Wednesday, November 26, 2008

In which we finally find out: "Why World's Fairs?"

Is it two weeks later already? So it seems, gentle readers -- and here is Lydia, back again! I don't watch much TV, but I'm suddenly picturing the introductory bit to a potential TV show: "Fun Book Hour With O'Gara and Wilson". It could feature shots of the bookstore with happy children dancing around our stuffed buffalo head, and then pull in to me sitting very sternly in a red leather chair, with some kind of pet at my feet and an elegant stack of books beside. I'd look over my glasses at the viewer and say, "This week, on Fun Book Hour ..."

Our first Fun Books should thrill many Collectors:

John Lange, you say? Who is John Lange and why do I care? Perhaps you recognize this author's real name better: Michael Crichton, who died recently at the age of 66. Crichton is most famous for science fiction thriller classics like The Andromeda Strain and Jurassic Park, but he wrote his first books as John Lange. In fact, his very first book ever was Odds On (1966), and here we have the first printing of the first edition! You could purchase that for $200.00, or perhaps you could go for the cheaper first edition of Easy Go -- a slightly later "Lange" book for which we're charging $75.00. I can't quite decide which of these two lurid paperbacks makes me happier, but I think that if I were buying one, I'd pick Easy Go entirely because of the cover blurb: "Rob the tomb, hijack the harem -- five master criminals plot history's hottest heist on the banks of the Nile!" (I'd tell you all about the descriptions on the backs of these books, but they are just too scandalous. It's worth your time to come into the store and read them, I assure you -- they're quite funny!)

Now for our Affordable and Interesting Fun Book!

Around Chicago, we have a great deal of evidence of the 1893 World's Columbian Exposition -- indeed, we have written about it here on this blog any number of times! I spend an unreasonable amount of time passing the Exposition's leftover buildings during my daily meanderings, and frequently I find myself amazed at the colossal amount of resources that went into that brief festival. I also find myself wondering why in the world such exhibitions were considered worth it -- for there were many of them, not just Chicago's! In fact, I was recently stunned to realize that World's Fairs are still going on (click here for Wikipedia's list of them, or try clicking here to look at the online Museum of World's Fairs).

As it happens, this question is the subject of this very book: The Story of Exhibitions. It's a hilariously pompous 1951 examination of World's Fairs through the ages, seeking to "capture for the general reader something of the romance of exhibitions, which are among the most remakable social phenomena of our times". My favorite line is from the introduction, "Why Exhibitions?": "The first [reason] is, quite simply, the desire to 'show off'." $15.00 will purchase this trenchant observation as well as quite a lot of history and photos of past expositions!

This week's Favorite is more a Fun Chapbook than a Fun Book:

Frans Masereel was a remarkable woodcut artist of the early 1900s. He's best known today for his novels without words, in which he would take evocative titles like The Passion of Man and tell a story without text -- entirely through woodcuts. This little chapbook is a scarce title on Masereel's life and work, with a ten-page written introduction followed by a number of Masereel images:


Masereel is sometimes described as "expressionist", and I would have to agree. His images are so powerful and arresting! This would make a really cool gift for any designer or comic artist -- get your arty kid's Christmas gift here, only $25.00!

Man, I never know how to end these blog entries. On the TV show it would probably be even worse -- or maybe there'd be a song that played at the end, or a routine I went through: another kids-around-the-buffalo dance? That would make it easier. I will, gentle readers, think on it. Feel free to comment if you have any ideas!

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