TEXTBLOCK | MAY - JUNE 2021
In Memoriam:
Lila Weller 1915-2021
By Tony Weller
In April, Lila Weller, matriarch of our 91-year-old bookstore, passed away. Her memory held events ranging from when she lost her mother in the great influenza epidemic of 1918/19 to the election of Joe Biden. Her years at the bookstore spanned 71 years, from 1949 until 2020.

Sam Weller’s personality and energy was so great that many barely realized Lila Weller was away from public view holding Sam and the increasingly large bookstore together. I mark her arrival as the event that gave Sam’s good bookstore a shot at greatness. I have described my parents’ roles to myself and others in a few ways. Sometimes I thought of Sam as the Master of Ceremonies and Lila as the Producer. At others, she was the nucleus of an atom holding the electron Sam in orbit. She did not care for Buddhist philosophy, but she felt like the Buddha of the Bookstore.

Some of my fondest memories of childhood with my mom are of her reading to me in the evenings. She was a quiet and introverted person and took me for walks in the Salt Lake City Cemetery. She did not often tell me what to do, and I enjoyed being involved in decisions. Years later she told me she didn’t know what to do with a child, so she had treated me like a small adult.
My father Sam was one of the most exciting persons I have known. He lived at the edges of emotions and I sometimes also described him as having the highs and tantrums of a toddler. Without my mother’s sage calm, I most certainly could have thought life was a series of catastrophes

Lila was born in a small Washington town in 1915. Her father was a railroad worker and she was the fifth and last child and only daughter in the family. Her mother was a victim of the second surge of the Great Influenza Pandemic in 1919, and she spent much of her youth in the care of relatives. She graduated in the top 5 percent of her high school class and attended a business college. Not finding work in her hometown, she moved to Salt Lake City in 1936 to live with a cousin who worked at Auerbach’s, where Lila got a job in the office. She joined a local chorus. She was a bookkeeper for a poultry company until a depression-era law required her to surrender her job to a man upon marrying her first husband. The following year, her husband opened a photography studio where Lila retouched negatives and hand-colored photographs until they divorced in 1948. Soon, while working as bookkeeper and secretary in Salt Lake’s Boston Building, she met Margaret Smith, who became her dear and life-long friend and virtual member of the Weller family.
In 1949, noting how many books she owned, Lila’s new roommate Lafaun introduced her to her bookseller friend Sam Welle at Zion’s Bookstore on 2nd South near State Street. Sam, a gregarious and energetic WWII vet, had been running the store started by his father in 1929 since returning from the war in 1946.

In 1950, Lila became secretary to Theron Liddle, managing editor of The Deseret News. She frequented Sam’s bookstore and, with Lafaun’s encouragement, Sam invited Lila to a baseball game. She started helping Sam with his bookkeeping in the evenings. They grew closer and married in 1953. The following year, she quit working at the Deseret News to take over bookkeeping at Weller’s. In 1956, Lila implemented an efficient card file inventory system that was used until 1989 when Sam Weller’s Books computerized its systems.

In 1961 Sam and Lila moved the bookstore to Main Street, where it operated for 50 years. In 1962, Lila and Sam adopted me and named me Tony to deepen the literary intrigue of Sam’s Dickensian name.
Lila managed bookstore finances until Sam lost his vision in 1997, when she quit working to care for him. They hired Debra Krings to help in the home. After Sam passed away in 2009, Lila returned to work at the age of 94, learning how to use the computer to make book descriptions for inventory. When she broke her hip right before her 100th birthday, Debbie moved into her guest room to provide care. In 2018, Debbie married and her husband Gary joined the household, helping Debbie with Lila. She returned to work while her hip healed and resumed work until February 2020 when she ceased working for safety as we all confronted CoViD19.

Books and music were important to Lila. She owned a large collection of Jazz and Classical records. And she always lived with cats. Lila was a constant reader. She enjoyed biographies, history, natural history, metaphysics, cookbooks, nutrition, mysteries, and jazz history. She might have owned every Pogo collection. She read Pride and Prejudice every few years and liked Agatha Christie, Ngaio Marsh, D.E. Stevenson, Angela Thirkell and Sara Woods. Family and friends saw Lila as a wise woman. Sam Weller’s stories could not have been as colorful without her detailed memory. Her presence added calm to any room.
During the year of the CoViD shutdown Lila’s energy diminished. She was alert and healthy until March when her energy flagged. Early in the month, she conversed and ate heartily. She passed away in her own bed in her sleep. Could one choose a more graceful death? As she planned for decades, her body has been donated to the University of Utah’s School of Medicine. When pandemic safety has improved, a memorial for Lila Weller will be announced.

