Happy New Year

A letter from Tony Weller
I believe it is neither too much to ask nor unreasonable to expect 2021 to be a better year than last year. Our nation has been through hell with a near full year of pandemic worsened by incompetent reactions from persons elected to lead. At least maybe we can face our problems in the New Year with intelligence and compassion.

There are real problems in our world. When distracted by bogus ones, we fail to address the important things. Such diversions can be tactics of persons who would exhaust our mental energy to keep us confused about customs that keep us unequal. It seems to me that earth’s three most urgent concerns are CoViD19, climate change and systemic inequality. One should note that earth’s worst human rights abuses and environmental degradation occur in places with the most severe wealth discrepancies.

Do we really intend to stumble stupidly into a future of unpredictable climate change, clinging to the very destructive practices that brought us here? Will we ever be able to embrace a global ethos that considers the welfare of all and the urgent necessity of preserving our earthly habitat?

My ideas and hopes are not original. As I fail to locate my identity without the influence of my culture or my reading, I understand these mere human thoughts as coalescences assembled by the vector of experience. So it surprises me that I might be an example of the reason nervous and dogmatic cultures control education, publishing and access to books. Real education, like unfettered reading, leads to independent thought and there’s just no telling which gods will be discarded when one gains enough confidence and wisdom to perceive afresh.

Either we can progress or I want to know when in our lives stagnation is required. When belief reigns superior to perception and cognition, one becomes trapped in ruts of habit. Magnetic Resonance Imaging can measure brain activity but not content. MRIs show in how many fewer ways the neurology of older habit-bound brains fire than young ones. MRIs also show that certain living habits or practices keep cognition supple and reading is one of a few activities that accomplishes it.

None of my critiques or ideals would exist were it not for a life of reading. My rejections of tired and outmoded facets of culture originate in the works of great writers and thinkers. As I first learned in science, and later in Zen, to rigorously try to subvert one’s own beliefs is the truest way to establish their sturdiness and worthiness. It takes no courage and little effort to follow paths set by precedent. It’s very hard to identify important historic occurrences that were not resisted by the entrenched powers of cultures whence they emerged. That’s the thing about progress, it is a form of change, and change by nature cannot be the same.
Flow of Used Books & The CoViD disruption

The used and rare books we sell are acquired mostly from Salt Lake area citizens. Since the 1980s, it has been a main duty of mine to evaluate, purchase and price collections of old books. I remember when we kept pace with the offerings but since the beginning of the millennium, we have been offered more books than we have time to view, let alone buy, process, display and sell. While it can be hectic, it is also exciting and one reason we are able to supply secondhand books in such good condition. The most notable additions to our inventory usually come from large collections. We entered the CoViD19 shutdown with a mound of unprocessed used books so large I named it the libermount. But even during pandemic, persons relocate and die and books must be removed and redistributed.

We depend on locating great books to satisfy the desires and curiosities of our customers. To do this we try to learn as much as possible about offerings before making appointments to evaluate collections. Experience has taught us that great books can be found in surprising places and viewing the books is the only effective way to understand them clearly. We are fair and experienced in our assessments. Between mysterious evolutions of taste, factors of supply and demand, and the inevitable space between what is real and what was understood, we prioritize seeing collections with books we believe you will value.

We have not been able to consider large collections of books for some months now. We have foregone viewing many, knowing that circumstances would force collections to uncertain outcomes. For persons with time to wait, we have taken numbers with the intention to make some deals in 2021 but they will need to be staged to the pace of our ability to process and sell books. We refer some sellers to other bookstores in the region when we feel that will better serve their interests. The other used book buyer, Frank, and I are speaking with anyone who has books for sale. We can’t view them as fast as you want, but we do our best to advise you or make plans to help at a future date. Second hand book buying will continue to be by appointment only. Are you trying to sell some used books? Call us with an estimated quantity and brief description of their topics. We will take it from there.
The Collectors’ Book Salon June 2012 – CoViD

Since we began our monthly soirées for book collectors, The Collectors’ Book Salons, we hosted 87 salons featuring bibliophiles exploring and demonstrating the depths and extremes of their bibliopassions for the entertainment and edification of bibliophillic guests. Over these eight years, we saw precious and unusual books and heard stories from nearly 50 book lovers. Around the cusps of each year, our guests participated in group show-and-tells built around simple themes such as most beloved or beautiful books.

