Friday, April 12, 2019

Of Jade Flower and Miss Jones
by Don Thompson, Poet Laureate of Kern County

April is National Poetry Month.  And I will publish two posts to My Sentimental Library blog this month.  The first is by a poet laureate, and the second, which I'll publish later this month, will be about the library of a poet laureate.  Today I will post an article by Don Thompson, Poet Laureate of Kern County, California  titled "Of Jade Flower and Miss Jones."  His article was first published in 2017 in the now defunct Levan Humanities Review.

Don Thompson's article is about a book of poetry that he found while book hunting some forty years ago.  William Targ published this book of poetry in 1941.  I found Thompson's article while researching online for my February post about a book collecting periodical that Targ  had published.  And when I read Thompson's article, I discovered that he mentioned me by name in the article.  So I contacted him and we arranged to publish his article in an April post to My Sentimental Library blog:

Of Jade Flower and Miss Jones
  by Don Thompson

     Before you could hold the world in the palm of your hand, before Amazon could locate a copy of almost any book imaginable, bibliophiles used to prowl not only used book stores (so rare now) but musty basement corners of junk shops, yard sales, and even the faux décor of model homes where an odd volume glued to an end table could turn out to be something you’d wanted for years. Not that you’d snatch it, of course, when five bucks and a cup of coffee for the real estate agent along with a shrug and a blushing explanation of your addiction would make that title legally yours.

     Forty years ago on one of those searches, I came across a book that fascinated me—and still does. Every few years I take it from the shelf and wonder about it. Five and a half by eight, a quarter inch thick, it’s the classic “skinny little book” of poems that Karl Shapiro sneered at in The Bourgeois Poet. “Go pulp yourself” was his advice. The cover boards might have been bright originally in 1941, but have now faded to a slightly grimy burnt orange. The title is a pasted-on yellow label—not unusual for a small press edition back when embossing would have been too expensive, long before computer technology made it possible for us to produce at home a book that looks like it was published in New York City. The end papers are saffron and inside the cover there is a penciled price ($2.00) and the author’s autograph.

     Or is it? The name, in orange ink, “Charles Yu,” despite the lightning bolt squiggle underneath and the speed and ease with which it has been scrawled, flattening the letters other than the initials into approximations, may not be an actual signature at all. However, since the author of Poems of a Chinese Student is not a native speaker (though his English is flawlessly idiomatic—something else to bear in mind) we can expect his signature to lack authentic slapdash or elaboration, to seem merely written, for it is, after all, only his student moniker and not his real name. At least Charles isn’t.

     An edition of 250 copies of the book was issued in Chicago by the Black Archer Press. The publisher was William Targ. There’s a photo of Targ that shows anything but a bookish aesthete. We see a darkly handsome, rugged and cleft-jawed man with intense eyes and a fedora pulled down over his brow as if daring anyone to knock it off. More hardboiled private eye than bibliophile, but that he was. A high school dropout hopelessly in love with books, Targ (originally Torgownik) borrowed some money from his mother and opened a used bookstore. He stocked it with odds and ends and a number of damaged volumes purchased at deep discount from MacMillan, where he had already worked first as an office boy and then as a sales rep. He did well enough until the 1929 Crash when he lost everything after his bank failed. In the process of rebuilding, he decided to add publishing to sales and began Black Archer.

     Later he moved to New York and went to work first for World and then G.P. Putnam, rising to the position of editor-in-chief. His claim to fame as an editor is having signed a contract with Mario Puzo for $5000 to write, without chapters or outline in hand, The Godfather. He was also the American editor of Simone de Beauvoir and had many other authors in his stable, both prestigious and prosperous. After retirement, and he lived to 92, Targ published his own Targ Editions out of his home in Greenwich Village—limited editions of works by personal favorites such as Updike, Bellow, and Mailer. His catalog at the original Black Archer Press was also varied and interesting. Primarily, he put out books about books, but there was also an edition of Huysman’s La Bas, a classic of fin-de-siecle decadence; something by William Saroyan, which he admittedly pirated; and of course, Poems of a Chinese Student.

