A Year of Pandemic
A Letter from Tony Weller
Last year, we did not produce newsletters between February and June. This year, there are no gatherings or in-person author events scheduled for March and April. We are still living in pandemic times. At this anniversary of the onset of the global crisis named CoViD-19, we are different people. I am grateful that our staff and bookstore have remained uninfected. Our masks, sanitization and distancing measures are designed to keep it that way. As dark a cloud as the pandemic cast over 2020 was, the virus was only an awesome backdrop for many happenings in one of the most troubled years most of us can recall.
When it becomes safe to again gather, I look forward to renewing the monthly Collectors Book Salons. The last one that we had featured John Reed speaking about the uncommon trajectory of his life, explicable, somehow, through his consumption of mass-market military histories. By March we were forced to cancel collector’s chats by John Sillito and Madelyn Garrett.

Last year, as news of the pandemic grew, it did not take long to lose faith in national and state political competence for guidance. We were about to reduce business hours for safety when we were surprised by the earthquake that shook the Wasatch Front on March 18th. After clean-up and wit-gathering, we returned to bookselling with shortened days. We had planned full closure on the 30th, when Salt Lake City Mayor Erin Mendenhall suddenly preempted our date with city-wide closure on the 28th.

In the early days of shutdown, like many others, Catherine chose to learn to bake with sourdough. After some weeks of process, her sourdough loaves became a regular part of our pantry. One of the best of our family customs was reading out loud together in the evenings. Catherine and I started this with our baby in 1997 and our family took turns picking books and reading together for 19 years. The custom lapsed during Lila Ann’s college years but Catherine and I decided we missed it and brought it back into our evenings during the pandemic with the reading of Don Quixote, which we read together between spring and autumn. Now we are enjoying our second reading of Martin Seay’s Mirror Thief.

The bookstore was closed for not quite five months, until August 17th. Family members processed web orders for mail or curbside pickup. In the early days of the pandemic, readers wanted books on plague and pandemics, along with baking, fermentation and raising chickens. Many readers decided, like Catherine and I, that it was a good time to read classic books. These patterns held until they were knocked aside by nationwide protests following the tragic killing of George Floyd. The so-called United States have not yet exorcised the demons of ancestral bigotry. And we will not until we face and eliminate the structural inequities built into our society. As protests roiled our nation, many of us were horrified by counter-protests defending racist beliefs we had hoped were nearly extinct. Most know the protests were just and my pride swelled when I came to our shuttered bookstore in May and found Black Lives Matter and Rainbow flags in our window.
A few weeks into careful reopening with slight staff and meager hours, while accustoming ourselves to new levels of anxiety, cleaning protocols and facial fashion, we were startled on an early September morning by a massive windstorm that delivered 100 mph winds and widespread damage. During pandemic, following the earthquake, and the protests, the windstorm made 2020 feel like a dystopian science fiction novel. That our president so resembled a two-dimensional cartoon villain deepened the bizarre feeling. What effects this will have on persons and people is yet to be understood.
Some days after the windstorm, a displaced owl took residence in an abandoned robin’s nest on a protruding capital of a pillar on our porch. It stayed for a day, left the next, and returned again. It felt auspiciously magical to have an owl on our porch. It was gone on the fourth day and Catherine and I felt sad – we had begun to think of it as our owl.

Many have commented on the odd affect the pandemic has had on sleep and dreaming. I am no lucid dreamer but in my twenties I overcame nightmares with a simple dream exercise learned from Carlos Castaneda, not all of whose advice I follow. Bizarrely, with the pandemic came outrageous and memorable nightly dreams for me. Our days were tediously similar but by April I would go to sleep with enthusiasm wondering what fantastic events would be in store each night. Sadly, the run of clearly remembered dreams has now ended. But in October I had what I believe is the most remarkable dream ever, which is amazing since I have flown with Superman and swum with dolphins. Last October, I enrolled in a college course that taught how to extract physical objects from computers using mind power. Our class was small and I was the oldest student in it. Our professor was coaching us how to pull continuous strips of paper from our computer monitors when I became distracted and impatient and decided to drive mental music into my machine. Immediately, my monitor began pouring bright psychedelic patterns into the classroom and they enveloped us on all sides, pulsing and morphing in tight and complex coordination with the music, the music of my mind.
I really want to do that dream again.