Several of you have told me you miss our monthly get-togethers and so do I. 2020 has been one strange year and not short in worry. I hope we will be able to gather together with our books to tip glasses and tell our stories safely together some time, maybe in the latter half of 2021. I pondered electronic alternatives to the Collectors’ Book Salon and I hope you won’t fault me for not having embraced remote gatherings. It’s just that we readers mostly read alone. A main interest of mine in conceiving of our monthly salons for bibliophiles was my desire to socially enjoy the unusual and brilliant persons I meet in my work and create occasions where they could meet each other. Just hanging out and conversing with odd readers and not messing much with a computer is what made the CBS most enjoyable for me, and I believe, many of you.

The arc of this pandemic is not yet defined. Maybe our world will be safe enough for us to reconvene sometime later this year. Maybe one of our bibliophile guests who is more enamored and competent with computers cares to conceive of a stopgap.
A Collectors' Book Salons in 2013

New Acquisitions in the Rare Book Room

By Tony Weller
A full five-volume set (not common!) of The Real Inner Secrets of Psychology from 1924. This set by C. Alexander is more magic than psychology. Published by Alexander in decoratively embossed blue cloth duodecimos in Los Angeles. Here you will learn that “Thought travels in Space,” “The secret of mental atmospheres,” and “The cause of panics.” $400
An un-pummeled 1st edition of A.J. Liebling’s famous boxing book. The Sweet Science: Boxing and Boxiana, a Ringside View. In an unclipped dust jacket with former owner’s name in front. $100
A skillfully rebacked 1st English translation two-volume set of A Journey to Great Salt Lake City. Jules Remy and Julius Brenchley visited Deseret in 1855 and published their narrative in France in 1860. In 1861, this English translation was published in London. Solid and attractive. $800
The first Salt Lake City edition of The Doctrine and Covenants, from 1876. This book has also received completing restoration and facsimile work: half and full titles supplied from another of the same edition and three facsimile leaves at the terminus. $475
An extremely nice 1st edition copy of I. Daniel Rupp’s Impressive 1844 Original History of the Religious Denominations at Present Existing in the United States, containing Joseph Smith’s own seven-page explanation of Mormonism delivered to Rupp in the last month of his life. Full leather. $500
First Salt Lake City edition of the Book of Mormon by Joseph Smith Jr., published in 1871. This copy has its half and full title pages supplied from another copy of the same printing. Table of contents and last three leaves are provided in facsimile on close matching paper. Hinges repaired, edges rubbed and spine is slightly convex. Ex-libris early convert George Beard (1854 – 1944), painter and photographer. $1450
The posthumously published “inspired version” of the Bible, titled, The Holy Scriptures, by Joseph Smith Jr., published in Lamoni, Iowa in 1882 by the Reorganized Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, then called the Josephites and known today as The Community of Christ. Second issue of the first edition. $1500 for a very good copy.
Very nice 1st edition of Samuel W. Taylor’s increasingly scarce 1976 title, The Kingdom or Nothing: The Life of John Taylor, Militant Mormon. Our sharp copy is in a bright unclipped dust jacket. $125
Our Best Weller's pick is
20% off January & February
by David Gessner
Simon & Schuster
List Price: $28.00
Our Price: $22.40
Reviewed by Frank Pester

“Leave it as it is.
You can not improve on it.
The ages have been at work on it,
and man can only mar it”.

Theodore Roosevelt’s proclamation at the Grand Canyon in 1903 signaled the beginning of a fight still being fought today.

