value of Manly Banister's zine Nekromantikon and a 1935-95 run of Astounding - I don't know, but I doubt I could afford it! Fortunately I already have the Banister zines! Terry is also turning pro - he sold a story to Algis Budrys for Tomorrow. Alas, the postage and conversion fees cost more than he was paid for the story... Terry also sent an Erg calendar for 1997, generated on his computer. The page for January informs me that `Many are cold but few are frozen', that my lucky number is 3.14159, and that my lucky colour is heliotrope - can'd argue with that!
Ira Kaplowitz, who sends a `Mars Attacks' postcard from the worldcon - alas I cannot acknowledge it, as I don't have his address.
Brant Kresovich in Latvia, who got #16 the second time I sent it.
Ken Lake, who mentions a theory that Mars was thought, in the 17th century, to have two moons because the Earth had one and Jupiter had four (that they could see). Ken also sends a fantasy stamp booklet - see above under Floreat Elizabetha and his article on prison reform.
Herman Stowell King, who sent a Maxfield Parrish Christmas card.
Fred Lerner, who says that Frederick Turner, whose A Double Shadow was mentioned last time, also wrote an novel-length poem about a terraformed Mars, Genesis: An Epic Poem (Saybrook Pub., Dallas 1988) and was `Founders Professor of Arts & Humanities' at the Univ. of Texas in Dallas and a former editor of the Kenyon Review.
Dave McClintock, who is recovering from a stroke - people younger than me are not allowed to have strokes!
Michael McKenny, who says that Stanley Weinbaum's The Black Flame is the best of his novels. Michael nominates for scientific error in the Bible the king who ate nothing but grass for seven years - this must refer to Nebuchadnezzar in the 4th chapter of the Book of Daniel, but in the King James and New English versions it simply says `seven times'.
Franz Miklis, who sends a brochure of his color paintings as exhibited at the Stuttgart Planetarium - very fancy stuff, a little like Patrick Woodroffe perhaps.
Gavin O'Keefe, who asks if I have turned up any more Mahlon Blaine books - only one, the 2-vol Taschen reprint of John Willie's pornography zine Bizarre. Gavin says he is working on our project to reprint William Blake's An Island in the Moon.
Mark Owings, who couldn't remember the name of the silly sf book with a photo of an electric cannon - I can remember when Mark knew everything... I finally remembered it myself - Zero to Eighty by Akkad Pseudoman - but still can't find my copy, so I bought a better one, see above. See list above of Mark's SF on floppy disk.
Jack Palmer, who can't read `skiffy' or horror but likes IGOTS anyway... Glad to hear he and Pauline were above the floods in Washington state.
Lloyd Penney, who says that he just read Escape From Splatterbang by the same Nicholas Fisk mentioned last time; and that there is a Vantage Press book called Fandom Is For The Young by Starfleet Grannies Karen Flannery and Nana Grasmick.
Hector Pessina, who sends his sf-movie zine The Lonely Alien Newsletter from Argentina. He notes that he composed this in a bar, and it shows - he typoed my address as `718' and left his own (Casilla CC 3869, 1000 Buenos Aires) off altogether! On the other hand he gave IGOTS a nice review - in vino veritas.
Becky Petersen, who sent a flyer with color images of three of her oil paintings and wants me to help publicize them in order to stop the sixth great extinction. Really beautiful work too, but I have no room in the budget for color printing. Some of the semipro or prozines that use color art might take a look though. She can be reached at Box 10779, Hilo HI 96721.
Derek Pickles, who had a heart attack on September 9, but was able to write by the 16th - here's to a swift recovery! Derek says the IRA uses fertilizer bombs over there. Derek also sends me his fanzine Odds & Sods, a collection of notable and amusing idiocies rather like News of the Weird; and a clipping on the notorious Oz censorship case which apparently made a millionaire of a Felix Dennis.
Greg Pickersgill who says he has a full set of IGOTS - well, not yet - and wants the same of my It Comes In The Mail for his Memory Hole fanzine archives. Alas he has only 5 of the 28 issues and I was able to supply only 2 more. If you have surplus fanzines to donate, the address is 3 Bethany Row, Narberth Road, Haverford West, Pembrokeshire SA61 2XG, UK.
Mark Rich, who (like Ben Indick) says that Katherine Rusch is leaving as editor of F&SF. And Mark even knows who is to replace her - Gordon Van Gelder.
