Pack up let’s fly away

I have always been enamored with classic travel poster art. And there’s nothing better than the old school posters that were created for TWA in the 1950s and 1960s by David Klein.


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A Long Goodbye

There have been numerous editions of the classic Raymond Chandler noir detective novel The Long Goodbye since its initial publication in 1953. But to my knowledge there hasn’t been a fully illustrated version until now.

The upcoming publication was created for Chinese publisher Yilin Press by the immensely talented German illustrator Kurt Kremmerz. Avoiding clichéd interpretations of Chandler’s iconic hard-boiled and dark thrillers, Kremmerz landed on a style that manages to incorporate an authentic California feel to the work.


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Raven Saunders



Denis Johnson

the woman whose face has just finished breaking
with a joy so infinite

and heavy that it might be grief has won
a car on a giveaway show, for her family,

for an expanse of souls that washes from a million
picture tubes onto the blank reaches

of the air. meanwhile, the screams are packing
the air to a hardness: in the studio

the audience will no longer move, will be caught
slowly, like ancient, staring mammals, figuring

out the double-cross within the terrible progress
of a glacier. here, i am suddenly towering

with loneliness, repeating to this woman’s
only face, this time, again, i have not won.

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London’s Folly

I’ve spent a lot of time in London over the last two centuries and I’ve visited hundreds of local tourist attractions. I even wrote a guidebook for budget travelers to the city. But I’ve never seen anything like the latest tourism failure from the Westminster Council.

The Marble Arch Mound or Marble Arch Hill is a temporary, 25-meter(82 ft) high artificial hill erected near the famous 1820s Marble Arch by Hyde Park. It has a viewing platform on the top that’s reached by climbing a metal stairway and  a planned interior event space. There were also plans for an art gallery and a foodhall. The exterior was supposed to be covered in grass and lavishly landscaped. However, when the Mound opened to the public on July 26th, it lacked all of the advertized amenities. After the initial visitors complained about paying £4.50 to climb some stairs for a uninspiring view of Oxford Street, it quickly closed shortly afterwards.

According to the Westminster City Council, the attraction will soon re-open and stay up until January, 2022. I still don’t see why anyone would pay to climb a small artifical hill when London has so many more attractive viewing spots, including some pretty great real hills.

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Serpentine Saturday

The wavy patterns on the edges, covers, and endpapers on this tooled and blind-stamped, half-bound book are from Carew’s Survey of Cornwall . This edition was printed in London by Thomas Bensley for J. Faulder and Rees and Curtis in 1811, although Carew’s book was originally published in 1602.  The marbled-paper pattern on this volume is what the University of Washington’s site on Patterned Papers identifies as Serpentine.

The pattern begins with a Turkish base. “A comb with one set of teeth is drawn through the bath twice vertically, once in either direction with the second pass halving the first. This step is repeated horizontally. Then the final step is to draw a comb, with one set of teeth set at slightly wider intervals, through the bath once vertically in wavy lines reminiscent of the way in which a snake moves.“ As we’ve noted before, when marbling the edges of a book, the text block is clamped tightly shut, and once dipped, the excess fluid is blown or shaken off quickly to prevent it from running into the book. Once dry, the marbled edges are burnished.

The frontispiece is a portrait of Richard Carew from 1586, rendered here as a stipple engraving by English engraver William Evans. Carew is shown holding a book with the Latin inscription Invita Morte Vita (In spite of life and death), and in the background there is an allegorical hammer and anvil with the Italian inscription Chi’verace durerà (Who is true will last).


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Subtle Differences


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I recently fell down a rabbithole after seeing a reference to 19th century American “Hollow Earth” proponents who toured the country giving lectures on the purported existence of a society living within the earth’s center. Some of these so-called explorers even raised funds for expeditions to reach the center of the earth. In the course of my own rambles, I stumbled on the novel Etidorhpa by John Uri Lloyd.

The book Etidorhpa; or, the End of the Earth: the Strange History of a Mysterious Being and the Account of a Remarkable Journey, is John Uri Lloyd’s whimsical take on the “hollow earth” genre. Published by the Cincinnati-based pharmacologist John Uri Lloyd in 1895, the novel focuses on a man named Johannes Llewellyn Llongollyn Drury, studying occult and alchemic phenomena, receives an unexpected visitor late in the night. A white-haired man teleports into his parlor. The old man entrusts a manuscript to our narrator, recounting events that transpired three decades earlier, and eventually introduces himself by the odd name of “I—Am—The—Man—Who—Did—It”.

The story then switches to content of the manuscript, which tells of the old man’s kidnapping by a secret hermetic society. His captors forced him to prematurely age in order to disguise his identity. Soon after, I—Am—The—Man is indentured to a guide, who is essentially a lizard man. The reptilian leads the now-aged man to the underworld (the entrance of which, we learn, is to be found in Kentucky). It’s like Dante meets Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland meets contemporary internet conspiracy theories about “the reptilian elite”. As Drury and the creature descend into the earth’s interior, their ever-evolving philosophical debate finds new scenery: forests of colossal fungi; a field of Brobdingnag hands affixed to the bodies of Lilliputians; and the experience of “eternity without time.”

