Bookstores of Wellington, New Zealand: Arty Bees Books

Hello! It’s been quite the year-long hiatus… well I’m finally returning after having most recently traveled some countries, including bunkering down in several bookstores in NZ during my stay. Honestly, I planned only two bookstore visits in Wellington according to some recommendations, and was so impressed by the selection and presentation that I proceeded to bookstore hop for an entire day. So even more bookstore reports to come!

Arty Bees Books is located right off Cuba Street in the heart of Wellington, and offers sprawling selections of just about anything– fiction, references, instructional pamphlets, children’s literature, music, histories, rare/old tomes, and most importantly, bizarre bibliophilia curiosities. The best (and strangest) part was that I kept laughing while browsing Arty Bees whether from interesting shelving formations, weird collections displayed proudly, or the endless number of interesting genre placards. That does not happen at chain bookstores!

arty bees front
Sheet music AND imported SFF

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Favorites from the stash: The Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam

One of many books of which I’m really fond, despite it not being exceptionally attractive or at all rare. It’s a bargain hardcover edition (Peter Pauper Press) of the Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam from the 1950’s or ’60’s, and it’s really kind of cheesy-looking (rather like Edward Fitzgerald’s occasionally back-of-hand-pressed-to-brow maudlin*, very loose translations), yet utterly charming. It’s only about 4 inches by 6 inches, and it’s printed in three colors, with decorative motifs and some awesomely faux-riental illustrations by Jeff Hill. Unfortunately I neglected to get any photos of the latter, but you can probably get an idea just looking at the rest of the book…

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Favorites from the stash: Orlando

Mentioning Virginia Woolf’s Orlando in the Argosy Books post made me remember that I had taken a couple of photos this past winter to show off my copy, just after I’d finished reading it. Of course I meant to review it, too, but my mind was so thoroughly blown that I still haven’t been able to take on the task of putting together anything coherent and less than thirteen pages long. (I think one of the only concrete things I said about it to Kakaner after I finished it was OH MY GOD LITERARYGASM. Textuality, sexuality, creation of artistic/sexual/romantic identity over time, creation of history, individual experience of time, all delivered with outrageous style and wit… It’s the kind of book I wish I could take a course or three on, but I loved equally what I understood of it, and what I didn’t.)

So, have some pictures of the book in the  meantime. Maybe they’ll go partway towards communicating the extent to which I love this book.

It’s not an outstandingly pretty edition, but there are so many little things I love about it: the size (it’s about the same height as but an inch or two wider than a modern mass-market paperback), the worn teal binding, the fact that it’s still printed in letterpress, the unmistakable dry sweetish old-book smell. Also, it was one of the few things that I bought at the archetypal local bookstore-that-was-independent before the owners sold it in 2007.

Also, the brief and mysterious inscription on the endpapers:

Anyone out there who can read Sanskrit…?

Just two more photos under the jump.

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Additions to the horde

Since gifts inevitably and wonderfully mean new books. (Also, when it comes to books, I feel like there’s not that much of a difference between a horde and a hoard.)

Two pocket-sized, appropriately wintry, deliciously fully-cloth-bound-with-color-plate volumes of adorable. (Am I gushing too obviously? They really are that adorable, though.)

Neil Gaiman‘s Odd and the Frost Giants – didn’t even know it had finally been issued in a hardback edition! I spotted these for 50% off at Barnes and Nobles when snooping around with Kakaner and a couple of other friends, and predictably, both Kakaner and I ended up snagging copies.

Philip Pullman’s Once Upon a Time in the North – I love these little additions to the His Dark Materials universe. The actual story included in the last volume, Lyra’s Oxford, wasn’t too impressive (though it did hint at some awfully interesting sequel possibilities), but the presentation is impossible to resist – cloth binding, woodcut illustrations, fold-out maps and inserted postcards full of sneaky references for the HDM-obsessed… Books with personality and foldy-slidey bits, yes please.

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In Which Emera and Kakaner Try to Memorize Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell, K

Once upon a time, Emera and Kakaner were high school students who shared roughly half their classes and more importantly, were badminton partners in gym.

