And Whatever walks there, walks alone.

“Fear,” the doctor said, “is the relinquishment of logic, the willing relinquishing of reasonable patterns. We yield to it or we fight it, but we cannot meet it halfway.” And later, the doctor was gone, and “Silence lay steadily against the wood and stone of Hill House, and whatever walked there, walked alone.”

I used to read books with eerie passages, like this one from author Shirley Jackson (I could give you the whole self-analysis rationale, but I’d rather you make it through to the end of this little note…). I don’t read them so much anymore. Like anything else – cars, movies, clothing – the offerings range from cheap and disappointing to over-the-top-stand-up-and-applaud good.

Shirley Jackson’s classic scary book, The Haunting of Hill House, is the PHD of Fright, the Mother Superior Sister of Sinister, and the Extension Ladder of top-level terror. But – it isn’t one of those with chain saws, fingernail-claws, or soon-to-be-toast teenagers muddling around in dark places.

When I finished the last page of Hill House, I shuddered like a Labrador just out of the farm pond. Wasn’t sure exactly what had just happened, but – either way – it was darn creepy.

hillHouse

And there are plenty of people who reacted the same way. At its publication in 1959, the New York Times reviewer wrote of author Shirley Jackson: “In The Haunting of Hill House” she has produced caviar for the connoisseurs of the cryptic, the bizarre, the eerie, guiding us along the frontiers between commonplace reality and some strange ‘absolute reality’ of her own.”

Horror-master Stephen King calls it one of the most important horror novels of the 20th Century. And he ought to know one.

There are plenty of books on my “would love to have a 1st Edition” list – and Hill House is on it.

Again.

After years and years of searching (oh, there are a few out there for sale, but not in my price range), I happened across one that I thought I might be able to own. Thought about it. Thought some more. Finally, I decided I wasn’t getting any younger, and made the commitment. Felt like a kid with a new grape sucker when it arrived in the mail.

Wrapped the dust jacket in protective archival plastic and put it lovingly on the shelf, where it has been for the past six weeks, and where I have visited it – more than once. Showed it off to my daughter on Monday and asked her to take custody of it in the event of my being run over by a bus.

Yesterday, the book appeared on the checkout counter. Without my putting it there.

When I looked up, there was a somewhat familiar face – a customer who has purchased a number of collectible books from me over the years. I removed the card that indicated the price, and tilted it in her direction.

She nodded and said, “I’ve already talked to my husband about it. I told him some of my college text books cost this much, and where are they now?”

I had to agree, and – although my heart sunk just a little bit – I rang up the sale and gently placed it in a bag.

It’s sort of a running joke – that the books in the shop are a bit like my orphans and it is my duty to find them good homes. I know this one will be well taken care of and appreciated for the special volume that it is.

Would like to have gotten to know that particular book-child o’mine a little better though! In the meantime, I’m back on the hunt for another orphaned copy of the book…which is okay, too. I love a good safari!

We’re serving up some hauntingly delicious fare at lunchtime tomorrow, so…

Come visit!

McHuston

Booksellers & Irish Bistro
Rose District
122 South Main St, Broken Arrow, OK!

Auctioning Off Old Memories…

It’s the rare day when you find yourself up for sale on eBay. Not a Buy-it-Now, either. Selling off a bit of me, Auction-style.

Back in the day, between the job and the raisin’ up o’ the children, I would hunch myself over a typewriter of an evening, tapping out words. (That’s the sound typewriters made: clack-clack-clackity-clack, ding! Bzzzzzssssttt. Some of you will recognize the Carriage Return there.)

I don’t think I ever truly harbored thoughts of becoming a famous writer. One whose novel was turned into a blockbuster movie. Lounging on the veranda in sunglasses even on a dreary, overcast day. Maybe holding a Meerschaum pipe near my lips as though I was smoking the thing.

theShow1

There wasn’t enough time to finish a novel, so I cranked out short stories. Bad ones, mostly. It was like a compulsion though: get a little free time and plop down at the writing table. Finish one up and deposit it in the closet with the others, maybe expecting a publisher to break in the house one night to pilfer and publish one of them. Didn’t ever happen.

So, instead of continuing to wait for the Thieving Publisher, I sent one of them off, safely tucked into a manila envelope along with my great hopes.

The thrill when a reply arrived! The nervousness. My name beautifully hand-penned on the envelope, bearing a publisher’s return address, me fearful, but opening it anyway. He liked the story, he said. Thought it was a little Bradbury-esque (goosebumps for me by that point) and wondered if I would object to it being included in the next issue.

