Wednesday, July 30, 2008

If Wishes Were Horses....

... and surely I don't have to finish that song for you?

Surely, you know how one is never too broke to buy books. That no matter for how many months one has been unemployed, or has spent too much on their credit card repayments, there is always money for books. We all know this. However, because each day teaches me something new, I have learned today that there is indeed such a thing as being too broke for a book. Allow me to show you.

The description reads thus:
Joyce, James. Ulysses. Paris: Shakespeare and Co., 1922. Quarto, original blue-green wrappers. Custom half-leather box.

First edition, one of 750 printed on handmade paper (out of a total edition of 1000). A superb, unrestored copy in original wrappers. Very light soiling to wrappers, slight wear to spine, faint crease on front cover. A spectacular copy, most rare in this condition.
And this piece of history, this gem of literary genius can be yours at a mere $60,000.

I don't know about you but I certainly had the breath squeezed out of me, I assure you. But it isn't all so obscenely unaffordable. For example, you could get a first edition of William Blake's Songs of Innocence and of Experience — no, no, not the engraved one. You'll need to first kill the owner to get it put up on sale. This wonderful, wonderful book is valued at $8000 only. It is also possible to get a copy of Alice in Wonderland and Through the Looking Glass, both inscribed by Lewis Carroll at $15000. And if you'll browse the list, there are a good number more to die over. But what's got me really salivating is this:

This is why the book is called The Decisive Moment:
To me, photography is the simultaneous recognition, in a fraction of a second, of the significance of an event as well as of a precise organization of forms which give that event its proper expression.
With a dust jacket specially designed by Henri Matisse, it doesn't cost much, my dears. Only $9000. And I am convinced that at least some of you love me enough for me.

No? I thought not. Sigh... back to the hunt for the sugar daddy... damn!

You should check out the book page - there are some gorgeous photographs you can have a look at. Henri Cartier-Bresson is quite simply the most amazing photographers that I've ever had the privilege of viewing/studying. And to be honest, I don't have the language to describe his photography and the effect it has on me and so I am not even going to try. You should go and check it out here, here, and here. Also, someone has taken the trouble to put The Decisive Moment online - you MUST check it out at least for a bit.


A quick aside but I wonder, you know, what it would be like to work in a niche part of the book trade like The Manhattan Rare Book Company. As a merchandiser for a chain store, I am not likely to ever hold a first edition like one of these in my hands nor am I likely to merchandise for books like these. I cannot imagine the research and the negotiations that would go into procuring each of these for the company catalog.

I've also wondered what it would be to work with a publisher like Taschen, Thames and Hudson, or Phaidon, doing only large format (quite often) high-gloss art and coffee-table books. Working with an author or taking on a series would take on a completely new dimension then. I think I'd end up spending most evenings in discussions with printers about paper and printing. Damn, I think it'd be exciting for a while! Though, to be fair, I'd finally want to get back to working on "regular books". I know I would.

Monday, July 07, 2008

Hot Monsoon Nights

You know, what I hate about the monsoon is that it just can't make up its bloody mind.

Consider. When the rains first began, it rained almost continuously for seven whole days, if you'll be kind enough to count them. Nothing tragic or even mildly distressing, thank you very much. Just the irritating kind of rain, and often drizzle, that will dirty salwar bottoms and discourage you from wanting anything else but for it to rain harder. Because then commuting is not possible, and without any guilt, one can then curl up in bed, everything but that wonderful Peter Ackroyd or E.B White forgotten. While one might seek a warm, warm cup of elachi chai, they might also venture a little while at the laptop, brightening photographs or jumping links lazily, only to come back to bed.

Then for a week and some more, it was as dry as a bone, if you'll forgive the trite comparison. And sultry and miserable and hot to boot. Since I don't sit in the perfectly air-conditioned but maddening environs of the shop floor anymore, every bit of the misery was magnified in my little room off the floor. Since this room has no manner of ventilation whatsoever, all that it really needed was a few more people stuffed inside (ranging between 4-9) to get the human humidifier going. Sigh... But the nights — dear God, the nights. Like the miserable October heat but worse — suffocating and stultifying.

But those hot monsoon nights have now disappeared, don't you know. Only to be replaced by hot, searing days interspersed too briefly with temperamental, fickle, flighty spells of rain. I tell you, the monsoon just can't make up it's bloody mind! I must admit that this does have its advantages. It is an indescribable thing to feel the humid air change character and depth, turning free and cold with the sweeping whispers of the rain through the trees. Suddenly, you wish you were out on the road, in a car of course, watching the rain envelop you... watching the city slow down...

But fanciful notions aside, I do not understand why it can't simply rain neatly in the night and let the days be overcast, dry, and gloomily beautiful. How can perfect photography weather possibly be so difficult — non-hot, non-sticky, and non-mucky? Please do me the service of not reminding me that I live in a tropical country with a full blown monsoon. I know — and apart from its indecision and heat, I quite enjoy the rains. Notice that it isn't the traffic, the congestion, or all the maddening things that make Bombay so charming in the rains that I am complaining about.

And I assure you, I am not the only one who thinks the heat is too much to take. Take, for example, our two friends below. It was two a.m and the ex-reviewer and I were on our way back from town when we passed them. Inebriated as we were, we went back to ensure that we weren't too drunk. And sure enough, there they were, licking and chomping away like it was nothing out of the ordinary. The neighborhood "icewala", as you can see in the top-right hand corner of the photograph, saw it fit or even kind to abandon this large chunk of ice on the pavement.

We watched them awhile and tried unobtrusively to take some photographs because dogs are fidgety-est creatures in creation. And the dog magnet that the ex-reviewer is, I had just a few minutes to get at least this slightly decent one. We left ten minutes later but the ex-reviewer says that he saw the female on right sitting at the block on his way home, while the male had disappeared with some of the other dogs around.

Hot Monsoon Nights II


I keep wanting to post without a photo but despite the photoblog, which I try update everyday, I might remind you dear reader, there are just too many photos to share. Perhaps I should stop carrying my camera everywhere...