I am writing to tell you all about a peculiar period of time in our senior year of high school during which we tried to memorize the hulking blaring entirety of Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell, by Susanna Clarke. Emera had read this first and strongly impressed upon me that if I did not read it soon, my very existence would dwindle and die away. In no time, we were both completely obsessed with JSMN and literarily worshipped its texts, and for a long time, could speak of nothing else. Reviews of JSMN will be forthcoming– it’s just that our current reviews are rather explosive and incoherent. JSMN also made it to our The Black Letters Top Books list, so you can understand what kind of literary entity we are dealing with here.

We were inspired by Ray Bradbury’s Farenheit 451. Although both of us had already read the book before being assigned to read it in AP English, the second time around, the concept of memorizing an entire book in secret really tickled our fancies. So, we conferred, and somehow decided that the 800-page JSMN was the obvious choice.

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Bookstores of New York: Books of Wonder

Books of Wonder
18 West 18th Street, New York, New York
Date visited: 07.31.09

This past summer, Kakaner and I, plus another friend, went on a mini-tour of several independent bookstores in New York City. Chief among our destinations was Books of Wonder, which specializes in children’s and fantasy books, both new and collectible. I’d first seen some of their items at the New York Antiquities Book Fair in the spring, which is a subject for another entry, but I’d been enchanted even then by their gorgeous editions and collection of original cover art. Their actual location proved to be just as much fun.

My house will probably look like this one day.

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Isaac Marion Stash and a Story


By now, I’m sure you’ve seen Emera’s and my numerous reviews of Isaac Marion‘s works, namely The Inside, Warm Bodies, and Anna. These works are pretty much all highly recommended, and are self-published by Marion (links provided at the bottom of this post). Marion is noted for his strange genre niche that is, for the most part, a mix of horror, weird fiction, and romanticism.

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If you’ve ever felt inadequate about your bookshelves…

…take a look at Neil Gaiman’s library. As featured in Shelfari, which appears to be a sort of Facebook for people obsessed with books.

The only other time I’ve seen that many (predominantly) genre books in one place is, well, never. (Maybe Kakaner has seen more, given that she’s personally ransacked the catacombs of the MIT Science Fiction Society Library, but I’m still betting that Mr. Gaiman’s shelfapalooza could hold its own.) Also, this is apparently only “the downstairs library,” as the “upstairs library with all the good reference stuff in it” is not featured.


It’s pretty delicious to go through each full-size photo and check out the individual books – like four copies of Ellen Datlow and Terri Windling’s Swan Sister, and a Swedish (?) edition of one of the Sandman volumes.

Now excuse me while I go and take a cold shower.

New books for August

In an effort to stave off our ridiculous acquisitions rates, Kakaner and I have undertaken a pact not to buy any more new books until… well, for as long as we can possibly restrain ourselves, and hopefully we’ve actually read the greater part of the books we’ve bought but haven’t yet read. But prior to that, I, of course, bought a lot of books this summer. Ahem. Here are some of the ones that I’m most excited about.

A 1905 (?) edition of Lafcadio Hearn’s  A Japanese Miscellany (originally published 1901) – I’ve been wanting to find a copy of his Kwaidan: Stories and Studies of Strange Things for ages, with little luck given his relative obscurity. So I was astonished to see three beautiful, first-edition-or-nearly hardcovers of his works on a shelf at Skyline Books in New York City. No Kwaidan, but this seemed the next best thing. 1905 is pencilled in on the endpapers, but I suspect from this nifty index of Hearn’s work that I have the 1906 edition, which would make it second edition.

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We don’t sparkle…

…but we do hunger immortally. And if we could stalk books and watch them sleep, we probably would. Below, find some of our most yearned-after books, over which sighs have been heaved and wallets have been fingered.

