Categories
Dr. Seuss

Oh, the places Dr. Seuss booksellers can go if they make a lot of dough

By JOHN E. BIALAS

It’s a potential boom time for third-party internet sellers of Dr. Seuss books, a theory I base on my Amazon.com research after I read a story at The New York Times website.

Alexandra Alter and Elizabeth A. Harris wrote the story, published on Thursday, 3-4-21, and the headline is Dr. Seuss Books Are Pulled, and a ‘Cancel Culture’ Controversy Erupts.

The Times story came two days after The Associated Press reported the following:

Six Dr. Seuss books — including “And to Think That I Saw It on Mulberry Street” and “If I Ran the Zoo” — will stop being published because of racist and insensitive imagery, the business that preserves and protects the author’s legacy said Tuesday.

That’s the first paragraph of the story, and you can go right here if you would like to read the rest.

The day the story broke was Dr. Seuss’ birthday, also known as Read Across America Day, and the second day of schoolchildren celebrating Dr. Seuss Week.

The entertainment company that maintains his legacy marked the occasion with a message I saw on the Dr. Seuss Instagram.

The final three words of the message were omitted: “communities and families.” It’s amazing no one at Dr. Seuss Enterprises fixed that.

The Times reported that “the announcement seemed to drive a surge of support for Seuss classics. Dozens of his books shot to the top of Amazon’s print best-seller list; on Thursday morning, nine of the site’s top 10 best sellers were Seuss books.”

I went to Amazon to see that “The Cat in the Hat,” which remains in good graces, was No. 1 and retailed for $5.90, though you could get a used copy for $2.

If you want the original hardcover of “And to Think That I Saw It on Mulberry Street” through an Amazon third-party seller, you will need to receive 10 or more stimulus checks to pay for it.

The most expensive copy of the book is listed at $10,000 and it’s in very good condition.

Oh, free shipping isn’t offered. You will have to pay $3.99 for delivery.

Just think of the places the seller will go if they get $10,000 plus $3.99.

Perhaps that person will create their own version of “Oh, the Places You’ll Go!,” the last Dr. Seuss book. Published in 1990, it’s about life and its challenges. Imagine the challenge of trying to spend $10,000 plus $3.99. Oh, baby. Sign me up.

Would you pay $10,000 plus $3.99 for the original “And to Think That I Saw It on Mulberry Street” that includes this illustration?

If you admire the art, you can stay right here and look at it for free or you can send me $10,000 plus $3.99.”

New York Times opinion columnist Ross Douthat, in a provocative piece Saturday, wrote that “a single problematic image seems to be enough to make an entire book disappear: One chopstick-wielding Chinese man in “And to Think That I Saw It on Mulberry Street,” apparently, means the first major work of an American master can’t be published anymore.”

The illustration doesn’t bother me. The cancel culture bothers me. It’s a 21st-century term for the practice of damning a person or a work that becomes objectionable, but the mindset has been around a long time.

Popular culture said good riddance in 1981 to the “Charlie Chan” Chinese detective films, including Number One Son and Number Two Son, and years before that, the Black TV sitcom “Amos ‘n’ Andy” got the gate. This meant that Kingfish, the series’ most popular character, was also persona non grata.

“And to Think That I Saw It on Mulberry Street” is the very first Dr. Seuss children’s book, published in 1937, and the 60th-anniversary edition is going for $1,899.

“Mulberry Street” is also one of the six offenders that won’t be published anymore, a designation that has led to inflated prices since Tuesday.

I’ll use one word to describe all the prices I saw for the book, the cheapest listed at $225 (for the 1964 edition). The word is often heard in the Deep South: expansive.

You know what I mean. It’s like, “Damn, that picture book is mighty expansive. The places I could go for that amount.”

Featured image credit: “And to Think That I Saw It on Mulberry Street” cover, first edition, 1937, Amazon

Categories
books

The only snow in Gulfport on Fat Tuesday

By JOHN E. BIALAS

The winter storm brought ice, incredible ice to Gulfport on Fat Tuesday, also known as Mardi Gras, or in 2021, Yardi Gras because of house floats and no parades during the covid pandemic, but the only snow I saw was in the window display at Barnes & Noble.

