Mimsy: Books

Broken but Unbowed—Tuesday, July 12th, 2016
Shaking Hands with Governor Abbott

Shaking hands with the Governor at our local Barnes & Noble.

This is a short and clearly heartfelt book. The first half is a sometimes touching, sometimes humorous account of his life from the freak accident that paralyzed him to winning the governorship of Texas. This part of the book is less about him than it is about his family, his friends, and his colleagues, who provided him the help and inspiration he needed to move forward.

He talks about how his priorities changed from the moment of the accident. In the very beginning of the book, lying under the tree, he began to realize, through the pain, that he could not move his legs or feet.

This, I realized, must be paralysis. My injury could be really bad.

… I remembered watching a movie with my wife a year earlier about a man who had been paralyzed by an accident. At the time, I told my wife that if that ever happened to me, just put me to death.

Faced with the actuality, however, he chose to focus not on what he couldn’t do, but on what he could.

The second half of the book is a heartfelt appeal for the slate of constitutional amendments he’s proposed, Restoring the Rule of Law, with States Leading the Way. Whether you agree with them or not, it’s going to be hard to argue that he doesn’t have a deep respect for the constitution and what it stands for after reading these chapters.

He believes that these amendments must come from outside the federal government because “It’s simply the nature of the system to perpetuate the system.”

He talks heavily about how federal solutions to economic problems, because of regulatory capture, often exacerbate the very problem they were meant to solve. For example,

Dodd-Frank was intended to prevent banks from being too big to fail, and, hence, avoid the necessity of government bailouts. Instead, the high cost and heavy hand by which the regulations are imposed are leading to the opposite result: eliminating banks that are too small to succeed [under the greater regulatory burden].

Dodd-Frank has had the very predictable effect of increasing regulatory costs. Because of this, it privileges larger banks over smaller banks. Larger banks have more lawyers and bureaucrats to manage greater regulatory costs.

This is, according to Abbott, exactly to be expected. It’s simply the nature of the system to perpetuate the system.

The slate of amendments Abbott proposes are designed specifically to throw a wrench into the system, to make it work better for smaller, local businesses than for larger, national and multinational ones. By moving the levers of power closer to the people, the people can more easily access them.

It makes a lot of sense.

J. K. Rowling’s retroactive racism—Tuesday, June 14th, 2016
Chipmunk Hermione

This is the closest image I could find to how Rowling describes Hermione in the books. Consider this with the skin tone altered to black. (unknown artist)

It is usually a bad idea for a writer to get into an argument with their readers en masse. In their zeal to defend their work, they have a tendency to argue too much, and reveal more than we wanted to know.

Recently, J. K. Rowling became angry at what she calls “a bunch of racists” and “idiots” who never pictured Hermione as black. If this were just a defense of a good actress, that would be fine. But in arguments such as these, the author often goes too far.

Rowling, for example, quotes her own work as having always left open the possibility that Hermione was black, tweeting the “canon” physical characteristics that prove it:

Canon: brown eyes, frizzy hair and very clever. White skin was never specified. Rowling loves black Hermione 😘

Alice Vincent in the Telegraph goes on to say that:

Rowling never described Hermione’s race in the books, but only that she had “bushy brown hair and brown eyes”, as well as very large front teeth.

This is true, but not the whole truth. In the first book, Hermione didn’t just have large front teeth. She was full-on buck-toothed. Sort of resembling a chipmunk, according to the other characters in the fourth book.

So I’m guessing most readers chose not to think Hermione was black because they didn’t expect a modern writer to resort to stereotypical descriptions straight out of early comic strips. A writer who wrote those descriptions and explicitly made their character black would have come under fire for racism.

And in this case, that fire may well have been justifiable. Rowling has some serious issues with racism if she always meant Hermione to possibly be black. In The Goblet of Fire, Hermione undergoes magical alterations to remove the stereotypical racial characteristics that Rowling now says show Hermione as possibly black. First, Hermione has Madame Pomfrey shrink her teeth so that they are permanently “normal”1. Then, when going to the ball, Hermione spends hours using liberal amounts of Sleekeazy’s Hair Potion to straighten her bushy hair.

The movie doesn’t do this scene justice. In the book Hermione became practically unrecognizable because she literally changes her appearance: “she didn’t look like Hermione at all”.

She went from looking mediocre at best to stunningly beautiful.

What’s egregious is that if Rowling always meant Hermione to include the possibility of blackness, then the book also makes clear that jettisoning her blackness made Hermione beautiful.

Denver: Capitol Hill Books and Kilgore Books—Tuesday, May 10th, 2016
Capitol Hill Books

I discovered Lin Carter’s Callisto series in the discount racks on the sidewalk at Capitol Hill Books.

