Christopher P. Stephens, Bookman

Chris Stephens has been a book dealer since 1965 - earlier if you count childhood buying and selling.

Stephens has sold major collections to university libraries all over the world. He has operated appealing bookstores in Mt. Carroll, Illinois, Hastings on Hudson, NY and several in NYC, NY. He is a wholesale dealer to other bookstores all over the world.

Chris loves books.

Stephens now maintains a lively internet operation out of his new home in Scranton, PA.

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Arianna Grassia - School Librarian

Arianna Grassia is the new librarian at Hastings middle and high school. She brings her own buoyant enthusiasms into the library.
“I love the job. I love the village. I love the people .” But what’s her favorite?

“The students! They are wildly entertaining. They’re self possessed and enthusiastic and they can hold a conversation. I really enjoy having them in the library. The space feels lonely when they’ve gone.”
Arianna is a young librarian but even so she didn’t come directly to it. She majored in English at the University of Buffalo. “Of course,” says Arianna. “My parents would have been stunned if I’d majored in anything else. They were both English majors and we always had books in the house. Everywhere. I’ve read all my life. I find it very comforting to have books around. I have shelves and shelves in my apartment.”
After she graduated, Arianna worked for MTV, which owns Nickelodeon and Comedy Central. Grassia was Executive Assistant to the producer. Her boss created Blues Clues and Umi Zoomi. Arianna Grassia liked the work in some ways, but was eager for something more directly related to English.
“On a whim, I applied to library school. It turned out to be a very interesting degree and a perfect fit.”
Grassia had important mentor librarians. She student taught at libraries in Rye and in Rye Brook. Diane Harrington – recently retired – was “incredibly supportive”. Petra Bova was unusually kind.
Dee Ratteree, the Hillside librarian in Hastings, was a fascinating model. “She is wildly eccentric, in a lovely way. She has great presence and is incredibly knowledgeable. She is a great and a wonderful guide for me.”
Arianna graduated less than a year ago. She took a job in the Dobbs Ferry Public Library, where she still works. I wondered if that didn’t put her in a loyalty bind at athletic contests since there is such a lively rivalry between Hastings on Hudson and Dobbs Ferry.
“Oh no,” said Arianna. “I will always cheer for the Hastings students. Those are my kids.”
One of her many kids is Francesco Scioscia, a ninth grader at HHS. Francesco and Arianna were conversing in the library about books. He wanted a recommendation. Arianna Grassia recommended The Hunger Games trilogy by Suzanne Collins.
“It is well plotted, with good characters, slightly dystopian, but a very good read for young adults. The rights for the trilogy have already been sold to the movies.”
Here is a Grassia prediction: The Hunger Games will be the next Twilight.
Ariana offered to reread the first volume of the trilogy with Francesco so they could talk about it. They chatted more. Arianna was waiting for her father who was picking her up that day. “He’ll be forever,” said Arianna. “He found a bookshop in town that he loves! In it, he just forgets all about time.”
What a coincidence! Francesco Scioscia is named for his grandfather, who founded that exact same bookstore where Mr. Grassia was browsing in time warp at that very moment . riverrun.
Mr. Grassia recommended books to his daughter all her life. When she was quite young, he recommended the Great Illustrated Classics. They are abridged and there are illustrations on every page. She enjoyed them then and she recommends them to young readers now. “People don’t seem to gravitate to them nowadays, but back in the 1990s, when I was growing up, they were the cat’s pajamas!”
Growing up, Arianna liked William Steig and Shel Silverstein. She’s still a big Harry Potter fan.
Her adult favorites are American authors like Mark Twain, Henry James, Herman Melville, and William Faulkner. They people her bookshelves at home where she revisits them often.
I asked about her favorite books as a child. “Nancy Drew,” she answered unhesitatingly. “She’s the best. So clever.”
When Arianna’s mother was young, she’d read the Cherry Ames, Nurse series. Her mother told Arianna about them. Arianna remembers telling her mother, “that nurse sounds stupid compared to Nancy.”
Grassia still loves children’s book and books for young adults. She was tickled to learn that Biscuit’s author, Alyssa Capucilli, lives in town. “Biscuit is one of my favorites. I love, love Biscuit.” Grassia knows that there are many more authors and illustrators in town. She’s excited about discovering who’s here, perhaps meeting them and teaching their children.
“There are very special vibes in this place,” she said. “You get it right away from the children who come into this library.”
I asked what her plans for the future were.
“Keep reading. Discover new authors and share them with the kids.”

