So This Happened:

The first maxim for a would-be adventurer is always to say "yes" to questions. A "no," is fatal to further progress.
-Sport Royal, Anthony Hope 

Nevermore 2016

Carolina Theater neonThe Carolina Theatre is my favorite spot in downtown Durham, so it was no hardship to spend way too much time there during last weekend's Nevermore Film Festival.

I'll be posting about my favorite of the feature length films later this week, but I liked most of the shorts that I was able to squeeze in. My favorites were:

This story about sleep paralysis was the scariest thing I saw all weekend.

Night of the Slasher
This one treads familiar horror/comedy ground, but the smart in-jokes worked for me. It was great to see with a crowd of genre fans.

The Trap
A perfectly paced story about a man who shows his latest invention to a friend. The tone managed to be both chilling and fun.

A Way Out
This is a tight little crime drama about a gangster who wants to retire. I liked that it relies entirely on writing and acting rather than an elaborate setup.

The Stomach
A reluctant medium and his brother are drawn into another family's troubles. It was creative and beautifully gross.

photo by Jeffrey L. Cohen, used under Creative Commons

There has been an awakening.

My day today? Yeah, it was pretty good.

In the Heart of the Sea

In 1820, the Essex, a Nantucket whaling ship, was sunk by a whale while hunting in the offshore grounds of the Pacific. The survivors set out for land in three leaky boats, and only eight of the twenty men survived. In the Heart of the Sea is a new movie (based on Nathaniel Philbrick's book of the same name) about the disaster.

I read a lot of nonfiction about age-of-sail shipwrecks, so I've been looking forward to seeing this one all year. It was not what I'd been hoping for.

The Essex was one of the biggest inspirations behind Moby Dick. Both the movie and its marketing leaned heavily on that fact, so it's not surprising that many reviewers have complained about the lack of resemblance to Melville's book. I didn't go into the theater looking for Moby Dick though. All I wanted was a great retelling of the Essex disaster, but the movie was disappointing on that front, too.

A very long spoiler-filled comparison between the movie and the real events is beneath the whale tail.

Book Sale!

My county's library book sale was last weekend, and that's always an experience. It used to be in an old Kmart, and one year they stocked up the empty shelves of a closed grocery store. During that grocery year the shopping got a little cramped, but the recent location presents its own problems.

These days it's at our state fairgrounds, in the building the fair uses to show livestock. The space is huge. It's so massive that I don't have the physical or mental endurance to look through it all. We spent hours there, and I might have checked out half the tables. Maybe. And I was certainly quick-browsing a good chunk of them. I got through young adult, sci-fi, reference, some of the general fiction, and the history/memoir section. No time for mysteries or nonfiction or cookbooks. My time in general fiction was mostly spent scanning for books that looked old in hopes of scoring some out-of-print adventure novels. They used to have a section where they put the interesting old stuff, but if they're still doing that, I didn't see it.

I still made it home with a lot of nice books, including a half dozen Vorkosigan Saga paperbacks and a new, unmarked copy of Lagoon. I also picked up Edith Wharton's The Buccaneers, which I'm going to shelve with all my high-seas adventure swordfight novels because come on, that's just funny.

Library book sales are the perfect place to indulge my weird interest in old reference books. My favorites from this batch are Brewer's Dictionary of Phrase and Fable, a collection of literary and cultural references, and Life and Its Marvels, a book full of very strange illustrations that are supposedly scientific in some way.

Behold one of life's marvels:

The candle part makes sense (though I think it could be clearer), but I have no idea why that guy is sniffing a plant like he just can't wait to get his fork into those raw potatoes. Still, it's a lot more informative than the page that uses drawings of Hercules, Dante, and Bach to prove a point about glands.

I can't decide if I want to keep this book to flip through forever or cut half the pages out to frame them. A blocky, abstract chart of Darwin's family tree would be appropriate decor for a guest room, right?

Arms and the Maid

This is the coolest book in my house:

It's a first US edition of Arms and the Maid, which was only published once under that title. (The first British Edition was called Anthony Wilding, and it's been reprinted as Mistress Wilding since then.)

I've been collecting Sabatini for a few years now, but I'd never seen a copy for sale until I stumbled over it this summer. I got it in a box with a bunch of other old Sabatini books. Half of them were in iffy condition with clippings from their dust jackets glued inside, but the other half were first US editions. Two of those firsts had dust jackets. The price of the whole box worked out to less than $3 per book.

When I luck into editions I've been looking for that cheaply, I sometimes feel a little guilty. It passes quickly though. The seller was happy to get rid of a batch of inherited books he didn't know or care about, and I got a pile of stuff I wouldn't have otherwise found or wanted to pay for.

Sometime this month, I'm going to read this copy. I'll be careful with it; I'll even sit nicely in a chair rather than sprawling around on the floor like I usually do. But to me books are for engaging with, even when it comes to the old, rare ones.

Goodreads Quotes

"Give a man a fire and he's warm for the day, but set fire to him and he's warm for the rest of his life." — Terry Pratchett

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