WORD FROM WELLERS | DECEMBER 2020
A Holiday Word from Catherine
This letter from Catherine was originally published in our 2016 holiday newsletter. We've decide to share it again this year, as many of us are nostalgically looking back at past years spent with loved ones, and through those memories envisioning the future we'd like to build.

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Different things make the holidays meaningful to each of us. Some of us worship, others gather with family and friends, still others travel or recreate, and some do all of the above. I think it’s fair to say what stays with one year upon year are the memories that form over time. They become the stories and traditions we pass along to younger generations. They are the moments we reflect upon this time of year, when decorations and recipes come out of boxes and music takes a turn to the sacred and nostalgic.

My Bestamor, my grandmother, gave me the same things for Christmas every year. And yet each November I would eagerly await the box that would arrive in the mail from New Mexico packed with Advent presents -- special treats of which my Utah friends were at first ignorant, then jealous – and pecans, often a ristra for the kitchen, and several beautifully wrapped rectangular objects. They were books, of course. Bestamor was a high school English teacher with excellent taste in literature. She exposed me to many authors I never would have read on my own. Some, such as Eudora Welty, I have enjoyed through the years; others, not so much. But at least I have read them and I know who they are, a fact for which I have thanked my grandmother more than once or twice. Many of the books are still on my shelves.

Bestamor used to say she’d never given a book she hadn’t read. Since she was a phenomenally well-read woman I took her at her word. Only when I was an adult did I realize the humor in that statement. Some of the books I received, though new, were obviously to my more educated eye, gently read. Sneaky! When I figured that out, I was delighted that she gave herself little gifts when she purchased ones for me. Each and every book she gave me was inscribed, “For Catherine from Papa and Bestamor. Christmas,” followed by the year. It was her tradition. Now the memories make me smile when I see one of those books on my shelves or when I get out the decorations. She gave me the best gift of all, a lifelong love of books and writing.

I hope you will all find yourselves the recipients of such wonderful gifts as that, as well as all of the hope and joy you will need to sustain you in the New Year.

Catherine
Cool Literary Art from the Green Cat Press

By Tony Weller

From the mid-1980s until about a decade ago, Susan Makov printed literary broadsides with her partner Patrick Eddington at their Green Cat Press in Salt Lake City. Susan is an artist who moved to Utah in the 1970s to teach printing arts at Weber State University. The broadsides Green Cat made married new art with brief writings by well-known contemporary writers, including Brian Aldiss, Margaret Atwood, Ray Bradbury, Wendell Barry and Joy Harjo, mostly about cats. The press also printed short books, of which we have titles by Roddy Doyle, Cees Nooteboom, Lewis Nordan and Terry Tempest Williams. These are all handsome thoughtfully printed art and books. They could make unique and charming gifts.

Events
SATURDAY DECEMBER 5
2 PM

Steve Cressen
virtually shares poetry from his new collection Big Day

We're delighted to announce a virtual event with local poet and artist, Steve Creson, who will be sharing poems from his latest collection Big Day, a short film shot on 16 mm, and a music video from Fern Creson. Tune into our FB page Saturday, December 5th at 2 PM where the event will be livestreamed!

From the afterword of Big Day, written by Jim Jones:

In his art Steve Creson never makes a mistake. His poetry, films, photographs, paintings, collages, and designs are all authentic expressions of his personality. It sounds simple, but all these genres tempt the artist to impersonate an idealized self, a self made in some sense to fit the genre. But Creson's work is all of a piece, and perhaps because he has always worked with his hands for a living, he has never given in to the temptation to idealize himself or his world.

Husband of a performance artist, father of a budding pop singer, easing into retirement from his successful construction business, Steve is still exploring new media, new projects, in his studio in Salt Lake City, still giving readings and showing-during the pandemic, streaming-his films, mounting exhibitions of his visual art. The book you hold in your hands is his Big Day, the culmination of a lifetime of writing, but it's not his final word.

Big Day, the grand example of Creson's unfailing aesthetic sense, is guaranteed to teach the reader something important about the creative potential in the tension between past and present. "Writing now is immediate as it gets," the poet says in "Winter Flesh." Attentive reading replicates the act of writing, so this is a book you can read from end to beginning and, thanks to the alchemy of art, come out feeling more like Steve--and more like your own authentic self.
WEDNESDAY DECEMBER 9
6PM

Join Catherine and the crafters of Weller Book Works on Zoom for 40 minutes of casual bookish conversation and snacks. All crafts and crafters are welcome. BYOB.

Lit Knit is typically held the 2nd and 4th Wednesdays monthly, but this month we'll only meet on the 9th, due to the upcoming holidays.

Email catherine@wellerbookworks.com for an invitation to attend.