     In Chinese landscape painting, human beings are miniscule figures trudging along down in a lower corner, anything but Byronic. The poetry is much the same, usually making observations of nature or human interaction without attempting to solve our persistently unsolvable problems. I love the direct simplicity of the poems: ‘Well, old friend, the bottle is empty and drifting away with the moon’s reflection in the water, and now I have to sail upriver to the farthest outpost where the emperor has exiled me, and you and I will never drink wine together again…’ An affectionate pastiche, but not far from the truth. For instance, here is “The Fishing Boat” by one of my favorites, Yang Wan Li, of the Sung Dynasty, from Heaven My Blanket, Earth My Pillow (Weatherhill, 1975), translated by Jonathan Chaves:
 It is a tiny fishing boat, light as a leaf;
no voices are heard from the reed cabin. There is no one on board—
  no bamboo hat,
     no raincoat,
         no fishing rod.
The wind blows the boat, and the boat moves.

Easy to dismiss, but deceptively simple with a haunting quality that grows on you and means more than it says—especially since it doesn’t attempt to say anything. Pure Zen.

     The Chinese student’s poems have a simple directness and many elements of Chinese poetry, but a very different mood. We could characterize them as social satire, in fact. Almost playful. They take a tongue-in-cheek attitude toward obvious racial stereotypes. The student’s girlfriend at home is named Jade Flower, after all, which no one could take seriously, and his “co-educational companion” in Chicago is a certain Miss Jones, who drags him away from a museum display of Sung porcelains so they won’t be late for a Ginger Rogers movie. Aching with nostalgia, he imagines Jade Flower back home:
Robed in silk
Purple as the skin of an egg plant,
A red lotus in her hair,
Measured and perfect
As camphor-jade beads strung on gold. 

She has a tortoise shell comb in her hair that he gave her; Miss Jones wears tortoise shell glasses. Jones has ink-stained fingers, opinions about every issue, and never sits still. She exposes him to American life, an easy frame, giving him the opportunity to muse on its weirdness including “gastronomical adventures” and “a skirmish/ At the hosiery counter.” And of course, true to type, the Chinese student is squeaky clean, intelligent but naïve, and as earnest as Charlie Chan’s son. Miss Jones is practical, obsessed with clothes. Jade Flower is far away and mysterious with her “hibiscus-white hands/ Gently folded and waiting.”

     All of this is unacceptable these days, as harmless as it is, utterly un-PC. But even in 1941, we have to wonder. Is this really the mindset of an exchange student whose home country is being ravaged by war: “Fall bombs on Chungking/ Soldiers die and poets weep…” Maybe. He finds nothing in Chicago that he prefers to China, no modern art in the museums “to compare/ With a horse-painting/ By Han Kan…” And Miss Jones is the butt of most jokes. But there’s just something about the language, something too natural, too—well, too much like a native-speaker.

     So… Off to the internet where I discovered an article in Chinese about the CharlesYu book. I pressed the button and received a madcap English translation in which Black Archer Press is rendered—perfectly!—as Black Crossbow Book Bureau. The author, Wang Jianliang, has also picked up a tattered copy from a used bookstore. He’s mystified because so few Chinese poets had published abroad in English in 1941 and because he has never heard of a Yu who might be the author—several ideograms are possible for the surname—let alone a Charles. He turns out to have many of the same questions I have raised along with a certain respect for the poems, which I share. He does note that the “Chinese flavor” seems artificial, though it is done with respect and without “the usual colonial adventures or condescending sense of superiority.” He suspects that Yu isn’t actually the author, but goes on to wonder why a Chicagoan would write such loving homage. Perhaps, he speculates, the author was concerned as many Americans were at the time about the Japanese invasion of China. The Rape of Nanking (1937) was only a foreshadowing of what the world would suffer in the coming years. And obviously, whatever his ethnicity, the author had been an admiring reader of classic Chinese poetry. He concludes that the poems are actually pretty decent work, “fresh and lively” and “skilled in the skills.” However: “The mysterious Charles Yu, really a poet forgotten by the history of modern literature?” the translation wonders in Googlish.