The book’s title derives from an encounter with a being named “Etidorhpa”, who appears after I—Am—The—Man declines to drink a distillation of “derivates of the rarest species of the fungus family”. Instead of drugs, he is intoxicated by this seraphic creature, whose rhetorical flourishes almost eclipse her physical beauty. “The universe bows to my authority”, she says. “Stars and suns enamored pulsate and throb in space and kiss each other in waves of light; atoms cold embrace and cling together; structures inanimate affiliate with and attract inanimate structures; bodies dead to other noble passions are not dead to love.” She later introduces herself as an entity once known as Venus, but whose true name is Etidorhpa (“Aphrodite” in reverse).

If you are intrigued, it’s possible to read and download a digital version of the pre-Jules Verne Journey to the Center of the Earth at the Project Gutenberg website right here.


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War of the Worlds

I have been intrigued by the H.G. Wells iconic science fiction novel  War of the Worlds since I first read the book as a 10 year-old. The terrifying tale was first serialized in nine issues of Pearson’s Magazine (1897/98) with illustrations by Warwick Goble. These got reprinted in the first American edition of the book in 1898, but the original British book length edition published in 1898 was issued without any illustrations. However,the first Dutch translation from 1899 was published with 10 original drawings. The artwork was created by Jacobus Hendrik Speenhoff who was better known as a cabaret performer than an artist. De Strijd der Werelden was published in Amsterdam by Cohen Zonen and remains a highly sought after version by collectors on both sides of the Atlantic.


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“The adverb is not your friend.”

Stephen King’s 20 Rules For Writers

1. First write for yourself, and then worry about the audience. “When you write a story, you’re telling yourself the story. When you rewrite, your main job is taking out all the things that are not the story.”

2. Don’t use passive voice. “Timid writers like passive verbs for the same reason that timid lovers like passive partners. The passive voice is safe.”

3. Avoid adverbs. “The adverb is not your friend.”

They’re the ones that usually end in -ly. Adverbs, like the passive voice, seem to have been created with the timid writer in mind…

Consider the sentence He closed the door firmly. It’s by no means a terrible sentence (at least it’s got an active verb going for it), but ask yourself if firmly really has to be there. You can argue that it expresses a degree of difference between He closed the door and He slammed the door, and you’ll get no argument from me… but what about context? What about all the enlightening (not to say emotionally moving) prose which came before He closed the door firmly? Shouldn’t this tell us how he closed the door? And if the foregoing prose does tell us, isn’t firmly an extra word? Isn’t it redundant?

Someone out there is now accusing me of being tiresome and anal-retentive. I deny it. I believe the road to hell is paved with adverbs, and I will shout it from the rooftops. To put it another way, they’re like dandelions. If you have one on your lawn, it looks pretty and unique. If you fail to root it out, however, you find five the next day… fifty the day after that.. and then, my brothers and sisters, your lawn is totally, completely, and profligately covered with dandelions. By then you see them for the weeds they really are, but by then it’s — GASP!! — too late.

4. Avoid adverbs, especially after “he said” and “she said.”

5. But don’t obsess over perfect grammar. “The object of fiction isn’t grammatical correctness but to make the reader welcome and then tell a story.”

6. The magic is in you. “I’m convinced that fear is at the root of most bad writing.”

7. Read, read, read. ”If you don’t have time to read, you don’t have the time (or the tools) to write.”

8. Don’t worry about making other people happy. “If you intend to write as truthfully as you can, your days as a member of polite society are numbered, anyway.”

9. Turn off the TV. “TV—while working out or anywhere else—really is about the last thing an aspiring writer needs.”

10. You have three months. “The first draft of a book—even a long one—should take no more than three months, the length of a season.”

11. There are two secrets to success. “I stayed physical healthy, and I stayed married.”

12. Write one word at a time. “Whether it’s a vignette of a single page or an epic trilogy like ‘The Lord of the Rings,’ the work is always accomplished one word at a time.”

13. Eliminate distraction. “There’s should be no telephone in your writing room, certainly no TV or videogames for you to fool around with.”

14. Stick to your own style. “One cannot imitate a writer’s approach to a particular genre, no matter how simple what that writer is doing may seem.”

15. Dig. “Stories are relics, part of an undiscovered pre-existing world. The writer’s job is to use the tools in his or her toolbox to get as much of each one out of the ground intact as possible.”

16. Take a break. “You’ll find reading your book over after a six-week layoff to be a strange, often exhilarating experience.”

17. Leave out the boring parts and kill your darlings. “(kill your darlings, kill your darlings, even when it breaks your egocentric little scribbler’s heart, kill your darlings.)”

18. The research shouldn’t overshadow the story. “Remember that word back. That’s where the research belongs: as far in the background and the back story as you can get it.”

19. You become a writer simply by reading and writing. “You learn best by reading a lot and writing a lot, and the most valuable lessons of all are the ones you teach yourself.”

20. Writing is about getting happy. “Writing isn’t about making money, getting famous, getting dates, getting laid or making friends. Writing is magic, as much as the water of life as any other creative art. The water is free. So drink.”

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