Friday, November 16, 2007


Magnificent Books That Offer Succor When Inspiration Lacks

(from top on down)
THE MERCHANT OF MARVELS AND THE PEDDLER OF DREAMS by Frederic Clement. Gorgeous collage-type illustrations that suggest stories at every turn. Fairy tales or fairy-like tales especially.

AN EXALTATION OF LARKS by James Lipton. Sheer language wonderfulness, not just odd collective nouns. Also, tidbits of curious information.

A DICTIONARY OF FIRST NAMES by Patrick Hanks and Flavia Hodges. Indispensable for obvious reasons.

A DICTIONARY OF GEOLOGY by John Challinor. Dictionaries of specific terminology are often useful, especially when the entries have some torn off corners of historical stories. I also am fond of words like "lacustrine" (what lake deposits are to a geologist).

PERSONAL RECORDS: A GALLERY OF SELF-PORTRAITS selected by Margaret Bottrall. Enjoyable browsing. The compiler compares the experience of the book to walking through a portrait gallery, and the enjoyment is very similar. Snippets of letters and autobiography and whatnot don't give much depth to the portrait, but it's fun to imagine the person they conjure up.

BUTLER'S LIVES OF THE SAINTS. It's interesting to see what made people seem worth sainthood, especially in the older cases. Lots of gore and horrible deaths are easily imagined.

THE ENCYCLOPEDIA OF SUPERSTITIONS ed. by Christina Hole. My favourite "reference" book hands down.

A FIELD GUIDE TO THE LITTLE PEOPLE by Nancy Arrowsmith. The drawings in this book are fantastic. Somehow they manage cute and ugly and detailed and crude all at once.

also, THE ART OF MODERN CONJURING by Professor Henri Garenne. This one hasn't been useful yet, but it feeds my obsession with stage magic. I mostly bought it because the back advertises the illusions inside with many exclamation points: "Producing 200 Yards of Colored Ribbon from an Empty Hat!" and "Talking to a Living Head Inside a Bottle!" and etc.

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