Good morning bookies! Stand by for news and comment.
When I said I might miss a few blogs this week, I didn’t think it would mean the whole week. Sorry about that. I was in Arlington, VA., for the funeral of my uncle, a most solemn and moving experience. It’s hard to express how you feel when you realize that someone you thought of as merely ‘uncle so and so’, a nice man who was there your whole life wearing his cherished but heavily worn jacket, his baggy pants, paying you to wrap his Christmas gifts when you were a kid, growing his own vegetables and pickling them for Christmas gifts, that seemingly ordinary man who was your uncle earned through his career the honor that brought 40-50 men and women of the United States Army to venture out into the January cold for his funeral, people he had never met but who honored him as one of their own. There was a band, an honor guard, a horse-drawn caisson, the riderless horse with the boots backward in the stirrups. There was the shooting guard firing its salute, and an honest-to-goodness bugler to blow Taps. He was buried less than 200 yards from his oldest brother, both in the shadow of the Pentagon. From five brothers born to a middle class family, two are buried at Arlington.
I guess I always knew my uncle was special, just not special in this particular way.
Now I’m back, so let’s get to blogging.
*** Okay, someone has my ideal life. Or one of my ideal lives, anyway. Running a bookstore on the high seas. Yep. If we can have a ship that is a floating condo complex, why not one that is a giant bookstore? This is one of the neatest things I’ve ever seen, I wonder if it could navigate the Mississippi River up to Memphis? I have to assume that the books are all new, unless the public brings in their used books to sell (trade?) while the ship is in port, which would really be kind of neat. The link is to an older story about the ship, there are newer stories but this one had the best pictures.
*** During the 60’s and 70’s there was a flurry of activity surrounding Japanese soldiers who were left behind and forgotten on various islands scattered around the Pacific during World War II, men who didn’t know the war had ended and were still fighting (or, mostly hiding from) US forces. I have read the autobiography of one such man, Onoda, who was trapped on a small Phillippine Island until 1974 but who was accused of cowardice on his return to Japan. (The Japanese of the pre-war period weren’t big on forgiveness) Now here’s the story of another such man who, for some inexplicable reason, lived a similar story but was NOT thought of as a coward on his return to Japan. I think to know the reason one was thought a coward and the other was not, you would need to be Japanese.
*** I know, you’re going into withdrawal. It’s been more than a week without a story bashing ebay. Well, this is a Bonanzle story, not an ebay, exactly. Of course, without ebay’s momentous choke job last year there would not BE a Bonanzle, not one growing so fast as the 2009 version, anyway, so the following story from CNN shows just how far the little-site-that-could has come. More than 20,000 members now and you can only think it will grow exponentially from his point.
*** The demise of the independent bookstore is rather an old story by now, but there is still room to mourn when a good one goes under. I never shopped at Cody’s, but it seems like the sort of store that I would have liked. Our local independent small-chain seller, Davis-Kidd books, is terrific, the personnel irreplaceable, but one can only hope they are in this for the long run. Losing them would hurt very badly, so I understand the sense of loss for Cody’s loyal customers.
*** There was a time when I took historian David Irving seriously. As did many other people, I might add. He was British, he was a historian, he sounded good and had the right credentials. His opinions were a bit different than most, but so what? Mine are too. Of course, this was before he wound up in jail in Austria for denying the Holocaust. (As an American this seems bizarre, that someone could be thrown in jail for espousing a political view, even one as awful as this. But if I am ever in Austria again, and I hope that I am, you can be sure I won’t be denying the Holocaust or Sieg Heil-ing down Kartnerstrasse, even if I were so inclined, which I’m not. I mean, how stupid can you be?)
Anyway, Irving lost pretty much all credibility when he went about saying the Holocaust wasn’t real and didn’t happen, but this has lead to a most interesting turn: Irving, it seems, was chosen by Hitler himself to be his biographer. Not that the two ever met, of course. Irving spent part of his childhood dodging bombs dropped by the Luftwaffe and was still a child when Hitler ate the end of a Walther. But, no matter. Hitler somehow knew Irving would come along one day and appointed him the task of writing his ‘true’ biography. How could he know such a thing? don’t think about it, you’ll get a headache. Instead, read the attached article, it’s fascinating and eerie and you’ll hope you’re never sitting next to Irving on a long plane flight.
*** I note that Patrick McGoohan died Tuesday in L.A. ‘The Prisoner’ was one of those fleeting moments of remembered greatness in one’s youth, so transitorily wonderful that you never forget it. During one of my two years at UT Knoxville there was a marathon of ‘The Prisoner’s’ one and only season that I sat through until my backside ached. The series was one of those that was so uniquely English that it could never have been made anywhere else, and efforts to try would have failed miserably.
A legend has passed.
*** Not merely one legend, however. I see where sir John Mortimer has died and this is truly a loss that I will feel. For those who haven’t discovered Rumpole of the Bailey, I feel sorry for you. Second only to PG Wodehouse in my estimation of the great 20th century British humorists, Mortimer could seemingly will laughs from even the most dour reader. ‘She Who Must Be Obeyed’ is something all husbands can relate to and none would admit to doing so. Sigh…