David Gessner’s new book looks at the landscape of the American West through the writings and life of Theodore Roosevelt. As complicated and controversial as TR’s life was, so are the issues that confront us today in the saving and protecting of our Public lands. The impetus for this book was the creation of Bears Ears. Gessner was asked to write a piece in an anthology that was to be given to Congress. At the time, he was thinking of writing a book on Public lands. He felt joy when President Obama created Bears Ears, but that soon turned into anger when then Secretary of the Interior, Ryan Zenke, standing in front of a portrait of TR and claiming to be a Roosevelt Republican, undeclared nearly 85% of Bears Ears. He knew he had to write his Public lands book. Many writers have already championed Roosevelt with the birth of the Conservation movement, but Gessner tries to view his legacy through Roosevelt’s experiences and writings into a vision for what we face today.

Theodore Roosevelt was born an into the wealthy circle of New York’s Upper class. He fell in love with the glimpses of nature he saw on family trips and vacations in upstate New York. He yearned to be a naturalist, but was also a hunter. Theodore viewed the natural world through grids he built: his view of “Manly vigor”, his love of animals, his love of hunting those animals and his deep sense of American exceptionalism.

Gessner retraces many of the places TR traveled and lived in his life; we visit Yellowstone, and its reality today: a wilderness island surrounded by development. We see the come back of big species such as Buffalo, Wolves and Grizzlies that were on the brink of extinction, and are who are now expected to exist confined.

In Leave It As It Is, Gessner deconstructs, what is is. To Theodore Roosevelt and others, it meant a virgin land, uninhabited by people, yet these lands had been lived on and maintained by the native people whose home these lands where. What we find after is government placing tribes onto reservations, placing wilderness into parks and forests into reserves. The creation of Bear’s Ears was a five year dedicated effort by five native tribes to create the monument using American tools to create a public land use of the area.
David has written an entertaining thought provoking book built on four layers: biography, travel narrative and history. Leave It As It Is is a robust addition to the discussion of how public land use has evolved our time and what needs to come next.

Join Catherine and the crafters of Weller Book Works on Zoom for 40 minutes of casual bookish conversation and snacks. All crafts and crafters are welcome. BYOB.

Lit Knit is held the 2nd and 4th Wednesdays monthly.
Email catherine@wellerbookworks.com for an invitation to attend.

Bookseller Thoughts and Reviews

Andrés Neuman
Farrar, Straus and Giroux
Hardcover $28.00
Reviewed by José Knighton 

When author Roberto Bolaño died, way too early, at the age of 50 in 2003, his departure left an enormous crater in Hispanic literature. But also, since translation of his stunningly original catalog, after his death, made him a posthumous global phenomenon, his passing left a similar void in world literature. 

Like Bolaño, Andrés Neuman was born in the shadow of a South American dictatorship (in his case Argentinian rather than Chilean). Both matured as writers in Spain. Exile from his country of birth helped instill a global perspective to Bolaño's fiction. A similar global perspective, encompassing four continents, is on full display in Neuman's Fracture, including Asia's Pacific Rim where Bolaño's keyboard never reached. 

Yoshie Watanabe, a recently retired executive for an internationally prominent Japanese electronic tech company, has returned to Tokyo, after a career of professional exile, just in time to experience the earthquake that unleashed a tsunami that killed and displaced thousands and left the nuclear disaster at the Fukushima power plant in its wake. As we soon learn, this is not the first historically significant and radioactively poisonous fracture of Watanabe's life. As a child he happened to be visiting Hiroshima with his father when the uranium bomb was dropped. A seemingly inconsequential distraction saved his life while his father was crushed. Three days later, his family, back in Nagasaki, were incinerated by the plutonium bomb. 

Taken in by generous relatives young Watanabe is eventually sent to college in Paris, where he experiences the first in an international array of transitory relationships destined to succumb to inevitable faultlines of personal trauma. A sequence of first-person recollections by Watanabe's former partners in France, the United States, Argentina and Spain is triggered by a journalist futilely seeking to interview Watanabe himself. 

