Looking Back is a Bad Habit: Rooster Cogburn

The three of them would walk down to Owl Drugs after school, and there they became a cartoonist’s club – of sorts: Paul Davis, Russell Myers, and Archie Goodwin. And who would have thought of the trio of Will Rogers High School students as headed for stardom?

What?

You don’t know them by name?

I had a surprise there, too. Opened up the mail and pulled out a first edition copy of True Grit by Charles Portis, which ranks somewhere near the top of my list of favorite books. As it is with any new acquisition, I was checking the copy, making sure it was everything it ought to be.

It was.

Portis wrote the story with a rural eloquence that is almost poetic. Then there is that wry humor as typified in the courtroom scene:

Goudy: I believe you testified that you backed away from old man Wharton?
Rooster Cogburn: Yes, sir.
Goudy: Which direction were you going?
Rooster Cogburn: Backward. I always go backward when I’m backin’ away.

My examination had me lingering over the dust jacket and the artwork. A singular style, I thought. Simplistic but powerful. Knowing the story, I thought it captured the essence of both Mattie – the main character – and the title of the book.

paulDavisTrueGrit

I wondered who had painted it, and that’s when I learned about the after-school artists and Owl Drugs in Tulsa. Paul Davis did not linger in Tulsa long after high school. His skill with the brushes earned him a scholarship at a New York City art school, and he established a reputation and a clientele in short order.

His works were visible on the streets, on television, in magazines, and on movie sets. He painted record album covers and advertising art. He was in high demand as an illustrator even before he founded Paul Davis Studio in 1963. It was five years later that he was commissioned to do the dust jacket for True Grit.

It positively shocked me to learn that he grew up in Tulsa.

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But I could relate to the idea of a cartoonist’s club. My ninth grade buddies and I considered ourselves more of a clique than a club, but we spent more time than we should have, putting pen to paper. Shortly before the end of the semester, my English teacher took me aside and informed me that I had turned in so few assignments that she was going to be forced to fail me.

She told me she hated to “Fail” anyone, and intended to record my grade as – I – for Incomplete. The letter wouldn’t make so much difference, I thought – figuring whatever letter she wrote would probably keep me out of tenth grade, or have me in “summer school” at the least.

It likely wouldn’t happen today, but she allowed me to stay after school each day of that last week of school, starting at the top and working my way down the stack of the semester’s worth of assignments I’d failed to turn in…

…because my buddies and I were too busy free-handing the line art from A Tale of Two Cities.

It was passable art that almost kept me from passing out of ninth grade, but – obviously – not enough to win an art school scholarship.

On the other hand, Paul’s art buddies managed to find their ways into the art world. Archie Goodwin – whom I had the good fortune to meet on an occasion – made his mark in the comic book world and was a frequent guest at conventions.

The work of Russell Meyers is something I examine every morning. The Tulsa World carries his comic strip Broom-Hilda, which Meyers syndicated in 1970 – the same year I squeaked into my sophomore year.

It doesn’t surprise me that so many talented folks have ties to the Tulsa area, but I am surprised at the number – with international renown – who have managed to slip under my radar.

Being a fan of True Grit, it tickles me greatly to know that the story is set in our general area (including a visit to JJ McAlester’s General Store!) and is such a wonderfully written book wrapped in artistic local color.

Like to own a copy?

I just happen to know where I can lay hands on a First Edition…

Come visit!

McHuston

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

Holding Some History

Who knows how many are left in the world, and I have one in my hands, right now! (Well, in truth, I had to put it down in order to type this…) It’s a double-first, of sorts.

In 1859, Charles Dickens won an argument with his publisher that had gone to court, and as a result, he started his own magazine. It was a weekly journal that he called “All the Year Round.” He imagined it as a literary paper, and found a quote from Shakespeare to supply the name for his new enterprise. In OTHELLO, Wild William had a passage that went: The Story of Our Lives from Year to Year – All the Year Round.