Ms Grassia has started a blog for students and others:

Hunger Games author reads chapter 1 of Mockingjay:
about William Steig:
the Great Illustrated Classics @ Waldman Publishing:
an unofficial Nancy Drew site:
Cherry Ames Nurse Stories site:
Alyssa Capucili's website

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Nixon Newspaper

For some reason this paper happened to be lying on top of a box of books at riverrun.

August 1974. A turning point in American history.

Ford committed political suicide by pardoning Nixon the month after he became president. But was it the right thing to do for the country? It probably was.

Two years later two very decent men faced one another in the contest for president.

Read Street Blog mentions resignation and promotes All the President's Men by Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Barbara Morrow

Morrow is a scholar of classical Greek. She had fun composing clerihews for the Hastings on Hudson Literature Club Clerihew contest around great Greeks of old. She won the contest. riverrun offered a book prize. Barbara had as much fun redeeming the book prize as earning it. She spent an afternoon considering books. Her house is already full of books so she felt some pressure to be extremely discriminating. It was even fun being discriminating!

Was there really a poet named Homer?
Some scholars say definately no, sir.
The ancient bard
Is taking it hard.

The iambs of witty Archilochus
Were bawdy, scathing, and scurrilous.
He made a name
For his power to defame.

The lyrics of lesbian Sappho
Made all the girls tingle and gasp so.
In Athen sage Solon did cry,
"Let me learn her new song and then die!"

Euripedes'lengthy career
Was more than a little bit drear.
How tragic he had to die
Before winning first prize for The Bacchae!

The beauty of young Alcibiades
Set strong men on fire with desire to please.
So imagine his dismay
When Socrates turned him away.

Tuesday, May 25, 2010


photo November 1979
Frank Scioscia moved his Dobbs Ferry Bookstore to Hastings on Hudson in 1978. He named his new store riverrun.

riverrun is an inviting store. On the day of this picture though, two of Frank's grandchildren preferred to read outside the store in the bright sunshine.

Mary, almost 6 in this photo, grew up and spent several years cataloguing books and organizing shows for riverrun. Michael, just turned 9 in the photo, is now the manager of riverrun. Like his grandfather and his father, Michael loves the store.

Back then riverrun was a hobby, not really a business, for Frank. He put considerably more money into the store than he took out. But it was worth it. riverrun was a hobby he truly loved. Everyone did.

Not a business and, after all, not a hobby either. riverrun was Frank Scioscia's calling.

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Davy Crockett's Wild Sports in the West - 1837

This almanac chronicles some of Davy's wildest adventures. Crockett grapples with mighty beasts and rushes, headlong, into peril.
The pamphlet was published in Nashville Tennessee, more than 150 years ago, by "the heirs of Col. Crockett". It is dramatically illustrated by an artist who relied on rumor and imagination a bit more heavily than on strict observation.
Giant elks romp in the West for hunters willing to risk elk-revenge. The pamphlet includes humble little contributions to the field of natural science: Elks "are fond of the great forests, where luxuriant vegetation affords them an abundant supply of buds and tender twigs; or of the great plains, where the solitude is seldom interrupted, and all bounteous nature spreads an
immense field of verdure for their support." But watch out! "When at bay, and especially if slightly wounded, he fights with great eagerness, as if resolved to be avenged."

Crockett describes childhood entanglements with the fearsome alligators that lived near his home, breathtaking dangers with wild boar, panthers, and bear. He can parry attacks by fierce animals with scarcely an uptick in heart beat, but the one beast he just can't stand comes from the damned north:
"Of all the cursed Adam varments in creation, keep me clear of a yankee pedler. They swarm the whole valley of the Mississippi, with their pewter watches and horn gun flints, peppermint drops and essences. Although the greatest chaps in creation for brag and sarce, they always play possum when there is danger; and skulk out the back door and over the fence in no time."
No skulker Davy Crockett. That's for sure. The almanac describes with admiration a noble
mastiff defending ladies from mountain cats, a brave farmer turned on by his bull gone berserk, a man from Ohio who, being pursued by a black snake, through cleverness and dexterity managed to get the snake to tie itself into a knot.