The Weller family is grateful to Debbie and Gary for the loving care and comfort they provided to Lila in the last phase of her life.
Acquisitions in Rare Books
By Tony Weller
The Gardo House no longer stands at 70 East South Temple. Construction of the intended reception house was begun under Brigham Young but he would not live to see its completion. The House was used by LDS Church presidents following Young. It was demolished in 1921. In German, the word Sammelbande means items gathered and bound. English language bookdealers use the term because it has nuance unmatched by an English word. We are offering The Gardo House Sammelbande made in about 1882 specifically for use where visiting dignitaries could peruse Latter-day Saint tracts, scripture and histories. The ¾ leather-bound volume contains 13 publications, most notably, the 1877 Epistle of the 12 Apostles; the first Salt Lake City printing of The Pearl of Great Price; and Particulars of the Death of Brigham Young. $2000
A very good copy of the 2nd edition of Crane Brinton’s classic work, The Anatomy of Revolution. Brinton’s 1952 revision of his 1938 study. Black cloth in a lightly chipped and rubbed dust jacket. Former owner’s name on endsheet. Scarce. $500
A really bright, clean and tight 1st edition of Forty Years among the Indians by Daniel W. Jones. If not for the 1890s style of the binding, one might mistake it for new. $400
Set of the four main Deseret Alphabet publications from 1868 and 1869. The Book of Mormon; Book of Mormon Selections and the Deseret First and Second Books, the primers. The Book of Mormon is a copy that was once gifted by University of Deseret President John R. Park. These four unusual pioneer titles, $7000
Kurt Vonnegut: The Gospel from Outer Space (or, Yes We Have No Nirvanas) by Clark Mayo. Volume seven in the Milford Popular Writers of Today Series. This staple-bound, 64-page 1977 guide to Vonnegut describes his published works through Slapstick. Scarce. $75
1st edition of the 1978 Essential Frankfurt School Reader from Urizen Books. Contributions from Theodor W. Adorno, Walter Benjamin, Eric Fromm, Herbert Marcuse and others. Very good condition in a clipped dust jacket. Scarce in good condition. $125
The Collected Works of C.G. Jung. 20 volumes in 21 books. Hardcovers from Princeton, mostly reprints. Most are in very good condition but volume 18 was badly stored and has weak hinges and a corner of volume 20 seems to have been briefly dipped in a bathtub. Not a perfect set but one can’t easily beat the $1100 price.
Uncommon Seminary edition of a Triple Combination in hardcover with black pebbled cloth. Book of Mormon from 1950; Doctrine and Covenants and Pearl of Great Price from 1952. $120
Best Weller Pick:
Billionaire Wilderness by Justin Farrell
Receive 20% off when you purchase
during May & June
By Justin Farrell
Reviewed by Frank Pester
Princeton University Press
Paperback $17.95
9780691217123

In one of the most idyllic areas of our country the landscape is changing not only environmentally but economically as well. Teton County in Wyoming has one of the wealthiest populations per capita. Here, the incredibly wealthy come to build multimillion-dollar homes, enjoy the breathtaking beauty, and ostensibly turn to a simpler rural lifestyle.

Justin Farrell explores this phenomenon through tireless research and intimate interviews of these wealthy billionaires. The book is an important addition to the study of the growing income inequality in our country. We have seen an increasing amount of research on the poor, and yet very little on the super wealthy in our society. I wondered if I would want to read a book about the super wealthy, but it is this group which is wielding increasing power and changing the political landscape of our country.

Farrell interviews many of the wealthy in the area, his ticket to being accepted is that he is a Yale graduate, professor, and author. He has them share perspectives on their influence, environmental responsibility, and how they feel about interacting with the working poor they employ.

He shows how the wealthy take advantage of the tax shelter in Wyoming to avoid paying any income tax, and how they acquire huge areas of land under private ownership, driving out the less wealthy. The low-income families that work in the area can’t afford to live there and must drive long distances on dangerous roads to get from home to work.

Farrell likewise points out the complex reality of the wealthy's relationship with the land. He interviews them about their commitment to the environment they so deeply enjoy. He finds they employ capitalistic efforts of acquiring land for their own use, but don’t necessarily realize that the money they make comes with the high price of damaging the environment they love.

Despite this conflict, the wealthy want to be seen as “normal” folks who enjoy the spirit and lifestyle of the West. To quote Farrell:

This approach also corresponds with the view that nature is a much needed (and deserved) therapeutic cure-all, enabling the ultra-wealthy to remain sane amid the stress-inducting powder keg of a high-profile career, great wealth, and family demands. This safe approach to conservation, which emphasizes a vague “everything in balance” use of science, is aimed to preserve and purify an imagined Eden for the purpose of providing health-giving aesthetic beauty. In the end, this veneer prevents engagement with many of the most pressing, contentious, costly, self-demanding, and ‘unsafe’ environmental problems that we face today (for example, energy transition, climate change, modern consumption, drought, deforestation, and so on).”

