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American Tourist Accidentally Locked Inside London Bookstore

When I was a little girl, I saw a movie in which some children are trapped overnight in a shopping mall. I can’t remember how that came to pass, what they did in there, or the eventual outcome (I feel sure they made it out alive). What I do remember, however, is trying to go to sleep later that night – and even two or three nights following -  and being absolutely buzzing with the imaginings running through my brain. If only I could be trapped overnight in a shopping mall, preferably with a friend or two. We could run up the down escalator! Drop rubber balls from the top floor all the way to the courtyard and fountains four storeys down! We could take every pillow in the bedding department and make the world’s most comfortable fort. We could work the soft serve machine with our own hands and make ourselves sick! Makeovers in the makeup department! Cover the sporting goods department floor in basketballs, baseballs, golf balls, softballs, soccer balls, volleyballs and more – and then corral them all down an escalator! Dress up and hold still and pretend to be a mannequin during an epic game of hide and seek!

I lay there, clutching the bedsheets in my damp little hands, willing my fevered brain to slow, to stop the dizzying cavalcade of wistful possibility from keeping me awake. In summary, it was a mammoth fantasy of my childhood to be trapped inside such a place, and given free rein, if only for one night, and next-day consequences be damned. I often thought it would be a wonderful grand prize for some kind of childhood contest.

Now that I am an adult, of course, my tastes have matured, and I’ve grown too discerning and reserved for such flights of fancy.

David Willis, Texan tourist, squanderer of golden opportunities (photo: Twitter)

David Willis, squanderer of golden opportunities (photo: Twitter)


The previous statement is of course a lie, and the reason I could only shake my head in mute disappointment at Texas resident David Willis (pictured, right), who on Thursday, October 16th, had been browsing through the stacks in London’s famed Waterstone’s bookshop in London (Trafalgar Square, no less), when he realized he had been missed by the store’s employees, and the store was now closed for the night. The lights were out, and he was the only soul in the place.

This is where the story should go: Mr. Willis, delighted at his predicament and recognizing his  absolutely once-in-a-blue-moon good fortune, could hardly decide where to begin.  First, he took a moment to simply breathe, and stretch, and take in his surroundings. He listened to the silence, he scanned the room, and eventually tested his solitude with one brave “Hallo?”. Hearing nothing in return but his own echo bounced back to him off the spines of hundreds, and hundreds, and thousands of books, still on their shelves and waiting for him – David Willis embarked on the best night of his life.

Imagine – the shop closed at 9pm. Even if it opened again at 7 am (which is very early), Willis could have had 10 full hours of perusing an almost unending supply of books, with nobody to distract him. No other customers jostling his elbow or making conversation; no staff trying to sell him something or repeatedly inquiring whether he needed help; no spouse, no children, no television even. Just a glorious, uninterrupted ten hours of books. And he was on vacation, so no work the next day!  Nothing to do the next day but amble back to his hotel for some well-deserved sleep, and to prepare how best to tell his wonderful story.

Sadly, that is not where the story went, in real life. In actuality, David Willis tried the door, set off the alarm, spoke to store security, called the police, and even resorted to taking a photo of the inside of the darkened store and tweeting it out to the Twitterverse as a last cry for help. At last, his pleas were heard, and he was released. All told, he spent only two hours in the store.

I must admit, I would have absolutely no idea where to start or what to read. But I would start, eventually, and I would read. I can’t help but feel this was an enormous waste of a rare opportunity. Still, I suppose not everyone shared my childhood fantasies.

What would you read if you had a full night, uninterrupted, and a vast landscape of books at hand?

 


Signed Aussie First Edition of Flanagan’s Booker-winner sells for $1,313


Signed True Australian first edition first impression of The Narrow Road to the Deep North by Richard Flanagan

As of this writing, it has only been 40 hours or so since Australian author Richard Flanagan’s novel The Narrow Road to the Deep North was announced the winner of the 2014 Man Booker Prize for Fiction. In that time, we at AbeBooks have enjoyed watching the flurry of activity on the web site. Whenever there is a big literary prize announcement, copies disappear, people scramble for signed copies, copies inscribed by the author suddenly triple in value, and we watch our inventory plummet as readers, eager to investigate a name new to them, snap up all the books they can get their hands on.

