Brazil’s beautiful books

This is not my photo. This is Ademar Ferreira Mota, a.k.a. Chocolate, 63. He is a camelo from Itajai, Litoral Centro-Norte, and was the star of a documentary called O Vendedor de Versos . Click on the image to see the report and a youtube video of Chocolate.

Cycling along the very touristy Tambau Beach on his way to the money changer on Avenida Nego, Kris stopped to check out a camelô (street vendor with a rolling/moveable cart) selling cheap little pocketbooks on the esplanade. With ugly paper covers and dark grey paper inside, the tiny books are just something for people to read as they lie on their towels in the sun, and then throw away before leaving the beach. Just seeing books for sale on the beach was weird: to think that people would choose to read! Kris assumed they would be nasty little romance, crime, or espionage novelettes— bite-sized disposable pulp fiction for the masses, but when he browsed the covers he was amazed to find authors he knew well: Julio Cortazar. Mario Vargas Llosa. Dostoevsky. Joseph Conrad. Dickens. Chekhov, of all people. It was astounding. To occupy themselves while sunbathing, Brasileiros read the classics. God almighty.

I found the same thing when I went to check out the bookstores in João Pessoa’s shopping malls; what strikes us is the high quality of the books available.

Livraria LeituraI mean two things by “quality”. First, the selection of titles/ authors is delightful. Charles Bukowski’s poetry, for instance, is conspicuous. I saw the complete essays of Virginia Woolf, in a gorgeous edition, with a jacket covered in velvet-flocked scarlet leaves and flowers; a massive tome of Edgar Allan Poe’s stories, with all the fantastic illustrations Harry Clarke did for them. The Complete Odes of Pablo Neruda (this one had me sorely tempted.) Just hundreds of the best literature, art, philosophy books, all beautifully presented and prominently displayed at the front of the bookstores, not just relegated to a small shelf in the back.

I also mean the physical forms of the books themselves, the books as objects. Fine publishing seems to be alive and well in Brazil; there were so many really beautifully produced books: embossed jackets, stamped foil titles, gilt or coloured page edges, ribbon bookmarks, sometimes a mix of different papers in one book, coloured printing on thick, soft ivory paper like cloth. Sometimes the text was printed in colour, too. Some of the books had deluxe finishing touches, like embroidered fabric bellybands, or clamshell boxes with leather straps and buckles. Some of the art books were oversized, nearly two feet long and a foot wide, with black & white photographs printed in silver halide.

A bookstore here is like a church for people who worship good design and beautifully made things. I spent hours in every one, looking at everything, though I could hardly buy these books (and I really longed to be able to buy these books in English. Some titles, like Neruda’s Complete Odes, are out of print in English. Very sad, as they are poems rich enough to eat…)

Once or twice I found a pretty book and was pleasantly surprised to find that it cost the same as a cheap hole-in-the-wall lunch, so I skipped lunch, bought the book, and snuck it home.

Po de Lua (Moondust) by Clarice Freire

Books from Brazil

Ivory pages with blue edges, this pretty book looks like someone’s Moleskine sktchbook, with all the text written by hand, and little drawings in coloured pencil. Not sure if it’s a poem, but the subtitle is “To lighten the seriousness of things”; I think it’s light, inspirational philosophy.

Freire is a young Pernambucana, from Recife (just two hours away from here). She plays with the way words are made up, connecting different parts to each other like Lego, coining new ideas and meanings.

Books from Brazil

Books from BrazilClarice Freire’s Po de Lua website has more of her drawings and poems.

Books from Brazil

Por Que Oxala Usa Ekodide by Descóredes M Dos Santos, with illsutrations by Lenio Braga, 1966.

Books from Brazil

Ekodide is a feather from an Amazon parrot, used in the initiation rituals of Orixa (Orisha) and Candomblé. This beautiful book, with its quirky handwritten text and powerful drawings by Lenio Braga, tells the story of how the ekodide came to be used in the rituals.

