Tag Archives: books

“Let’s all go down the Strand!”: NYC’s 18-Mile Book Store

Over the weekend, I made the sort of stupid decision that 27-year-olds in general, and I in particular, are famous for making. Despite having exactly no money and exactly one fever, I elected to go to New York City with some friends.

We had a good reason (or so I told myself at the time): there’s a haunted house there called Nightmare NYC, which was created by the editor of Weird Tales Magazine. If you don’t know why that’s significant, then give yourself a pat on the back. You probably have a functional sex life.


I couldn’t take any pictures inside the house itself. Suffice it to say, the event began with Typhoid Mary grabbing me by the hair and slamming me into a wall and ended with me drinking my first glass of absinthe (well, first two glasses–I had a but-one-get-one coupon) at a bar called Lovecraft. The latter promised to make me feel like a proper writer at last.

“Here I am,” I told myself. “In the middle of the city. Downing libations to the Green Fairy. Hanging out with prostitutes and the rest of society’s outcasts. Truth! Beauty! Love!”

Sadly, the night failed to devolve into an orgy of wanton sensuality. What happened instead was I got very drunk and watched a Syfy original movie in the basement. Still, it was a good time!


But let’s back up a bit.

We had a whole morning and afternoon to kill before any haunted housing could begin. And what better way to spend it than at The Strand Book Store, home of 18 miles of books?

Now, when I first heard of The Strand, I got things somewhat twisted and envisioned an unbroken 18-mile line of book stores lining a beach. Which would have been astounding, since Manhattan’s only 23 miles long. In actual fact, The Strand is one book store with 18 miles of shelves. That’s somewhat less jaw-dropping, but let’s be clear: it’s still stinkin’ immense.

The Strand Book Store

The first of the Strand’s three floors houses new releases and literary standards, while the second is mostly art and fashion books. The third, though–the third is where they keep the rare books.

And when I say rare, I mean “weird and also occasionally creepy.” In the spirit of Halloween, allow me to present some spooky things I found on the Strand’s top floor.

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The 60th Annual Michigan Antiquarian Book Show: Phony Bill Nye and Other Heartbreakers

Here’s a whole mess of book show pictures that cannot be categorized, or that I am simply too lazy to categorize. (It’s more the second one than the first one.)

Bill Nye's History of the United States

“Bill Nye’s History of the United States?” you shout. “Oh boy! I hope it will include spoofs of recent pop songs that present hard facts in an entertaining format!”

I’m sorry, my friend, but you’ve got the wrong idea.

"Not the Science Guy!"

Why must the world hurt us this way?

Speaking of game-changing qualifiers, try this one on for size. Here’s an erotic paperback called Immortalia.


I wish my boobs could do that.

That man selling it assured me that it was “genuinely raunchy,” but I had my doubts. If you’ve seen one vintage erotic novel, you’ve seen ’em all, and none of them contain half as much sex as their covers seem to promise.

Then I saw this:

For ADULT Adults

This isn’t just an adult novel–it’s an ADULT adult novel. That, my friends, is a sexy horse of a different sexy cover. I meant to buy Immortalia on the strength of that endorsement alone, but alas, I ran out of money. Perhaps, if the gods be merciful, I’ll find another copy someday.  Continue reading

The 60th Annual Michigan Antiquarian Book Show: The Lost Art of Kokigami

Book shows can be stuffy places. Whether it’s listening to someone wax pedantic about first editions or getting told off for daring to touch a book you look too poor to purchase, there’s a certain prim atmosphere that can spoil some of the fun.

Thankfully, books like Kokigami are there to save the day.

Kokigami: Origami Penis Costumes

What do you notice about this book? The title is Japanese, and there’s a picture of what appears to be an origami pig. So then–kokigami is origami? Perhaps an animal-specific subcategory thereof?

That’s accurate, so far as it goes. But take another look. What’s sticking out of that little pig’s mouth?

Kokigami: Origami Penis Costumes

If you said “a bellend,” you are correct! And also probably British! But, more importantly for our purposes, correct!

As the authors of this book explain, kokigami is “the art of the little paper costume.” To put a finer point on it, kokigami is fancy dress for your dipstick.

Kokigami: Origami Penis Costumes

Kokigami: Origami Penis Costumes

As someone who lived in Japan, and also someone with plural brain cells who can type things into Google, I am burdened with the sad necessity of informing you all that kokigami is not real. At least, it’s not a practice that has risen to any kind of cultural prominence. Yet.

