Tuesday, January 1, 2019

Project recap

In 2013 I took on an interesting reading project with the one and only Biblio-Mat at The Monkey's Paw. This was the greatest machine I had ever seen, in one of the best bookstores I have ever been to. Although the project is long over, this site remains an archive to the eclectic assortment of books to be found in the world's first and only antiquarian random book vending machine and the guy that was stubborn enough to read one week.

The quick links:

The First Post - Start here to get the full story

The End of Project Recap and Thoughts

The Giant Biblio-Mat Project Celebration Party

Tuesday, June 9, 2015

OT 16: Collage Party 2015

Early June brings with it the Dundas West Fest, and with it comes the much celebrated Monkey’s Paw Collage Party. For the third year in a row (recap of previous years), DWSF revelers participated in the dissection and reconstitution of vintage publications.

This 2015 iteration came with an understanding that the people who most liked to engage in this event are also the people who are most troubled by the wanton butchering of biblio paraphernalia. Which is fair, as no bibliophile wants to go through a bookstore with ink on their hands from freshly massacred books. To remedy this, the pages were pre-separated via guillotine in the most humane way possible and neatly processed into boxes of collage fodder so they could be consumed without guilt.

The result was pure art. Specifically the kind that can be displayed on giant boards on Dundas West on a gorgeous summery day:

Credit: Alexandra Prochshenko/@marvelle_grey
Credit: Alexandra Prochshenko/@marvelle_grey Credit: Alexandra Prochshenko/@marvelle_grey
Credit: Alexandra Prochshenko/@marvelle_grey Credit: Alexandra Prochshenko/@marvelle_grey
Credit: Alexandra Prochshenko

Friday, March 13, 2015

The Loss of Terry Pratchett


It has been a day since the passing of Terry Pratchett, and I’m still saddened by it. It’s a strange feeling, because I have never been one to dwell on sorrow of deaths. Instead of mourning, I am of the group that chooses to celebrate the life of the person and the things they’ve accomplished in their short time on this blue marble of ours. But with Pratchett, it was different.

At first, I thought it was because he was such a big part of my life. As a kid, I grew up getting lost in his books. In university, I studied and wrote about them. After graduation, I imitated them until I found my own voice. To say his work has shaped my life to what it is today would be an understatement. But that should be a cause for celebration and reflection on his life being well lived, not for sorrow.

No, I think the reason why his death has affected me more than any other death outside of immediate friends and family members is because he was so prolific. Having written seventy odd books, his library of work could actually fill a small library. He was writing an average of two books a year, weaving well-crafted tales into the gorgeous world he’s built on the back of a giant space turtle. Few fantasy writers can compare to this, (please don’t leave us yet, Piers Anthony) and herein lays the reason for my sadness.

The last books I read of his.

I am but one of many millions who were touched by Terry Pratchett’s writing. His brilliant observations about human nature and existence simply inspire and makes us view the world a little closer. His forty Discworldbooks are filled with so many relatable anecdotes and absolute truths that anyone who reads them can’t help but be delighted by the wit of it all. And that is what makes me sad.

The Alzheimer's disease that has claimed him has deprived the world of so many future insights not yet written. At 66, it feels odd to say he was taken well before his time, but it’s true, for he had at least thirty more books in him. Thirty more books neither we nor future generations will ever get to read and be inspired by. And that utterly breaks my heart.    

But he will live on, though. As a testament to his wit and wisdom, his eulogy was already written in his work through the many musings on the preciousness of existence and the inevitability of death. The one that encapsulates his life the most?

“No one is actually dead until the ripples they cause in the world die away...”― Terry Pratchett, Reaper Man

Rest in peace, Sir Terry Pratchett.

Monday, January 5, 2015

Year's End - 2014

It’s been a while since the last update and for that I apologize. Work (I do have an actual job outside of reading, hah) and personal projects have kept me crazy busy over the last few months. As well, the amount of submissions has slowed down quite a bit so new posts were lacking.

A quick recap of the last few months:

- The Biblio-Mat had its two year birthday, complete with cake, candlelight, Edison cylinder phonograph, and alcohol, of course. It’s still one of my favourite things about this wonderful city.

