Go Away

I see that A Room Of One’s Own is for sale. It’s one of the few remaining independent bookstores in Madison, and I hope it finds a buyer because I would hate for Madison to lose another bookstore. I would buy it myself, except that I would have to rename it Go Away, I’m Reading, which I realize isn’t very inviting but I gotta be me. I would sit in an overstuffed chair in the corner, always reading a book but always happy to take your payment for the book you wanted, and to hand you change from the dented gray metal box on the end table beside the chair, but if you asked me a question I would have to answer, “Hang on, I gotta finish this chapter.” Or, if I knew that finishing the chapter wasn’t going to be enough, “Go away, I’m reading.” So I have a pretty good feeling that I wouldn’t be in the bookstore business very long. Still, it’s a pleasant enough fantasy.


laika graphic novelI followed My Darling B to the library again today and, while she was working on her resume, I wandered past the stack of graphic novels in the young adult section near the computer printers. Most of them were collections of comic books, old and new, from the Marvel and DC lines, with all the familiar names that reminded me of the good old days when I had a seemingly infinite amount of free time to lay on the floor reading stuff like this.

But the name on the spine of one hardbound graphic novel, “Laika,” stood out from the rest because, so far as I knew, there had never been a comic book character who went by that name but, more than that, I was pretty sure there had been just one soul by that name whose celebrity might have resulted in a book about her life. Prying the book out of the tightly-packed shelf, I flipped through the pages and found the story of the first living creature to orbit the Earth.

B was still working on her resume, so I settled into an overstuffed chair and read the first third of the book while I waited for her. When she came looking for me I couldn’t put it back on the shelf, so I checked it out and finished it in just over an hour in the recliner with Bonkers snoring quietly in my lap.

It’s a sentimental story, but I like sentimental stories, and the author and writer Nick Abadzis didn’t try too hard to tug at my heartstrings. He didn’t have to; his leading lady was a pretty little dog with a curly tail and a deep-seated desire to please everyone she met. Who doesn’t like a doggie like that? And even though I knew how Laika’s story ended, I was genuinely surprised to feel a little lump in my throat as I turned the final pages.

Thumbs up. Look for it in the YA section of your local library.


Want some books? I’ve been in the basement lair this morning weeding books from our collection. Lots of the books have got to go. We’ve been hanging on to so many books that we don’t read and, so far as I know, have no sentimental attachment to, and I’ve collected – no, a more accurate word would be hoarded way too many novelty books over the years from thrift stores. They were fun to bring home and riff through, but they’re just taking up too much space now and we don’t have any place for them except in heaps on the floor, which I just can’t abide any longer.

So I’m piling them up in two different heaps on one side of the room now: One heap of books that I think I can take to Half Price Books and exchange for a little gelt, and books that I’ll have to either toss or haul to the thrift store to get them out of our house. The second pile is a lot bigger that the first.

shelf life

Moving books again. I love books, but I’m getting just a little tired of moving them around all the time.

I built a set of book shelves in my basement lair, which means I had to move the 400 or so books that were stacked up on the cheap-ass book shelves I was using in the meantime. I heaped them up in piles around the edges of the lair, weeding out copies of books I had duplicates of, or hadn’t touched in years. or were about subject I didn’t even know I had once been interested in. I also threw away anything printed on cheap pulp. I had more of those than I ever would have thought.

The new book shelves are made from raw plywood wedged between two by fours and work surprisingly well, given that I made them up out of my own head. The top three shelves are actually the only ones made with books in mind. They’re just eight inches deep and spaced so that mass-market paperbacks would fit perfectly between. The bottom three shelves are much deeper than necessary for plain old books. They’re made for the growing horde of typewriters I’ve been gathering over the years. What’s the point of having all those books, or typewriters, if you don’t put them on display, right?

Putting up the shelves took longer than I thought it would, about two days longer. I cut grooves in the two by fours with a router so the plywood shelves would slide between them. I thought that would take about an hour. That took all afternoon on a Saturday several weeks ago. When I finally got up the steam to get the project going again, I spent a couple hours moving all the books and dragging the bookshelves out to the curb where, if my luck holds, someone will pick them up and stuff them into the back of their van. Then, I cut the two by fours to length, worked out a way to fix them to the floor and ceiling, and wedged the shelves between them. I was very pleasantly surprised at how well it worked, but I wasn’t finished until almost five o’clock this evening. Took me all friggen day.


I’ve been wandering through Saint Vinnie’s for weeks without finding a single thing I considered for a moment worth purchasing. Then, today, I wandered in, not expecting to find anything, yet within five short minutes of walking in the front door, I was cradling a copy of the Jules Verne Omnibus, a big, thick, old-looking book that included From The Earth To The Moon, a book I haven’t read to this day, although I promise to rectify that oversight this weekend.