I took the picture as I was leaving the store at 5:20 p.m. The display caught my attention because I wondered if a seller had the wishful thought that it would be a snowy day. Or perhaps the display has been there a while and this was the first time I noticed it.

I went to Instagram to post the image of copies of “The Snow Day” by Ezra Jack Keats and I used such hashtags as #bookstagram, #bookstagrammer and #booksofinstagram in hopes of receiving a warm reception on a day when the high was only 37 and the low was a record-breaking 19, or as I like to call it, coldvid 19.

Categories
books

The Blog Identity

By JOHN E. BIALAS

My blog’s name is You Can Learn From Books, whose inspiration comes from a scene in the 1964 Beatles film “A Hard Day’s Night.”

The scene involves an exchange between Paul McCartney’s grandfather, played by actor Wilfred Brambell, and Ringo Starr, played by Ringo.

I found the exchange on IMDB and I’m sharing part of it here.


Grandfather: Would you look at him? Sittin’ there with his hooter scrapin’ away at that book!

Ringo: Well, what’s the matter with that?

Grandfather: Have you no natural resources of your own? Have they even robbed you of that?

Ringo: You can learn from books!

You can go to YouTube to watch a clip of the scene.


I’ve learned a lot from books and my favorite writers, who include Eve Babitz, Anna David, Joan Didion, Tim Ferriss, Malcolm Gladwell, Pete Hamill, Christopher Hitchens, Nick Hornby, Leslie Jamison, Jack Kerouac, Stephen King, Michael Lewis, Norman Mailer, Ed Sanders, William Styron, Gay Talese, Amber Tamblyn, Hunter S. Thompson, James Thurber, Calvin Trillin, Lynne Truss, Rob Walker and Tom Wolfe.

I use this blog to post reviews, observations, opinions, analysis, humor, satire, views and news, and I share what I have learned.

I started You Can Learn From Books in 2019, two years after my retirement from the Biloxi-Gulfport newspaper on the Mississippi Coast, where I worked for 45 years.

This is a new version of the blog. It became affiliated with DreamHost on Tuesday, 1-12-21, which gives it SEO, redirected servers and a cleaner look.

I’m happy with that and I’m certain DreamHost will point this blog in the right direction.

Image credit: YouTube screengrab of Beatles drummer Ringo Starr reading a book in “A Hard Day’s Night.”

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Categories
books

How do you get someone to read your book? Give it away and call it the worst

By JOHN E. BIALAS

I received a Goodreads email Thursday night (1-7-21) and the subject line was “John Rachel has invited you to the event: FREE READ … The Worst Book Ever Written!”

I was intrigued and couldn’t wait to see what this was all about from an author I knew nothing about.

I blocked out five minutes of my valuable 24/7 downtime for research as a warm prospective customer, a marketing term I learned from Mella Music.

Rachel’s Amazon page says that he “has written eight novels, three political non-fiction books, and a fantasy/travel/cookbook about the dietary preferences of mermaids.”

This is the pitch he delivered in the Goodreads email:

Date: January 08, 2021 12:00PM

Venue: Everywhere bad books are read! (US, Canada, Australia, Great Britain, New Zealand)

Location: The United States

Description:

The worst book ever written is now available.

I’m giving away free ebooks to the first 100 people who send me a message here at Goodreads. Put ‘Free SEX. LIES & COFFEE BEANS’ in the subject line.
Specify EPUB, Kindle or PDF.

Tell me if you think it’s worst book ever written. If not, I’d like to know what could possibly be worse.

Have a nice day!

Your Response:

Yes

No

Maybe

I hope you saw the humor. I did. I laughed

Imagine consciously branding your new book as the worst, a line basically stolen from Adam Weinstein.

You’re at risk for a great blunder like the one a New Orleans pizza chain made in the 1960s.

Mr. Pizza was the name of the business, which had TV ads and its slogan was “World’s Worst Pizza.”

“It wasn’t the worst, really,” New Orleans restaurant critic Tom Fitzmorris wrote in 2010. “They threw their own crusts and baked their pizzas in the classic Blodgett stone-floored ovens. But it wasn’t the best, either.