The almanac also includes important regional information for foreigners - about the American rifle for instance. "It admits the ball being sent home from the very muzzle by a mere wad; and is further peculiar in there being no kind of attention to balancing the length and weight of the barrel by the size and make of the stock. Practice alone will teach you to hold it with ease to yourself. There is a great deal more coquetry displayed in the use of the American rifle; and the nicety with which an object may be struck at 50 or 100 feet by a knowing hand is undoubtedly extraordinary."
There are also survival tips gleaned from far distant and remote bits of the globe, like India. Basic almanac information, like high tides and sunsets and various other astronomical calculations for the year 1837, is also included.

The illustrations and suspenseful narratives and useful tidbits are so intriguing that, despite its limited relevance to the 21st century, I am sorely tempted to reprint this pamphlet. In case I don't ever get around to it, I leave you with this account by Col. Crockett himself for your use in case you want to cross a dangerous river unmolested by various varmints.
"Of all the rivers on this airth, the Mississippi beats all holler. Many a tough time have I had in swimming across its turbid waters. I always rubbed myself thoroughly with skunk's grease before attempting to cross. By this means I kept the alligators and wild cats at a distance as they can't bear the smell of this crittur."

His tombstone reads: "Davy Crockett, Pioneer, Patriot, Soldier, Trapper, Explorer, State Legislator, Congressman, Martyred at The Alamo. 1786 - 1836" more from American west
a collection of facts about the Mississippi River

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Harper & Brothers Publishers

probably 1950s
This curiously-styled photograph is likely taken at the Harper offices, then on 44th Street in NYC. I think these men make up the national sales force. Frank Scioscia is seated all the way to the right. I almost remember the name of the man seated next to him. But who are the others?

Sunday, May 9, 2010

Joe DeVoy - Walking on Clouds

Joe DeVoy signed copies of his novel, Walking on Clouds, at riverrun yesterday. He doesn't really think of himself as a writer yet he says, although he does like to write.
Walking on Clouds was born out of a writer's block. "I was working on another story, a love story actually, but I'd come to a place where I didn't know what was next. I couldn't figure it out. I couldn't write anymore." Just when he was most stumped and frustrated, an entirely unrelated idea came to him. "It didn't have anything to do with the one I was writing. I kept thinking about the new idea every time I tried to continue the love story. My wife encouraged me. I developed the new ideas into this book."
DeVoy's wife is important in his life. "Family is the most important thing to me," he says. DeVoy's grandson was on hand at riverrun to see his grandfather sign books.
Joe DeVoy has lived through an experience that other writers haven't. In fact, he's lived through an experience that other people haven't. He once fell six floors down an elevator shaft. His legs were broken and crushed. I wondered if that terrifying and painful episode showed up in his book.
"No," he said. "Not in anything I've written. Recovering from something like that is slow and you can't do much of anything. It gives you a lo
t of time to think."
This novel is about something that requires a lot of thinking on the protagonist's part.

He has to figure out how what to do in an ethically complex situation.
Walking on Clouds by Joe DeVoy.

Monday, April 26, 2010

A Couple of Book Dealers

Gene Hollingsworth & Mac McMann with Gene's wife, Kay

1960s - photo probably by Phyllis McMann

These guys were a couple of characters.

Gene ran a book service out of his house in Manhattan Beach, California. Inside it was cool and had that good book smell. Outside it was sunny-bright and had that good beach smell.
Gene also played the horses. In a way, he couldn't lose.
Sometimes Gene Won Big at the track. He often spent his winnings on more books, bolstering the value of his inventory. When Gene lost at the track, he erased the pencil-written prices inside his books. He raised prices to balance out his loss, spreading the increase judiciously over a wide swatch of inventory.
Mac owned and ran Old Oregon Bookstore in Portland, Oregon. He didn't play the horses but sometimes Mac did Win Big on his books. Once in the 1950s he bought a book at The Salvation Army for pennies that was worth thousands. A Portland newspaper, "The Oregonian" I think, ran a dramatic story on the episode. Found Treasure: Astute Bookman makes Killing on Shabby Book, or some such headline.
Mac and Gene had already been friends for a long time when this photograph was taken. They entertained one another, and all around, with great book stories.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Michael Andre - poet, publisher, critic

1979 photo by Christopher P. Stephens

Michael Andre is a man of many talents. Chris first met him in connection with the Unmuzzled Ox, Andre's very interesting periodical. Some time ago I was a bystander when someone asked Michael what made the Ox go. Why was it successful?
"Contributors," said Andre. "When you have good writers with something to say, people want to read them. The magazine sells."

The Unmuzzled Ox does have good writers with with something to say. Andre himself is one of them.