Books from Brazil

Books from Brazil

Fantasias by Flávio de Carvalho, with poems by Katia Canton

These gouache paintings were done by Carvalho, an architect and designer, as costumes for the ballet performance A Cangaceira, in 1953. Contemporary poems by American Katia Canton accompany each of the 15 designs.

Books from Brazil

Books from Brazil

Books from Brazil

Books from BrazilBuying brand new books is A Big No-No on this trip. Our budget can’t handle such extravagance and the rule is self-imposed. We are supposed to stick to second-hand bookstores, or (better yet) swap the books we’ve finished reading for different ones on the yacht club’s shelves (usually a dismal, ragtag selection of pulp novels), but I simply couldn’t resist these three art books, and bought them as my souvenirs of Brazil, as well as for the inspiration.

Departure

It’s little I care what path I take,
And where it leads it’s little I care;
But out of this house, lest my heart break,
I must go, and off somewhere.

It’s little I know what’s in my heart,
What’s in my mind it’s little I know,
But there’s that in me must up and start,
And it’s little I care where my feet go.

—from Departure, Edna St. Vincent Millay

20 November 2014

A few new journals, and Kris’ books, in my ETSY shop

I’ve been trying to photograph and write the listings for some new journal designs to post to my ETSY shop this past week, but there have been so many social commitments, lately…I can’t believe the number of my friends with their birthdays in September, there sure was a lot of baby-making going on during the Christmas holidays! Oh, curious thought: Maybe Santa’s your real dad?

Here are four new journal designs in my ETSY shop…these are made with Spoonflower fabric designs by other talented designers, not me. Sometimes it’s nice to see someone else’s ideas on a journal cover, I get tired of my own style.

Clicking on the image will take you to my ETSY shop. If you want to purchase the fabric, instead, click on the designer’s name under the picture.

Hither & Tither journal. Fabric is “Time Travel” by nadiahassan
Little Mothers journal. Fabric design is “Matryoshka Russian Dolls” by LittleSmileMakers
Tweet Forest journal. Fabric design is “Fun Trees” by Bethan_janine on Spoonflower
Der Deer Party journal. Fabric design is “Oatmeal Spice Deer” by scrummy on Spoonflower

I only bought a fat quarter of each design, so there are only four journals of each. This is pretty much the last bit of bookbinding that I will be doing for a while, so if you’ve had your eye on something in my shop, best grab it now! I can’t take these with me when I leave Darwin (too heavy!) and I will have to put my shop in stasis until I manage to make something new on my travels. I know this all sounds so vague, but I feel as though I am standing at the edge of my known world, about to hurl myself into an abyss! I don’t know any more than you do about what is coming…only that I’ll be with my love, again, and that makes up for everything else!

Speaking of Kris, he left me some of his self-published books, and I have decided to put them up for sale on ETSY, as well! They were printed by small presses in the Philippines, but Kris bound them all by hand (very roughly, but the point of these books is the story, not the binding), so they can legitimately go on ETSY. (As of this listing, Kris is in Africa, cycling through Zimbabwe, Botswana and Namibia.)

I am selling his two best books:

Monsoon Dervish by Kris Larsen

“Dream. The day you stop dreaming, you are as good as dead.” —the Monsoon Dervish motto.

On a home-built Chinese junk that had no engine, electricity, radio, GPS, not even a compass, my partner, Kris Larsen—a carpenter by trade, an adventurer at heart—crisscrossed the Indian Ocean and the Western Pacific for seven years, from Australia to Madagascar and Japan, covering a total of 45 000 miles.

Forever broke, dodging officials and flying by the seat of his pants, Kris found himself trading spices in Zanzibar, collecting sea-cucumbers on a deserted island, and entertaining gangsters in a Japanese night-club. In Sri Lanka he was arrested as a suspected Tamil terrorist; in Comoros he was chased out of the harbour by gun-waving policemen. He survived a 360º rollover in a typhoon off Taiwan, finally stopping on a beach in the Philippines to write this book.

