The Graveyard

The Lair Of Gary James

Posts Tagged ‘book collecting’

On Design

Posted by BigWords on April 17, 2016

As I write this, the cold winds of winter still brushing against the land, the paperwork hasn’t all been signed and filed and the preparation of some basic material is still pending, but… I am really excited at the prospect of not having to rush things. Yes, there is a date picked for the launch of the madness train, but it is more of a celebration of publishing as a thing that exists rather than a point at which material must be produced by.

I’ve been poring over old titles to see why literature makes me so happy (I had fourteen books in the caravan, and all of them were read multiple times), and the realization that everything has a place in the grand order came to me. Like an insight which should have been obvious, but needed pushing towards in order to be uncovered.

It is simple to see, looking back, that the Penguin titles were the foundation of color as a brand. The use of bold color to indicate genre was not new to marketing, with the most visible use being vinyl records, but books feel different – less readily catalogued, more unwieldy. While a simple border color can hint at things being part of some larger scheme, it doesn’t readily follow that it would work for every title.

Indeed, it can harm future titles if a books performs remarkably badly, hinting that the rest of the works accompanying the title follows in the same direction. It also makes it difficult to see the movement in genre styles which come with the passing of time, putting older works and modern into a great stew which makes discerning patterns – ironically – more difficult.

Using specific fonts is another way in which a line can stand out, but this creates the same problems. Design? House designs tend to skew towards the old ‘familiarity breeds contempt’ mindset, and even though a great number of iconic, timeless titles originally appeared under basic covers, I am less than enthused about the use of strict house styles. Maybe it is a way of preparing books for the world which has had its moment

When the future chroniclers of the state of ebooks come to talk of design, what will be the consensus on design quality? Will there be gushing commentary regarding the chances taken, or will there be mockery. I am worried that we are all going to look like cavemen when historians living on the moon begin to disseminate their masterworks on literary history.

There is already a Tumblr about bad Kindle covers, and while I feel bad for those covered, it might be the impetus to shake up their process. Hell, it could drive people to pick up one of the books to see what the contents are like, but I might be wrong about that – if anyone has had a title mentioned there, they might want to mention how it affected their sales, if at all.

There are a few things which I look for when I am out at bookshops, but with the notion that everyone is different, please note: this is a personal observation. Woodcut prints stand out, block colors work if the story is easily conveyed, and painted covers can hit or miss depending on the artist used. Simple color schemes are dramatic in isolation, but among a variety of similar imagery gets lost easily.

And here’s something weird: In the last decade, but especially so in the last few years, the trend of using iconic schemes from other media seems to be picking up. Covers which mimic old computer game releases, or video cassettes, or even audio cassettes, are on a bit of a wave right now. I’m not sure if that is retro-love or laziness, but it amuses me to see throwaway culture being immortalized now.

Where are we going? Well, there are still plenty of uncharted atolls we can reach by getting an overall sense of the map. Which is a growing trend, apparently. Books about maps, that is. I’m not a great fan of the introspective titles using maps as metaphor, but straight-up map books? Hell yes. I may be in the minority when it comes to those, but they always seem so optimistic to me. Maps as a way of looking at the world.

I’m not sure where this post was heading.

I started with something about books being awesome, but got turned around.

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Small Wonders And Big Surprises

Posted by BigWords on October 8, 2010

It was only when I was boxing up all my books (again) that I realized there were a few titles I didn’t realize I actually had. This comes as no surprise to anyone who has seen my collection, but it made me think that Goodreads (or something similar) may actually have practical benefits for those of us unable to curb our spending habits. Most of the problem resides in the difficulty getting adequate storage has always proven. Once you hit the critical factor – maybe a thousand or so books – then some will unquestionably slip through the layer of immediate recognition. I’m not saying I have too many books, because a person can never have too many books, but I do need a list of some sort to identify which titles I have already bought, and which I have no need to go buy again. This happens more often than I would really like. All the time, actually.