     Wang also cites an online article (which I’ve seen, too) by a Florida bibliophile named Jerry Morris who tells an anecdote. It seems a Chicago women’s club asked Black Archer to have the Chinese student read for them; but when the poet appeared, he didn’t look a bit Chinese. Indeed, he looked pretty much like the photo of the publisher described above. OK. But how can we be sure Morris isn’t just making it all up? In Wang’s copy, along with the signature of the author, there is another signature below it and in parentheses. This is missing from mine. After studying the scrawl, Wang determines that it says—as you know by now: William Targ.

     I confess that for forty years, even until I began writing this, I’ve been all in, completely falling for the hoax. But I’m not offended, not even surprised to discover the truth. It has always been obvious that Jade Flower and Miss Jones were caricatures, almost manikins, each decked out in typical clothing. The student is too much cut from the same cloth to be taken at face value. And the exchange between the two cultures is in no sense a clash nor is it intended to be profound. The mood is fun, charm, an innocent ribbing of everyone concerned. So hoax is too strong a word; prank would be closer. Nevertheless, it would be interesting to know what William Targ had in mind. We never will…

     …Unless. Back to the internet where I located a phone number for William Targ’s son, Russell, someone who may be even more intriguing than his father. At 82, Russell Targ remains very active in the field of ESP, especially remote viewing. A Stanford trained physicist, formerly associated with the Stanford Research Institute, he takes his work very seriously and has been testy when labeled a pseudo-scientist, although he has been a guest on Coast To Coast AM. His wife, Joan, is the sister of chess master Bobby Fischer. “That was a long time ago,” he said when I asked him about Poems of a Chinese Student. He went on to say that his father was a serious scholar of Asian culture, especially fond of woodcuts, which he collected. Original work by Hokusai, Hiroshige, Utamaro and others was displayed on the walls when Russell was growing up. After Pearl Harbor, Targ followed the advice of friends and sold all of his Japanese art—something he always regretted. However, Russell has no idea why his father wrote the Charles Yu poems. “I guess,” he mused, “that my father felt like a Chinese student.” While we were on the phone, Russell opened a copy of William Targ’s autobiography, Indecent Pleasures, published by MacMillan in 1975 [which I’ve since read and used here for a few details], and found Yu in the index, referring to page 59 on which he tells the anecdote of the women’s club reading. So now we know the source of that.

     Not surprisingly, Russell Targ had a “cold read” on me when he answered the phone. He said he had the impression that I had been released from prison. Not bad, really, when you consider that I worked in prison education for many years until I finally paroled—which is to say, I retired.

     Targ or Yu, it’s still interesting work. Here is an example, “White Stones”:

The poet Wei Ying-wu sings
Of the Taoist hermit
Who boiled white stones
Then ate them like potatoes.

From the Orchid Mountain
Which is my home in Kan-su Province
I have journeyed to this
Venerable Peak of learning
In this Great Principal City
Of the Middle West.
And here too
At the feet of my Teachers
I see white stones boiled
And passed among us
As pearls of learning. 

Wei Ying-wu was a Tang Dynasty poet who lived in hard times during civil war. He was one of those administrators sent to the boondocks where he endured loneliness and hunger. The Chinese student poet is also far from home and lonely, despite the companionship of Miss Jones—or because of it, perhaps, if she only makes things worse in comparison with Jade Flower. From Orchid Mountain the student has come to the flatland city of Chicago, which he calls, in ironic upper case, a “Venerable Peak of learning.” This is Sandburg’s “hog butcher for the world,” anything but a fragrant mountain, and neither old nor worthy of the respect he feels for his ancient culture. In Chicago there are “painted women under gas lamps luring farmers” while a Bactrian horse of the Tang Dynasty is ignored in the window of a gallery,

A fierce and bunched animal
Blue glazed and shot with red. 