Once I was at a party on the lower west side, somewhat near the scary meat-packing district. Some guy, a guy who seemed like he knew what he was talking about, told me that Michael Andre was the best living art critic.

Saturday, April 17, 2010

Bobo Bird - Burkina Faso

This extremely attractive bird sculpture, called Bobo bird by it's former owners, was probably made by one of the Bobo People of western Africa.

Saturday, April 10, 2010

Friday, April 9, 2010

A Conversation with Christine Lehner

Christine Lehner has an especially favorite part of the blurb Richard Russo wrote for one of her books. Lehner and Russo hadn't met. He only knew her through the writing. Russo wrote:

"Christine Lehner's What to Wear to See the Pope is perhaps the most haunting, idiosyncratic, gleefully subversive, and satisfying story collection I've read since Isak Dinesen's Seven Gothic Tales."

"And I adore Isak Dinesen," said Christine. "Reading her is one of the first things that made me want to write! My mother was a big fan of Isak Dinesen too. She gave me the books to read. Probably too early but I didn't care. They were great."
Lehner's mother is Belgian. She spent much of her life in Egypt. I like to think of her mother reading Isak Dinesen in a shaded room with the desert off in one direction and the Nile, probably close by, in another direction. And I find it almost as exciting as Christine does that Russo recognizes Dinesen in Lehner just through her use of words.

Christine Lehner collected stamps as a girl. "They're so beautiful and so evocative of faraway places. I worry that people aren't collecting stamps anymore. Great collections will end up in dumps somewhere getting rained on."
Lehner also read as a girl. "And read, and read, and read. At first I was mostly interested in Nancy Drews and other mysteries, The Lives of the Saints, and poetry. My interests became more eclectic as I grew older. Now I even read quite a lot of non fiction."
I wondered if Christine still liked poetry, and if she went to poetry readings, and why.

"Yes, of course I still like poetry. I love it. The word usage in poetry is so interesting. When I was young I liked The Romantics - Robert Lowell, Sylvia Plath, Galway Kinnell. I've always preferred the visceral, emotionally charged poetry over poems that are strictly cerebral.
"I do go to poetry readings - not too often - just maybe 3 or 4 times a year. One of the reasons I go is that I enjoy being read to."
This is an intriguing enjoyment. We talked about other instances of being read to. One of them is tapes.
"I buy books, lots of books, probably too

many books, but I don't buy books on tape. I check those out of the library. The library is fabulous. You can get anything now. If it isn't in our local library, it's in the county system and our library gets it for you. It's an incredible resource."

Lehner was in a graduate program at Brown. John Hawkes was her professor there. "He was an amazing writer and also an incredible teacher. He put me in touch with people at New Directions. My first book was published there in 1983 and it's still in print. New Directions keeps an active backlist. It is one of their strengths.
"New Directions was started in the 1930s by a young guy, James Laughlin. He was at Harvard writing poetry. He started this great publishing company devoted to interesting poets and maverick writers. In the early days he put books in his car and drove them around the country. That was his early distribution system.
"Laughlin also put money into a Utah ski area, Alta. It's a throwback to a time when ski resorts weren't polished. Alta is a place for purist skiers. New Directions is a publisher for literary purists."

Time passed. Lehner raised children, read and did other things. It was a period Lehner referred to as a lacuna in her writing career. Almost 20 years later she was ready to publish her next book. By that time the people she knew at New Directions were no longer there.

"I was lucky enough to get a really nice agent. Amy Berkower is a senior agent at Writers House. She and I like each other and she liked my work as well. She had a delightful assistant at the time, Genevieve. She was sweet and smart, a lovely combination. Genevieve has gone back to school but Amy Berkower is still my agent and I feel really lucky to have her.
"Berkower placed my second book at Harcourt with Tina Pohlman. I liked Tina a lot and she was also a great editor. Unfortunately that was about the time of that big shake-up at Harcourt before it ended up purchased by Houghton Mifflin. I was fortunate to get a good review in the New York Times, but the Harcourt publicists were getting shuffled around and dropped. There wasn't the continuity to follow up book requests."
I wondered how much overlap there was in the responsibilities of agents and publisher's publicists.

"The agent 1.) sells the book, and 2.) negotiates the contract.
"The publicist 1.) sees that the book is reviewed, and 2.) gets copies out there. Publicists work in marketing and publicity although these are different and I've never quite understood the distinction between them."
Besides Dinesen, who are some of Lehner's favorite authors?

