Mapping the Terrain of Used and Rare Books
I stumbled upon this little gem of a book as I was on EBay frantically bidding on a 1st edition early Clive Barker and a signed Greg F. Gifune. I finally won the auctions, wiped my brow, and seeing that I came in under budget I clicked the “see seller’s other item” link. I had a few dollars left – at least that’s what I always tell myself – and thought I’d see if there was anything affordable I could get to combine shipping with my purchases.
I saw, ending in a few minutes, this hardcover Subterranean Press chapbook from 2000. I’ve never heard of the author, but it was Sub. Press, and it was signed x3, and it was one of 26 lettered copies: That was enough for me. I placed a couple bids and managed to win auction at a more than reasonable price (as I always tell myself.)
A week or so later the books arrive. I immediately put a plastic protector on the Barker’s jacket*, admired it, then shelved it for a rainy day (you’ve got to be in the mood for one of the “Books of Blood.) Over the next couple days I read the Gifune, loved it, and shelved it. Then I remembered that odd blue book. “Gandalph Cohen and the Land at the End of the Working Day.” What a cool title. A cool title for a sleek, slim hardcover signed by cover illustrator, author, and provider of the introduction; limited to 226 copies, 200 numbered and 26 lettered. Mine was letter “E”.
I was already having a blast just staring at the limitation page.
Then I read it. It only took about a half hour or so. I read it then I put it down. Everything seemed very still, very quiet – as if I were the only person in town. It was peaceful, not lonely; but – with a slightly out of focus gauzy profundity – also melancholy, bittersweet. It had to do with the book of course. What, exactly, I couldn’t fully explain then and am not about to try to fully explain now. It had something to do with the author’s writing style of course; check this out:
“For there is always something special about laughter, but there is something doubly special – almost divine – about laughter than needs to be, laughter that, through the simple process of coming into being, releases and repairs… a man hears the sound [of laughter] on the breeze like tinkling bells, windchimes fashioned out of coral shells and plastic cord… he chuckles to himself, sitting on a bench in Gramercy, eating the remains of a tuna nicoise sandwich that someone discarded earlier in the day…”
Now, how’s that for writing? I’m not about to give anything away but it’s those type of passages, spoken by an omniscient narrator, that are glued between the beautiful crudeness of down and out everday people that make this story so poignant, so real. Peter Crowther has a unique ability to blend breezy narrative prose and honest sounding dialogue so smoothly that, as I said earlier, once you finish the book in one quick sitting – the time it takes to finish a pitcher of beer at Jack Fedogan’s The Land at the End of the Working Day Bar – you are left wonderfully stunned as you try to make sense out of what just happened. Not that it’s all that confusing, but you wonder why it hit so hard. Again, I’m not going to try to explain it farther. Please just read it; you’ll be better for it.
(The story is taken from the collection “The Land at the End of the Working Day” by Peter Crowther. A collection of four stories, including the one reviewed here. It’s rather rare, but can be found on http://www.bookfinder.com for about 35 dollars. The signed numbered edition of the chapbook I have here is rather cheap, about 10 or 15 dollars ( but you’ll hard-pressed to find the lettered edition.) It is also offered in Kindle and EBook format. But I’d recommend splurging on the full collection of stories – I know I’m going to. Get back to you on that after I read it!)
* (I was about to type, “I put a Brodart on my Clive”, but the sentence sounded odd to me. I’m saving it for my Great American Bibliophile’s Pornographic Novel: She asked me to put a Brodart on my Clive before we married jackets. I laughed at her and said I take my shit first-state or not at all….)