Emera’s delicious unattainables

  • Neil Gaiman’s Neverwhere. Signed, limited, $200 (HarperCollins, 2009) – The first Neil Gaiman novel I read, and still one of my most beloved. “Deluxe Limited Numbered Edition, signed by Neil Gaiman, with a full cloth jacket in a fabric-bound slipcase. Includes two-color text and endpapers, and two full-color illustrated spreads. Limited to one of 1000. ” According to the man himself, it is also “several thousand words longer than the current US edition” and “has a bunch of odd, previously stuff in the back — my original outline for the BBC series and such.” Aiiiieee.
  • Ray Bradbury’s The Martian Chronicles: The Complete Edition.  Signed, limited & lettered editions currently on preorder, $300/$900 (Subterranean Press, 2009). Over 50 stories, essays, introductions, two full-length screenplays, full-color plates, “deluxe binding” on the lettered edition… excuse me while I expire in this corner. Subterranean Press: elevating book-shopping to a whole new level of debauchery.
  • Peter S. Beagle’s The Last Unicorn: The Lost Version. Signed, limited, out of print (Subterranean Press, 2007) – Beagle’s original, abandoned draft of his classic novel, featuring a modern setting and a completely different cast, apart from the unicorn herself. I always knew I would regret not buying this the instant it came out, which was at about the same time that I became aware of small press. This was also before I had multiple jobs and thus disposable income. Curses! It’s been unavailable on every book site that I watch, oh, pretty much ever since then, but I have put out watches for it on both Amazon and AbeBooks (which has a book-watching tool far superior to Amazon’s – Amazon’s commits you to buying the item if it ever becomes available, without your being able to review the condition and price first). It will be mine, someday.

On the other hand… stuff that’s significantly more attainable and will in fact be coming home at one point or another:

  • Kage Baker’s The Women of Nell Gwynne’s, a steampunk mystery novella about exclusive prostitutes who also happen to be the intelligencers of a secret organization. One reviewer described it as “James Bond in the 19th century.”  Could this sound any more AWESOME? Also, Kage Baker has a really cool name.
  • Caitlin Kiernan’s Alabaster, a dark fantasy short story & novella collection about an adolescent, albino, monster-killing girl named Dancy.  Again, sounds awesome, I love the cover art, and Caitlin Kiernan is one of those authors whom people keep telling me I’d like.
  • Peter S. Beagle’s Mirror Kingdoms. A “best of” short story collection. I preordered this in large part because I was smarting at not being able to find TLU: The Lost Version, and because I was resolved not to repeat the incident. Also, preordering of either the trade or limited editions is currently discounted – I got the normally $60 limited for $48, and Subterranean preorders give you free shipping. Win-win.
  • Finally, fellow bibliophile/blogger Vega, of The Athenaeum, was kind enough to obtain a signed copy of The Unicorn Sonata from Peter S. Beagle himself at San Diego Comic-Con for me. A thousand thanks!!


Kakaner’s Objects of Desire

  • Ender’s Game, by Orson Scott Card. First edition. $1000. ‘Nuff Said.
  • The Time Traveler’s Wife, by Audrey Niffeneger. First edition, signed, $225. I’m a bit torn about this possible purchase… the only copy I can find is a bit worn and stained. However, to still my grabby hands, I have pre-ordered this. I can’t wait for October 1st!
  • Starship Troopers, by Robert A. Heinlein.  First Edition ~$5000. These books are the reason why I feel it is important to make money… have an income in general. Of course, with a name like Heinlein, one should totally expect to spend at least this much money. At least there’s hope! There seem to be a couple copies floating around, although I would totally hold out for a signed edition.
  • Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell, by Susanna Clarke. 1st edition, 8th printing, signed. This will probably be pretty high on my list, despite the fact that I already own four… other… editions…

What I Currently Have…

  • The Scar, by China Mieville. Limited 1st Edition, signed, #407/1000. Gold-edging, ribbon marker, overall droolness.
  • Ender in Exile, by Orson Scott Card. Signed 1st Edition. I’d always wanted to see Card’s signature in real life… it’s powerful! Huge round, loopy OSC. What a treasure =)
  • The City & The City, by China Mieville. 1st Edition (well, technically I think), signed, and personalized at a China Mieville author event I attended! Incredibly treasured, and sits proudly next to The Scar.

Moving onto less well-known authors, but equally treasured in my library:

  • Kings and Assassins, by Lane Robins. 1st Edition signed! Personally shipped by the author– everyone should read Maledicte. I own two copies of Kings and Assassins and one copy of Maledicte.
  • Warm Bodies, by Isaac Marion.  1st Edition, self-published, one of 100+ copies, signed. I am of the strong opinion that Isaac Marion is going to experience great writing fame in the future. Although Warm Bodies isn’t necessarily my top choice when it comes to his works, his short stories (all available on his website) are delectable and must-reads.


Anyone else out there hankering for oh-so-tantalizing books? Those teases.