Book Heaven

Where the world of books and life intersect

Location: South Amboy, New Jersey

I am deeply involved in trying to solve the discrepancy between being interested in zen and trying to acquire all the things I've been accumulating

Thursday, December 30, 2004

Now Reading

Well, another two weeks have passed since my last entry, and I just don't know where the time has gone. As I survey the gazillion books that I own, there should be no shortage of candidates just crying out to be read. With a monthly budget approaching that of some small libraries, more books are flowing in here every day. So what am I reading? Well, I'm almost too embarrassed to tell you, but of course I will, in the hope that it may help me see the error of my ways.

After reading George Kelley's comment in DAPA-EM (the mystery amateur press association) that he was starting to reread the Nero Wolfe canon after learning that the estimable Art Scott had logged an unbelievable twenty trips through the Wolfe saga (!), I tried to decide if I had ever finished reading all the Wolfe books myself. Having decided that I hadn't, I decided to start with the first book, Fer De Lance, as George had done. I have a copy of it somewhere but since it is unlikely that I could wait until it turned up, I went to the local library and was shocked to find that they didn't have a copy. I then checked a Barnes and Noble and was even more shocked to find that there weren't any Stouts on the shelves. I finally managed to locate a well-worn omnibus collection in another library. As my wife looked at Royal Flush, she gave me a look reserved for the truly deranged, which, considering the circumstances, I probably am. I'm not sure how far I'll get with the Wolfes, but I am going to try.

Long before I read the article in today's New York Times (Case of the Lawyer With a Sherlock Holmes Bent by Marc Weingarten) I have been eyeing Leslie S. Klinger's The New Annotated Sherlock Holmes (Norton), but have been saved from buying it because every single copy that I've seen so far has been sealed. Until today of course, when I came upon an opened set. A quick glance through the hefty two volume set confirmed what a monumental achievement it obviously is, and that of course I had to have it. Since half of my Baring-Gould Annotated Sherlock Holmes leaves something to be desired, having been all but ruined when my wife overwatered a plant that was resting atop one of the volumes, I could be excused if I perceived a pressing need for a replacement. I probably won't perceive a pressing need to start this anytime soon, but just knowing that I have a set will cerainly be reassuring.

Tuesday, December 14, 2004

R.I.P. Books

I was literally close to tears a couple of years back when I read a prediction that books (and bookstores) as we know them would be all but extinct within twenty years. At that time, the culprit was seen to be e-books. Ironically, after a short while I came to view the possible extiction of books as a good thing. Of course, if there were no books, I wouldn't have to worry about my addiction to them. I would be involuntarily cured.

Of course e-books have seemingly gone next to nowhere and it is doubtful that they will play much of a major role in vanquishing books. Just my luck. Now, however, while the end of books may not be in sight, the need to possess them certainly might. The front page story in the December 14th New York Times, "Google to Add Top Research Libraries to Database" by John Markoff and Edward Wyatt told of a grand project that Google has to transfer as many as fifteen million (15,000,000) volumes into readily searchable digital files that could be freely searched over the internet. Although only books whose copyrights had lapsed would be available in their entirety, users would have limited access to copyrighted works and presumably could either purchase entire works in print or electronic form. Once everything is readily available, why would anyone ever need to possess a book?

The article states that Google hopes to eventually double the starting scanning rate of 50,000 pages a day. The project is estimated to take a decade or so but I assume that work done so far will be accessible as the project proceeds. Earthshaking news here. I can just imagine a day where every pulp story ever published is available. Now if only someone can manage to stretch time. Evelyn Wood, where are you -- I'm ready to listen!!!

Monday, December 13, 2004

Medical Stuff

Wow, I can't believe it's been more than two weeks since I've written anything here. As usual, I've got lots of stuff swirling around in my head, but little time to make much sense of it. I had been deeply immersed in watching a bunch of DR.KILDARE tv shows when I started getting some intermittent stomach pains which is really unusual for me since my stomach has done its job quietly all these years with little notice that it is even there.

I probably would have pooh-poohed the doctor's recommendation that I get a CT scan except I was halfway through a book with the comical but equally terrifying title, I Had Brain Surgery, What's Your Excuse? by Suzy Becker (Workman, 2004), author of the classic All I Need To Know I Learned From My Cat. Now for all you authors out there, the brain book is a good one to know about if a publisher balks at your request to put something other than words in a book (a map, a doodle, etc). Becker's book is jammed with every conceivable manner of drawing, doodle, and odd thingamajig that you can conceive of. It takes most of the edge off the terror in her story, and still the book manages to come in at a righteous $19.95 sticker price (yes, this is a hardcover).

After I went to the doctor, I stopped off in Barnes & Noble and discovered another book to add to my must buy list. I don't think many of you will be adding this one to your list, but don't say I didn't alert you to this one. At 1800 pages, I was expecting the 2005 CURRENT Medical Diagnosis and Treatment to have a hefty pricetag even though it is a paperbound edition. Medical tomes such as this are never cheap but the $59.95 price tag seems like a bargain to me. My earlier thinking that I might have an irritated appendix led me to do some research which quickly reaches the conclusion that appendicitis is one of the more difficult ailments to diagnose, so of course I read the section on appendicitis in this book and learned a lot. Actually, if you could read this book from cover to cover and absorb even a fraction of the material in it (say maybe learning the clinical diagnosis and patient management advice for only 250 of the 1,000 common diseases and disorders covered here), I'd wager a guess you could pass yourself off as a doctor at any party. Why, I'd bet you'd even have people asking for your business card. At which point of course, you'd have to say that you're sorry, but you're not accepting any new patients at this time. I will be buying this book!