And The Narrow Road to the Deep North has not disappointed. Since the late Tuesday afternoon (PST) announcement, we’ve sold an impressive number of Richard Flanagan books, mostly, of course, the prize-winner. The biggest sale so far was for a signed copy of the true Australian first edition, first impression published by Knopf. Described by the bookseller as “uber scarce”, this copy was in mint, unread condition, and signed by Richard Flanagan himself. The rare find sold for $1,313 USD (approx. $1,500 AUD). There is currently one more signed copy of the true Australian first/first for sale on this site, priced at $1,800 USD (approx $2,050 AUD.) Thirty other signed copies of The Narrow Road have also sold since the Booker announcement.

If the $1,800 true first/first is out of your price range, but you’d still like a little collectible something, there are currently 10 signed copies of The Narrow Road to the Deep North available for sale on the site (for as low as $100 at the moment), as well as  91 copies of signed Richard Flanagan novels in general.

We have also seen sales of Flanagan’s other books, including Death of a River Guide, The Sound of One Hand Clapping, Gould’s Book of Fish: A Novel in Twelve Fish, The Unknown Terrorist and Wanting. And the interest was far from limited to proud Australians – copies crossed the ocean in all directions, to the hands of plenty of international admirers as well.

It’s a good week to be Richard Flanagan.


Richard Flanagan’s The Narrow Road to the Deep North 2014 Booker Winner

The Narrow Road to the Deep North by Richard Flanagan - 2014 Man Booker Prize Winner
The votes are in!

Congratulations to Australian author Richard Flanagan, whose novel The Narrow Road to the Deep North has been announced the winner of the 2014 Man Booker Prize for Fiction. Not only is Flanagan now £50,000 (approximately $80,000 USD) richer, but he is now virtually guaranteed to be in the eye of the literary community, and with a full calendar of readings for at least a few years to come. We’ll all be watching for what’s next. Here is some more about The Narrow Road to the Deep North.

In the despair of a Japanese POW camp on the Thai-Burma Death Railway, Australian surgeon Dorrigo Evans is haunted by his affair with his uncle’s young wife two years earlier. His life is a daily struggle to save the men under his command from starvation, cholera and pitiless beatings. Until he receives a letter that will change him forever. Moving deftly from the POW camp to contemporary Australia, from the experiences of Dorrigo and his comrades to those of the Japanese guards, this novel tells a story of love, death, and family, exploring the many forms of good and evil, war and truth, and guilt.

The Narrow Road to the Deep North is Flanagan’s sixth novel, preceded by Death of a River Guide, The Sound of One Hand Clapping, Gould’s Book of Fish: A Novel in Twelve Fish, The Unknown Terrorist and Wanting.

Currently, signed copies of The Narrow Road to the Deep North by Richard Flanagan are affordable and not too scarce, but if you want one, act immediately because announcements like these do tend to send prices quickly skyward.

The Booker Prize was first awarded in 1969, and goes to the judges’ determination of best English language full-length novel published in the UK.

Kudos as well to the five runners-up:

The Lives of Others by Neel Mukherjee
The Lives of Others by Neel Mukherjee
It is 1967, Calcutta. Unnoticed by his family, Supratik has become dangerously involved in student unrest, agitation, extremist political activism. Compelled by an idealistic desire to change his life and the world around him, all he leaves behind is this note. ‘Ma, I feel exhausted with consuming, with taking and grabbing and using. I am so bloated that I feel I cannot breathe any more. I am leaving to find some air, some place where I shall be able to purge myself, push back against the life given me and make my own. I feel I live in a borrowed house. It’s time to find my own… — Forgive me…’.’
We Are All Completely Beside Ourselves by Karen Joy Fowler
We Are All Completely Beside Ourselves by Karen Joy Fowler
Meet the Cooke family: Mother and Dad, brother Lowell, sister Fern, and our narrator, Rosemary, who begins her story in the middle. She has her reasons. “I spent the first 18years of my life defined by this one fact: that I was raised with a chimpanzee,” she says. “It’s never going to be the first thing I share with someone. I tell you Fern was a chimp and already you aren’t thinking of her as my sister. But until Fern’s expulsion, I’d scarcely known a moment alone. She was my twin, my fun-house mirror, my whirlwind other half, and I loved her as a sister.”

