It Goes On The Shelf

No.1 April 1985

Published at The Sign of the Purple Mouth by Ned Brooks
4817 Dean Lane, Lilburn GA 30047-4720
Website -

Cover art collage by editor, sources lost

May Ghu bless this fanzine and make it worthy at least of the sacrifice of the trees that died to produce the paper. If you don't like the artwork - or even if you do - send something better, as Your Humble Editor is severely lacking in artistic ability. Preference is for line art that will Xerox well for thermal mimeo.


91-100 - Steal it if you have to!
81-90 - Worth Looking for
71-80 - Wait until it's remaindered....
61-70 - For collectors only.
51-60 - For completists only.
11-50 - Forget it!
0-10 - To read aloud in the con-suite at midnight....
The Anubis Gates by Tim Powers, Ace, Dec'83, $2.95
Some may miss this very enjoyable novel because of the tiresome prologue and the weak opening chapters. Once the story of the hero, a Coleridge scholar hired as a time travel tour guide to 19th-century London, gets rolling the thing is a lot of fun. I like science-fantasy stories with good poetry - remember Wallace West's The Bird Of Time - and the time travel logic is very well handled.
Rating: 88

Alice's Adventures In Wonderland and Through The Looking Glass, Household Tales by The Brothers Grimm, and Treasure Island. Schocken Books, New York, 1979, $9.95 each.
These are all illustrated by Mervyn Peake. Dainis Bisenieks got them for me in Philadelphia on remainder for about $13 for the three - I have copies of the original editions, but wanted them for gifts. This is some of the best work of one of the greatest fantasy artists of all time. All in b&w except for the color d/w to Household Tales. They are well-printed, and bound in cloth-covered boards rather than the ghastly paper that so many of the hardcover publishers use now.
Rating: 95

Amphigorey Also by Edward Gorey, Congdon & Weed, New York, 1983, $20
This is the third of the large-format anthologies of Gorey's work, preceded by Amphigorey and Amphigorey Too, and contains 17 of his very odd cartoon stories. The entire text is hand-lettered, including the material on the back of the title page. The previous two anthologies were reprinted in large pb format and remaindered, but Gorey's popularity seems to have very undeservedly fallen off and I wouldn't count on getting this one that way. I found one copy in Atlanta at Christmas and had to order a second copy for a friend.
Rating: 96

The Adventures of Samurai Cat by Mark Rogers, Don Grant, West Kingston Rhode Island, $20
A large hardcover with well-printed b&w and color art by the author. The interior color is better than that on the d/w, which is relatively muddy. I don't know when I might actually get around to reading the text!
Rating: 85

The Whys Of A Philosophical Scrivener by Martin Gardner, Quill, New York, 1983, $12.95.
I think I got this large 450pp pb on remainder. It is an excellent book for anyone with an inquiring mind and a casual interest in philosophy. I was particularly interested myself in the discussion of "free will" and what, if anything, the term may mean. Gardner says that Clarence Darrow did not believe that anyone had free will, which was why he spent so much time on capital murder cases, and that Einstein thought that the term had no meaning at all. But did Darrow 'choose' to defend murderers? What does "free will" mean? On the one hand, our actions are obviously determined to a large extent by past circumstances and experience over which we have no present control. And on the other hand, there is also some sort of random input controlling our actions. But where does the "free will" come in? We might imagine that the human mind, equipped with whatever memory is available, plots out the scenarios of possible future courses of actions. Some of these may result from chance associations of random elements and many may be utterly ridiculous or impractical. Ultimately, however, we `choose' among these various possibilities on the basis of optimization of pleasure or profit. Now, it cannot be said that our choice is totally predetermined, because some of the possible courses of action did not even exist until the mind started generating scenarios. In any case, the procedure described is pretty much a description of consciousness itself, so we could say that in this sense, consciousness and free will are the same thing and that all conscious beings have free will to some extent. In any case, Mr Gardner's book is worth reading, if you choose....
Rating: 89

Slapstick by Kurt Vonnegut, Delacorte, New York, 1976, $7.95.
This is the last Vonnegut novel I actually managed to read all the way through and, as I remember, I enjoyed it at the time but had forgotten most of the crazy plot by the time the movie came out in 1982. In fact, when the movie showed here briefly as Slapstick "starring Jerry Lewis", I did not even try to see it because I didn't realize it was from the Vonnegut novel. It has now shown up here on HBO as "Slapstick of Another Kind" and seeing that it was from the Vonnegut novel and starred Madeleine Kahn and also the late, great Marty Feldman, I decided to see if I could stand that much of the inane Jerry Lewis. And I did enjoy the film, even though it recalled nothing of the novel to me except Vonnegut's idea of the artificial extended family. Jerry Lewis' demented mugging was well suited to the male half of the idiot savant Swain twins, and he manages to restrain himself in the dual role of the father of the twins.
Rating: 85