At times Fracture is relentlessly plot driven; its outline seems so much a part of Watanabe's endocrine system that it might be read like ideograms in the radiation scars on his back. In contrast, Bolaño's hyper-creative characters seem constitutionally immune to such machinations. In this regard, Neuman may be perceived as more of a classicist than Bolaño. Still, both authors project a brilliance differing more in spectral alignment than in magnitude. 
By Patricia Highsmith, or Claire Morgan
W. W. Norton & Company
Paperback $14.95
Recommended by Lila Ann Weller

This piece is carried over from
last month's Word from Wellers

My favorite time to read The Price of Salt is early December, just as the wild combination of holiday cheer and retail clamor are reaching their peak --that said, experiencing this story at any point during the year is a better choice than not reading it at all. Not only is this the time of year during which I happened to stumble upon this singular novel years ago, but because it places those of us who are familiar with the nature of the U.S. holiday season firmly in the shoes of one of our leads: Therese, a young woman working retail during the Christmas rush who feels like an alien among humans, working to find herself in a culture that has firmly expressed that there is one way to be, and she isn't it.

I describe this book as singular because, to me, Highsmith's yearning, darkly passionate prose in The Price of Salt are unmatched, however the experiences of both Therese and Carol have been lived by many, in particular by LGBTQ+ folks who came of age in the early 1950s: years before the sexual revolution--though many of us know how hetero- and cis-centric the sexual revolution was, anyway--right at the birth of the first publicly registered gay rights organization, and a good decade before The Stonewall Riots. The elusive (by necessity) dance of two queer people falling radically in love during this era is likely fairly unfamiliar to a number relatively young readers, such as myself-- a reminder of how very long and hard our foreparents have fought for our right to exist, and to exist happily, as well as of the rights we still have to actively fight for, and legally gain.

However, one of the qualities that makes The Price of Salt a standout in early American LGBTQ+ literature is that the intense beauty of the story isn't overshadowed by the pain of living in a world that doesn't want or accept our main characters. In my experience, one of the self-preserving concepts a person of a disenfranchised demographic often becomes conscious of is that happiness and pain sometimes must coexist; when pain is ongoing--as in the case of a person struggling to accept and/or live their gender and/or sexuality free of abuse--it's clear that if we could only feel one strong emotion at once, we'd never feel happiness. This reductive view of the narratives of those in disenfranchised cultures has been used in media for decades to strip such folks of our humanity in the eyes of those who exist within dominant culture, and often to tacitly teach a lesson to the reader about the dangers of existing outside the bounds of that culture.

Despite Highsmith's notable struggles with her own identity and sense of self, and Therese's and Carol's similar personal fights, the two are deliciously unlimited in this sense: whole people whose narratives stunningly capture not only the experience of forming a chronically demonized connection, but also the intensity of a first true love. In fact, this story is downright gorgeous. Lovingly peppered with intimate, powerful affections that nearly all LGBTQ+ folks will understand the significance of--such as a lover calling you by the name that conveys your true identity-- The Price of Salt is an absolutely delightful read. If you've seen the hit movie Carol and thought "Well, this simply can't get any better!", I have great news for you.

An additional literary historical tidbit:
Earlier this year I had the joy of finding a 1986 copy of The Price of Salt published by the notable lesbian publisher Naiad Press, who in 1983 convinced Highsmith to let them reprint the novel, which had rather quickly fallen out of print after it was first released in 1953 under the pseudonym Claire Morgan. The lovely folks of Naiad did their best to incentivize Highsmith to allow the reprint to be released under her real name, but ultimately societal pressures were still too strong, and it was once again published under the name Claire Morgan. My 1986 copy isn't an extremely notable edition in the sense of rarity, though it is somewhat uncommon, and the earliest edition I've seen in person. However, what I find most striking is that it not only contains a wonderful list of a good few other lesbian books published by Naiad, but also an afterword written by 'Morgan' in '83, just three years previously, when she'd wrestled with the choice to once again release this deeply, somewhat painfully intimate portrait of herself back into the world, and the decision to do so once again under a false name for the sake of protection. She ends her letter to the reader--and the book as whole-- with the words:

"I am happy to think that it gave several thousand
lonely and frightened people something to hang onto."
--Claire Morgan

Happy New Year!
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