When he asks a fellow exchange student about what is most impressive in this country, his friend names “the dancing girl/ Gypsy Rose Lee.” It’s no surprise, then, that as far as he is concerned, what he acquires at the feet of his capital T teachers in Chicago is no more “pearls of learning” than white stones are really potatoes. So Charles Yu isn’t quite Charlie Chan’s number One Son after all.

     This brings us to another issue about Poems of a Chinese Student that we might consider briefly. Should Targ’s little book be considered an example of literary yellowface? It’s not just a matter of Swedish Warner Oland being made-up to play a Chinese detective, but the practice of using Caucasian actors to play Asians in leading roles. There have been beautiful and successful actresses from Anna May Wong to Nancy Kwan, who broke through the color barrier once and for all in the early sixties. Nevertheless, Hollywood felt that interracial romance would be accepted only with a white actress. One example I can remember is the casting of Jennifer Jones as Han Suyin in Love Is a Many-Splendored Thing (1955). But only a year later, Glenn Ford starred opposite the great Japanese actress, Machiko Kyo (Kurosawa’s Rashomon) in The Teahouse of the August Moon. That film also featured Brando in yellowface as an Okinawan houseboy. I thought it was excruciating; but others, including Asian critics, have admired the role. On the other hand, everyone concerned who’s still alive remains embarrassed by Mickey Rooney’s bucktoothed Japanese neighbor in Breakfast At Tiffany’s (1961).

     William Targ was a unique man: prominent editor, bibliophile with thousands of rare books in his collection, raconteur, name-dropper, wine aficionado and foodie. He knew everyone who was anyone from Carl Sandburg to Viva, whose novel, Superstar, he published. He also knew many of the characters and oddballs of New York City, of whom he was especially fond. He was a neighbor of the great poet Marianne Moore in Greenwich Village. He might have continued to write poetry himself if not for having so many other interests. In fact, as a teen, he had some poems accepted by Harriet Monroe for Poetry—still a bucket list item for most poets.

     In any case, I’ve got my rare copy of Poems of a Chinese Student, and Wang Jianliang has his. That’s two survivors of the original 250. There are others, but the only one I’m aware of is listed on Amazon for $500. Don’t get excited, though. That copy has been rebound in a clamshell box by a well-known bookbinder in an elaborate and exquisite Japanese style. My copy, like so many other cherished trifles, can be valued at something between the two bucks I paid for it and priceless.

William Targ, Bibliophile, my Nov 2008 post to my Bibliophiles in My Library blog, was the article that Wang Jianliang and Don Thompson found online.  And here's an image of my copy of Poems of a Chinese Student:

Wednesday, March 13, 2019

About Submarines, Submariners, and Pearl Harbor

I'm not really into submarines.  Airplanes are my thing.  But when I found a second printing of The Hunt for Red October in a local thrift store last month, I just had to have it.

 I've seen the movie, The Hunt for Red October, but I have yet to read the book.  It is now high up on my reading pile.   This particular copy of the book is rather unique.  Its former owner, a submariner by the name of Jim Cochran, extra-illustrated it!   On the front free endpaper, he pasted an image of an American submarine with two sailors standing in the conning tower.

On the verso of the front free endpaper, he pasted an image of a submarine with three crew members standing in its conning tower.

On the title page, he pasted an image of Severodvinsk, the world's largest submarine production yard.

On the dedication page, he pasted a chart depicting the USSR attack submarines.

On the half title page, he pasted an image of the Typhoon Class submarine.

And on the verso, he pasted an image of the ALFA-Class nuclear-powered attack submarine.