Sometimes I feel as if I’m buying merely because I need to buy something, rather than buying because something is calling out to me. This, especially with all the numerous other things I desperately need to spend money on, has had a strange effect on what I have been buying. Roger Highfield’s The Science Of Harry Potter and Harry, A History by Melissa Anelli – my two latest purchases – were bought mainly so I could stretch out the Harry Potter section of my non-bookshelf-bookshelf (with everything being in boxes, talk of a physical bookshelf seems redundant at best), and I’ve been pondering ways to use the space I will have when I get the house fixed up. A library seems a good way to go, but all the dedicated book rooms I have seen over the years always strike me as harkening back to a Victorian philosophy of design which doesn’t appeal.

The solution to storage will probably come to me later, but in the meantime I am going through each box in order, and writing down – for the first time ever – which books I have in my collection. There are a lot, so this may take some time. Hopefully this activity will result in me never buying another copy of the Twilight Zone novelization – a perennial problem which I’ve never quite let sink into my brain… Although I did see the Halloween novelization a couple of days ago, and I haven’t come across that particular book yet – maybe there really is no hope for me after all. Just to show how truly random and eccentric my collection is, I thought it would be cool therapeutic to list the contents of one box at random. I wish there were more intellectual titles on display, but the box contains what the box contains, and pretending that the box contains a highbrow range is to defeat the purpose of such lists.

Approaching Oblivion by Harlan Ellison
Black Ajax by George MacDonald Fraser
Bogart by A.M. Sperber & Eric Lax
Brave New World Revisited by Aldous Huxley
Bruce Lee – Fighting Spirit by Bruce Thomas
Chambers XWD – Dictionary Of Crossword Abbreviations by Michael Kindred & Derrick Knight
The Chemistry Of Death by Simon Beckett
The Chinatown Death Cloud Peril by Paul Malmont
The Devil’s Bones by Jefferson Bass
Dirty Harry by Phillip Rock
The Domain Of Devils by Eric Maple
The Encyclopedia Of Japanese Pop Culture by Mark Schilling
Film Facts by Patrick Robertson (both editions, for some reason)
Future Perfect: How Star Trek Conquered The World by Jeff Greenwald
I Shudder At Your Touch edited by Michele Slung
Infected by Scott Sigler
James Stewart – Behing The Scenes Of A Wonderful Life by Lawrence J. Quirk
Love All The People by Bill Hicks
The Man Who Ate The World by Frederik Pohl
The Microsoft Way by Randall E. Strass
The New Science Of Strong Materials by J.E. Gordon
Odd And The Frost Giants by Neil Gaiman
Possible Side Effects by Augusten Burroughs
The State Of The Art by Iain M. Banks
Superhuman by Matt Whyman
Taboo: Sex And Morality Around The World by Armand Denis
Use Of Weapons by Iain M. Banks
Wargames by David Bischoff
Wildwood Road by Christopher Golden
Young Kate by Christopher Andersen

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Building The Best Library – Cinema

Posted by BigWords on September 20, 2009

Halliwell’s has long been a sore point for me. The reviews (as they are) don’t add up to much, being so brief, and the viewpoint that all horror films are shit niggles at me. I want to respect the views, but damn… The reviewers make it so hard to take the books seriously. I have a couple of editions, yet I don’t look at them very often. They are excellent for information on pre-1930s cinema, but for modern films are less than useless.

Not much more useful, though containing far more informative reviews, is Virgin’s Film Guide. I have an old edition, yet don’t feel the urge to upgrade to a more recent version, so that says something about the amount of times I really use it. Time Out on the other hand, is one of the guides that I feel the need to keep on buying. The books have changed and evolved over the years, and it is interesting to see what gets bumped and what gets expanded upon.

Good Movie Guide by David Parkinson falls between all those big guides, but has its own niche due to the indexing throughout the main body of the text. It has driven my direction to films I would never have thought of watching, and I thank Parkinson profusely for the publication. The cover is bland and uninteresting, but the contents within are well worth trying to track this sucker down. I don’t know if many people have really paid it much attention, but I really like the book.