Not far from that I found a memoir of Franklin Roosevelt by Rexford Tugwell. Who names their kid Rexford Tugwell? Well, the Tugwell part of the naming is already done for you, but really, Rexford? If you’re going to name your kid Rexford, you’ve got to be pretty damned confident he’s going to grow up to attend Columbia and become a close personal friend and confidant of the President of the United States.

But the catch of the day, I have to say, was the two-disk special edition DVD release of Monty Python and the Holy Grail! Zow. The second disk includes, among other things, the complete movie dubbed into Japanese, and Monty Python and the Holy Grail in Lego!

Happy Friday.


Still makes as much sense today as it did then:

[An extraterrestrial robot and spaceship has just landed on earth. The robot steps out of the spaceship.]

“I come in peace,” it said, adding after a long moment of further grinding, “take me to your Lizard.”

Ford Prefect, of course, had an explanation for this, as he sat with Arthur and watched the nonstop frenetic news reports on television.

“It comes from a very ancient democracy, you see…”

“You mean, it comes from a world of lizards?”

“No,” said Ford, who by this time was a little more rational and coherent than he had been, having finally had the coffee forced down him, “nothing so simple. Nothing anything like to straightforward. On its world, the people are people. The leaders are lizards. The people hate the lizards and the lizards rule the people.”

“Odd,” said Arthur, “I thought you said it was a democracy.”

“I did,” said ford. “It is.”

“So,” said Arthur, hoping he wasn’t sounding ridiculously obtuse, “why don’t the people get rid of the lizards?”

“It honestly doesn’t occur to them,” said Ford. “They’ve all got the vote, so they all pretty much assume that the government they’ve voted in more or less approximates to the government they want.”

“You mean they actually vote for the lizards?”

“Oh yes,” said Ford with a shrug, “of course.”

“But,” said Arthur, going for the big one again, “why?”

“Because if they didn’t vote for a lizard,” said Ford, “the wrong lizard might get in. Got any gin?”


“I said,” said Ford, with an increasing air of urgency creeping into his voice, “have you got any gin?”

“I’ll look. Tell me about the lizards.”

Ford shrugged again.

“Some people say that the lizards are the best thing that ever happened to them,” he said. “They’re completely wrong of course, completely and utterly wrong, but someone’s got to say it.”

From “So Long, and Thanks for All The Fish,” by Douglas Adams, who would’ve been 60 years old yesterday. Happy birthday, you magnificent bastard, you!


I was reading a chapter of Gotham: A History of New York City to 1898 last night and ran across the name “Adrien van der Donck.” Isn’t that fantastic? He was in New York back when the place was lousy with Dutch people and was known as the New Netherlands and, later or earlier (I’m not sure yet), New Amsterdam.

I mentioned this very cool name to My Darling B. Whenever I run across a very cool name, I have to point it out to somebody, or I’ll burst, which is pretty messy, so I try to avoid that. B opined that just about any name would be made way cooler by putting “van der” in the middle and, just then, Bonkers jumped up to sit with me.

So I tried it out. “Hey, it’s Jasper van der Bonkers,” I said.

And there was much tittering from B.

Hm. Every name is way better with a “van der” in the middle.


The most frustrating thing about lying awake is having to listen to everybody else sleep. The cats snore, My Darling B purrs, even the house seems to be relaxing as it settles on its foundations, creaking and popping. I’m the only one lying still and quiet.

If insomnia’s good for anything, though, I get plenty of reading done. I knocked off a couple chapters of Promised The Moon, the book about the Mercury 13 I found at St. Vinnie’s last week. Really good stuff, so I didn’t mind so much having all that time to read it.


Edwin Layton was a Japanese linguist and cryptanalyst in the Navy during World War Two. As you might imagine, he has a few interesting stories to tell, and lucky for you and me he wrote them down in a book titled, “And I was there,” which I’m reading right now. Favorite story I read today: Layton went to Japan in 1929 to learn Japanese.

When we had a basic grasp of the language, we went to live away from the capitol for a while. My choice was the isolated town of Beppu. Even in remote Beppu I had a “personal” spy who not only dogged my tracks but also pestered my servant, and became a real nuisance. If I went for a walk, my Japanese shadow followed. After a time I began harassing him by going into bars and leaving before he had finished his beer. Then one day I confronted him: “Stop pestering me, and I’ll not leave the bar until you finish your beer. But don’t hang around my house.” The bargain appealed to him, as a beer drinker, and he was less of a bother after that.