"Recently a friend recommended Jim Harrison. I'm hooked. I've been reading his fiction, poetry and his memoir. He is fantastic. He doesn't use many commas, so sometimes you have to read slowly or reread. It's a good thing though, because looking carefully you can really see the architecture of his sentences. So impressive."

For myself, I've been reading Christine Lehner - books and blogs. With great pleasure.

Books (all in print):
1983 - Expecting
2004 - What to Wear to See the Pope
2009 - Absent a Miracle

Christine Lehner's great Blog:

Chritine Lehner's homepage
an extremely interesting Paris Review interview of Isak Dinesen that does remind one of C.L.
John Hawkes by Mark Hamstra
"A Brief History of New Directions"

Monday, April 5, 2010

Neil Golden redeems Clerihew Prize

photo by Michael Stephens 4/5/10

Neil Golden of San Francisco won a Hastings on Hudson Literature Club Prize for his very fine clerihew:

R. Buckminster Fuller
Taken for a leg puller
Spake the truth we ignore:
1 + 1 = 4

Chris Stephens was most delighted to see the prize redeemed.

Literature Club of Hastings on Hudson

Wednesday, March 31, 2010


Christopher Stephens at home entering books into the computer, and comfortably surrounded by books. Stephens' Conrad collection is in the glass shelves to his left. Chris admires Conrad tremendously.

bio Joseph Conrad

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Forrest at the Poets' Corner

Forrest Orick, of riverrun, went to the Cathedral of St. John the Divine to hear a friend sing.
Forrest was fascinated with architecture and history. At the Poets' Corner he memorized each quote.

The Poets' Corner was set up in the cathedral in 1984 and "Dedicated to American Literature". Important American poets and fiction writers are added as time goes on. There is also a Poets' Wall at the cathedral where all poetry offered is accepted and posted.

poets org on Poets' Corner
home page of the cathedral and schedules of cultural events it sponsors
a different kind of poets' corner with photos and info and more

Monday, March 29, 2010

Horace Greeley - publisher - editor

Horace Greeley was a man of his century - the 19th. Westward expansion, slavery, American industrialization, reform and social idealism - these were the big issues of the times. These were Greeley's issues. He was for the first, against the second, watchful of the third, and a wholeheartedly active participant in the fourth and fifth.

Greeley came to NYC when he was 20 years old. He started several newspapers before he launched the enormously influential New York Tribune in 1841. The newspaper was his megaphone. His interests were far reaching and he had opinions to spare.

Greeley made a home for his family in Chappaqua. The town is bucolic still, 150 years later. Beautiful but apparently not a happy household for him. He called his home Castle Doleful and often stayed nights with his newspaper in the bustle of the city.

The country was young in Greeley's time. He and his New York Tribune helped to shape it.

biography from Tulane
breathtaking letter to Greeley from Lincoln - August 1862
biog of Greeley by Universalist/Unitarian

First Day Cover - Horace Greeley

A first day of issue is the first day that a new stamp is released. Often a special stamp is released in a significant city before it is available in post offices around the country.

A first day cover is an envelope, like this one, celebrating the new stamp and postmarked on the first day of issue from the city where it is first released. Stamp collectors like first day covers. It's kind of like a first state first edition.

This first day cover with the new Horace Greeley stamp - released and postmarked on February 3, 1961 - was sent from Chappaqua because Greeley lived there with his wife and children in the mid 1800s.

Thursday, March 25, 2010

King of Come

His Majesty, Togbe Akati II Djidjilevo, King of Come, Benin and representing Watchi Royal Dynasty of Benin, Togo, and Ghana - shown here with LSS of riverrun bookstore

photo by Ange Ahoussougbemey 3-25-10

Located in West Africa, Benin is a country about the size of New York State. Strong cultural allegiances operate across country borders.
Benin and surrounding countries were part of the prosperous and powerful kingdom of Dahomey in the 1400s. European colonialism rearranged boundaries in the 19th century.
Benin became independent from France in 1960.
Benin is a republic. Elected representatives work to effect a productive government and a healthy, educated, and prosperous populace.
Many traditional leaders work for the same thing. King Togbe Akati II Djidjilevo belongs to the National Council of Kings and served as Secretary General of the Organization of Kings and Queens of Africa. He travels to promote peace organizations. He is an impressive blend of traditional and modern.