Elliot Shorter, who found time to read IGOTS 16 because he was in the VA hospital with a broken ankle. Like several other readers, he notes that the quipu communication system of knotted cords in Rex Stout's Under the Andes is real. With regard to the quail in the Sinai desert, he says that the committee appointed to produce the King James Bible agreed on 600 words that would be understandable by everyone in England at that time and that quail may have been one of those, i.e. an edible bird.
Robert Whitaker Sirignano, who says he has seen Arthur Machen's The Anatomy of Tobacco listed at over $1000, and asks if Werewolf vs. the Vampire Woman is still available - no, the edition I did was for SFPA only.
Joy Smith, who mentions a curious new anthology called War of the Worlds: Global Dispatches, based on the Wells novel - this was reviewed in Locus but I haven't seen a copy.
Steve Sneyd, who sends a sketch showing the location of Les Baux in Provence, just south of St.Remy - he visited it as a child. Apparently most of the scenery and history in The Star of Les Baux mentioned last time were quite real. Steve also sent a clipping of a rather puzzled review in a British zine of one of my SFPAzines (I am puzzled as to how they got it), and another announcing a new edition with new art by Peter Doherty of William Hope Hodgson's The Ghost Pirates (Invisible Books, BM Invisible, London WCIN 3XX). This letter has another silly British stamp, a cartoon shark threatening a cartoon mouse wearing an eye-patch.
Mae Strelkov, who I was glad to hear received the typeset version of an autobiographical novel she sent me in 1990 - the mail in the wilds of NW Argentina is a bit uncertain. They are getting into the modern voodoo however, promising to send me a videotape!
Rita Tait, who notes that she has turned operations of the Arthur Machen Society over to Ray Russell.
J C Verrecchia, who sends his Spanish-language fanzine Galileo, and a xerox of the Spanish translation of the Heinlein story The Green Hills of Earth from the Spanish version of the collection. I was curious what they would have done with the poetry, especially since the story itself mentions the song being sung in other languages than English. The Spanish verses could not be sung to Heap's tune, in my opinion - there are just too many syllables per line.
Toni Weisskopf CC, the Duchess of Baen, who I see every other month in SFPA.
Henry Welch, who sent a knarley loc to my federal e-mail address - I do not encourage this, NASA management does not want a lot of personal traffic in their system. I do not have a direct link, but have to log onto a branch machine for e-mail.
Henry Wessells, who turns out to be another Lord Dunsany fan, and sends a xerox of John Buchan's The Power-house. Walt Willis, who has moved to 9 Alexandra Road, Donaghadee, N.Ireland BT21 0QD, and is still unpacking. He asks about R. H. W. Dillard's First Man On The Sun - turns out it was an Irish spaceship, powered by peat and shielded by compressed potatoes, a very strange tale. And Walt likes my suggestion that (judging from the page of ghastly handrot shown as a plate in one of his biographies) John Buchan's book about the Earl of Montrose might have been altogether the invention of the typist.
Julia Winn at Amazon.com Books, who complains that she could not reach me by phone, fax, or e-mail to order a copy of the Purple Mouth Press Guinevere and Lancelot.
G Peter Winnington, who in addition to sending the Feast mentioned above notes that he, like Steve Sneyd, has been to Les Baux and that it is much as described in The Star of Les Baux.
Fred Woodworth, who sends his magnificent anarchist zine The Match! (4/$10 from Box 3012, Tucson AZ 85702).
John Wright CC, my only correspondent in South Africa now.
Ken Lake takes a look at some common misapprehensions
David Brin's The Postman destroys a British reader's
willing suspension of disbelief, by describing the honor
Americans give to his protagonist merely because he wears a
mailman's uniform. In British towns the `postman' is just an
employee, to most people as anonymous as the `post' he brings.
He has no more prestige than the daily milkman, the weekly
dustman - whom you call a garbage man - or a door-to-door
salesman. Living in isolated settlements in pioneering days,
Americans obviously saw him in a different light.
In Victorian times (1834-1901) more British people still lived in small communities; the postman probably lived in the same village, and had about the same status as the blacksmith - he provided an essential service, but was not a social equal: in those days, that mattered.
Post office boxes are rarely used here: they're inside post offices, and accessible only during their relatively short opening hours, and give a bad impression because you're hiding your address. Recently the American Philatelic Society offered members a credit card at a premium rate: the credit card company rejected most af these applications because they came from PO Box addresses which, they said, indicated unreliability: it seems American attitudes are moving toward our own about this.
