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Every book has a story

Every book has a story.

Check in frequently to read the behind-the-scenes scoop on the Newberry’s popular Book Fair. The blog is maintained by “Uncle Blogsy,” otherwise known as Dan Crawford, Book Fair Manager.

One Generation's Disposables

What a lovely collection of recyclables! A hundred thanks, a thousand thanks.

I have no idea why you’re making that face. I mean that sincerely, without a touch of satire. One of the problems we have around here is that people are always bringing us the five hundred page economics textbooks, which are really, really suited to the recycling bin, and throwing away the old maps and postcards we can sell.

Last week, we had several small loads which involved wonderful collectibles of the type which too often wind up in bags for recycling. There was a thirty year-old Lego catalog, an eighty year-old joke brochure once given away with Alka-Seltzer, a mimeographed guide to underground St. Louis in the seventies, and a whole stack of instructional books for earnest young magicians.

These last run the gamut, from newsletters printed on whatever paper was available during World War II to instructional guides once sold in the back pages of pulp magazines. (Impress your date with these simple tricks you can do with utensils on the dinner table: only ten cents!) So many people have thrown these things away over the years that they are now eagerly sought by libraries and museums specializing in show biz. One or two of them have fairly impressive prices for things which honestly look like prime recycling material.

And I find I am in possession of very early works by a couple of writers who went on to much longer books.

I believe this booklet, which provides comedy material–patter is the professional term–for magicians to use in their acts, is the first publication of Robert Orben, who later produced books and magazines filled with one-liners for the professional or occasional comedian. His books can always be found in the Humor section at the Book Fair, and his individual jokes can be read and heard the world around. There have been writers who specialized in writing general material since the days comic actors first learned to read, but Orben was the only one to become director of the White House Speechwriting Department. Besides Gerald Ford, Orben has also written for Dick Gregory, Jack Paar, and Red Skelton.

He worked as a magician now and again, as did the author of two small pamphlets on magic tricks to be performed close to the viewer: it says here this is known as “micromagic”. You can find THIS fellow’s books in Books and Authors. And Science. And Math. And Games. Busy little rascal.

Martin Gardner is famous for whatever YOU read him for. His Annotated Alice–an edition of Alice in Wonderland with notes running in the margins to explain the jokes and background–is prized by most Alice fans. (We get lots more copies of that than, say, of his Annotated Casey at the Bat.) His books of mathematical games and puzzles are bought out every year, probably to be presented to smart-aleck grandchildren, nieces, and nephews. His books backing up science and/or debunking pseudoscience are considered by some to be his main legacy. (His last published work before his death at 95 was an article attacking remarks by Oprah about a medical matter.)

And both these men started with cheaply-printed brochures which any SENSIBLE person would have tossed into a blue bin somewhere. Thanks to somebody who didn’t, they will instead be found in the Collectibles section come July. They will cost more than ten cents.

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