Archive for The Thirty-First of February

GP in Paperback Parade

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , , on January 26, 2012 by Aaron

I’ve been sorely remiss in posting about correspondence I’ve had in the past year or so regarding Gnome Press.  Well… ‘sorely remiss’ is a kind of euphemism really.  Putting it succinctly, I’ve just been f***ing lazy.  Time to catch up and pay some dues.

A while back I bought the Armed Forces paperback issue of Pattern for Conquest from Morgan Wallace.  He was kind enough to enlighten me as to his GP interest.  He has all four Gnome paperback issues, and actually wrote a piece for Paperback Parade in 2005 outlining the history of the Gnome Press paperback dalliance.  Morgan sent me scans of his article and of the four GP paperback titles.  Here is first the piece and then his covers.

View this document on Scribd

Many thanks for these Morgan.  They are greatly appreciated and a fantastic addition here at the Odyssey.  They’ll make a permanent home over on the Trivia page.

A Real Rare One…

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , on June 4, 2011 by Aaron

I’m feeling mighty pleased as I grabbed a copy of the Limited Edition of Nelson Bond’s The Thirty-First of February (Review, Close Up) off eBay last night.  It looks to be a reasonable copy, and for just over $50, I think it’s a great buy.  These things are very rare.  Goddamn, I wish I was set up to do decent Close Ups at the moment…  Speaking of which, I do have a couple I can post that have been sitting over on my Flickr account for a while.

Review: The Thirty-First of February

Posted in 1949, 3:Lunar, Review with tags , on May 4, 2009 by Aaron

Nelson Bond
1949

The Thirty-First of February is an unusual title. This is a collection of thirteen stories that supposedly could have been written on that date. As we all know there aren’t 31 days in February, so we can conclude that this must be a fantasy collection.  There is very little in the way of science fiction here, not that there is anything wrong with that at all. Indeed, the stories in this collection are fine examples of the short form of writing.  Like many of the authors who were published by Gnome Press, I hadn’t heard of Nelson Bond prior to this endeavor.  He wrote across many genres and for many mediums apparently – early television, radio, plays as well as books and magazines.

The man has (or rather had, he’s dead now) talent.  I could see that from about 2 pages in to the very first story.  The Sportsman was the name of the tale, it was very simple with no real twist or big ideas, just a little mystery at the end.  A little low-key maybe, but it gave me an excellent insight into Bond’s style.  It’s definitely dated though he creates a certain ‘imagination flavor’ for me.  Two writers that come to mind as I think about this idea are H.P. Lovecraft and Mervyn Peake.  Lovecraft creeps along dark, slimy and forbidding ways with unseen things lurking behind the words.  Peake’s prose rides dust motes suspended in shafts of sunlight in an empty room and smells a bit musty.  Mr Bond is sports jacket-wearing after-dinner cigars in a slightly smokey but well lit study, leather-bound volumes lining the walls and a tumbler of whiskey at hand.  Well, that’s what they do for me, and I like writers that can have that effect.

The stories in this collection are a little ordinary, there are no ingenious plots, not unexpectedly clever twists and nothing that really knocks me back enough to say “Wow, that was great!!”.  But for me, that’s not the point.  I enjoyed this very much but not because of the aforementioned qualities (indeed, they were a bit lacking), but for the consistent quality and ‘flavor’ of his writing.  I just enjoyed reading it so much!  Of course it’s not really as bland as perhaps I am indicating here, so I’ll mention a couple of the more interesting stories.  Not necessarily the best, but most interesting.

‘The Five Lives of Robert Jordan’ follows several hours in the life of a man who, by the strange power of a mysterious watch, lives these hours several times over as a different personality.  For each  the same basic events unfold, having the same basic outcomes, but in different circumstances.  Actually, it reads more like an assignment that the modern creative writing teacher might dish out, and after the first two or three iterations I found myself very impatient for the conclusion.  I guess back in the ’40s this device might have seemed intriguing, but alas, sixty years on it’s not new.

Which brings me to another point.  One which I’ll no doubt touch on many times over the course of this odyssey.  When reading these books, it is always good to keep in mind that the stories that Gnome Press published were for the most part penned sometime between the early ’40s and late ’50s and when reading books of a certain vintage, we should try and time-warp our conciousness back to those times.  It’s often a little unfair to judge a book like this in contemporary light.  I must post on that at more length sometime… anyway, back to the book at hand.