J by Howard Jacobson
J by Howard Jacobson
Set in the future, J is a love story of incomparable strangeness, both tender and terrifying. Two people fall in love, not yet knowing where they have come from or where they are going. Kevern doesn t know why his father always drew two fingers across his lips when he said a world starting with a J. It isn’t the time or place to be asking questions. Ailinn too has grown up in the dark about who she was or where she came from. On their first date Kevern kisses the bruises under her eyes. Brutality has grown commonplace.Hanging over the lives of all the characters in this novel is a momentous catastrophe – a past event shrouded in suspicion, denial and apology, now referred to as What Happened, If It Happened. J is a novel to be talked about in the same breath as Nineteen Eighty Four and Brave New World.

How to be Both by Ali Smith / signed copies
How to Be Both by Ali Smith
A novel all about art’s versatility. Borrowing from painting’s fresco technique to make an original literary double-take, it s a fast-moving genre-bending conversation between forms, times, truths and fictions. There s a renaissance artist of the 1460s. There s the child of a child of the 1960s. Two tales of love and injustice twist into a singular yarn where time gets timeless, structural gets playful, knowing gets mysterious, fictional gets real – and all life’s givens get given a second chance. Smith can make anything happen, which is why she is one of our most exciting writers today .

To Rise Again at a Decent Hour by Joshua Ferris / signed copies
To Rise Again at a Decent Hour by Joshua Ferris
Paul O’Rourke is a man made of contradictions: he loves the world, but doesn’t know how to live in it. He’s a Luddite addicted to his iPhone, a dentist with a nicotine habit, a rabid Red Sox fan devastated by their victories, and an atheist not quite willing to let go of God. Then someone begins to impersonate Paul online, and he watches in horror as a website, a Facebook page, and a Twitter account are created in his name. What begins as an outrageous violation of his privacy soon becomes something more soul-frightening: the possibility that the online Paul might be a better version of the real thing.


Bill Murray’s Favorite Book (and Others)

Huckleberry Finn by Mark Twain - Bill Murray's Favorite Book

One thing about readers – we love to share our passion for books. Whether it’s an amazing find of a first edition, a fantastic new author discovery, or a reissued edition of a childhood favorite, it’s just not as good if you can’t share it. And learning which books we have in common with other people is part of the fun. Flavorwire created a post of 50 Cultural Icons on Their Favorite Books. It appears to be gleaned from all different sources and interviews, but includes the likes of Bill Murray (Huckleberry Finn by Mark Twain), Joan Didion (Victory by Joseph Conrad) Michelle Obama (Song of Solomon by Toni Morrison), Dolly Parton (The Little Engine that Could by Watty Piper), Robin Williams (Isaac Asimov’s Foundation trilogy), James Franco (As I Lay Dying by William Faulkner), Kit Harrington (Nineteen Eighty-Four by George Orwell) and many more.

And like the true book nerd that I am, I was very excited to read that one of JK Rowling’s favorite books is The Woman Who Walked into Doors by Roddy Doyle, because it’s one of mine, too. Doyle’s skill at creating a real person – I can’t even say character – is to be deeply admired.

See all 50 favorite books.


Patrick Modiano Wins 2014 Nobel Prize for Literature

Paris Tendresse, Patrick Modiano, Brassai

French novelist Patrick Modiano has won the 2014 Nobel Prize for Literature. Modiano, 69, is no stranger to accolades. His previous awards include the Austrian State Prize for European Literature in 2012, as well as a lifetime achievement award in 2010 from the Institut de France. Individual novels have also been recognized with prizes, including the highly prized Goncourt Prize for his book “Missing Person“. “Missing Person” is perhaps also Modiano’s best-known work, though the historical author is quite prolific, with nearly 30 published works so far. If you’re looking to read Patrick Modiano books written in English, there are far fewer copies available, but there are still enough to get a great start on his catalog.

