Monday, October 01, 2012

Balto Book Festival 2012

Bookworms Donna B., Peter G., Mindi and Amy look for good reads

(Saturday, September 29) - Amy and I went to the 2012 Baltimore Book Festival this past Saturday and, I must admit, we go to score books and check out the food and music - not to hear authors read or talk. I know that's shameful for two English majors and, in my case, a practicing librarian, but as The Donald (Rumsfeld) once quipped in a moment of profound metaphysical insight, "It is what it is." (Besides, we get book talks every day of the week at my library. Talk is  cheap - I'm all about the swag and the goods!)

We spent an inordinately long time at the first stop we made, Book Rendezvous (where we also rendezvoused with Donna Stinnett Bowen, Mindi Siegel and "Man About Mt. Vernon" Peter Geier, as pictured above) because in addition to many fine books there were some great vinyl LPs this year, as well. Used records and paperbacks could be had for as cheap as $1 so, being a "I'd buy that for a dollar" kinda guy, I immediately scarfed up a 1952 Charles Schultz masterpiece The Wonderful World of Peanuts, a Penguin edition of Graham Greene's "entertainment" The Ministry of Fear, modern Evelyn Waugh-heir apparent Tom Sharpe's Indecent Exposure, and Richard S. Prather's The Shell Scott Sampler.

Four Score for a $1: Schulz, Prather, Greene & Sharpe

I was particularly pleased with my Shell Scott score, as these are really fun hard-boiled detective reads in the simile-savvy Raymond Chandler meets politically incorrect Mickey Spillane sexist-womanizer style. Plus the beautiful sexy gal cover was by pulp artist extraordinaire Robert E. McGinnes. McGinnes illustrated 18 Prather covers (see them all on Flickr) - not to mention covers for Rick Holman's Carter Brown, Ian Fleming's James Bond (his most iconic was for the theatrical poster for the film Casino Royal), and Mike Shayne paperbacks.

McGinnes's psychedelic "Casino Royale" poster art

McGinnes gals Bang a Gong - and Get It On!

A McGinnes cover makes it a book you wanna curl up with in bed
In his preface to Art Scott and Wallace Maynard's gorgeous collection The Paperback Covers of Robert McGinnis (I'm so glad Michael Yockel gave me my copy, because it's out-of-print and goes for between $110-170 on Amazon!), Prather commented on McGinnes's "fine art" as follows:
"...he paints members of the opposite sex in a way that makes them more opposite; somehow he makes brush strokes in another dimension (one I hope to visit at least briefly when far far away in the future I kick the bucket); clearly, at his most creative, he is in contact with angels, some of whom pose for him.

Pursuing this mystical connection: I suspect that Mr. McGinnis and I share a belief seldom spoken of aloud by us men, for fear that we may be considered mentally unhinged. I have long believed that all women - tall or short, fat or thin, beautiful or less beautiful - are Goddesses. Yes, I really do mean authentic honest-to-God capital-G Goddesses, bright sparks of burning spirit with their blinding light temporarily dimmed behind sweet flesh in order that we dorks, at least sometimes, may approach them with less fear and trembling than we otherwise would."
I love Raymond Chandler's prose above that of all others, mainly for his brilliant hard-boiled similes and "Chandlerisms," and Prather is clearly a protege of Marlowe's creator, albeit in a much more un-P.C. style that reflects the influence of his two-fisted (one fist to hold the liquor, the other one for a cigarette) Spillane and Swingin' '60s Bondsian times. 'Twas the era of G-men (girls, guns and guts) or perhaps (as the Bonzo Dog Doo-Dah Band crooned in "Big Shot") of "L-men" (liquor, love and laughs). Take this passage describing sexy model Lydia Brindley  from "The Guilty Party":
"She smiled but still didn't say anything. Maybe she couldn't talk. Maybe she was an idiot. I didn't care. But if curves were convolutions, she had an IQ of at least 37-23-36, or somewhere in that neighborhood, and that's the high-rent district.

Moreover, if some faces can stop a clock, hers would have made Big Ben gain at least forty minutes an hour. A lot of black hair, somewhat tangled, as if a horny Apache dancer had just wound his hands in it, preparatory to flinging her across the room. Narrow dark brows curving hotly - yeah, whether you think so or not, they curved hotly - over tawny brown eyes the indefinable shade of autumn. Lips that would burn holes in abestos. And then that genius body. Man, whatever she had, it should be contagious."
OK, it's not exactly Shakespeare or Melville. Perhaps it's not even "Letters to Penthouse" worthy in its graphic adulation of the female form ("I never though this would happen to me, but when Good Time Sally squeezed my..."). But it's great fun and works for me. (And was Prather anticipating my feelings about Amy with that line about "whatever she had, it should be contagious"?).