B & N, NYC

Barnes & Noble on 5th Avenue between 45th and 46th is obscured by scaffolding. So is the dramatic French Building.
Inside, behind the scaffolding, the bookstore is just what you would have expected. This is what some people dislike about B & N and what others like most.
I always enjoy an hour or so browsing the books. True, it isn't the same as an independent bookstore, reflecting an individual's tastes and quirks. Nevertheless, it is a very good hour or so and I'm happy to know that there are Barnes & Nobles all over the place, and they continue to be just what I would expect, even behind scaffolding.

(The photos below also fit into the loosely defined riverrun blog theme as they were both taken near the lions on Fifth Avenue, from the NY Public Library steps.)

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Fin at riverrun

So often houses with lots of interesting books have lots of interesting other things as well. Chris and Michael visited such a house recently. They brought cartons of good books back to riverrun. They also brought back a splendid ostrich-feather hat.
This elegant little hat, made during a time when it was still considered okay to combine animal bits with high fashion, evokes the innocent grandeur of that period.
Fin Stephens models this hat for us here at riverrun, enhancing the store with a sheen of glamour heretofore missing.
Fin is the latest addition to the Stephens clan; to the riverrun family. She's great. Usually working without special headgear, Fin catalogues books, fills orders, hefts boxes, organizes shelves, arranges merchandise, and fields customer queries.

Fin and Michael Stephens moved here recently from California. They've been working hard at riverrun. They are revamping the store on the north side of the street.
We plan to have a Revamp Party soon. We want to celebrate Michael’s and Fin’s new visions for riverrun northside. Late spring maybe or early summer. Come join us. I'll post the date when we know it. We'll have wine and pretzels.
Fin might wear the ostrich-feather hat.

Thursday, March 11, 2010

H.L.Mencken Playing his Piano

The latin quote inscribed on the photo by Mencken means "Life is Short; Art endures". Or something like that.

10 + pages of Mencken quotes - some serious - most humorous, the biting kind

Saturday, March 6, 2010


Some time ago a friend asked me to close my eyes and imagine a certain scene.

"Suppose," she said, "that you are walking along somewhere and notice a key on the ground. You pick it up. You've never seen this key before but you recognize it at once as your own."

Rather an odd supposition.
"Study it."
I complied. I hefted the weight of the imaginary key in my mind. The friend asked me to describe it in detail. I told her about the metallic composition, the color, the design on the head; about the shaft and the teeth of the key. It was fun.

When I opened my eyes, she said, "You know the symbolism, don't you? You have just described your secret ambition."

I had a secret ambition? Who knew?

I do not like locking things up. I don't lock my house or car or diary or heart. Yet I do sort of like keys.

The other day I stopped into riverrun and made my way over to the blue chair. Right in front of the chair was a box full of keys. There were bundles and bundles of keys.

"Wow, where did you get these?"
"I always buy keys," said Chris.

I sorted happily through the treasure box, threading the best ones onto a piece of string.

As I was getting ready to leave both Michael and Chris rushed in to advice me against taking the string home. "You already have too much stuff at home."

True, but I'm disregarding their helpful advice anyway and this is why:

It is uncommonly satisfying to hold a handful of secret ambitions.

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Happy Birthday General MacArthur

Really General Douglas MacArthur's birthday was a couple of months ago - January 26. A family in this area - a family with lots of books and other good stuff recently transferred to riverrun bookstore - this family sent MacArthur birthday greetings during the 1950s. He sent back a gracious reply each time.

MacArthur was part of a distinguished military family. He was born on a base. Douglas, the third son, graduated from high school with awards for outstanding scholarship and deportment.
Young Douglas MacArthur's award for scholarship doesn't amaze me, but the one for deportment does. Slightly.

MacArthur went to West Point. Ulysses S. Grant III was a classmate. Both were offspring of famous generals and therefore, in some kind of twisted logic, both were victims of unusually brutal hazing by upper class men. They survived. (Not everyone did.) MacArthur graduated from West Point the same year my grandmother was born: 1903. He was sent to the Philippines.

MacArthur was not burdened with racial prejudices. In that time and in that place, he was one of the very few in the army not so burdened. Army policy and everyday social actions were shaped by it. MacArthur followed his own vision in this matter. In all matters. Although out of step with his peers and superiors in his attitude toward Filipinos, through other strengths and various heroic deeds, he was recognized with the Medal of Honor.

Douglas MacArthur spent some time serving in Japan under his father, General Arthur MacArthur. A little later he was assigned to the Army Engineer School in Washington DC as part of the training for promising officers. President Theodore Roosevelt requested his services as an aide in the White House from time to time.