For the next seven years he tried to find a publisher for his work: anywhere, anyone. Nobody was interested. Frustrated, he typed the text onto a CD and on the next trip to the Philippines he paid a printing press in Davao to run 200 copies of the book. Each book has been bound by hand and covered with old sailing charts, and every copy is different. The first printing sold out in 4 months around the Darwin waterfront. Roughly bound and roughly written in Kris’ pronounced Russian-English, this book is surprisingly funny, entertaining, and inspiring, too…it’s gathered a small following of readers from around the world.

Out of Census by Kris Larsen

“If I could choose one thing to take with me on a round the world trip, I would take a warm sleeping bag. If I was allowed two things, I would add a good passport. In that order.” — opening lines of Out of Census

This is the first volume of an autobiography by my partner and belovéd—a mad adventurer and prolific writer— Kris Larsen. It follows Kris’s growing up in Eastern Europe under communist rule, his days as a tramp and a rock climber, his brazen escape into the West, going half way around the world as an illegal alien with dodgy papers, over-landing to India and beyond.

It’s a humorous take on the life of a would-be refugee that nobody wanted, showing how little you really need in order to do the things you always dreamed about. You want to go on an expedition? Put on your boots and go.

“Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things that you didn’t do than by the ones you did do. So throw off the bowlines. Sail away from the safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover.” ― H. Jackson Brown Jr.

Luciferin by Dean Young

firefly & mangrove river

Too fun not to share in its entirety:

“They won’t attack us here in the Indian graveyard.”
I love that moment. And I love the moment
when I climb into your warm you-smelling
bed-dent after you’ve risen. And sunflowers,
once a whole field and I almost crashed,
the next year all pumpkins! Crop rotation,
I love you. Dividing words between syl-
lables! Dachshunds! What am I but the inter-
section of these loves? I spend 35 dollars on a CD
of some guy with 15 different guitars in his shack
with lots of tape delays and loops, a good buy!
Mexican animal crackers! But only to be identified
by what you love is a malformation just as
embryonic chickens grow very strange in zero
gravity. I hate those experiments on animals,
varnished bats, blinded rabbits, cows
with windows in their flanks but obviously
I’m fascinated. Perhaps it was my early exposure
to Frankenstein. I love Frankenstein! Arrgh,
he replies to everything, fire particularly
sets him off, something the villagers quickly
pick up. Fucking villagers. All their shouting’s
making conversation impossible and now
there’s grit in my lettuce which I hate
but kinda like in clams as one bespeaks
poor hygiene and the other the sea.
I hate what we’re doing to the sea,
dragging huge chains across the bottom,
bleaching reefs. Either you’re a rubber/
gasoline salesman or like me, you’d like
to duct tape the vice president’s mouth
to the exhaust pipe of an SUV and I hate
feeling like that. I would rather concentrate
on the rapidity of your ideograms, how
only a biochemical or two keeps me
from becoming the world’s biggest lightning bug.

Luciferin by Dean Young

I once went up a mangrove river at night in a small outrigger canoe. Upon entering the mouth of the river, and because of the total darkness around us, the overhanging mangrove branches glowed like the corridor of a cathedral with the light of millions of fireflies crowding the boughs and leaves. I tried to make a small painting of that night, but haven’t yet managed to capture the enchantment of that moment.

Adiós, Gabo

Marquez

“It is not true that people stop pursuing dreams because they grow old, they grow old because they stop pursuing dreams.”
― Gabriel Garcí­a Márquez

Humanity has lost one of its brightest lights. Heartbroken, today, to hear the news of Gabriel Garcia Marquez’s passing. I read One Hundred Years of Solitude when I was 17, and it set the rest of my life on fire. Both beacon and doorway, it set me off on a quest to make beauty, integrity, and the magic of the everyday world a part of my life.

cien años de soledad

You will never grow old. You will never be forgotten. We will speak your name with love and longing, always. Live forever in the dreams pursued by those whose lives you entered and altered.