“The chain fell apart in the 1970s, but some of the restaurants kept going for years. VIP Pizza in River Ridge started as a Mr. Pizza and has never closed, although it’s not much like Mr. Pizza anymore.”

I never went to Mr. Pizza. I was never interested. I was young and gullible. When Mr. Pizza said it had the “World’s Worst Pizza,” I believed it was true. Back then, I was serious about pizza and I’m more serious about it now in my late 60s.

Rachel is joking about his own work. I recognize a really smart self-deprecator and self-effacer, and you’ve got to be careful spelling deprecator because you might make an embarrassing mistake.

As I edit this post, maybe those self words are incorrect.

On further review, I think Rachel is practicing the not-so-subtle art of self-amusement, being playful and having fun to get attention.

He had me at “Coffee,” so I did what he said to do and emailed him immediately that I would appreciate a free copy of “Sex, Lies & Coffee Beans,” though I left out my preferred ebook format. That was fixed Friday morning (1-8-21) after I heard back from him.

I received my copy Friday night (1-8-21) and I’m excited to start reading it this week.

I took a look inside “Sex, Lies & Coffee Beans” and was entertained Friday night at Amazon, where the Kindle edition is just 99 cents, which is almost as good as free. Literary Vagabond is the publisher of the book, which came out on Dec. 20, 2020. You know, 20-20. Five days before Christmas. Merry, merry.

“Sex, Lies & Coffee Beans” is an American satire and work of fiction in which the main character is Dr. Joy Smothers, the folk-singing psychologist who played a major role in self-help in the 1980s and 1990s.

Joy Smothers. I like the sound of her name. I wonder if she believed that joy smothers. I wonder if she was related to the Smothers Brothers. I wonder if Dr. Joyce Brothers inspired her.

It doesn’t matter.

A Thursday night email can be the highlight of the week.

Categories
books

Great songwriter, bad signer

By JOHN E. BIALAS

See the autograph that is in the image at the top of this fine piece of journalism?

It appears in one of the Barnes & Noble 2020 Black Friday editions and I was interested in buying the book until I saw the awful signature at the Gulfport store on Tuesday. I was stunned, but that didn’t stop me from taking a picture to show you, oh reader, how bad it is.

Anybody want to guess the signer?

Maybe these clues will help you.

  • An American songwriter, musician, author and record producer wrote the book.
  • An Esquire reviewer says the book is “one part manual for composing a song, and one part philosophical inquiry into the human desire—the human need—to create. It’s also an easy, delightful read.”
  • The author’s previous book is a memoir published in 2018.

OK, I think the clues will lead to someone identifying the writer. Really, I think I have offered too much information.

The first person with the correct ID will win a prize and that will depend on whether I’m still in the holiday mood.

Happy New Year.


Categories
books

The coolest book event of all time

By JOHN E. BIALAS

Something that brought me immense joy in 2020 was the magical convergence of New Orleans, Melba’s, books and Matthew McConaughey on Nov. 24, the Tuesday before Thanksgiving.

McConaughey was on Facebook Live and Zoom from Austin, Texas, for a lively Q&A with fans who went to Melba’s to receive a free copy of his memoir, “Greenlights,” which was published in October.

It was the coolest author event of all time because of the excellent questions and the entertaining answers, a 60-minute exchange during lunchtime at the 24/7 restaurant on Elysian Fields. All time means all my time since 1951, the year I was born, so all time to you probably means something different.

And if you need to know what makes McConaughey cool, I’ll quote Joe Gross of austin360.com from a story he wrote in 2019:

a casual charm embodied by the phrase he adopted from his breakout role in “Dazed and Confused” — “Just keep livin.’ ”

I’ve had dinner at Melba’s a few times, just not this year because of home isolation in the pandemic, and I always order baked chicken, corn grits and baked macaroni. The next time I go there, I’m going to make room for the 9th Ward gumbo.

My last meal at Melba’s was on Dec. 19, 2019, and at my table I took a picture of my usual bountiful choices served in a to-go tray.