While he himself was not born until 1945, much of Modiano’s work is nevertheless inspired by the Nazi occupation of France. Much of his finest writing details, down to the minutiae, the lives of regular French citizenry and the impact the war had on their day-to-day lives. His writing’s uniqueness comes, in part, from a balance between highly detailed, highly thorough description of the mundane, and a sense of mystery and ambiguity for situations and plotlines. That fondness for mystery has coined him his very own literary term. In France, if a scenario or character is particularly open-ended, it can be said to be “modianesque”.

Despite his popularity, prolific output and celebrated success, Modiano himself is sadly not as thrilled with his choice of profession as his fans are. He has stated for the media in the past that his writing is more a curse than a gift to him, that he feels feverishly compelled to write and dreams of being free of the burden.

remise-de-peine-modiano While perhaps not as well-known as last year’s winner Alice Munro, Modiano is nonetheless a more far-reaching choice than some winners in previous years. If you’re not familiar with him or his work, you’re probably not French – while Modiano is a lesser-known name elsewhere, within his home country he is very famous and widely regarded as one of France’s best writers. He prefers to stay out of the spotlight, however, and is a very private person, giving few interviews and attending few galas. As such, books signed by Patrick Modiano are extremely rare, with not a single Patrick Modiano autograph for sale on AbeBooks (which is rare indeed).

Some Modiano titles are collectible, and prices are sure to climb with today’s announcement. The most expensive Patrick Modiano book ever sold on AbeBooks was a copy of Remise de Peine. The first edition, limited to 55 numbered copies, sold for $721. I think we can expect to see some more expensive sales in the coming days and weeks.

Modiano is the 15th Nobel Prize-winner of France.


Kelliegram Binding Copy of Through The Looking Glass

I’ve written before about how delicious Kelliegram Bindings are, and this example is surely no exception. This 1873 edition of Lewis Carroll’s Through the Looking-Glass, and What Alice Found There is done in the traditional Kelliegram style, with gorgeous, rich, full colour leather. The front and back boards boast inlaid leather art as well.

Rather than depicting the more usual characters of the white rabbit or Alice herself, the binder chose the less often celebrated (and more ovoid) Humpty-Dumpty for the front boards, and the walrus for the back boards. The boards are also stamped and decorated with gilt. The text itself is generously sprinkled throughout with 50 illustrations by John Tenniel, including a full-page, tissue-guarded frontispiece.

through-looking-glass-carroll

through-looking-glass-carroll-2


2014 Giller Prize Shortlist

The shortlist is out! Canada’s most prestigious literary honour, The Giller Prize, was established in 1994. That’s a full two decades of recognition and reward each year to the author of the best Canadian novel or short story collection published in English. The prize sees cash being awarded to the winner and each of the four other finalists. This year, the 20th anniversary of the prize, marks a significant increase in prize money, with the winning prize doubling from $50,000 to $100,000, and the finalist prizes doubling from $5,000 to $10,000.
 

Without further ado, here are the six fin alists for the 2014 Giller Prize:

The Girl Who Was Saturday Night by Heather ONeill

The Betrayers by David Bezmozgis
Tell by Frances Itani
Us Conductors by Sean Michaels
The Girl Who Was Saturday Night by Heather O’Neill
All My Puny Sorrows by Miriam Toews
The Ever After of Ashwin Rao by Padma Viswanathan
 

And Montreal’s Heather O’Neill has made the shortlist! Wonderful. O’Neill published her debut novel, Lullabies for Little Criminals in 2006 to much critical acclaim, and The Girl Who Was Saturday Night is her first novel since.

Stay tuned – we’ll find out who wins the hundred grand and the title on November 10th. Congratulations and good luck to all the finalists.


Antiquarian Treasures: 1776 Illuminated Genealogy Manuscript from Spain

We really do come across the most marvelous and unique books and ephemera here on AbeBooks. Today’s wonderful find of an amazing book is this beautifully bound 1776 legal manuscript, from Spain.