The Land Behind The World by Anne Spencer Parry, Pinchgut Press, Sydney; Australia, 1976.
I got this as a used pb and did not note the price before sending it to my sister, but the address of the Pinchgut Press is 6 Oaks Avenue, Cremorne, Sydney, NSW 2090, Australia. I enjoyed the book a lot, reminded me a bit of C S Lewis' Narnia books. Good art too. There's supposed to be a sequel called The Lost Souls Of The Twilight and a third, unnamed (in '76), volume to make up the inevitable trilogy. Seems like some bright US publisher would do the three as a single volume, the first, at least, is hardly long enough alone for a standard pb.
Rating: 90

Isis Unveiled by H. P. Blavatsky, The Theosophy Company, Los Angeles, 1931.
Subtitled "A Master-Key To The Mysteries Of Ancient And Modern Science And Theology", this is a facsimile of the 1877 edition, issued on the centenary of the author's birth. It runs to over 700 ridiculous pages, nicely bound in red with a gold-stamped Isis on the spine. I will quote a few of the running page headings - which are a much clearer guide to the contents than the Table of Contents - for your amusement:
Babinet's Meteoric Cat - Something like ball lightning which appeared at a seance in the form of a cat.
The Nose Cut From A Porter's Back - This has to do with an artificial nose made of flesh from the back of a porter. The nose died and fell off when the porter died. Whose face it fell off of is not specified...
The Magical Power Of Music - One Kircher claims to have cured nervous disorders with a glass harmonica. The instrument is described as five tumblers of very thin glass, played "in the usual way, by merely rubbing his finger on the edges of the tumblers". The patient probably pretended to be cured to get away from the annoying noise!
How To Make The Unquenchable Light - One uses asbestos, "which once set on fire cannot be quenched". That "once set on fire" is the hard part!
Do Flying Guitars Unconsciously Cerebrate? - The question is not, fortunately, answered. I really don't want to know!
Epicurus The Discoverer of Mutton-Protoplasm - Alas for the curious, there is nothing here about mutton-protoplasm. About Epicurus it merely states that he believed in God but denied the immortality of the soul.
Parrot-Headed Squabs - To the modern scientific contention that a child cannot be affected in the womb by something frightening the mother is advanced the objection that such occurences are common in the offspring of the lower animals - chickens are hatched daily with the heads of hawks, it says here; and "a lady of our acquaintance" owned a tame dove that was frightened daily by a parrot and hatched a brood in which two squabs had the heads of parrots.
Dwellers On The Threshold - The Vampire-Governor of Tch- I wonder if old H.P.L. had a copy of this book?
Rating: 10

Codex Seraphinianus by Luigi Serafini, Abbeville, New York, 1983, $85.
But remaindered this year by PCB and Hamilton at $30.... This curious monster is about 9x14 and over an inch thick. It was published in Italy in 1981, this is the first US edition (which is printed in Italy). What language the text may be in is indeterminate, as the cursive alphabet used is indecipherable - at least I have not been able to make much of it. Though if it is transliterated Italian I would not have much of a chance anyway. The d/w blurb is in English and compares the artwork to that of Escher. This is not particularly accurate, as the work is mostly in color and lacks Escher's mathematical content, but it is probably the best they could do. I thought I had found a key to the puzzle in the page numbering, which seemed at the beginning to be base 22, but this breaks down in the later pages. There are something on the order of 300 pages. The text is either a transliteration of real language or a good imitation, as the patterns of repetition seen realistic. A curious attempt at total fantasy that breaks down in the surrealism of the artwork.
Rating: 85

The Last Rainbow by Parke Godwin, Bantam, New York, 1985, $6.95.
This "Advance Reading Copy" was printed from the uncorrected page proofs and notes a trade pb release date of July 1985! Rather odd, since I am typing this in early April and got this copy for 75 cents at a local thrift shop! First time I ever saw a book reach the junk shelves before publication.... This fantasy about St Patrick is the third of a trilogy on set in Roman Britain, the first two being Firelord and Beloved Exile. This fact, instead of being trumpeted on the cover in the usual fashion, is hidden in the short biography of the author on the last page. This page may be a joke, it contains some rather silly stuff. It seems to have been written by Marvin Kaye, who is carried as co-author of three previous Parke Godwin books listed in the front, and mentions Kaye assigning "K-numbers" in his research on the works of Godwin. Godwin is also supposed to have written a "Donner Pass Cookbook" and contributed to Popular Embalming and The American Pederast. Are we perhaps being had? The cover, for which no artist is credited, is also a bit wonky! St. Patrick and the waterfall and the rainbow are only indifferent bad, but the girl crouching behind St Patrick looks like a bad Hollywood notion of a Mongol princess. And yet the text, the author's afterword, and the acknowledgements seem to be quite serious if rather turgid historical fantasy in the vastly overworked Roman Britain vein.