Roger Ebert’s Video Companion (1997 Edition) doesn’t contain many reviews, but I kept a hold of it for the honest and excitable way in which some lesser films are extolled. There are more of his reviews online now, and looking for other (newer) editions doesn’t seem worth the hassle. I like Ebert, unlike some readers who have complained about his style, but the act of reviewing takes a personal touch. I kinda miss the video era, and this is a final hurrah for the format before the digital revolution stole away my grubby pre-’84 copies of horror films.

The Film Yearbook and Film Review books from the eighties which listed every release of the year are still kicking around, though I seem to look at them less as time goes by. I’ve gone off a lot of eighties product, though looking back I realize that the Buckaroo Banzai coverage was woefully inept. How could so many people ignore an instant classic? Roger Rabbit got endless coverage in some books, and this goes some way to explaining the success of The Matrix. People like innovation.

The how, why and where is unknown, but at some point in the last couple of decades I managed to get my hands on The International Film Guide 1968 (edited by Peter Cowie) which is filled to the brim with information on obscure European short films and actors who most people would be hard pressed to name. I really like dipping into this every now and again to remind myself that there have been more films made than I have ever even heard of. It is an immensely humbling experience reading this.

Ten geek points for anyone who has heard of Jerzy Skolimowski.

Film guides might seem to dominate my cinema book collection, if you have read this far, but they go hand in hand with the film scripts I seem to collect. And novelizations. Whenever I find a film that says something interesting and has an interesting character I try to learn more about the film, hence the increasingly eccentric books as I delve deeper into the stacks of books.

The Action Movie A-Z by Marshall Julius
The DVD Stack ed. Nick Bradshaw & Tim Robey
Film Facts by Patrick Robertson
Illuminating Shadows – The Mythic Power Of Film by Geoffrey Hill
Incredibly Strange Films edited by V. Vale & Andrea Juno
National Heroes – British Cinema In The Seventies And Eighties by Alexander Walker
That’s Sexploitation! – The Forbidden World Of Adults Only Cinema ed. Muller & Faris
The Ultimate DVD Guide ed. Andy McDermott

The Rough Guide To Cult Movies covers much the same ground as Incredibly Strange Film does, but in less detail with added films. It rattles through the twentieth centuries most offbeat and obscure directors and their output, with as much love for Herschell Gordon Lewis and Fellini alike. Nobody is pushed to the sideline as the bottom of the barrel (where some glittering gems have settled) is scraped with the intention of finding gold.

The BFI book Ultimate Film is a Top 100 book I actually don’t hate so much. I know that people are getting fed up with my twenty-minute-long rant when I’m asked on my opinion of the Top 100 television shows that run every so often, but this book serves a purpose, and it is filled with info on the films covered. The BFI Film Classics series (of which I have a couple) are focused on single films, so the coverage is much more in-depth than I get elsewhere. I really like these.

The Bonnie & Clyde Book ed. Sandra Wake & Nicola Hayden is one of the few books that I bought merely upon seeing the cover. I love the silvery quality of the cover, and – despite thinking the film was a bit overcooked – I have actually found the book informative and not as slanted in viewpoint as it could have been. Blockbuster, Tom Schone’s look at the summer hits and the people who make them, is a subject I find endlessly fascinating.

I’m gonna say it again and again, because people don’t understand my reaction to the large summer films – 99.99999% of blockbusters are unmitigated, totally-irredeemable shit. This includes a lot of films I actually own on DVD, so I completely understand if people want to disagree. The braindead, simplistic, brash spectacles with little (or no) sense of logic and plot are a viable commodity in Hollywood, and at least I have one book which covers that aspect of film.