“If I knew that today would be the last time I’d see you, I would hug you tight and pray the Lord be the keeper of your soul. If I knew that this would be the last time you pass through this door, I’d embrace you, kiss you, and call you back for one more. If I knew that this would be the last time I would hear your voice, I’d take hold of each word to be able to hear it over and over again. If I knew this is the last time I see you, I’d tell you I love you, and would not just assume foolishly you know it already.”
― Gabriel Garcí­a Márquez

dragonfly

giant dragonfly

The dragonfly at rest on the doorbell—
too weak to ring and glad of it,
but well mannered and cautious,
thinking it best to observe us quietly
before flying in, and who knows if he will find
the way out? Cautious of traps, this one.
A winged cross, plain, the body straight
as a thermometer, the old glass kind
that could kill us with mercury if our teeth
did not respect its brittle body. Slim as an eel
but a solitary glider, a pilot without bombs
or weapons, and wings clear and small as a wish
to see over our heads, to see the whole picture.
And when our gaze grazes over it and moves on,
the dragonfly changes its clothes,
sheds its old skin, shriveled like laundry,
and steps forth, polished black, with two
circles buttoned like epaulettes taking the last space
at the edge of its eyes.

The Vanity of The Dragonfly, by Nancy Willard

Update: Yes, it’s real, I found it half-drowned in a rainwater collecting drum the night before. I took it out and set it in a pot plant for the night, but by morning it was dead. It was easy to find and identify, simply by Googling “large dragonfly”. It is a member of the dragonfly family Aeshnidae, called ‘Darners’ in English. This one is Epiaeschna heros, called a Swamp Darner in English. It occurs, as a native taxon, in multiple nations. In many places in the U.S. it is classified as vulnerable, in some states it is ‘imperiled’ or ‘critically imperiled’.

What I find most intriguing about this particular dragonfly is that it has the markings and colouring found on Darners in North America. The Australian Swamp Darner, Austroaeschna parvistigma, is black and dull-coloured. I understand that this family of dragonflies is migratory, though it is hard to believe that my nighttime visitor came from quite that far away!

Alexa Selph : : Market Forecast

an old love affair with words...

Adjectives continue
their downward spiral,
with adverbs likely to follow.

Wisdom, grace, and beauty
can be had three for a dollar,
as they head for a recession.

Diaphanous, filigree,
pearlescent, and love
are now available
at wholesale prices.

Verbs are still blue-chip investments,
but not many are willing to sell.

The image market is still strong,
but only for those rated AA or higher.
Beware of cheap imitations
sold by the side of the road.

Only the most conservative
consider rhyme a good option,
but its success in certain circles
warrants a brief mention.

The ongoing search for fresh
metaphor has caused concern
among environmental activists,

who warn that both the moon and the sea
have measurably diminished
since the dawn of the Romantic era.

Latter-day prosodists are having to settle
for menial positions in poultry plants,
where an aptitude for repetitive rhythms
is considered a valuable trait.

The outlook for the future remains uncertain,
and troubled times may lie ahead.
Supply will continue to outpace demand,
and the best of the lot will remain unread.

Market Forecast by Alexa Selph

P.S. the photograph is of a many-leaved list of words that I compiled simply because I loved them and wanted to gather them all together. This is in another old seedbook, with pages of faux parchment and neat, flourishing penmanship in sepia ink using a dip pen. The book has spent its whole life coverless, and the deep yellow smoke from our daily smudge fire (back when we lived in a primitive bamboo hut on the beach in a remote part of the Philippines) gradually tinted these pages an intense café au lait.

A challenge no bookbinder can resist!

Sixfold dos-à-dos binding: Detail

A book in the National Library of Sweden that opens 6 ways…an example of sixfold dos-à-dos binding, it incorporates several text blocks bound between just one set of covers (though each cover is hinged down the middle, and really two covers), but clasps on each side make it possible to read just one of the text blocks at a time, without all the others falling open.


An irresistible challenge as far as a bookbinder is concerned! What fun it would be to make something like this. An OCD planner for today’s renaissance man or woman? Or a journal for a multiple-personality individual, perhaps? LOL
Sixfold dos-à-dos binding

found on Erik Kwakkel’s tumblr, more photos on the National Library of Sweden’s flickr