It's a party!

Killing it like it's 1899.

The terrible twos?

- I went to the Antiquarian Bookfair at the Art Gallery of Ontario (free for AGO members!). In addition to the Monkey’s Paw booth of curiosities there were some very amazing things to see. Held a $30,000 copy of Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales from 1608, found a few signed copies of Breakfast of Champions that were a digit more than what I was willing to spend, and marveled at a first edition of The Great Gatsby complete with the original dustjacket (one of only about 8 known copies in existence, which commanded a six figure price).

Right at home.

- Received the last book to come out of the Biblio-Mat in 2014 after it was cleaned out by Christmas shoppers. Also managed to pick up an incredible Latin edition of Winnie the Pooh. It will join the Alice in Wonderland and Through the Looking Glass on my shelf-of-motivation-for-learning- dead-languages.
I've done worse with the Biblio-Mat.

How could you not like this?
Looking back, it was a fun year that was more laid back than 2013 where I undertook the whole reading 52 random book in 52 weeks project. New blog posts will be fewer and further in between as new projects get underway but the random book machine will always be plowing along.  

Monday, October 20, 2014

S25: Seventh Census of Canada/Columbia Records

Quick post for a quick submission:

Book: Seventh Census of Canada, 1931
Submitted by: Phil P.

Just a quick snap from Phil on his Biblio-Mat book. I think we can all agree that it's probably not the most interesting of reads and will most likely spend quite a while in that wrapper. I was kind of interested, though, on how this would be the seventh census, as Canadian censuses have been going on since the 1800's. It turns out that first census that had Canada as a federation (versus merely a province) was taken in 1871 and each subsequent census was taken 10 years apart.

Phil also sent in another Biblio-Mat book, received much earlier:

While not overtly exciting, a vintage music catalog should be more entertaining than a census book at the very least.

Monday, October 6, 2014

S24: Sea Shells

Interesting little hardcover from the Biblio-Mat this week:

She sells something something something.

Title: Sea Shells

Billed as having 350 illustrations, the Grosset All-Color Guide – Sea Shells by S. Peter Dance, published in 1973, is a neat little hardcover for those with a love of conchology. The 156 page hardcover contains pretty much everything one would ever need to know about seashells, from how they form, to all the different types, to how to buy and sell them.

Everything you never knew you wanted to know.

Yep, that's a shell alright.
From the layout of the chapters to the muted colour illustrations, everything about it screams 70’s youth education book. There’s nothing wrong with the illustrations – they look fairly detailed and I’m sure they’re accurate, but the fact that the book did not contain a single photograph is interesting since it probably would’ve been easier and cheaper to commission a photographer than an artist to provide images.

Cartoons as a kid made this out to be more common than it really is.

Clam chowder looks pretty good about now.

Flipping through the pages, the text is split into short entries, which made it easy and quick to read. Even just delving into a few entries I learned some interesting things, like how there’s actually an industry that makes fabric out of mollusk fibers. Mostly, though, it just made me hungry for mussels and oysters.

Monday, September 29, 2014

OT15: Vintage Crawl Biblio-Mat Celebration

As part of Vintage Crawl Toronto 2014, the Monkey’s Paw will be celebrating the two year anniversary of the Biblio-Mat. From the Monkey’s Paw:

For those who prefer to browse the Monkey's Paw by candlelight, October 9th promises to be rich on atmosphere. As part of Vintage Crawl Toronto, we'll be extending our melancholic brand of hospitality to visitors until 11pm. Also, since we installed the legendary Biblio-Mat at this same event just two short years ago, we're treating the evening as a celebratory Tooniversary for our eccentric vending machine. (Is that the smell of birthday cupcakes, or is it just book dust?) Expect a cameo appearance by Biblio-Mat designer Craig Small, and audio wallpaper by our in-house musicologist DJ Anachronistik, who will spin some very scratchy grooves on a century-old Edison cylinder player.

Date: Thursday October 9th, 2014

1229 Dundas St. West
Toronto, ON M6J 1X6

A birthday party for the most interesting machine in Toronto? Count me in!