One last mention, before I wrap this up, must go to The Making Of Taxi Driver by Geofrey McNab. I know there are a dozen or more similarly-themed books on the making of the film, but this is – for me at any rate – the best of the bunch. Feel free to disagree, complain, recommend and – I know this is coming – try to get me to pick up your books because y’all are a bunch of geniuses and I’m shockingly behind the times in not acknowledging you as such…

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Building The Best Library

Posted by BigWords on September 18, 2009

There’s a big reshuffle going on here at the moment, with piles of books and stacks of boxes being shifted back and forth. In the midst of the chaos it became clear that there are serious gaps in my collection, so starting here I’m going to see what I need – with the assistance of anyone who wants to chime in with a recommendation. The first stack that came to hand was – not entirely surprisingly – computer books.

I have managed to get through quite a few of the …For Dummies books, and as useful as they are I guess I don’t react as well to the format as others. They feel like light reads despite their subject matter, and there are better books being published with computerly writings. For the record, the following are the ones I have held on to

Java For Dummies by Barry Burd (4th edition, 2006)
Windows Server 2008 For Dummies by Ed Tittel & Justin Koreic (2008)

No, I don’t have as much as a clue as to why those two in particular remain, the second especially so because I would rather poke my eyes out with a rusty spoon rather than use most Windows products, but remain they do. I must have read something in those books that I thought would make a good prompt, but for the life of me I can’t remember what made me refrain from handing them off to someone else.

The Ultimate HTML Reference by Ian Lloyd (SitePoint) covers code, so any other – similar – books aren’t necessary unless they offer something really different. What ‘something really different’ would be, I have no idea, but if there is something I should be reading then I’ll find out soon enough.

The bare bones ‘n’ facts are important, but context is king, right? History lessons:

A Brief History Of The Future by John Naughton
Being Digital by Nicholas Negroponte
Encyclopedia Of Cybercrime by Samuel C. McQuade, III
Free Culture by Lawrence Lessig
The Microsoft Way by Randall E. Stross

And that about covers the computing books. I know I’m missing some important texts, but that’s all there is at the moment. Fiction takes up a larger portion of my collection, so the non-fic grouping needs fleshed out with some good stuff. Any suggestions are welcome.

Note: I haven’t included the Photoshop books or gaming books, because they would really need sections of their own.

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Got It… Got It… Got It… Need It.

Posted by BigWords on September 9, 2009

It’s probably to be expected from a book-addict, but this admission is really beyond anything I ever expected to write here. It’s fairly well known that I have a compulsive personality, so the concept of me being near shops which might – on the off chance – have books for sale is a bad one. It isn’t my fault that I have to scour the paperbacks, because it’s something I have no control over. There’s always something I don’t own, and I really ought to be looking at the important works every so often.

Only… It isn’t the classics which catch my eye. They usually have dull covers, so I’m naturally drawn to the gaudy, gauche OTT stuff which most people instinctively pass over. The latest purchases, in no particular order, are:

Batman & Robin novelization by Michael Jan Friedman
In Search Of The End Of Time by John Gribbin
Babel-17 by Samuel R. Delany
Star Wars: Hard Merchandise by K.W. Jeter
Star Wars: Vision Of The Future by Timothy Zahn

And that is one day’s purchases. Not to mention DVDs and games, though those are just as addictive:

Saints & Soldiers (Ryan Little, 2004)
The Game (David Fincher, 2001)
The Punisher (Xbox)
Project Zero II: Director’s Cut (Xbox)

Does it need to be said?

“My name is Gary, and I am an addict…”


The thought that my library will one day grow too large to safely remain contained in a building originally designed merely for domestic purposes is worrying. There are a few tonnes of books, DVDs, CDs, games, comics and toys. There’s also a very real worry that one day the floorboards will give out under the pressure of holding all that stuff in place, and I’m gonna wake up under rubble, roof-slates and all manner of construction material.

Yet I can’t bring myself to sell anything. Not even the crap which I’ll never look at again. Even if I did start selling bits of my collection, I would only end up buying back the same things.

I’m still looking for a couple of Spider-Man paperbacks, the novelization of Mission: Impossible and a few of the earlier books by Harlan Ellison, so the mad collecting isn’t going to be curtailed at any point in the near future.

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Will The Real Book Please Stand Up?