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Dickens put it on the masthead of his first issue, which was dated Saturday, April 30, 1859.

And that was the issue that was in my hand before I set it down to type. Issue No. 1 – right there under the name of Charles Dickens.

I’m enough of a history nut that I imagine what was going on when these pages came off the press and were delivered to his subscribers. The US Civil War was still years in the future. Braum’s Concerto in D-minor hit the Top 10 in new releases. The elevator was invented, so folks could finally reach the upper floors.

And on July 11, A Tale of Two Cities, by Charles Dickens – was published.

In July. But here in my hands (I picked it back up, but I’m setting it back down again…), is/was the very first printed version of that epic Dickens work, having made its April debut in the premier edition of his new journal.

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So. It is the Number One issue of the new magazine, containing the introduction of his new novel-to-be.

A Tale of Two Cities was serialized with a chapter or part of a chapter appearing each week in the journal. It was through his subscribers that Dickens was able to make a living while continuing the writing process. Subscribers not only got first crack at the story – as an added bonus, when the story was concluded the collected chapters could be dropped by Chapman and Hall publishers to be bound into a single volume.

A great addition to any home library!

An average first edition (in book form, as opposed to bound from subscriber chapters) can be found in the neighborhood of $4000. And I suppose the TRUE first edition is the copy issued as an entire book.

In the meantime though (and since I’m not likely to ever own a true First Edition copy), I’ll have to be satisfied with having a copy of the first PRINTED edition of the story in my hands (okay, technically – on the desk to my left) along with Issue No. 1 of ALL THE YEAR ROUND. Geek fun for Dickens fans.

It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was at the bookstore that serves lunches…

Come visit!

McHuston

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

Stormin’ into the Weekend.

It was an interesting lunch hour Friday – needless to say – what with the tornado sirens going off and the lights flickering. We were fortunate.

There was a brief outage, maybe twenty to thirty seconds. It always seems longer when it is completely dark. I was about to locate a flashlight so our guests could find their lunches when the power came back on.

Around the corner on Kenosha, my sister wasn’t quite so fortunate. The power went out at Martha’s Health Foods before noon and stayed off most of the afternoon. They were obliged to move their activities closer to the light through the front windows after the skies cleared.

SpokeHouse

It was a deluge here in the Rose District and brought unfortunate news for The Spoke House, on our side of the street, but at the end of the next block south. Those 80+ mile-an-hour winds caught the brickwork at the top back corner of the building and sent bricks tumbling to the sidewalk. A car parked nearby looked to have caught a little damage as a result, but no one was injured. (Image is courtesy of the Broken Arrow Ledger, subcribe today!)

We’ve had some bad experiences here at the bookstore with driving rainstorms. The typical rain shower caused no problem, but with a strong wind added in, water seemed to find a way to slip through the roof. A crew was on the roof a couple of weeks ago, and today was the first true test.

Success!

Not a single drop of water from the ceiling – no mopping, no mess, no trash can or mop bucket drip collectors.

Books and water don’t mix, and it was a pleasure to report to our leasing agent that the work on the roof did the trick perfectly.

Sometimes I think that folks tend to speak complaints quickly and are slow to give up words of praise. (I’m not excluding myself… frustration often loosens the tongue…) I don’t know the name of the company that did the work, but they were quick and efficient and effective. If you need work on a roof – I’m sure I can get the name of the company to pass along.

While I’m at it (digging into that bag o’ compliments), I should mention the fantastic work done on the Firebird by Ray the Ace Mechanic at Affordable Automotive. It has been years since it has had air conditioning, and I had forgotten what a great thing AC is. It’s really satisfying to get so cold in the car that the AC has to be turned down.

I’ve been driving around like a teenager with a brand-new license.

Unsure of the forecast, but Friday is calling for Croissant Club sandwiches on the chalkboard menu. Delly-delly-delicious on a buttery croissant roll.

Come visit!

McHuston

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