 

1-first-page

It is hand-lettered by don Ramon Zazo of Ortega, the scribe, historian and official herald and genealogist for the Spanish crown during the reign of Charles III. This lovely illuminated manuscript is bound in torn, nicked but nevertheless gorgeous leather. It boasts remarkable decoration and detail, from its coloured illuminations to the handwritten letters, the gilt on its covers, and the adornments of individual pages. Making reference to the city of Seville, this antiquarian gem, from a time when as much attention was paid to aesthetic as to content, is a dream for any rare book collector. It appears to be a study in genealogy, exploring the lineage and origins of the Spanish name/family Larrea in the 18th century. Regardless, it is certainly a most unusual and beautiful antiquarian book. More pictures below.

1776-genealogy

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Nine Literary Elizabeths

Here are nine characters named Elizabeth, found in popular literary fiction.

Elizabeth Bennet from Pride and Prejudice
Elizabeth Bennet from Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen is an obvious place to start. Occasionally Lizzy or Eliza (never Liz or Beth), Bennet is an intelligent, witty and independent woman, known to be a critical thinker with a strong moral compass. In screen adaptations of Pride and Prejudice, Elizabeth Bennet has been played by actresses Greer Garson, Jennifer Ehle, Keira Knightley and more.

Elizabeth March, commonly known as Beth March, is the third of four sisters in the classic novel Little Women by Louisa May Alcott. She is gentle, compassionate and kind, known far and wide for her tender heart and loving spirit. It’s made clear in the novel that she’s basically the favorite of everyone who knows her. Anyone with a heart to have read Little Women is likely to have cried buckets over Beth.

Elizabeth Lavenza is Victor Frankenstein’s adopted sister (whom he nevertheless weds in adulthood) in Mary Shelley’s dark novel, Frankenstein. While not intelligent, she is presented as positive and kind, as well as beautiful. As the object of Victor’s love and affection, Elizabeth suffers an unfortunate end at the hand of his creation, Frankenstein’s monster.

Elizabeth McKenna is a character from the 2008 critically acclaimed epistolary novel called The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society, and the founder of the (fictional) title organization. She is something of a background character, never physically part of the present-day action, but is nevertheless a key component of the story. She is known for her bravery and loyalty.

Princess Elizabeth from The Paper Bag Princess Princess Elizabeth is the main character in The Paper Bag Princess by Robert Munsch, perhaps the first feminist book I ever read. Elizabeth is a princess who works hard to outsmart a dragon who has carried off the prince she wishes to marry. However, when she cleverly and exhaustively dispatches of the dragon, and finally rescues the prince, he’s an absolute pill about the whole thing, and Elizabeth wisely ditches him and dances off into the sunset.

Bess Marvin. First introduced in the 1931 novel The Secret at Shadow Ranch, Elizabeth (Bess) Marvin is a close friend of Nancy Drew. Contrary to many of the Elizabeths, Beths, Liz’s and others on this list, Marvin is not that helpful. She is portrayed as something of a clown character, always talking about ice cream and shopping. She is flighty, flirtatious, and easily frightened, often talking Nancy Drew out of pursuing any thread that seems even slightly dangerous. In
short, Bess is a bit of a buzzkill.

Betsey Trotwood from David Copperfield may be a bit of a stretch, because while Betsey (or Betsy) is a well-known short form of the name Elizabeth, Copperfield’s great aunt is referred to solely as Betsey, not as Elizabeth. However, since Charles Dickens’ own mother’s name was Elizabeth, I think we’ll consider it implied and let it remain on the list. Aunt Betsey is a confident, strong and loving character, fully realized, and one of the characters in David Copperfield who most comes to life. Kind but firm, she is perhaps the most constant guiding force in Copperfield’s life.

Betsy TacyBetsy Ray (Elizabeth Warrington-Ray) is the main character in the much beloved Betsy-Tacy series by Maud Hart Lovelace. The series is said to be loosely based on Lovelace herself and her childhood. The series, which began in 1940 and ended in 1955, follows Betsy’s life and aventures starting at age five, all the way through to her wedding. Betsy herself is an animated, outgoing and bright child and a natural storyteller.