Posted by BigWords on July 16, 2009

There are many reasons why I purchase duplicates of books I already own, but three stand out:

  1. My brain is frazzled, and I can’t remember if I have the novel or not. I buy the book anyway, just in case it isn’t in my collection already.
  2. The cover doesn’t seem familiar, so I can’t possibly have bought the book. It isn’t as if the publisher would use new cover art, would they?
  3. It is a new and revised edition, which has scenes edited from the earlier edition, or is heavily rewritten by the author. I have to own a copy…

The first and second reasons may be familiar to other people, but the third reason is harder to pin down. I have heard people say that they absolutely, under any circumstance, WILL NOT go out of their way to pick up a revised and expanded edition of a book they love. It is a gray area which most people steer clear of discussing in polite company, and I have been told to stop bringing up the subject on numerous occasions. The most recent incident happened about a month ago, and I find myself thinking about the topic because of a purchase I made today.

Some background, before I start rehashing the argument in public:

I enjoyed the rewritten version of Demon Seed, despite the already-dated pop-cultural references and because of the already-dated pop-cultural references. I’m not going to claim that it was a classic of its’ genre by any means, though my enjoyment was real. The original and new edition both have a place on my bookshelf.

Stephen King’s The Stand, which received a beautiful new leather-bound edition upon publication (replete with those awesome Bernie Wrightson illustrations), is on my bookshelf. I love the book though the original version, in paperback, is still an essential component of my Stephen King collection. I would never think of favouring one over the other, and they are both equally interesting even if the Complete And Uncut Edition does not stray far from the original text plotwise.

There are also a couple of Philip José Farmer paperbacks which I have deliberately sought out the revised copies of, an updated version of Moorcock’s Lives And Times Of Jerry Cornelius (which had stories that were not in the original) as well as many others.

I like the fact that I can see ‘behind the magic’ by reading both versions of a book, comparing the words used and noting the changes. I tend to see the appearance of new editions of olf favorites much as I would the yearly publication of something like Overstreet – I don’t give a fuck if it is essentially the same book… It’s new and I want it.

Which is where I ought to point out the nature of the argument. It was due to my recommendation of the corrected and reinstated text of a Lovecraft novel in .pdf to a friend. There were a few people present, and I found that the general consensus was not in my favor. The mood of the day seemed to be “It doesn’t matter if it was how the author intended the story because the bastardized version is the one everyone knows.”

I didn’t feel like arguing over the matter, because these pissing contests get really old really quickly, though I probably should have fought a little harder to make a clear point. The pointless arguments are always cropping up, so I’ll have a chance to get my own back once the topic of muzak turns up in conversation. Maybe I’ll pick a fight about something dumb this weekend…

Enough background. On to the point.

My copy of Joe Haldeman’s The Forever War is falling apart. I have had it since high school, so the poor paperback has seen better days. It is a mess of creases, coffee stains and small tears covering the pages like cobwebs. I’m always afraid that it is going to disintergrate in my hands, so buying a new copy was the simple solution. Only… my plans never go quite to plan. Even the new shed I’m putting in the garden has hit trouble, so I shouldn’t be surprised that the gods are mocking me.

The new copy of The Forever War is a revised edition. Which means that I can’t get rid of the old paperback until I have a better copy. The two books are sitting beside each other on my desk right now, and the new one (crisp cardboard cover, shiny artwork and reinstated segments) is mocking the old copy. I’m slightly peeved that there wasn’t a note on the cover to say “Wait, before you buy this… You ought to know that the words have been changed.”

I’ll look out for a copy of the original text at the weekend, but I have the feeling I’m gonna come home with more books than I really ought to. Publishers ought to take into account the addictive nature of buying books, and take care of those of us who are too eager to purchase their offerings that the simple act of opening the first few pages to check the content is completely alien. Yup, I’m uncontrollable in my spending habits.

There’s a nice copy of The Bourne Identity in the second-hand bookshop at the end of the high street, and I can’t remember if I have it in my collection or not. I’m going to take a better look at it, and this time I’ll check if it is the original text or a revised edition.

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