In 1914 MacArthur was part of an advance guard scouting in Mexico for armaments possibly being shipped to Germany. He was assigned to help arrange transportation for U.S. soldiers, in case war broke out between Mexico and USA.

As far as transportation went, MacArthur found plenty of rail cars for the men, but insufficient locomotives to drag those cars down the track to wherever the action might be. He sniffed out a lead and followed it to adventure fraught with peril. In the end it was successful. He found 3 locomotives. He found trouble too, but with brilliant courage and impressive marksmanship, he escaped it whole.

Many thought Douglas MacArthur deserved more medals. The Big Brass Higher-Ups decided No. The single key fact that the adventure, however ultimately successful and valuable in the end, had been undertaken without permission from MacArthur's superior officer, was more than sufficient reason, they thought, to make official recognition a poor idea.

MacArthur distinguished himself with bravery, intelligence, dedication and independent thinking in World War I.

When that war was over, he served as the Superintendent of West Point. He devoted himself to widening the scope of the education the young officers received. He went back to Philippines. He served as president of the United States Olympic Committee for the Amsterdam Olympics of 1928. He continued to live a colorful and interesting life both in and out of the military.

MacArthur had been retired from the army when FDR recalled him to active service in 1941. He carried his trademark characteristics - cool hard intellect, fervent patriotism, exceptional abilities, and supreme confidence in his own perceptions and conclusions - into World War II. A famous highlight was his promise to return to Bataan in 1942 and the return itself in 1944.

In the end, General Douglas MacArthur was the United States representative to whom Japan surrendered in 1945.

MacArthur oversaw the occupation of Japan after the WWII and was on the spot during the Korean War. His continued extreme independence finally tangled up with the United States Constitution.
He disregarded President Truman's determination to limit the scope of the Korean War. Truman wished to avoid possible collisions with China or USSR. MacArthur was convinced Truman was making a mistake. Truman dismissed MacArthur.

Whatever the right or wrong of the strategy in Korea, I value civilian leadership of the military so much that I think MacArthur was in the wrong to challenge it. Many disagree.

During the last years of his life, there was an annual shin-dig at the Waldorf to celebrate his birthday. More to the point, hundreds or thousands of ordinary citizens sent him birthday cards.

To many Americans, MacArthur was a perfect hero.

Friday, February 26, 2010

riverrun is open

What a lot of snow! Branches and trees are down everywhere. Electricity has been knocked out of our house and our wider neighborhood. But riverrun is open.
Streets are blocked by trees and yellow police tape. The snow plows - somewhat feeble in these conditions - have not even touched Washington Avenue. There is high gaiety in the street as kids sled down the steep hill and throw snowballs. The sidewalks aren't shoveled yet but riverrun is open.
Four different local Starbucks, where one might have indulged what is apparently a real addiction, are closed. All are located on major commercial streets which have had some of the snow pushed aside by the struggling plows. Yet, riverrun used and rare bookshop, on a sled-filled side street, is open.
It hardly makes sense given that the store still closes occasionally for lunch. Even when it is open and we're here, in various situations the store telephone rings unanswered. Customers are often left alone to browse in the store across the street. Yet despite the casual attitude in some aspects of business, Christopher Stephens - and now Michael Stephens too - take great pride in keeping the promise: riverrun is open 365 days a year.

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Samuel R. Delany - Sci Fi author

Samuel R. (Chip) Delany
photo by Christopher Stephens 1979

Chip Delany has been nominated for award after award. He won 4 Nebula Awards and 2 Hugo Awards for excellence in science fiction writing. Delany is a giant in the science fiction community. Delany's editor and friend, David Hartwell, is another giant. The two of them are extra tall at conventions and award ceremonies and in the hearts of fans.

One day in the 1970s Chris Stephens was visiting David Hartwell at Arbor House. Chris browsed the upcoming Arbor House list for especially attractive titles and found The Bridge of Lost Desires. Hartwell talked up the book.

Stephens arranged with sub-rights at Arbor House for Ultramarine Press to bring out a simultaneous, special, beautifully bound, limited, first edition. Delany liked the idea too. He asked that it include illustrations by a friend, Greg Frux. So it did. Frux did 7 pen and inks that were bound into the Ultramarine edition.

Later Ultramarine put out another special edition of Delany's Hugo Award winning autobiography, The Motion of Light and Water. In this book there was an original signed Greg Frux frontispiece in each copy.