As we moved toward winter, I felt pretty dark. The bookstore was doing okay and none of our staff had become infected. The cumulative effects of anxious pandemic tedium combined with the chaos and instability of the least civilized election year I’ve ever witnessed made the announcement that Utah would lose printed versions of its daily newspapers at the conclusion of 2020 emotionally devastating. Most of my life I have read the Salt Lake Tribune each morning. I am getting accustomed to the digital news and feel especially good on Sundays when I read the paper.

Could there be stronger evidence that the culture shift we’ve been straddling has nearly concluded? Not that change ceases, but we are witnessing the passing of a paradigm. Let not oldsters impede the paths of our children. As decent parents should, let us help. Many have speculated that the world will not return to the patterns we remember. The paradigm to which we are accustomed has been at breaking point for years and the definitive disruption the coronavirus caused is likely the final factor precipitating a new chapter of history. We are its authors. Let’s write with open eyes, open hearts and compassion. I remain hopeful because I believe in the decency of people, that it is hardship, poverty, neglect and abuse that make monsters.

But the truth of a single world with intertwined interests and problems cannot be denied forever. It is typically the children who embrace a generation’s most profound discoveries. Let us acknowledge and embrace the less encumbered visions and hopes of the young. For hell’s sake, the future is theirs!

A survey of history shows that it takes massive energy to reform any system of government. If one examined positive historical events, one would see that most occurred following messy disintegrations of civility. You know, war, pestilence and natural disasters. Maybe, when humanity finally achieves some control over CoViD-19, the subsequent cultures will have a more holistic understanding of our mutual needs, desires and rights. Hey, is anyone checking birds at the U.S. border? Do coyotes use passports?
Acquisitions in Rare Books
By Tony Weller
The Rare Book Department mostly houses older items but sometimes we display newly published books that are precious, expensive or awkward. This is a good moment to remind you that age has very little influence on the value of books.
A Mycological Foray by John Cage
At present we are showing the recently published Mycological Foray by John Cage, who in 1961 published one of the most influential books in my life, Silence. Few have held the rare Mushroom Book he published with Lois Long and Alexander H. Smith in 1972. The 75 copies contained 20 brilliant lithographs of mushrooms. Atelier Editions of Los Angeles has collected Cage’s various writings about mushrooms and reproduced the images from the rare 1972 production. Two small quarto pieces in a slipcase. A 166 page book and a portfolio with ten folded leaves housing the brilliant reduced-scale reproductions. $55
“Fear, clarity, power, old age: obstacles one removes with invention.”
The Black Books by Carl Jung
We are also showing The Black Books by Carl Jung, his “confrontation with the unconscious” written in his journals between 1913 and 1932. Norton has published these deep and private writings in seven handsome black linen-bound volumes housed in a slipcase. They contain facsimile reproductions of the hand-written journals with English translation. $300
“My mystery is the essence of all magic. And that is love.”
…and a handful of new old acquisitions
The Jungle by Upton Sinclair
Literary works may have impact on readers but very few are credited with actually changing the course of history. Publisher after publisher rejected muckraker and journalist Upton Sinclair’s novel The Jungle before he got it published. In rejecting the manuscript, one prominent publisher remarked that it didn’t generate sympathy for the poor as much as it gave cause to hatred of the rich. First serialized in the U.S. Socialist newspaper Appeal to Reason throughout 1905, the full book was published in 1906, weirdly concurrently by Doubleday and by Sinclair himself under The Jungle imprint. Most remember the book for the horror it revealed in the meat packing industry, for which The Jungle is indicated as a primary cause for founding the U.S Food and Drug Administration. While this was the effect of the book, Sinclair wrote it as a call to socialism. Some have said it’s the best fictionalized way to understand Karl Marx. Once it broke through publishing barriers, it was reprinted many times and has been in print since.
I have handled several copies of The Jungle over the years but I was surprised to receive a brown cloth copy printed by Albert and Charles Boni in 1928. No, it is not even near the first edition but not an edition one will see often. In very good condition with softening hinges. $200
The Potato Book by Myrna Davis
Why would someone pay $125 for Myrna Davis’s 1973 Potato Book? Maybe because of the recipes. Maybe because it contains cool seventies illustrations by 23 prominent artists. Maybe it’s the potato games and crafts or maybe it’s the introduction by Truman Capote or all of the above. Someone will buy this book for $125. You?
Old Florentine Designs
for Playing Cards
Maybe there were censors to avoid when printing and marketing the gently erotic Old Florentine Designs for Playing Cards. No printer or publisher, no origin, but likely circa 1965, this small folio contains eight 28x36 cm reproductions of cards from this historic risqué deck. Subtle damp staining. $50
The Mortal Messiah
by Bruce R. McConkie
Few LDS fictional works have achieved the status of Bruce R. McConkie’s Mortal Messiah series, first published between 1978 and 1982. In 2010, the six books were issued in brown bonded leather with gilt lettering and décor, and housed in a slipcase. Here is a perfect set for $350
The Deseret News - Utah Women Can Vote
“Be it enacted by the Governor and the Legislative Assembly of the Territory of Utah: That every woman of the age of twenty-one years who has resided in this territory at least six months next preceding any general or special election, born or naturalized in the United States, or who is the wife, widow or daughter of a native-born or naturalized citizen of the United States shall be entitled to vote at any election in this Territory. Approved February 12th, 1870.” From The Deseret News, Wednesday, February 16 1870. You can own this important paper for $300
Our March & April Best Weller Pick:
Once I Was You by Maria Hinojosa
Receive 20% off this title
when you buy through April!
Maria Hinojosa
Atria Books
Hardcover $28.00