Acquiring Tom Clancy's book, The Hunt for Red October, reminded me of another book about submarines that I had in my library:

I have a sentimental attachment to Hawaii and its military bases.  From 1977 to 1982, I fixed airplanes at Hickam Air Base, the navigation and RADAR Systems of C-141 and C-5A aircraft to be exact.  Hickam Air Base is adjacent to Pearl Harbor.  My shop was located in a hangar across the street from Pacific Air Forces (PACAF) Headquarters.  Sometimes when I went to work early in the morning,  I would pause and look at the PACAF building across the street.

 They never repaired the bullet holes and shrapnel damage done to the building, leaving them as reminders of December 7, 1941, the day the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor.

Kazuo Sakamaki was not one of the Japanese Zero pilots who bombed Pearl Harbor.  He was the skipper of one of Japan's top secret weapons: five midget submarines.  The midget submarines were transported across the ocean attached to mother submarines and released several miles from the entrance to Pearl Harbor  (the Harbor was too shallow for the mother submarines). Each midget submarine carried two torpedoes and was manned by a two-man crew.  The mission of the sailors of the midget submarines was to sneak into Pearl Harbor under cover of darkness, remain submerged near the bottom until daylight, and then join the aircraft in attacking the American fleet.

Ensign Kazuo Sakamaki wanted to sink the USS Pennsylvania, the flagship of the Pacific Fleet.  But before he launched his midget submarine, he discovered that his gyrocompass was inoperative.  Nevertheless he and his aide continued on their mission.  Navigating blindly, he never got through the entrance into Pearl Harbor.  Twice his midget submarine got stuck on reefs, damaging a torpedo the first time, and damaging the torpedo release mechanism the second time, rendering the second torpedo useless as well.  Sakamaki was knocked unconscious by depth charges dropped by destroyers protecting the entrance to Pearl Harbor and his midget submarine drifted for hours all the way to the east side of the island, finally getting stuck on a coral reef near Bellows Beach.  He and his aide lit the fuse to destroy the sub and started to swim towards the beach.

Sakamaki's aide drowned trying to reach the beach.  Even worse, there was not an explosion, and his midget submarine was not destroyed.  The next thing Sakamaki remembers is waking up on the beach at Bellows with an Army Sergeant standing over him.  Ensign Kazuo Sakamaki was POW No. 1.

Located on the windward side (east side)of the island of Oahu, Bellows currently serves as a military training station and as a recreation area for active duty and retired members of the armed forces.  The Marines own half of Bellows and practice amphibious landings. The Air Force runs the recreation side of Bellows with cabins and even a motel.   If we weren't vacationing at Bellows and renting a cabin for a week or two, we would be on the beach at Bellows almost every weekend.  Our kids would swim for a few hours, and then my wife and I and our friends Manny and Joyce would grab our boogie boards and ride the waves!

Here's an image of what Bellows Beach looks like nowadays:

Here's an image of what Bellows Beach looked like on December 8, 1941, when they pulled Sakamaki's minisub off the reef and onto the shore.

NH64471 Japanese Type A Midget Submarine HA-19

Most of the remainder of Sakamaki's book is his recollection of his four years as POW No. 1.  He was treated extremely well by his American captives at several camps and in accordance with the Geneva Convention.  Sakamaki soon began to brief new arrivals to the prison camp.  He stressed that the camp was not a battlefield and they were no longer combatants. This philosophy went against Japanese tradition: Do battle to the end.  Commit harakiri instead of surrendering.

The Japanese painting below honors the nine sailors of the midget submarines that attacked Pearl Harbor.  Noticeably absent in the painting is the lone survivor, Ensign Kazuo Sakamaki, POW No. 1.

Sakamaki's book was first published in 1949 by Association Press. And Rollston Press published a softcover edition in 2017.  Sakamaki's book wasn't the first book about the midget submarines and their crews to be published. In 1942 the Japan Times published a memorial volume to the nine sailors who died during the attack on Pearl Harbor.  The book was published in English, most likely for propaganda purposes.

