I’m getting ready to move, an event that’s overdue, stressful, exciting, and exhausting. My days are consumed with organizing and packing, with the last couple of weeks focused entirely on books (and no, I’m not done yet). But as I’ve been sorting through them all, I realized I’ve ended up with a small collection of signed copies, which I’ve decided to share here, along with their stories. Enjoy…
The Recipe of Love is a cookbook by the owner of a (sadly, now closed) Ethiopian restaurant in Toronto, Addis Ababa. Aster, the owner, was a big part of the warmth and appeal of Addis Ababa and I didn’t hesitate to buy a copy of her book the first time I was there. Of course she was kind enough to sign it. It’s still one of my favourite cookbooks.
This obscure little book on photography used to belong to a friend of my SO’s family, Lillith Black. When Lillith was 98, I spent some time reading to her at her nursing home (it was only for a couple of months before she died, unfortunately). My SO’s dad ended up with a few of her things and gave us some of her books, including this one. As I was getting ready to pack it a few days ago, I took a look inside and realized the author had signed it for Lillith. Book friends never really die.
Lady Cottington’s Pressed Fairy Book was a fun find. Written by Terry Jones and illustrated by Brian Froud, this is “Lady Cottington’s” album of pressed fairies (think pressed flowers but slightly grosser). I wasn’t expecting to find this at a hospital fundraising book sale, and was even more surprised when I got home and realized it was signed by the author.
I few years ago I had the pleasure of attending a talk by Anthony Bourdain (RIP) and Eric Ripert. Afterwards they were selling books, including some that were signed. Get Jiro! was one of the few Bourdain books I didn’t already have. Everyone seems to focus on his TV career, but for me his writing was where he really shone.
I bought The Blind Assassin on a whim at a secondhand shop (I’m not normally a Margaret Atwood fan– heresy, I know– but the story sounded interesting). I didn’t get to it for a couple of years and it was only then that I noticed it was signed (I even checked online to make sure it was really her signature– definitely looks authentic). I really need to learn to look inside books right away.
This next book is my favourite, not only because I loved reading it, but also because of what happened the day I got it. My friend had convinced me to go see Salman Rushdie give a talk. This was sometime after the fatwa had been lifted and I think he was starting to do more events. That talk ended up being inspiring in ways I hadn’t expected. Rushdie touched on what it was like to be a writer and what his process involved…and I could relate. I loved writing and wanted to spend my life at it, but I was new enough that I still had doubts that I had any chance at it, or that I really “belonged” among real writers. But everything Rushdie said that day made sense to me and confirmed what I was doing. This isn’t to say I’ll ever be anywhere close to the talent that he is, but, yeah, I made the right choice with my life (maybe not the sensible choice, but the right one). Afterwards I bought a signed copy of The Enchantress of Florence, and every so often I peek at what other authors are saying about being a writer– just to make sure I’m still on the right track.
I have a couple more signed volumes by fairly obscure authors, but I’d already packed them by the time I thought to do this post. How about you– what are the interesting books in your collection? Share in the comments…
Aspasía S. Bissas
PS: I have signed copies of Love Lies Bleeding available for $21 (S&H incl.; price is for North America). Contact me if you’re interested.
Have you had a chance yet to watch the new Netflix/BBC Dracula? I was pretty excited to watch it, especially given the involvement of Mark Gatiss and Steven Moffat. These two have done some amazing work on shows like Sherlock and Doctor Who (Moffat in particular is responsible for some of the best episodes of Doctor Who, ever, and is the writer of the brilliant episode “Blink,” which introduced the nightmare-inducing Weeping Angels).
So, yes, excited for Dracula.
And it was…meh. Some great moments that didn’t seem to go anywhere. Weird pacing. Pointless scenes. And I wasn’t enthralled by Claes Bang’s portrayal of the Count. I mean it was okay, but just okay…much like the rest of the show.
As a reminder of how scary (and fun) Dracula can be, here are some of my favourite portrayals of this most classic of all vampires…
I have to start with the original, Stoker’s Count. Although Stoker wasn’t the first to write about vampires, his character (and book) started an ongoing obsession with vampires, inspiring countless variations over the decades. Many of what we now consider essential characteristics of vampires: aversion to sunlight and garlic, lack of reflection, supernatural powers, vulnerable to a stake through the heart– all came from Dracula. A few have been discarded over the years too– how many modern vampires have hairy palms or need to keep the soil of their homeland handy? If you’re a vampire fan and you haven’t read Dracula yet–drop everything and get yourself a copy.
Nosferatu is an early, unauthorized, movie based on Dracula. The names were changed (Dracula became Count Orlok, for example) but that wasn’t enough to keep Stoker’s widow from suing (and eventually giving up after the film company went bankrupt and copies of the movie got out anyway). You can’t beat Nosferatu, or Max Schreck’s Count, for atmosphere, dramatic visuals, and general creepiness.
Although Bela Lugosi may be the definitive Count Dracula (and no one is disputing that he did a great job), Christopher Lee gets my vote for best film Dracula. Imposing and intense, it’s hard not to agree that Lee is pretty awesome in this role (I’m not sure he really needs hypnotic powers– he’d do fine all on his own).
I have to admit I’m not a fan of Coppola’s Bram Stoker’s Dracula (although after watching Gatiss and Moffat’s version, Coppola’s ranks a little higher now), but I do enjoy Gary Oldman’s performance in it. He seems to embrace the character, especially when he surreptitiously licks Harker’s bloody razor, which is my favourite moment of the entire film:
Here’s the entire scene if you want some context:
One of my absolute favourite portrayals of Dracula is in Buffy in the episode “Buffy vs. Dracula.” It’s a great episode overall (who doesn’t love Xander as Renfield?) and Rudolf Martin does a fantastic job as Dracula. Aside from the show, Dracula makes an appearance in several Buffyverse comic books (scroll down the link to “Appearances” for the full list). It’s well worth tracking them down (if for no other reason than to find out whether Spike ever gets the eleven pounds Dracula owes him).
And lastly (on what is by no means a comprehensive list), what’s not to like about Community’s Troy attempting to put together a cool Halloween costume by becoming a “sexy Dracula”? 😉
What did you think of Netflix’s Dracula? Who’s your favourite version of the Count? Share in the comments…