In Britain we don't have RFD-type boxes: the whole idea of mail being left where others could peek at it, maybe even steal it, or where it could be vandalized by local yobbos `for fun', is unthinkable. The postman may cross a mile of open fields to reach your isolated home, but he (or she, perhaps riding a bicycle in all winds and weathers) brings your post to your front door and slips it through the letterslot, to fall safely on your doormat. We've always done it that way, and we don't want it changed.
I'm lucky: although I live in the Greater London conurbation, I know my postman by name. He doesn't crease large envelopes by forcing them through my letterslot: he rings the bell, waits for me to come to the door, and is always cheerful. He's there before 7.30am, and there's a second delivery at noon for second-class mail, though Malcolm prefers to bring this in the morning whenever he can: he'd sooner finish early than get overtime pay.
When I address an envelope to the USA I must force myself to
remember to add my own name and address to the flap; you
habitually write your name and address on envelopes, but often
omit this from letters - which is sheer bad manners in Britain.
These differences tell us a lot about each other. The British
take pride in their privacy: `an Englishman's home is his
castle,' and his correspondence is secret, sacrosanct, nobody
else's business. Write your address on an envelope and you
inform everyone who handles the letter - including the
addressee's parents, husband or landlady, not to mention the
postman - just who it's from. No teenager, no spouse (errant or
not), no lodger, no householder wants that private matter
bruited about: our post remains anonymous till opened.
Postal cards were unwelcome when the GPO introduced them in 1870: who would wish to have his or her correspondence open to the scrutiny of one's maids or the postman? If he knew who the sender was, the postman could pass the word around the village: how could one live in a small community, without drawing the lace curtains to read correspondence in private? If everyone knows who writes to you, your life is no longer your own.
We invented the pillarbox, which has a small hooded slot. To mail a letter in the US you need two hands: one to open something that to our eyes looks libe a trashcan, the other to drop in a letter (or, if it amuses you - and as a student of postal history I know it happens - a skunk, a used syringe, or any other deleterious matter). Our narrow slots will take a small IRA letterbomb - there's not much you can do about them - but they're too small for a hardcover book. And you don't need two hands: they're not closed.
[Ed.note - Most mail boxes in use here now have an open slot on one side and the tilting hinged closure on the other, so that a letter or handful of letters can be mailed with one hand, in many places from the driver's window of a car.]
For packages and parcels the local post-office sells us real stamps, not hideous machine labels. We have a choice: to pay 39c for first-class mail, delivered almost all over the country the next morning, or 30c for second-class mail, deliberately held back an extra day or two to encourage you to pay the first-class rate if you want speed. That's for postcards and letters, for the first 60g (2 ozs); heavier items cost more, of course.
In Britain mail traveled by rail from the l830s, by air where practicable from 1934, by truck otherwise. We never had airmail stamps, because we never had to pay extra for airmail. Up till the First World War, London had six deliveries a day, other towns at least three a day; even isolated village homes had mail delivered twice a day.
You could mail a postcard to a nearby town inviting a friend to tea that day, knowing he would be able to reply by noon and that his reply would be in your hands by 3pm. Now we have telephones, but it's not the same.
Let's get back to this matter of writing your own address on an envelope: Americans ask me `What about undelivered mail?' In early days, letters in the USA were displayed in a frame at the mail office, to be collected by addressees. If unclaimed, they were advertised in the local newspaper, then returned to the sender, a task made easy by what you - to our minds very oddly - call the `corner card'. Our anonymous envelopes made that impossible. Letters were always delivered to homes, so any undeliverable mail was speedily sent to the Dead Letter Office, where it uas officially opened by civil servants sworn to secrecy. We always write our address at the head of a letter - upper right, with the date below - so envelopes were readdressed, resealed, and returned to the sender - and nobody else knew a thing about it.
Until 1660 the Royal Mail carried only official royal correspondence; the `General Post Office' was opened for public use so that the king's agents could intercept and read possibly treasonous mail. Such officially sanctioned spying made us wary of revealing much, but the study of `postal history' reveals much of life in early times in the USA as in Britain: an American friend, a former philatelic dealer and auctioneer, may be retired and failing fast, but tell him you've some `old letters' and he's itching to get his hands on them!