I first heard of this book in 2002.   My bookseller friend David Holloway bragged on the rec.collectingbooks newsgroup that he had acquired a copy.  Dave eventually sold it for close to $1000 dollars (too rich for me).  Rare Book Hub shows three copies sold at auction in the last six years.

Currently, there is a copy listed on eBay for a whopping $8,500!

Earlier I mentioned that I wasn't really into submarines.  But the midget submarine attack on Pearl Harbor was getting all the more interesting the more I researched and read about it.  I wondered what happened to the other four midget submarines.  And I found a book that told me all about them!

Numerous books have been written about the midget submarines and the attack on Pearl Harbor.  This book, The Lost Submarines of Pearl Harbor, first published in 2016, tells all. And with pages and pages of illustrations.  The midget submarines originally received credit for sinking the Arizona.  But that is not the case.  Not one of the midget submarines inflicted any damage to a Navy vessel in Pearl Harbor.  The editors of this book tracked all five of the midget submarines from their launches to when their hulls were finally recovered.  The midget submarine that the USS Ward sank ( "the First Shot of the War,") wasn't recovered until 2002.

Sakamaki's midget submarine HA-19, was restored and dispatched on a War Bonds Tour across the country in 1942 and 1943. It is now in the National Museum of the Pacific War (Admiral Nimitz Foundation) in Fredericksburg, Texas.  Sakamaki visited the museum in 1991, and saw his midget submarine for the first time in fifty years.  As POW No. 1 Sakamaki received much publicity upon his return to Japan.  Japanese men wrote him and said there was still time for him to do honor and commit harakiri.  Women were attracted to him.  He initially shunned publicity, quietly married, and worked in an automobile manufacturing plant.  His book, I Attacked Pearl Harbor, is now joined in my library by The Hunt for Red October and The Lost Submarines of Pearl Harbor.

Finally, I'll end this post with a postscript of memories related to other ex-POWs.  I was stationed at Scott AFB, Illinois from 1970 to 1974.  My wife and I were on the tarmac at Scott AFB to greet the ex-POWs from Vietnam when they returned home on a C-141A Starlifter in 1973. I get tears in my eyes remembering it all now.  And more memories: Three of my four children were born at Scott AFB.  My wife's OB/Gyn nurse Capt. Kazmar and I were singing Polish Christmas Carols in July or August of 1972 while my wife was having contractions with the twins!  I heard later that the Captain switched from OB/Gyn to taking care of the ex-POWs in 1973.  She married one of them!

Monday, February 25, 2019

Those Who Write Them,
Those Who Collect Them,
Those Who Write About Them

On Dec 4, 2003 an ebay seller put eight issues of The Book Collector's Journal up for auction.  William Targ published this journal in 1936 when he was still a bookseller in Chicago.

I had several reasons for bidding on this auction. I collected William Targ,  I had most of the books Targ wrote.  And I wanted issues of the periodical that he edited and published.  I was particularly interested in acquiring the third issue on the left.  I had seen that portrait of the man wearing a hat before.  It adorned the front cover of a pamphlet that William Targ pirated in 1936.  The title of the pamphlet was Those Who Write Them, And Those Who Collect Them.  Willliam Saroyan was the author.  Targ paid Saroyan ten dollars to write the article.

Targ recalled the incident in his autobiography, Indecent Pleasures:  The Life and Colorful Times of William Targ.  He was in the printshop checking the proofs of the July 1936 issue of The Book Collector's Journal when he decided to print fifty copies of Saroyan's article as a pamphlet and sell them for a dollar apiece. They sold like hotcakes.  Targ ran into Saroyan in the lobby of the Algonquin Hotel in the early 1970s and said to Saroyan, "You don't remember me...."  Saroyan responded with a leer, "Sure. You're  Bill Targ; you pirated my stuff.  I hear it's a collector's item."  Targ then tells his readers that he'd seen the pamphlet listed for $50.  That was in 1978 when Targ's biography was published.  Fast forward to December 4, 2003.  Those Who Write Them, and Those  Who Collect Them was listed for not less than $300 on the web!  If the pamphlet was worth $300, what was its first printing in The Book Collector's Journal worth?