I know Denver as the Mile High City mainly because of Mile High Comics, which supplied my comic book fix in the eighties when I moved back from a college town with real comic book stores to a small town with just a drug store and a grocery store. Their subscription club kept me in comics and magazines while I figured out what to do with my life, and, later, recovered from an automobile accident.

Of course, most people who think “books” and “Denver” think Tattered Cover. That’s where everyone goes when they’re in Denver. Writers and agents and bloggers rave about it. I’m not going to review it because it is definitively not a “bookstore less traveled”. It’s a fine store, especially if you’re looking for new books. But if you’re a book hound, you should know that there are more bookstores in Denver than TC.

Two that I enjoyed on a leisurely walk through downtown were Capitol Hill Books and Kilgore Books & Comics. These two bookstores are only about fourteen blocks away from each other—about a ten minute walk. And they’re only a thirty-minute walk from Tattered Cover. Both of them had great science fiction books when I was there. Out of those two bookstores, I found six of the books on my list including four of the Ballantine Best Of Science Fiction series.

I picked up The Anubis Gates, a great Tim Powers book, in Kilgore. And I picked up Advise & Consent, a weird senatorial procedural by Allen Drury that started me on an Allen Drury kick, at, appropriately enough, Capitol Hill.

Round Rock, Texas: The Round Rock Public Library—Tuesday, April 26th, 2016
Round Rock Public Library sculpture

The Three Amigos welcome you to the Round Rock Public Library!

Public libraries are also often, somewhat paradoxically, very good bookstores. You would think that a place that loans books for free would not be a great place to locate a bookstore, but people who love to read books also love having books, and often end up having to trade out books they once loved to make room for new books on their bookshelves. These folks make up the Friends of the Library.

The Round Rock Public Library’s Friends of the Library Book Nook is not very big, but at least by my judgment it makes up in quality what it lacks in quantity. Since moving to Texas I’ve picked up eleven books there, from Andrew Breitbart and P.J. O’Rourke to Andre Norton and a Robert Heinlein.

And Martin Greenberg’s Dinosaur Fantastic collection isn’t the best science fiction I’ve read lately, but it is filled with dinosaurs! Can’t hardly go wrong with that.

They also have an entire bookshelf dedicated to a handful of high-selling authors such as Richard Patterson and Janet Evanovich.

The Book Nook appears to have a pretty good turnover rate, as, despite it’s size, I’m always finding something new.

There are two sections to the Book Nook. As you walk in the main entrance, the children’s and young adult section is directly around the corner on your left as you enter the library. The larger Book Nook is in a room up the stairs, also around the corner to your left as you leave the stairs.

The Round Rock library is currently right downtown, though they are considering moving it to the outskirts of town.

San Diego, California: Footnote Books—Tuesday, April 12th, 2016

This place is well on its way to becoming a Bookman’s Corner. He has more books every time I go in, but not more space. There are piles of books in front of piles in front of shelves. This is a very small bookstore, but there’s a very good selection inside.

The short list of books here is not because I haven’t bought that much from Footnote; it’s because I started buying books there well before I started keeping a database. I’ve picked up several game books there, and quite a bit of science fiction. And a lot of books from their outside dollar boxes. I just don’t remember which books were purchased from which bookstore back then. I’m pretty sure that I picked up more political books there than just the ironically-named Palace Guard.

They have a lot of science fiction and fantasy, history, cookbooks, and more. It’s well worth the trip if you’re in the area. They’re a little off the beaten path—you need to walk several blocks down from the Fifth Avenue/Fourth Avenue center of Hillcrest. When you get there, however, you will be rewarded with not just Footnote, but also a comic book store and a thrift store.

This is also the only bookstore I’ve been to that is adamant about keeping any bags you might be carrying, so be forewarned that you’ll need to give it up.

Footnote Books
1627 University Avenue
San Diego, CA

Oct. 23, 2015

Saga of Old City Gary Gygax $3.00 mass market paperback

March 25, 2012

The Palace Guard Dan Rather, Gary Paul Gates $1.00 hardcover


The Joy of Creative Cuisine cookbook
Chicago: Bookman’s Corner—Tuesday, April 5th, 2016
Bookman’s Corner

This place is filled with towers of books. Looking for a book here is like playing Giant Jenga. If you’re not careful, the whole thing will fall down.

Even the window displays are massed piles of books.

But it is a great bookstore, especially if you’re looking for books about old Chicago. This is where I found Deadlines & Monkeyshines, and of course some books on Mike Royko, including one I’d been looking for, For the Love of Mike.

As you can see, they also have a nice selection of cheap Tarzan novels. Not a huge amount of mass-market fiction, but I was able to find some nice options there as well.

And a whole lot of history books and a bunch more. You have to wander through it to believe it.

If you are in Chicago, there are a handful of places you must visit. The Billy Goat Tavern; the Lincoln Park Zoo; the Printers Row Lit Fest; and, in my opinion, if you’re a book-lover you must visit Bookman’s Corner.