These books and others sold well and were widely read. Samuel R. Delany was inducted into the Science Fiction Hall of Fame in 2002.

interview of Samuel Delany
Samuel R. Delany information - very complete
home page - brief biographical notes + partial bibliography

Sunday, February 21, 2010

Some Science Fiction Awards and Organizations

drawing copyright 1975 L. Scioscia Stephens

The Hugo Award is given annually in several categories. The award is presented at the WorldCon by the World Science Fiction Society - WSFS. WSFS is a group loosely organized to sponsor annual conventions and the prestigious award, named for Hugo Gernbsback of Amazing Stories fame.
Prize selection is done in an interesting way. WSFS is a grassroots organization. Nominations for the Hugo come from members all over the world. Nominations are tabulated and the 5 most oft nominees are returned to the general membership for a second-round vote.
Hugo Awards homepage
World Science Fiction Society homepage lists world conventions

Nebula Awards winners are nominated and selected through vote by members of the Science Fiction Writers of America, SFWA.
Nebula Awards homepage
SFWA homepage

An impressive array of authors make up the Grand Masters award list. When Damon Knight died in 2002 this award was renamed in his honor. The Damon Knight Grand Masters Award is presented at the Nebula Awards Dinner by the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America.
Damon Knight Grand Masters Award

Locus Magazine is a trade magazine for the science fiction community
Great information about almost 50 awards on a Locus website
Locus Magazine Index of awards by Mark Kelly

Saturday, February 20, 2010

Love, Pearl Bailey

This signed snap shot, from a houseful of books and other interesting things, is purported to be Pearl Bailey. Maybe. This doesn't resemble the woman in careful studio shots - most notably the photo (below) when she was 15 years old - but candid photos do reveal something different.

When Pearl Bailey was a teenager, she entertained in Scranton where Frank Scioscia, a teenager at the same time, was busy reading books and playing cowboys.

Bailey lived a full life. She married 3 times - the last time for life. She won awards and acclaim as a singer, dancer, actress, and television personality. She was interested in cooking, in the United Nations, in politics. President Nixon named her "Ambassador of Love". Bailey campaigned for Gerald Ford. (interesting youtube of her talking about Ford below).
Pearl Bailey's father was a minister and she went back to school, herself, in her 60s and got a degree in theology from Georgetown University.

Pearl Bailey wrote 6 books:
The Raw Pearl
Talking to Myself
Pearl's Kitchen
Duey's Tale
Hurry Up, America, and Spit
Between You and Me

32 photos of P.B. at
photo of Bailey and her husband, Louis Bellson
filmography, recordings list, and personal appearances
brief bio at Mystic Games
YouTube of Bailey talking on behalf of Gerald Ford's continued presidency in 1976
black classic
at 15 in Pensylvania
a great YouTube video of Pearl's brother, Bill Bailey, tapping

Friday, February 19, 2010

Bethany Beach Bookstore

Bethany Beach Bookstore sells new books just steps from the sand on the beautiful Delaware seashore. Waves crash nearby. Gulls swoop. And readers stop by.

They have a very nice inventory. Some of it is oriented toward the fast-read/light-read vacationers, because after all, when you're on vacation at least part of your reading consciousness is distracted by the surf. There are plenty of good books for kids.

I like to think of children taking a break from frolicking on the sand to do a bit of reading.
Perhaps because this area is so close to Washington D.C., there is a very solid political science section.

In the summertime the bookstore is surrounded by the bright gaiety of beach merchandise spilling out onto the sidewalks from the many boardwalk shops. In February those stores are closed.

"How do you stay open all year?" I asked the pleasant woman behind the counter. "Well, there's plenty to do to get ready for the big crush of summer readers. And we keep like to keep up to date with the NY Times best sellers. There are active readers living in the area - a lot of retirees. And two book clubs meet in the store. And we mail out telephone orders to loyal summer customers."

Several customers came into the store while I was there, looking through the appealing shelves. Above the shelves there are about 40 framed pictures of different authors giving readings at the store. It's gratifying to know that summer resort customers and reading locals can keep a serious bookstore open year around.

The pleasant sales lady told me that Bethany Beach Bookstore belongs to the Independent Booksellers Association and also carries their recommended books. I like to put in a plug for independent book dealers. Although frankly, I also like to put in a plug for Amazon and for gigantic chains as well as my own beloved favorites - the used bookstores of the world.

Here's what I think: wherever you are buying a book, you are doing a good thing.

New York Times Bestsellers
Independent Bookseller site
ABA American Booksellers Association