Melba’s is one of my favorite places in New Orleans, not only for the tasty food but also for its Lunch & Literacy initiative, a program the restaurant’s owners, husband and wife Scott and Jane Wolfe, established in recent years.

Here’s a Melba’s Facebook post I enjoyed seeing on Nov. 27:

Did you know? Melba’s is the only place in the world where you can- Buy a book – Get a Free daiquiri. Eat and Read at Melba’s.

I used my Amazon gift card, one Patty gave to me for my birthday on Nov. 20, for my copy of “Greenlights,” and though it remains on my long list of unread books, I intend to read it soon.

Perhaps one day, I will bring it to Melba’s and read it while I’m there, paying homage to that special day the Tuesday before Thanksgiving in 2020.

The video of the McConaughey book giveaway remains on the Melba’s Facebook page and I plan to watch it again.

Featured image: Screen shot of Melba’s customers at the Matthew McConaughey virtual book event

Categories
books

Something in the way she looks like Pattie Boyd

By JOHN E. BIALAS

Yeah, this post’s lead image features the cover of Pattie Boyd’s memoir, “Wonderful Tonight: George Harrison, Eric Clapton, and Me.”

I enjoyed reading the book shortly after it was published in 2007 because I was curious to know about the rock music muse who was also among the influencers in the fashion world of London’s Swinging Sixties.

“Something.” “Layla.” Youth. Sophistication. Glamour. Hippie chic.

The look: “Mini-skirt, long straight hair and wide-eyed loveliness.” Those are the words of the late English music journalist and film critic Tom Hibbert.

English author Philip Norman has described Boyd as “one of the leading British models of her generation…Blonde-haired, blue-eyed and breathtakingly beautiful.”

I’ve often wondered if Boyd was on stage when Clapton performed at City Park Stadium in New Orleans in 1974, 10 years after the Beatles played there. I was a good distance from the stage at the Clapton concert and I thought I saw her standing there. If you were there and saw her, please tell me.

I remember seeing singer Yvonne Elliman, who is just one month younger than me. She was with the band as the backup vocalist and Clapton wrote about her in his memoir, published the same year as Boyd’s. Oh, Clapton also wrote about Boyd, but I bet you know that.

Norman wrote about Boyd in his 2018 biography about her second husband: Clapton, a friend of George Harrison, the Beatle who was married to Boyd from 1966 to 1977. Clapton was married to Boyd from 1979 to 1989 and Boyd’s perhaps-the-third-time-is-a charm wedding didn’t come until 2015, this time to property developer Rod Weston, when she was 71 years old and he was 61.

You may already know that info, but it’s obligatory when someone, anyone writes about the Divine Miss B, as the young kids like to call her.

Her bio is repeated all over Reddit, where Pattie Boyd search results came up with such posts as “Pattie Boyd ex wife of both George Harrison and Eric Clapton was the inspiration for the following songs; If I needed someone, Something, For you Blue, Layla and wonderful tonight”; “Three of the most iconic rock songs ever made (Something – Beatles/Harrison —Layla, Wonderful Tonight – Clapton) were about this woman”; and “1 Woman inspired 2 musical greats to write 3 hit songs – “Something”, George Harrison (her husband) – “Layla”, Eric Clapton (complicated) –- “Wonderful Tonight”, Eric Clapton (her boyfriend).”

That’s plenty enough for you to get the idea.

Then there’s outright bullcrap speculation and misinformation.

Wild and crazy. False. Not true.

I’m talking about the Tumblr post titled “1966 – Pattie Boyd posing to the album Otis Blue/Otis Readding Sings Soul, From NME Magazine.”

Check out the snip.

Incorrect: “Pattie Boyd posing to the album “Otis Blue/Otis Readding Sings Soul.”

Oh, I want to rewrite that sentence and fix the glaring typo.

Correct comment: “The model is not Pattie Boyd.”

The Otis Redding website says “the woman on the cover has never been identified, but it is most likely German model Dagmar Dreger.”

In 2015, the 50th anniversary of “Otis Blue,” the Otis Redding estate went to Facebook with this post: “SOLVE ONE OF MUSIC’S GREAT MYSTERIES!!! WHO IS THE WOMAN ON THE COVER OF OTIS BLUE?