Dreamers of the world, hear my plea: let’s make kokigami a thing. We’ll start with a kokigami meet-up, tentatively scheduled for October of 2025. It will be held on the moon, which, thanks to all the people standing around with paper masks on their dongs, will be only the second most ridiculous thing about it. I don’t know how to use Kickstarter, but as soon as I figure it out, I’ll kickstart the hell out of this project. Crowd-funded video games and potato salads of the world, prepare to meet your match!

Until the day my dream becomes a reality, let us keep kokigami (cocky-gami–get it? GET IT?) in our hearts and minds.

The 60th Annual Michigan Antiquarian Book Show: Kinderbuecher

Boy, did I take a lot of pictures at the Michigan Antiquarian Book & Paper Show. It’ll take me days to sort them into coherent categories. While I toil away, please enjoy this batch of children’s books. Some of them are delightful, some of them frightful, and others impolite-ful. You’ll see what I mean in a moment.

The Hobbit: Pocket Edition

Here’s a “Pocket Edition” of The Hobbit that only a true optimist or a connoisseur of clown pants could call pocket-sized. It’s rather adorable, all the same.

Toot & Puddle: Welcome to Woodcock Pocket

Ho ho, Toot & Puddle! What funny names those are. And look–they live in a place called Woodcock Pocket. Tee-hee, tee-hee! Of course, that’s just me being prurient. In reality, children’s literature is a serious art form that should occasion no mirth whatsoev-

The Sea Man

Oh dear. Let’s move on, shall we?

Der Struwwelpeter

From Wikipedia:

Der Struwwelpeter (1845) (or Shockheaded Peter) is a German children’s book by Heinrich Hoffmann. It comprises ten illustrated and rhymed stories, mostly about children. Each has a clear moral that demonstrates the disastrous consequences of misbehavior in an exaggerated way.

I understand that literature must be viewed within the context of its time. With that said, what in the name of Christ was going on in mid-nineteenth century Germany? And what sort of misbehavior is punishable by transformation in a frizzy-haired, barrel-chested, wraith-fingered, red-cheeked abomination? More to the point: which of the Elder Gods did Struwwelpeter upset?

Once again, Wikipedia comes to the rescue:

“Struwwelpeter” describes a boy who does not groom himself properly and is consequently unpopular.

Ah. You know, all things considered, I’d say unpopularity is the least of Peter’s worries. The boy’s more in need of an exorcist than a makeover.

The Vegemen's Revenge

But brace yourselves, kids, ’cause Peter ain’t got nothing on Bertha Upton’s The Vege-Men’s Revenge. This is hands-down one of the most disturbing children’s stories I’ve ever seen, though the synopsis makes it sound harmless enough:

Poppy, a little girl, is taken to Vege-man’s land by Don Tomato and Herr Carrot, where the king demands that she be placed in a hole in the ground to learn how to grow.

Here we see Poppy meeting the aforementioned Don and Herr, unaware that anything is amiss (though perhaps Don Tomato’s muttered allusions to cement shoes should have clued her in):

The vegemen kidnap a little girl

Above: Herr Carrot introduces himself to Poppy, cleverly omitting his stint in Argentina following World War II.

Following her fateful meeting with the Vege-King, Poppy is placed in a hole and instructed to grow. The true horror arises when she does exactly that.

A little girl becomes a vegetable


Oh, but we’re just getting started. For young Poppy soon bears edible tubers, into which her consciousness (and the pattern of her dress) is transferred.

The Vege-Men take the Poppy tubers and proceed to cook and consume them.

The vegemen cook a little girl


The vegemen chop up a little girl


Poppy then awakens, shaken by her macabre dream.

The moral of this story? Unless you want to get lost in the sort of nightmare David Lynch has after bingeing on salad, do not, under any circumstances, eat your vegetables.

The Story of Little Black Sambo

There was a lot of Sambo at this book show. In a way, I understand: copies of Little Black Sambo are few and far between these days, and you’re unlikely to find one outside this type of venue. On the other hand, there’s totally a reason they’re rare, you guys. Sambo’s parents are called Mumbo and Jumbo, for Christ’s sake.

Ah, well. Let us turn elsewhere for more politically correct entertainment.

Do Look Out, Noddy!

That’s better. Noddy. Good ol’ wholesome Noddy. Beloved by generations of British youngsters. Surely there’s nothing in here to give offense.