What??? Are you kidding me?

theShow2

He later mailed me a little check (even smaller by today’s standards…) and I waited anxiously for the arrival of the copy he promised me.

Publishing has changed greatly in the past decade, and the idea of desktop publishing was a new thing way back when my story was accepted. Not that it made any difference to me. My fiction was in the magazine along with stories by other folks, several of whom were pretty well known (in some circles).

I was published, thought I.

The capper to the thing was this: shortly after the magazine came out, my buddy and I attended a convention on the east coast. Some well-known authors were there (Stephen King was a no-show). And a lot of fans/readers. Heading out to dinner, we were joined by a fellow we met, who casually asked if we were published writers.

Hah! I was a little embarrassed – but a little bit proud, too – to reply that, amazingly, I had a story in the latest issue of a little magazine. He wanted to know what magazine, and I told him. He knew the publication. What story, he wanted to know, and I told him.

He had read it!

As good as it gets for me, at that moment in time.

We had an enjoyable evening, the three of us heading out for an exotic meal. (He had heard of Arby’s but there were none in his home-state. Oh, well… it would have to do for exotic.)

There aren’t many copies of that little magazine around any longer. At some point I had entered an eBay search to alert me in case one ever came up for auction.

Today was the day. I’m tempted to put in a bid just to own it.

But I already know how the story ends.

Come visit!

McHuston

Booksellers & Irish Bistro
Rose District
122 South Main St. Broken Arrow OK!

Just like Grandma used to make it…

Believe me. The art of cooking has changed, and not just the microwaves, blenders, and Ginsu knives. Today’s recipes are tested in laboratory-type test kitchens, ingredients change, and there is a focus on food safety that wasn’t so up-front in the old days.

Then, there are some prep stages that we skip, these days.

1902cookbook

From the Harper’s Cook Book Encyclopaedia (1902) and the section on Poultry:

Fowls to be tender should be killed two days before they are cooked. When plucked, singed, and drawn, rub clean outside, and wipe inside with a wet cloth.

I’m betting my grandmother would know the steps to pluck, singe, and draw a chicken. Don’t know if those skills were passed on. To be honest, I would have no clue as to whether a plucked chicken had been singed or drawn.

Porridge? Not just in nursery rhymes – but might as well be. The recipe has enough mystery that I wouldn’t want to tackle it, things like “a half a pint of whole groats.” Even the spell-checker got nervous at that word, displaying its wavy red line. Don’t know groats, but they are boiled for two or three hours with water added “if too thick.”

Our infatuation with bacon isn’t a new thing, but a hundred years ago there was a third cooking method besides frying or baking. After covering the slices with cold water, the bacon was brought to a boil, “removing all scum as it arises,” and simmering until thoroughly done. (An hour and a half for two pounds.)

I imagine some of these recipes were traditional family favorites handed down from the 1800’s or earlier, with basic spices found in most kitchens. The dishes themselves are almost exotic in themselves. Entries for Beef Tongue (4 versions, including “smoked, a la Marigold). Sheep’s Liver, Fried. Scotch Haggis. (I’ve seen this one at the Scottish Festival, but admit to not having tasted it. Seeing the recipe just now reaffirms my decision to pass on that vendor’s offerings.)

And here is “Beef Stew, Irish.” Not accomplished in quite the same fashion as our own recipe, but I’m sure the result was quite tasty when our cars were basically carriages without the horses with the addition of a loud, pockity-pock engine. (That’s a 1902 Oldsmobile in the picture, the same year the cookbook was published. That year, most folks would walk or travel on horseback, a fact of life that remained until well into the next decade.)

1902olds

Here’s some advice from back when that car was just introduced: “When the blue smoke arises from the fat, a small piece of stale bread should be dropped into the kettle. If the bread is browned in one minute, the fat is ready for frying breaded chops, croquettes, fritters…” Not sure those instructions are as sound today as back then. I was taught that when smoke “arises from the fat,” the next stage is flames, as in – grease fire!”

Stuck into the pages of this old cookbook is a newspaper clipping with three recipes. Turning over the old, yellowed paper revealed a column of classified ads, and after completing a little investigation, I’d wager this paper came from Spokane, Washington at about the same time the book was published. (By 1909, Ed McCaffrey was teaching plumbing, but was still listed in his advertisement as being on Riverside avenue, with the same telephone exchange.)

The last ad on the page? The BOOK NOOK HAS A BIG LIVE live line of popular fiction, etc. We buy, sell, exchange.

Some things don’t change.

Come in for books or lunch, or books about preparing lunch!

McHuston

Booksellers & Irish Bistro
Rose District
122 South Main St. Broken Arrow OK!