An open letter to those who might be wondering.

The move from Abington, Massachusetts to Lee, New Hampshire has been better than feared, but perhaps ultimately worse for the simple demonstration of fact that I haven’t the energy, muscle mass, or psychological stamina I once had. There has been an attrition, beginning with moving the old store and that massive accumulation of 30 years from 339 Newbury Street, back in 2003, and then the fire in the business below us at 353 Newbury that ruined the hopes of our new location shortly after, the subsequent move of what was salvaged to warehousing and our apartment in Brookline, and then the later move to Abington in 2006, all of which took more out of me than I wanted to admit. Confessing it here is not by way of an excuse, but a recognition of facts as they are. I am still learning to deal with it. Perhaps too slowly. read more…

Trifles taken from the alms-basket of words

[a bagatelle from A Republic of Books, a ‘novel in progress’ to be found elsewhere on this site]

By the bye, the category I have chosen for my work is ‘honorificabilitudinitatibus,’ as it is found in Shakespeare’s Love’s Labour’s Lost, if for no other reason than it allows me the citation as well as the use of three possessives in one sentence: “O, they have lived long on the alms-basket of words. I marvel thy master hath not eaten thee for a word; for thou art not so long by the head as honorificabilitudinitatibus: thou art easier swallowed than a flap-dragon.“ [Costard, act 5, scene 1]. This was, according to the first edition published at London by Cutbert Burby in the year 1598, “A Pleasant Conceited Comedie called, Loves Labors Lost,” and presented before her Highness Elisabeth the First for the previous Christmas.

By God, flap-dragons! read more…

Consider Cleisthenes

(Oh yes, oh yes. Another potable portion from a chapter of A Republic of Books, the novel in progress to be found elsewhere on this site.)

And while we are at it, consider Cleisthenes, the father of Athenian democracy and thus a father to us all, dead and white though he was. His moment was in 507 BC, you understand. Just a while back. About two thousand and five hundred years ago. A mere 84 generations. I emphasize this for those maven who want to think of their world as it is today as the only way it has ever been.

It was Harmodius and Aristogeiton who made the revolution possible by killing the Peisistratid tyrant Hipparchus, though they were both then put to death for their trouble. But it was Cleisthenes who, recalled from exile and given the tyrant’s power in turn, fulfilled what promise there was in this dictatorship by first establishing a democracy in the Athenian state. Not for any ideal, you understand. For practical reasons. The ancient system they had was failing. For inspiration, he could have looked to the everyday practices of the landowning hoplite farmers who organized themselves willingly into a citizens army in time of war. But for a time he must have been something of a tyrant himself, for he set about his task by deposing those four clans who had ruled Athens by family partisanship since pre-history and established rule instead through individual citizenship in the 139 ‘demes,’ those geographic areas that were much like counties dividing ancient Attica. Instead of the age-old patronage, the new government positions under Cleisthenes were filled by a more random ‘sortition.’ The city council, the Boule, was increased in size, as were the courts of law, known as Dikasteria, and both were first required to have representation from each and every tribe. Just a matter of history, you see. Of no other importance than that it was to change everything that followed, and all the rest of history that we now know. read more…

All slaves are equal but some get to live in the big house.

(Oh yes, another new and potable portion from a chapter, this one  posted with A Republic of Books, the novel in progress to be found elsewhere on this site.)

A novel is a flimsy currach indeed in which to set out on a journey such as this. The urgency to remain afloat supersedes all else. But a reasonable destination must be chosen and achieved, while most heavy baggage must be left ashore. The number of passengers is necessarily limited, and movement is restricted. Nevertheless, we sally forth, if a barging may be called a sally.

Revolutions are not made. They are stumbled upon. Many are attempted. But few revolutionaries avoid the gibbet. One moment the malcontents were arguing among themselves about what sort of association might be allowed with their King, and in the next a courier with news of shots fired at Lexington and Concord arrives. Thence, the ne’er-do-well editor of the Pennsylvania Magazine, previously peace loving, has “rejected the hardened, sullen-tempered Pharaoh of England forever.” The point is, no matter all the talk, not one of those true geniuses that fashioned the old Republic had imagined a United States of America before April 1775. read more…

Unto an age of Romanticism, or On the Beach

(Perchance, another potable portion from a chapter of A Republic of Books, the ‘novel in progress’ to be found elsewhere on this site.)


When I arrived at 5th Street she answered the door with a deeply caught breath, as if she’s been furiously cleaning things up and I had arrived ten minutes too early. Or maybe she had ridden too fast on her bike. She immediately moved toward me to leave, pulling the door shut behind, but I didn’t budge, which got her plenty close for a moment. I could smell her sweat.

“There’s nothing to see, really.”

“Sure, I’d love to.”

She sighed and backed up.

I already knew from conversation that her apartment was more than twice the size of my place, at less than half the cost. I saw right off now that she likes blues and whites, and a splash of orange—like the orange of an apricot. The blues and whites remind me of a bed-and-breakfast where Margret and I once stayed in Holland. I remember that the bed was hard there. read more…

Beyond the age of reason, wherein love is lost and found

(A potable portion from a chapter of A Republic of Books, the ‘novel in progress’ to be found elsewhere on this site.)
Has our Thirty Years’ War only just begun, or has it ended long since and the news simply not yet arrived via a slow internet connection? I have often felt that way about history—in my youth especially. In those days the various socialist religions had long been at odds, much as the Catholics and Protestants of the Reformation once were—Christian killing Christian, with one Wallenstein after another rising in the ranks: Lenin and Stalin, Mussolini and Hitler, Mao or Khrushchev, Fidel and Che. From 1918 to 1989, this bloodletting had been an endless seventy years, more than twice the length of the key Reformation conflict, but a hundred times more deadly if mere lives are counted. Mere human lives, you understand, unlived. But then again, there are those who believe the Reformation never ended. And I see all of that in the troubled eyes of some students today. read more…

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Leaving well enough alone is not good enough at all—not if the reason for a death is to be found in the life that was lost.


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I have been informed by trusted authority that the short quip which I have placed here for the last year or so, by way of biography, lacks gravitas. “Over-paid by others for hyphenated jobs such as lawn-work, snow-shoveling, house-painting, office-boy, dish-washer, warehouse-grunt, table-waiter and hotel night-clerk–I’ve since chosen to be a writer, editor, publisher, and for most of my life, a bookseller, and even managed to occasionally pay myself. Hound is my first published novel.” And so it does. It is hard to be serious about so unserious a subject as oneself. But herewith, and keeping the ‘nasty bits’ (Brit expressions are so brilliant) to myself, I offer then, this ongoing post begun as posts at Small Beer Press. If anyone is interested, from time to time I will add something at the end to bring the epic closer to the present moment.