Fast forward to 2011.  In the 2011 fourth edition of their book, Collected Books:  The Guide to Identification and Values, Allen and Patricia Ahearn identify two different printings of the pamphlet.  It was first printed in pale green wraps in a limited edition of 50 copies and valued at $400.  It was later reprinted in rose colored wrappers with the same limitation statement and valued at $100.  Currently there are two copies listed on the web, both in pink wrappers; one for $385 and the other for $195.  I do wonder, however, if Targ limited himself to printing only 50 copies of the pink or rose colored edition.  Worldcat lists 31 copies of the pamphlet out of 100 copies printed. WorldCat lists 15 listings of the journal out of 5,000 copies distributed.

Let's return to December 2003!  A memorable auction it was!  There was a William Saroyan collector, an Aleister Crowley collector (two of the issues contained an article about Crowley), and a William Targ Collector (me). I wrote about it when the auction was over on Dec 11, 2003 and posted it to the rec.collecting.books newsgroup:


On Dec 04, an ebay seller put eight issues of The Book Collector's
Journal up for auction.   William Targ began publishing this monthly
periodical in 1936 when he was still a bookseller in Chicago.

The auction wasn't even an hour old before the first bid was made. The
very next day, an Aleister Crowley collector made his first bid, bidding
a maximum of $35 and taking the lead. The seller had noted that there
was an article on Aleister Crowley in one of the issues.

On Dec 08 at 09:22:15 PST, the Aleister Crowley collector increased his
maximum bid to $78. He still had the lead at $23.27. There was no
further bidding until the day the auction ended.

On Dec 11 at 10:03:57 PST, the Aleister Crowley collector increased his
maximum bid to $101.

On Dec 11 at 15:10:13 PST, A William Saroyan collector bid $75. The
Crowley collector was still in the lead. The seller had noted that
William Saroyan contributed two articles to these issues.

On Dec 11 at 15:10:49 PST, the William Saroyan collector bid $100. The
Crowley collector was still in the lead, but only for a few more

On Dec 11 at 15:13:34, the William Saroyan took the lead with a maximum
bid of $107.

With less than five minutes left in the auction, the bidding stood at
$103. I had my snipe bid already set up, but I was beginning to have
doubts. How high did the William Saroyan collector bid? Should I
increase my maximum bid? Will the Aleister Crowley collector bid again?

I reviewed in my mind why I wanted these eight issues of The Book
Collector's Journal. William Targ published it. I collect William Targ.
There were no copies of the Journal listed on the web. They weren't even
listed at the LOC.

I had another reason for wanting one particular issue of this
periodical. Although the seller did not mention it, one of William
Saroyan's articles was Those Who Write Them and Those Who Collect Them.
William Targ made some extra money on this article, publishing fifty
pamphlets without Saroyan's permission. I have one of those fifty
copies. The minimum listing on the web for the unauthorized publication
is $300.

If one squinted at a photo in the seller's description, one can make out
the title on one of the periodicals: Those Who Write Them and Those Who
Collect Them. With less than three minutes to go in the auction, I was
hoping nobody squinted.

With less than two minutes to go in the auction, I prepared to pick up
the pizzas my wife had ordered for dinner. I took my flip flops off, put
my socks and shoes back on, made sure I had enough money in my wallet
for the pizza, and then, instead of jumping in my truck, I hurried back
to my library to check the outcome of the auction! To hell with the

On Dec 11 at 15:49:27 PST, with only eight seconds to go in the auction,
Auction Stealer made my snipe bid.
I won the eight issues of The Book Collector's Journal for

The Aleister Crowley collector contacted me after the auction was over, introduced himself, and asked if I could make a photocopy of the Crowley article and send it to him.  His name was Clive Harper,  He was the Honorable Secretary of the Fine Madness Society, and he lived in High Wycombe, Buckinghamshire, about 33 miles west of London.  I later learned that the Fine Madness Society was "founded for the provision of relief to those unfortunate individuals with an incurable attraction to the first editions of Aleister Crowley."  I made a photocopy of the article, sent it to Clive, and returned to savoring my own victory.