Bookman’s Corner
2959 North Clark
Chicago, IL

March 17, 2015

Tarzan and the Lion Man Edgar Rice Burroughs $0.25 mass market paperback
Tarzan the Invincible Edgar Rice Burroughs $0.25 mass market paperback
Tarzan the Magnificent Edgar Rice Burroughs $0.50 mass market paperback
Tarzan and the City of Gold Edgar Rice Burroughs $0.75 mass market paperback
The Gates of Creation Philip José Farmer $0.75 mass market paperback
Chains of the Sea Robert Silverberg $0.75 mass market paperback
That Hideous Strength C.S. Lewis $1.50 mass market paperback

June 5, 2014

Turkish Cookery $3.00 cookbook
Deadlines & Monkeyshines John J. McPhaul $4.00 hardcover
For the Love of Mike Mike Royko $5.00 hardcover
How black are jets?—Tuesday, March 29th, 2016
The cows aren’t coming home

Writers are like headless chickens. They hang onto clichés until the cows come home.

Writers use a ton of clichés. We like to think of them as… idioms. They’re, like, a train of words that inflate sentences and paragraphs, and we have a superficial sense that they deliver meaning without knowing what they mean.

Used well, a clichéd phrase can condense an entire culture down to a few words. Clichés pack so much history that their meanings often transcend their origins. How many people nowadays have seen pitch, or even coal, to know how black it is and how uncomfortably it coats everything it touches?

Only a few farmers today know what time the cows come home, or what chickens do when you cut their heads off. I’ve seen it, and the reality is far stranger than the cliché. You don’t know crazy until you’ve seen a headless chicken chase your brother around the yard, keeping on his tail until it finally kicks the bucket a minute later.

A chicken with its head cut off is, dare I say it, a very single-minded creature. You might even say its mind was racing a mile a minute, but a mile a minute is only sixty miles an hour. At one mile a minute, you’re falling behind on the highway of life! Most likely it’s because you really don’t know shit from Shinola, nor even why that’d be the mother of all snafus.

On the other hand, I wonder how many people bake enough nowadays to know how slow molasses is, or, with modern heating, have ever seen it slow to a crawl in January. It’s a special occasion today to put a cork into something to stop it up, and few people, even among those still addicted to the demon weed, keep a pipe handy to put things in and smoke them.

When I lived in California, I went to church occasionally, but if that was their Sunday best I’d hate to see what they wear at Walmart. Here in Texas, mind you, their Sunday best is a real E ticket.

Sleeping tight probably wasn’t even a metaphor when it was first coined, but while the language has moved on the phrase has not. Now it has all the earmarks of a metaphor—it’s a meta-metaphor, not to put too fine a point on it. However, bedbugs are making a comeback, so it remains a good idea not to let them bite—as if the bedbugs ever bother to keep you in the loop on the matter.

I fear I have crossed a Rubicon with this post. I’d like to keep it going the whole nine yards, but nobody remembers what the nine yards were, or why we’re sometimes goldbrickers who only go six yards. See you on the flip side, and don’t take any wooden nickels.

Tucson, Arizona: The Book Stop—Thursday, March 17th, 2016
The Book Stop

The Tucson Festival of Books was this weekend, and a greater hive of scum and villainy—readers and publishers—you will never see. Tucson also has at least one nice bookstore: The Book Stop on 4th Avenue.

I didn’t pick up too many books here last time, but that’s mainly because I’m trying to cut back on my addiction. The two books I did pick up have been on my list for a long time, and I haven’t seen them at any of the many bookstores I’ve visited. Basic Economics is a great introduction to just what the title says, including the subtitle, “A Citizen’s Guide”. Thomas Sowell very deftly covers the economics that people need to know to be informed voters.

Fouad Ajami’s Dream Palace of the Arabs is a fascinating look at the history of artistic intellectuals in Arab politics, and turns out to also be a nice introduction to the factions of the Arab world.

As you can see from my purchases, prices here are a bit higher than in other reviews, but that may be a reflection of the scarcity of the books in question in used bookstores. Also, Basic Economics is a textbook, and those tend to be higher priced as well. As I recall, their prices were better in their science fiction/fantasy section; they also had some great selections there, but ones I already had.

I spent at least an hour browsing through their books, and I am definitely going to be stopping here semi-regularly on my drives between California and Texas. It pairs mightily fine with Reb’s Café a 45 miles east in Benson. Pick up some books and then browse them while eating, when you’re going east, or rest your stomach after good comfort food when you’re going west.

The Book Stop is also a relatively short walk from the Festival (and thus the university). And if you need something to eat, walk a couple of blocks to Latin It Up, a Cuban sandwich place with a very nice cubano and a great line-flavored lemonade.

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