The Glitter of the Brook

by Arthur Machen, Postprandial Press, Dalton, Georgia, 1932.

Note: Alas, this is not on my shelf - even Goldstone and Sweetser, who did the definitive Machen bibliography, never saw a copy. There were only ten copies made! On the following pages, however is the title essay, as recovered from microfilm of the 1931 Dalton Citizen, where it first appeared.


Mr. Agate, one of our most distinguished literary and dramatic critics, said a very striking and arresting thing a few weeks ago. He was reviewing a book, the author of which had declared that in his opinion, great music, the music of Mozart and Beethoven, was the very climax of civilisation: in itself civilisation, and the pure essence and expression of civilisation.

Mr. Agate would have none of it. He swept music aside, and with it architecture, sculpture, painting, all the arts; including, I suppose, literature, though I don't think literature was expressly mentioned. "None of these things," he said, "counts. When I speak of civilisation, I mean good sewage."

Let us not endeavor to score off Mr. Agate, as we say, referring to that sacred British institution, cricket. Let us not get gay with him, as I believe you say in America. It would be very simple to ask Mr. Agate why, holding that good drains make good men, he passed his days in judging plays and books; matters, according to his doctrine, of no consequence whatever. I suppose his answer would be: "Because I want to earn a lot of money, so that I can afford to live in a house where the sanitation is perfect; and so I give in to human folly."

But we will not cross-question Mr. Agate; there is always something unmannerly, almost brutal about the argumentum ad hominem, the confronting a man with the consequences of his own opinions. I have quoted this saying about sewage, because I believe it to be a survival, because I believe that it is the utterance of a doctrine now dying, soon to be dead.

With a kind of brusque and biting humor, no doubt, Mr. Agate intended to signify that he was a utilitarian and a materialist; a believer in the school of Jeremy Bentham, of the elder Mill, of the sect known as the Philosophic Radicals, who uttered their voices in parliament as Bright and Cobden, who are expressed in literature by Mr. Gradgrind, the Hard Fact man. The sect spoke in a leading article in The Times, when William IV was to be crowned. "What nonsense all this is," said, in effect, the weighty article. "What possible good can be effected by greasing (anointing) the person of the sovereign?" And the gentle, though shallow, Macaulay prophesied utilitarianism when he spoke of ancient philosophy; of Socrates, Plato, Aristotle and the rest. The leaves of this tree of ancient philosophy are beautiful indeed, Macaulay allowed. But, he asked, where is the fruit of the tree? Do Plato and Aristotle lead to the gas works and the locomotive engine? If not, what is the use of Philosophy? And, be it said in all sincerity and gravity, this utilitarian faith is by no means to be blown away with a contemptuous puff of the breath. It appeals, in one way or another, to all of us. Before we laugh at it, let us ask ourselves whether we are completely indifferent to our bodies, to our bodily comforts and discomforts, to the body's sickness and health, to its starvation or repletion. Suppose I say that I don't think that Macaulay's engine, or our motor cars and airplanes matter twopence, that it is of no real consequence whether we go fast or slow. Very fine; but my friends would tell me to walk to London and back, fifty-two miles in all, the next time I have to go in town; and then to say how I liked it. No; there is no denying that utilitarianism is a faith of universal appeal, of high cogency. There is only one thing to be said against it, and that is, that it is entirely incredible. We may be reciting the "I believe in one utility," the "Our Father Bentham," the "Hail Sewage full of chloride" and the rest: and the wind in the trees, or the glitter of the brook, or a line of Keats will scatter it all away; and we awake from nightmare, and know that the well being of the body is the means; the joys of the spirit the end. Utilitarianism, materialism are dying creeds: I shall yet see Mr. Agate on the mourners' bench of a better faith.

You can see signs of the change in all quarters and in all manners, both high and low. I hardly venture to touch on the esoteric doctrines of sciences; but it has long been evident that Prospero's exposition of the universe is far nearer to the truth of things as modern science sees it, than the science, or rather, nescience of the Tyndall, Clifford, Spencer school of the 'seventies of the last century. The very names of these people have already something obsolete about them; they will soon be utterly forgotten.