One good turn deserves another!

Not too long after our bidding war, Clive Harper sent me the first of four Solstice Card Awards.  These awards were silly cards highlighting catalogue or auction listings that caught Clive's attention.

Clive Harper also sent me an inscribed copy of his book, Revised Notes Towards a Bibliography of Austin Osman Spare, another author he collected, along with the Son of Supplement to the Second Edition of the Revised Version of Notes Towards a Bibliography of Austin Osman Spare.

Here is one of the two Solstice Card Awards Clive sent for years prior to 2003:

The Second Solstice Card Award is actually a two-fer!  It was awarded over fifteen years ago to a California bookseller who is still quite prominent in the book world.

I received another surprise from Clive Harper in June 2004: a copy of the article about Crowley that the Fine Madness Society reprinted from the photocopy I sent Clive.  No. 2 of 49 copies printed!

Clive sent me another Solstice Card Award in 2009, along with a postcard:

Back to Targ and The Book Collector's Journal.  On ebay last month, I acquired the first nine issues of The Book Collector's Journal. These copies are not in as good condition as the copies I acquired in 2003; the edges are flaking and the paper is splitting along the creases. I now lack only the January 1937 issue, Vol II, No. 1, to have a complete run of the periodical.

And I now have two copies of the July 1936 issue!

Friday, January 25, 2019

A Book That Flew Undetected Under the RADAR

When it comes to book collecting, it helps to know what you're looking for.  Take this listing on Amazon for instance:

Looking at the title, Vistas Iberoamericanas or, Latin American Sights, this book appears to be a travel book about Latin America.  It is.  And if the author's name were provided in the listing, there would have been increased interest in the book.  And a higher price as well.

Let's look a little closer at the listing.

It says the book was signed by the author and his father Eddie....  Eddie....  Eddie who?

 The cover of the book might give you a hint:

Give up?

Here's the title page:

And here is "Eddie's" signature:

This book is definitely a travel book.  It is a book about Eddie Rickenbacker's Goodwill Tour of Latin America in August, 1949, written by his youngest son, William.

In the Spring of 1949, Adhemer de Barros, the Governor of the State of São Paulo, Brazil invited Eddie Rickenbacker, the CEO of Eastern Airlines, to come and observe commercial aviation in Brazil and make recommendations on how to improve the industry.  Rickenbacker decided to expand the trip to include other cities in Latin America as well.  He broached the subject of a Goodwill Tour of Latin America with the State Department, got its go ahead, and introduced himself to the various Consulates and Embassies in New York and Washington.

Among his entourage for the tour, were eleven of the best men in Eastern Airlines, the formost aviation writer in the United States, Wayne Parrish, and the Editor of the Latin-American desk of the United Press, Gale Wallace.  Although the entourage already included an official photographer from Eastern Airlines, Eddie Rickenbacker invited an aviation enthusiast who took a thousand pictures during the tour:  my favorite ukelele player, Arthur Godfrey!  And yes, his ukelele accompanied him on the tour.  That's Godfrey, sans ukelele, third from the top on the right.

Here are some of the Latin American sights:

I have to admit that I knew exactly what I was looking for when I found this book on Amazon.  I even searched for the book by its title, Vistas Iberoamericanas, or, Latin American Sights.  This book was one of the treasures in My First Sentimental Airman Collection, which I sold en bloc in 2006, while waiting for my disability retirement from the Post Office to be approved (heart problems).

My second copy of this book gave even me a surprise!  "Bill" Rickenbacker gave this very copy to Leslie P. Arnold, the copilot of Chicago, one of the two single-engine biplanes that completed the first aerial circumnavigation of the world in 1924!

And so I add this treasure to My Second Sentimental Airman Collection!