I also scored a Penquin paperback edition of  gifted Polish writer Tadeusz Borowski's This Way for the Gas, Ladies and Gentlemen for a buck at Book Rendezvous. Borowski, who took his own life in 1951 after having survived both the Auschwitz and Dachau concentration camps, wrote of surviving the unendurable and the hopeless during his time in the death camps. I'm a sucker for these kind of accounts because I agree with comedian Bill Hicks (R.I.P., Wild Bill!) that Humanity is a "virus with shoes" - and nothing reinforces this cynical (i.e., informed) worldview more than stories about Nazi atrocities (i.e., a primer in "Man's Inhumanity Toward Man") during World War II.

From Prather's sexy babes traipsing around the bedroom to Borowski's naked death camp victims walking towards the showers is a 360-degree mood swing, but both books are great literature, in their own bi-polar ways.

I also picked up four LPs for a buck each: an English Beat compilation What Is Beat?, Fourth Drawer Down by post-punk sulkers The Associates (considered Edinburgh's 3rd greatest post-punk band, after The Fire Engines and Josef K) containing their signature Bowie-Eno-Krautrock "Berlin ist wunderbar" influenced single "White Car in Germany"; a 1985 Rough Trade compilation record If You Can't Please Yourself, You Can't Please Your Soul that had Scraping Foetus Off the Wheel, Virginia Astley and (just to make Amy jealous) Marc Almond on it; and my trump card platter, the first Dan Hicks & His Hot Licks LP - the one with "How Can I Miss You (When You Won't Go Away)?" (which I sing to myself at work whenever the junkies come in to doze and use the bathrooms and pass out mid-sentence when asking me a question).

Walking around, we came across the Institute of Notre Dame high school girls escorting storybook characters like Beatrix Potter's Peter Rabbit and a huge white shaggy dog (at first I thought it was either the Abominable Snowman or Big Foot!).

Amy had a hare-raising time at the book festival with Peter Rabbit

 Amy stops to listen to this street person's shaggy dog story

Then we stopped by the American Visionary Arts Museum tent, which is always a highlight of the festival. Amy tried on some reading glasses that came with a mustache, but ended up buying only another mustache ring (you can never have too many of these - they give you instant hairy knuckles!).
Amy embraces Mustache Chic trying on reading glasses at the AVAM booth

We had to stop when we saw a vendor selling t-shirts that said "Conversate is not a word."

Amy rests her case: She's pro-"Conversing" & anti-"Conversating"

It's one of our pet peeves that "conversating" has replaced "conversing" in the popular vernacular. We were gonna blame John Lydon (aka Johnny Rotten) for this phenomena because we recently watched an episode of the British TV series Misfits and could have sworn the theme song was PiL's "Careering" until I looked it up on the Google and learned that it was a wholesale nick of PiL called "Echoes" by latter-day punk-funkers The Rapture ("The city breathing/The people churning/The conversating/The price is what?").

Regardless of Who Struck John, the word still makes us grate our teeth whenever we hear people add that extra, unnecessary syllable (which, like the "S" in Mash's HAMS that stands for "salt," should be thrown away!) in everyday speech. For the record, the Urban Dictionary defines "conversating" as "a word you use when trying to say you were talking to someone so as to come off as more cultured or intelligent. In reality, it does little more than make you look like an idiot who's trying too hard. If you must make yourself sound like a pompous ass, the correct term is "conversing."

Later we ran into our musician friends Brian and Helena and together watched an eclectic musical set by Emma White that mixed folk with jazz with Beyonce.

We stopped by the Radical Books tent, where Amy bought a Nikola Tesla pin from the Steampuk vendor (is Tesla now considered steampunk? He did have those Tesla coils, so I guess it fits).

Exhausted from a day of walking around amidst the ever-moving throng of humanity, we bid Donna adieu and headed down to Sticky Rice to finally use Amy's Living Social meal deal at our favorite (after Henninger's Tavern, of course) Fells Point restaurant. As we walked in, the bar was blasting Buzzcocks on the sound system. No wonder we love that place!

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Blogger Matt Conrad said...

You're completely right about the PiL ripoff. I noticed it right away and found your blog researching it on the internet. I thought "That's a direct ripoff do Careering".

12:13 AM  

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