“The photographer, Peter Sahula, thinks that it might be a model he worked with regularly named DAGMAR DREGER.”

The guesses: Inger Stevens, Dusty Springfield, Joyce Ingalls, Nancy Sinatra, Dorothy Docherty, Cilla Black, Julie London, Bo Derek, Sandy Smith and Angie Dickinson.

Anybody know if the mystery was solved?

I know this to be true: I really like the cover of Boyd’s autobiography, where my copy is among many stacks at home, and a young woman with an Instagram account recreated the image in a post on Aug. 20, 2020.

Her name is Kitt Carson and I would snip the photo from her IG, but I don’t want to get in a copyright dispute and I’m too lazy to seek permission because I’m on a tight deadline to publish an article in September. This just happens to be the last day of the month.

So the easiest thing to do is link to the picture and here it is: https://www.instagram.com/p/CDZ1mpMMIar/

The post has received nearly 1,300 likes.

Carson’s IG has many other pictures in which she channels Pattie Boyd and uses such hashtags as #1960s #1960sfashion #60s #60sfashion #thebeatles #thefool #pattieboyd and #hippie.

Her bio is a word list: “60s & 70s music & fashion enthusiast,” “chicago,” “model,” “grad student” and “retired tuba player.”

The compliments for her Pattie posts, and she gets many compliments, include: “Are you Pattie Boyd’s twin!? You look exactly like her!” “PATTIE IS THAT YOU😍😍.” “OMG this is absolutely incredible!!!! 😍😍💖💖 You look JUST like her, but even more so!!! 😍😍🔥🔥”

I’m not sure how many other young 21st-century women model themselves the Pattie Boyd way, but the IG has pages devoted to P.B.

I suspect this has something to do with what is called “The Taylor Swift Effect,” the singer’s 2018 Harper’s Bazaar interview with Boyd.

Swift was on the cover, where she appeared as a 28-year-old Boyd lookalike, and the two teamed up for a photoshoot.

Swift, in advance of the issue, wrote this on her Instagram:

When I finished reading Pattie Boyd’s incredible memoir Wonderful Tonight, I felt inspired and intrigued. I wanted to ask her about her life, sit down and talk about all things 1960’s London, Beatlemania, and how it felt to be on the other side of songwriting: the side of the muse. So that’s what we did, and she is now my forever lady crush. Thank you Harper’s Bazaar for this opportunity and Alexi Lubomirski for taking these photos!! And of course Pattie 💗

I’m assuming Swifties and non-Swifties saw the love, became Miss Pattie fans and started creating Gram accounts dedicated to Pattie Boyd. I’m thinking of pattieboydaesthetics, launched in 2020; pattieeboyd, 2019; pattie.boydd, 2018; and sisters.boyd, 2018, which also features Jenny Boyd, Pattie’s sister.

The sisters account includes one of the grooviest reader comments you will ever see: “Pattie, genetically blessed for your satisfaction.”

Boyd started her own Instagram, pattieboydofficial, in 2019 and the most popular of her 92 posts is the September 2020 video about her new food podcast. The post comes with the pandemic-appropriate #lockdownrecipes hashtag.

I believe the photo for the “Wonderful Tonight” cover might come from a 1968 Robert Whitaker shoot for a Vogue UK article titled “Pattie Harrison and The Painted House,” the Harrison home also known as Kinfauns and the acid house. George and Pattie lived in the Surrey home, 30 miles southwest of London, from 1964 to 1970 and they painted it with psychedelic colors.

Boyd told Swift that Kinfauns was “nearly a psychedelic monster,” a description that came 50 years after the Vogue UK story.

An eBay UK seller lists a used copy of the Vogue issue at £90.00 and that doesn’t include postage.

From the seller:

The Painted House has quite a history that fascinates thousands, maybe millions. The People of Pinterest appear to be taken by it based on what I’ve seen and they enjoy pinning images like this one, which is from the Vogue UK article.

I enjoyed my hours of research inspired by the ’68 photo that became the book cover.

Who do I thank? Pattie Boyd and Kitt Carson. Of course.