Noddy's Golliwag

You probably saw this coming.

Yikes. Apparently the thing Noddy should be looking out for (but almost certainly isn’t) is institutionalized racism. What a scamp!

Kid Critic: Book Reviews by an 8-Year-Old

Many, many moons ago, I discovered my little brother’s old school journals in a box in my basement. The entries contained therein were so surreal that I cataloged my favorites at my very first blog, Diary of My Demented Kid Brother. Now that my brother has passed, I’m thankful I made the effort.

It wouldn’t do to forget how stunningly strange he was.

For a taste of his second-grade literary stylings, feast your eyes on these book reviews. The last one is my favorite–I think most of my readers will agree that it has a certain eerie appeal.

Open Wide, Look Inside
Open WIDE, by Robin Mitchell

Open wide, look inside.
How many there? None.
Open wide. Look inside.
How many. Two crazy pigs.

A Goofy Movie
A Goofy Movie, by Francine Hughes

“Whoah!” Inside Goofy and Max tumbled all about. Suddenly, Bigfoot stopped. He leaped off the car. He began to nose around their camping gear.
A few days later Max and Goofy drove back to their hometown. First stop: Roxanne’s house. Max! Roxanne cried running to the door. I Saw you on tv. I think why someone should read this book is because it’s good and funny

Cam Jansen and the Triceratops Pop Mystery
Cam Jansen and the Triceratops Pop Mystery, by David A. Adler

Chapter one who would steel triceratops pops?
Honk! Honk! a clown sitting on a huge tricycle honked his horn. then he handed Eric Shelton a flyer. “thank you,” Eric said. Someone dressed in a large frog costume handed him another flyer. I think why some one should read this book is they have good mysteries

Charlotte's Web
Charlotte’s Web, by E.B. White

don’t hear song
don’t see birds
don’t hear a rainbow
don’t hear about wibur’s birthday
don’t hear papa
there’s a ghost in my bed
don’t hear about scarecrow
doesn’t the duck go’s in there but they take him out

My Top 10 Most Personally Influential Books

There’s a meme going around Facebook at the moment; you’ve probably seen it. It asks you to list the 10 books that influenced you the most as a person, be they works of great literature or vintage collections of erotic poetry  you once found under your grandmother’s bed. I resisted this meme for a while because it seemed self-indulgent–who honestly cares which books have influenced me? What a stupid question.

The more I thought about it, though, the more it didn’t seem stupid at all. Try and make a list in your head real quick: there are books you love and books you hate and books you pretend to love and/or hate because that’s what’s fashionable, but which ten books have legitimately affected your life? How many of them are books you read for a class, and how many are random nonsense you stumbled across when you were bored one day? How strongly did they influence you, and in what ways? It’s actually a fairly fascinating exercise! That’s why I decided to try it.

Plus I run a website called joannalesher.com, which means the Self-Indulgence Train pulled out of the station ages ago.

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Guns, Sex Pots, and Falling Trees: A Day at the Kerrytown BookFest

A tree fell on a car at the Kerrytown BookFest.

I’m going to lead with the tree, since that’s probably the most conventionally thrilling thing that happened at Kerrytown BookFest 2014 in Ann Arbor, Michigan. The BookFest, for those not in the know (i.e. anyone outside Southeast Michigan and/or in possession of a sex life that doesn’t involve sniffing old paper), is an annual event celebrating books and readers. In the words of its organizers, it features

authors, storytellers, publishers bookbinders, book artists, book illustrators, poets, letterpress printers, wood engravers, calligraphers, papermakers, librarians, teachers, publishers, new, used, and antiquarian booksellers and many others associated with books and their diverse forms, structure, and content.

So it’s Heaven, basically. Apart from the falling trees.

I want to make it clear that this tree fell on this Jeep in the middle of a sunny, windless afternoon. I talked to the woman on whose property the tree had fallen and found her surprisingly laid-back about the whole thing.

“Ah, well,” she said. “Hopefully insurance will cover it.”

Gosh, I thought. She’s taking this rather well.

Come to find out it wasn’t actually her Jeep; someone had just parked it in front of her house. Imagine the noise that person made when they returned from the BookFest to find their car playing not-so-Power Bottom to an oak! Truly, it must have been the Sound of Ultimate Suffering.

Anyway, now that we’ve got the tree out of the way, let’s delve into some of the things I saw in Kerrytown.

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