Elizabeth Dalloway is the daughter of the title character, Clarissa, in Virginia Woolf’s 1925 novel Mrs. Dalloway. The novel was quite dark and honest, received much critical acclaim for its time, and still stands up as an excellent novel today. Elizabeth Dalloway is a secondary character, only 17 years old. She is a gentle and reserved girl, and has little time for her mother’s party (the event around which the novel is centered), preferring to spend her time gamboling about in the country with animals.

Elizabeth Costello is a character from three J.M. Coetzee novels, The Lives of Animals from 1999 and Slow Man from 2005. Her most prominent storyline, however, is of course as the title character from Coetzee’s 2003 novel, Elizabeth Costello. Elizabeth is a successful author in Australia, nearing her retirement and old age. As she continues to tour and give seminars and readings, she struggles with issues of identity. Very moral, very opinionated, but plagued with self-doubt, real life critics have speculated that perhaps Coetzee often uses Costello as a mouthpiece for his own agendas.

There you have it. Literary characters named Elizabeth. Which essential Elizabeths did we miss? Are you an Elizabeth? With which literary Elizabeth do you most identify?


Rare Titles from Archibald Rutledge, First Poet Laureate of South Carolina

Love's Meaning by Captain Archibald Rutledge
American poet Archibald “Archie” Rutledge (1883-1973) has enjoyed moments in the spotlight here on AbeBooks. South Carolina’s first poet laureate, Rutledge wrote extensively, with most of his books dedicated to his first love, poetry. He also wrote prodigiously about hunting, wildlife and the outdoors. Rutledge grew up in South Carolina on a plantation, where he had ample time to explore and hunt with his father and brothers. His passion for poetry was also formed in childhood, and he wrote his first piece of poetry when he was just a young boy of three years:

“I saw a little rattlesnake
Too young to make his rattles shake.”

From those auspicious beginnings came a prolific and very successful poet. Rutledge penned over 50 books in his lifetime. Perhaps his best-known work is Home By the River, a fond remembrance of his family home, Hampton Plantation, in South Carolina. Many of Rutledge’s works have become rare treasures, prized and hunted by book collectors.

California bookseller Salvaged-treasures is lucky enough to have four such Rutledge listings up for sale. The first, Love’s Meaning, is a signed copy of the 1943 title, priced at $100. Love’s Meaning is a tribute to human love and nature’s place within it, and much more. A slim volume, this lovely little book is nonetheless packed with thought-provoking life lessons. Salvaged-treasures are located in Canyon County, California, and have been in operation since 2011. You can see all of Salvaged-treasure’s listings currently available.

Another fantastic find on offer from Salvaged-treasures is this rare, signed copy of the author’s first book, The Heart’s Quest. One of only four copies available on the site, this one is in very good condition, despite some slight fading to the suede. It would make a lovely addition to any poetry lover’s shelf, and is on offer for $2,800.

The Heart's Quest by Captain Archibald Rutledge

In October 2011, AbeBooks saw a swell of Archibald Rutledge’s work selling, with three of the sales cracking our top ten most expensive sales of that month. The three skookum sales were:

The Heart’s Quest by Archibald Rutledge – $7,995
This is a signed first edition copy of Rutledge’s earliest work; the book itself is undated but it has been recorded that it was published in 1904 making it the South Carolinian poet’s first published work by nearly two years.

Under The Pines and Other Poems by Archibald Rutledge – $7,200
Under the Pines was Rutledge’s second publication having been published in 1906; this copy was signed and inscribed “O to recall/What to recall Myhew Phillips.”

How Wild Was My Village by Archibald Rutledge – $5,995
Published in 1969 by Wing Publications, this first edition copy was inscribed by the South Carolina Poet Laureate “With the love of your friend, Archibald Rutledge.” In addition to Rutledge’s text the book is illustrated throughout by D.P. McGuire.

To learn more about Rutledge, explore the book A Hunt for Life’s Extras: The Story of Archibald Rutledge by Idella Bodie.


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