But let us not say more of these matters, which as I have confessed, are too high for me. Let us seek our signs in familiar things. Here is my instance.

Some ingenious person has invented a new cough-lozenge, a sort of medicament in which we are necessarily and perpetually interested, here in England. The benevolent inventor has called his dose (we will say) "Bung". He advertises it, and his advertisement has just caught my eye on the back page of "The Daily Mail". Here it is:

Teacher says:
Bung is best -
to ease the throat
and warm the chest.
You observe that this eloquent appeal is in verse. Why in verse? To attract attention better. But why should a jingling verse attract attention? It certainly does. The pleasing example I have cited is one amongst many: solid men of business, great concerns, the keenest professors of the art of publicity - a word I dislike - all entreat our custom with their simple rhymes. There is the Underground Railway of London that sings:
Underground everywhere:
Quickest way, cheapest fare.
And it was said that the late Lord Northcliffe, that great master of the art of advertising, paid a heavy fee to the author of:
Weekly Dispatch
Best of the Batch
It attracts. But why does it attract? Let me ask you another. Why did Hesiod, who lived in the eighth century B.C., write his "Works and Days" in rolling hexameters? The "Works and Days" is a "Poor Richard" book, a collection of simple maxims, of unsophisticated country folk, who love to hear their own experience, their own rough-hewn common sense corroborated and condensed into a phrase. "The half is greater than the whole", says Hesiod to the man who will go to law resolved to have his claim satisfied to the uttermost, forgetful of lawyers costs. "Many things fall out between the edge of the cup and the lip", "Potter hates potter, and one craftsman another" - one sees the origins of our "There's many a slip 'twixt the cup and the lip", and "Two of a trade never agree".

But why did this remote, ancient, primitive Greek put his keen observation, his homespun wisdom into verse?

The reason is that poetry comes before prose just as singing comes before speaking. Chanted poetry is the natural utterance of primitive man; spoken prose is a later, artificial invention. All poetry was contemptible to the utilitarians, the materialists, the rationalists, the Benthamites: it was a senseless jingle, worthy, only of savages.

And now see how we return to the old way, and recommend our cough-drops with a song.

The fact is, that if we have anything of real consequence to say, we say it in poetry; and it is only natural that a man who has goods for sale should deem them of the utmost consequence.

Artwork borrowed from that most revelant work Flushed With Pride - The Story of Thomas Crapper by Wallace Reyburn (Prentice Hall, New Jersey, 1971, $3.95) is by his great-niece, Edith Crapper.

Faith is not an exotic bloom to be laboriously maintained by the exclusion of most aspects of the day to day world, nor a useful delusion to be supported by sophistries and half-truths like a child's belief in Father Christmas - not, in short, a prudently unregarded adherence to a constructed creed; but rather must be, if anything, a clear-eyed recognition of the patterns and tendencies, to be found in every piece of the world's fabric, which are the lineaments of God. This is why religion can only be advice and clarification, and cannot carry any spurs of enforcement - for only belief and behavior that is independently arrived at, and then chosen, can be praised or blamed. This being the case, it can be seen as a criminal abridgement of a person's rights willfully to keep him in ignorance of any facts or opinions - no piece can be judged inadmissible, for the more stones, both bright and dark, that are added to the mosaic, the clearer is our picture of God.
Milton / Coleridge / Powers

The above quotation is from a speech about John Milton by Charles Taylor Coleridge, contained in The Anubis Gates by Tim Powers, published by Ace as an original paperback novel in December 1983. Perhaps some graduate student in English Literature can tell us whether Milton or Coleridge ever really said any such thing - I like it anyway, and will keep it around on this page of It Goes On The Shelf until I find something I like better as representing the proper attitude of a journalist.

This fanzine will not be sold. It will not even be distributed in the usual sense of mailing out a lot of the copies at once. This tired old fan will just send it through SFPA and Slanapa, and in trade as zines come in, and to correspondents as letters go out. If you should hear of it and feel you must have a copy, you may send a SASE for lack of anything better. If there is to be much art in future issues, I will need some good line art - no tone, no solid blacks, no shading except for dot or line - suitable for thermal stencil. I do not have to have the original, a good xerox is fine.

For those interested in the gruesome technical details, this fanzine is composed in FancyFont using WordStar on an Osborne microcomputer. It is printed on a RexRotary M4 mimeograph from stencils cut directly by the Epson MX-80 dot-matrix printer. Art is printed from thermal mimeo stencils cut by a 3M Thermofax machine.

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