The final story ‘Pilgrimage’, tells of a time in the not too distant post-apocalyptic future where a matriarchal tribe lives in an area named Jinnia, and the next Clan-mother is sent on a quest to discover the secret of the Ancients.  On her journey, she is rescued from the attentions of a wild Man-thing by a man who is obviously not a degraded man-animal as she would expect.  They travel together to the Place of the Gods as he tells tales to her disbelieving ears of how the human civilization used to be patriarchal before the fall of the Ancients.  They travel through Braska territory and on to Kota where she gets an unexpected surprise when she views the Gods visages carven into the mountain…

As much as I admire Nelson Bond’s prose and enjoyed reading this collection, none of the stories really captured my imagination.  This collection is subtitled ’13 Flights of Fantasy’, and although the writing is streamlined, aerodynamic and looks nice taxiing up and down the runway, unfortunately for the most part they struggle to get airborne.

Close Up: The Thirty-First of February

Posted in 1949, Close Up with tags , , on April 8, 2009 by Aaron

closeupNelson Bond
1949

Condition-wise, this is the best GP book I have, unread by the looks of it.  I doubt I will find another title this good either (but I hope I do).  However, I am led to believe that quite a few copies of this book were remaindered, so there is an unusual amount of fine examples floating around.  I just got a bit of provenance back from Jack at S & S Books:

…we purchased them in November 1977 from F & SF Book Co. Inc., Staten Island, NY.  They seemed to have been affiliated with Donald M. Grant, Pub. Inc., Hampton Falls,  NH.  Somehow they discovered and acquired a cache of these previously published books and sold them to retailers such as us.

Interesting.  Regarding this copy, there is nothing really to say, the pictures say it all.  I’ll allow them to talk, so sit back, listen and enjoy what they impart, though I will interrupt them but once.

Ok, I’ll just interrupt briefly.  You can see some slight scuffing on the dust jacket towards the top of the spine.  The photo enhances this quite significantly, in actual fact this is barely noticeable in real life.

It arrived without a jacket protector.  I photographed it before I put one on and it made a big difference to the results.  I wish I could do them all like this, but it’s safer to leave the protectors on in most cases.

Year: 1949
Paid: $40
Art: James Gibson
Quantity: 5000 + 100 Limited Edition + 12 Special Limited Edition copies reserved for Nelson Bond. Currey claims an Armed Forces paperback edition was produced in 1952 – probably 1000 copies.
Binding: Burgundy cloth with darker burgundy lettering on the spine and cover.  Currey claims black lettering – the copy I have is practically new as you can see and it doesn’t look black to me.  Currey also states that the 12 SLE copies were with slipcase and sans dust jacket and the remaining 100 LE were in dust jackets and most if not all were without slipcase
GP Edition Notes: 1st Edition
Comments: The block is pristine and white.  Nothing else to add, a superb copy.
Expand Upon: wikipedia.com, Internet Speculative Fiction Database

condition

New Arrival

Posted in New Arrivals with tags , , on April 8, 2009 by Aaron

I’m at work at the moment and just got handed a package which contained The Thirty-First of February by Nelson Bond.  This is the best condition Gnome Press book I have ever seen.  It looks like new.  Some just say that because it looks pretty darn good, but I kid you not.   This thing looks like it did 60 years ago.   If you want one, get over to SNS Books on eBay, Jack has three left.  If they even come close to the one I got for 40 bucks you are going to be very happy.  I’m going to do a Close Up on this next, stay tuned.

I envy those…

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , on March 31, 2009 by Aaron

…who can think, organize those thoughts and express them coherently in writing.  I just discovered another very interesting blog by one James Wallace Harris: Auxiliary Memory.  Along with (one of) his companion site(s) The Classics of Science Fiction, these represent all that is good in SF.  Sharp and insightful analysis expressed in a logical and eminently digestible way.  I’m going to nab a term from my good friend Adrian the Sesquipedaustralian, and refer to myself as “a crackpot wordsmith with a poor grasp of what constitutes good narrative structure or flow.”  Or probably more accurately I have the ability to painstakingly add bare coherence to a stream-of-consciousness rant that flows like molasses.

Anyway, it’s well worth checking out James W. Harris – I put him over in the links section on the right.  Some great reading there.

In other news, I scored a near mint copy of The Thirty-First of February by Nelson Bond.  Well, the seller described it as such.  We’ll see when it arrives.  A dust jacket for Sixth Column, which I recently reviewed, went for $56 on eBay yesterday, an inferior dj to what’s on my copy too.  Interesting.  Also, my Gnome collecting friend Christophe discovered that he has a book plate in his copy of The Dawning Light.  Not especially interesting, apart from the fact that it’s from the same personal library as my copy of The Survivors!!  How about that??  If he sends me a pic, I’ll post it.

I’ve been mulling over how to handle the review for The Complete Book of Outer Space.  It’s a fiction book, or really a combination of fiction and speculation.  The content doesn’t really lend itself well to a conventional review, so I think what I’ll do is pull a page or two from the book every so often.  There is some interesting stuff in there, especially about how they imagined space travel and exploration.  Remember, this came from the viewpoint of 1953.

This has been too long with no pretty pictures.  Here’s a sample from ‘Outer Space’