Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Nothing says "I love you" like a book! And also a pillow fight.

Tomorrow is Valentine's Day, gentle readers, and while I will bow to this fact with one item presented here, I shall not devote the whole entry to the holiday. This is to prove that we here at O'Gara and Wilson are classier than other retail outlets, which swoop down upon Valentine's Day with glee and every effort to sell ten million things. * We love our readers and regulars for who they are; they don't need to buy things from us. Not that we mind if you do, of course! (Also, I forgot about Valentine's Day until I'd already picked three items for this week's blog entry, and decided to portray my absent-mindedness as a virtue.)

A sweet rose-wreath topped by a crown decorates the front of this week's Favorite:

This 1924 gem is devoted to Royal Lovers and Mistresses: The Romance of Crowned and Uncrowned Kings and Queens of Europe. There's a Valentine gift for you! (Apparently the author, Mr. Angelo S. Rappoport, has also brought the world such classics as The Curse of the Romanoffs.) You and your sweetheart can swoon together over romantic tales of chance meetings in chateaus and palace parlors, and portraits of the various protagonists:

You can also discuss the ensnaring tactics used by long-ago royal favorites (perhaps comparing them to the tactics you used to ensnare each other!) or debate the merits of such statements as, "Woman is more ambitious than man, despite everything that has been said to the contrary," and "Woman avails herself of love as one of the weapons nature has put at her disposal to enslave man and make him subservient to her plans." Nothing says "I love you" like the pillow fights that might result from reading this book together. At $25.00, it's on par with a bunch of roses and chocolate -- and much more creative!

And after you injure each other in the pillow tussle, you can learn how to set bones with this Affordable and Interesting little thing:

Interestingly, this book appears to have been written by a Michael Powell. I doubt that this is the same Michael Powell all used booksellers think of when they hear that name, who started the excellent bookstore right across the street from us and went on to win honor and glory with his mall-sized Portland location. But I thought it was a funny coincidence.

Detailing "101 things everyone used to know how to do", this book teaches us how to make soap, build a log cabin, track animals, and write sonnets. I somewhat doubt that "everyone" used to know how to do those things, much less tie a hangman's noose, set broken bones, carve a totem pole, make a Roman mosaic or (most usefully) embalm a corpse -- but let's not quibble. Enough people knew in ages past, and hardly anyone knows now, so with luck this book will start a movement of re-learning such useful skills! $7.50 will teach us all how to dig wells, make ice cream, understand opera or blow glass! We must have respect for our forebears, after all. I know I said that only one item this week would be relevant to Valentine's Day, but I can't help thinking that it would be so romantic to make ice cream with your sweetheart. Or embalm a corpse together. Adorable!

At least there's no way I can possibly relate this week's Collector's Item to Valentine's Day:

... unless you think the Chicago Massacre of 1812 is romantic ... or Eugene Field -- because this copy belonged to him! One doesn't normally associate the famous children's poet with such things, but he did spend the latter part of his life in Chicago. Perhaps he met Joseph Kirkland, the author of this 1893 book, here in the city: the copy is inscribed to Mr. Field from the author, who cites himself as a "friend and admirer".

Chicago of the late 1800s seems to have been quite focused on capturing and describing its city history. This makes sense to me, since the city had sprung up and expanded so rapidly. Residents probably wanted to feel as though they could compare themselves to the folk of older cities like New York and Philadelphia. The 1812 Fort Dearborn massacre gained (or, I should say, re-gained) particular attention at that time; it was in 1881 that the Chicago Historical Society first solemnly commemorated the terrible events with a plaque, and one thing Mr. Kirkland emphasizes is that his book presents "never before heard" account and facts about the battle. Of course, back in 1893 such books were rarer (and perhaps less scandal-mongering) than a modern book with such a tagline would be. This book is respected as a significant historical resource, and we're selling its First Edition for $125.00.

Well, now I leave you to your embalming I mean, ice-cream-making, gentle readers. Or, if you don't have a sweetheart, curl up with a book tomorrow! Books don't talk back, anyway, and they always have interesting things to say.

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