This is a deep book with a large amount of information gathered from many sources. Farrell has done vast work to show the contradictions of the wealthy: they idealize the simple lifestyle of the West and the values of those who love nature, yet ultimately don't realize the costly means of their influence on it.
Upcoming Events
Tuesday, May 18 - Justin T. Call
Coinciding with the publication date of this new title, join our YouTube channel for this exciting event with Justin T. Call about his new book Master Artificer, the second book in Call's Silent Gods series.

The time of the event and further information will be forthcoming so keep your eye on our website and social media channels!

Wednesdays at 6 p.m.

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 held the 2nd and 4th Wednesdays monthly.
Email catherine@wellerbookworks.com for an invitation to attend.
Bookseller Reviews
by Jeff Vandermeer
Reviewed by José Knighton
Farrar Straus and Giroux
Hardcover $27.00
9780374173548

With his Area X novels (AKA The Southern Reach Trilogy) Jeff Vandermeer constructed a postmodern monument of contemporary Science Fiction, a milestone of literature of the future on par with the best of Asimov, Herbert, LeGuin, Gibson and Mieville. Though his follow-up novel, Bourne, explored a pollution-mangled world of bio-chemical degradation as creatively compelling as Salvador Dali's painting Persistence of Memory (with its landscape strewn with melting clocks) it was a world one could only gaze at from a horrified, awe-struck distance. And its post-human characters had mutated into abstractions far beyond this reader's empathy. 

Merely from its title, Hummingbird Salamander, I feared Vandermeer had ventured farther down this same path of hyper-mutated mash-up beyond my potential suspension of disbelief. To my pleasant surprise, I found, instead, Vandermeer had written something completely else: he had written his Maltese Falcon. And like Dashiell Hammett had done with his classic novel, Vandermeer had composed a page-turning mystery driven by the inexorable engine of the title's Hitchcockian MacGuffin. As with the ever-questionable existence of Hammett's "black bird," the hummingbird and the salamander of Vandermeer's title are both, quite likely, extinct.

"Who am I? I won't tell you. Exactly. But you can call me Jane," declares Vandermeer's narrator after recounting the delivery of the envelope that drops her into the book's ever-deepening rabbit-hole, an abyss that will estrange her from her husband and daughter, ruin her career in tech-security and endanger her life in myriad unpredictable ways. In spite of her initial, generic disclaimer, "Jane Smith" never seems like an abstraction. As a former high school wrestler and body-builder, the imposing character of Jane will need all her strength, endurance and determination just to keep her alive as she retraces the trail of an ecoterrorist named Silvina. The same enigmatic Silvina, disowned daughter of an Argentine global-capitalist billionaire, who sent Jane the aforementioned envelope with the two words of the book's title, her name and a key. And even telling that little is giving away too much: after all, not only Jane's fate, but that of the world may rest in the balance.
by Mieko Kawakami
Reviewed by Salem Rogers
Europa Editions
Hardcover $23.00
9781609456214

Following the success of last year's Breasts and Eggs, Mieko Kawakami's work threatens to enchant and disturb even more English readers with the upcoming translation of Heaven. Originally published in 2016, this unsettling novel turns its gaze towards cruelty, resilience, and trauma bonding, all filtered through your worst middle school nightmares.

We follow a nameless fourteen-year-old boy with a lazy eye who's relentlessly bullied in unfathomably vicious ways. Through the passage of notes and time, he strikes up an unexpected friendship with Kojima, a girl in his class who is also bullied for her dirty clothes and unkempt appearance. When they first start hanging out, they never mention the harassment, but as time goes on, it becomes a point of pride for Kojima, "When it's all over, we'll reach a place, somewhere or something we could never reach without having gone through everything we've gone through." This conflation of substance with suffering provides some small comfort, but as the abuse worsens, our protagonist begins to question whether the pain will really be worth it someday, and if it or anything else carries any meaning at all.

Heaven is an anxiety-riddled read. As we follow our protagonist's near daily attempts and failures to avoid harassment at school, during every moment of respite, we're left waiting for the other shoe to drop. In many ways, Heaven is a masterwork of suspense. Kawakami not only sustains our unease, she gradually heightens it by raising the stakes our main characters face. 

Kawakami superbly voices these characters. Thematically, Heaven examines complex and open-ended questions about morality, intent, and human nature, but it is always filtered through the lens of children, forced by circumstance to grapple with these issues early on. Their observations are eerily poetic in their mix of innocence and profundity, and though the feeling that accompanies the reader is most often dread, it is accented by the tender, intimate moments between our protagonist and Kojima, and occasional outbursts of beauty. At times, Kawakami even allows her prose to slip into the surreal, furthering the divide between the world these children occupy, and the world they wish they did. 

By turns, this book is alluring and nauseating, demoralizing and cathartic. In the end, neither the reader nor the novel's characters receive a satisfying explanation for the abuse, but in the real world, who does? Some things are so beyond justification, you have to create your own rationale from scratch. 

Heaven is released May 25th, 2021.
“I’m really alive! he thought. I never knew it before, or if I did I don’t remember!”
- Ray Bradbury, Dandelion Wine

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