 Bookseller Thoughts and Reviews

By Shirley Jackson
Penguin Classics
9780143129370
Paperback $18.00
Reviewed by Tamsen Maloy

If you’re like me, you saw every screen iteration of Shirley Jackson’s The Haunting of Hill House before finally diving into the source material. While I have nothing but good things to say about the 1963 film version entitled simply The Haunting and love the Netflix series (let’s pretend the 1999 film version didn’t happen), as is often the case, the book is something else altogether. 

Having seen so many versions of this story before, I was prepared for a familiar cast of characters and knew the basic plot. But what’s special about reading the book isn’t just the extra details TV and movies left out; it isn’t just the additional frightening scenes that make reading alone in only lamplight a questionable decision; it isn’t just the quick-witted conversations between characters, especially between Eleanor and Theodora. Reading the text takes you directly into Eleanor’s mind in a way the 1963 film version couldn’t do even with voiceover. 

There’s a lot to say about what happens in this book and you could write entire essays and theses analyzing the details (and people have), but in an effort to avoid spoiling the journey for anyone who decides to read this book, I’ll leave it simply: Like Hill House itself, if you’re not careful, this book just might devour you.
By Patricia Highsmith, or Claire Morgan
W. W. Norton & Company
Paperback $14.95
9780393325997
Recommended by Lila Ann Weller

My favorite time to read The Price of Salt is early December, just as the wild combination of holiday cheer and retail clamor are reaching their peak. Not only is this the time I happened to stumble upon this singular novel years ago, but because it places those of us who are familiar with the nature of the U.S. holiday season firmly in the shoes of one of our leads: Therese, a young woman working retail during the Christmas rush who feels like an alien among humans, working to find herself in a culture that has firmly expressed that there is one way to be, and she isn't it.

I describe this book as singular because, to me, Highsmith's yearning, darkly passionate prose in The Price of Salt are unmatched, however the experiences of both Therese and Carol have been lived by many, in particular by LGBTQ+ folks who came of age in the early 1950s: years before the sexual revolution--though many of us know how hetero- and cis-centric the sexual revolution was, anyway--right at the birth of the first publicly registered gay rights organization, and a good decade before The Stonewall Riots. The elusive (by necessity) dance of two queer people falling radically in love during this era is likely fairly unfamiliar to a number relatively young readers, such as myself-- a reminder of how very long and hard our foreparents have fought for our right to exist, and to exist happily, as well as of the rights we still have to actively fight for, and legally gain.

However, one of the qualities that makes The Price of Salt a standout in early American LGBTQ+ literature is that the intense beauty of the story isn't overshadowed by the pain of living in a world that doesn't want or accept our main characters. In my experience, one of the self-preserving concepts a person of a disenfranchised demographic often becomes conscious of is that happiness and pain sometimes must coexist; when pain is ongoing--as in the case of a person struggling to accept and/or live their gender and/or sexuality free of abuse--it's clear that if we could only feel one strong emotion at once, we'd never feel happiness. This reductive view of the narratives of those in disenfranchised cultures has been used in media for decades to strip such folks of our humanity in the eyes of those who exist within dominant culture, and often to tacitly teach a lesson to the reader about the dangers of existing outside the bounds of that culture.

Despite Highsmith's notable struggles with her own identity and sense of self, and Therese's and Carol's similar personal fights, the two are deliciously unlimited in this sense: whole people whose narratives stunningly capture not only the experience of forming a chronically demonized connection, but also the intensity of a first true love. In fact, this story is downright gorgeous. Lovingly peppered with intimate, powerful affections that nearly all LGBTQ+ folks will understand the significance of--such as a lover calling you by the name that conveys your true identity-- The Price of Salt is an absolutely delightful read. If you've seen the hit movie Carol and thought "Well, this simply can't get any better!", I have great news for you.

An additional literary historical tidbit:
Earlier this year I had the joy of finding a 1986 copy of The Price of Salt published by the notable lesbian publisher Naiad Press, who in 1983 convinced Highsmith to let them reprint the novel, which had rather quickly fallen out of print after it was first released in 1953 under the pseudonym Claire Morgan. The lovely folks of Naiad did their best to incentivize Highsmith to allow the reprint to be released under her real name, but ultimately societal pressures were still too strong, and it was once again published under the name Claire Morgan. My 1986 copy isn't an extremely notable edition in the sense of rarity, though it is somewhat uncommon, and the earliest edition I've seen in person. However, what I find most striking is that it not only contains a wonderful list of a good few other lesbian books published by Naiad, but also an afterword written by 'Morgan' in '83, just three years previously, when she'd wrestled with the choice to once again release this deeply, somewhat painfully intimate portrait of herself back into the world, and the decision to do so once again under a false name for the sake of protection. She ends her letter to the reader--and the book as whole-- with the words:

"I am happy to think that it gave several thousand
lonely and frightened people something to hang onto."
--Claire Morgan

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