I tend to be a sensitive person but even so, it’s not often I find myself openly sobbing while reading a memoir. If you’re alive in the United States, the opening scene in Once I Was You won’t be a surprise, but it will grab your heart. Reporter Maria Hinojosa’s interaction at the McAllen airport in Texas with immigrant children who have been separated from their parents by the U.S. government puts the children’s fear and confusion--the utter cruelty--right in front of you, demanding you look. Hinojosa wrote the introduction as a letter to one of the children she spoke to. She tells the 10-year-old girl from the airport, “I see you, because once I was you.”

Hinojosa immigrated to Chicago as a baby. Her family left Mexico so her dad could take a job as a professor and researcher at the University of Chicago. The story of her family’s journey across the border includes a customs agent who tried to separate baby Maria from her mother because of a small rash on her arm. This was 1962. 

In telling her own story, Hinojosa tells the story of immigration in the United States. She doesn’t limit the story to immigration from Latin America, but contextualizes each wave of immigration in the American story. American immigration policy has always been--and continues to be--about maintaining a “white” society. While what defines whiteness has shifted over time (Italian and Polish immigrants were not always considered white in America), the ideal of keeping the “other” out has stayed the same, despite that white America inhabits land stolen from Indigenous people.

Of her own story, Hinojosa describes her experiences breaking into news as a Latina--often as the first or only Latinx person in the newsroom--and her personal heartaches and joys. Once I Was You includes stories behind her reporting such as Hinojosa living in New York City and covering 9/11, traveling to Louisiana to cover the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, and her 2011 PBS Frontline documentary Lost in Detention in which she reports the living conditions for immigrants in detention centers.

Throughout her recollections Hinojosa describes policy changes and how they affect immigrants, as well as cultural and historic moments at state and national levels. She beautifully connects her own life and reporting career to immigration in the United States. 

Once I Was You is essential reading because understanding immigration policy and history in the United States is necessary for understanding America itself. The cruelty of detention and anti-immigrant policies; the beauty and greatness immigrants bring to this country; all of it forms the structural threads in the fabric of American history, culture, and everyday life.
Upcoming Events
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 Michaela Carter
Reviewed by José
Avid Reader Press
Hardcover $27.00
Published April 6, 2021

When twenty-year-old Leonora Carrington met forty-six-year-old Max Ernst at a London garden party in 1937 he was already an established, and extremely charming, figure in the European art world—a hero of both Dada and Surrealism. Considering her creative predilections and her antipathy toward her authoritarian father's industrialist-conservatism, it was not surprising that she was smitten. What was surprising was the fact that a seeming infatuation rapidly bloomed into a substantially-rooted, reciprocal, romantic and creative relationship.
Too often novels based on real lives and grounded in historic events founder because they are devoid of the compelling dramatic trajectory required to ensnare a reader's empathic curiosity and generate vicarious immersion. But the saga of Leonora's and Max's intimate alliance is packed with all the enchantment, creative fulfillment, precipitous tension, and unanticipated resolution that a skilled novelist could wish for—once she's done the research. Michaela Carter more than proves her skills as a writer and her devotion to research with this captivating narrative. 

In Paris Leonora and Max are swept up in the outrageous whirlwind of Surrealism's cafĂ©/gallery culture—Dali, Man Ray, Picasso, AndrĂ© Breton, Marcel Duchamp, Lee Miller et al. Eventually, they settle into a more subdued, isolated and idyllic, creative refuge in Provence, where they inspire each other to their finest works of art. The idyll is doomed, however, by the onslaught of Nazism and the expanding cultural eclipse of World War II. Their aesthetic dream is devoured by a nightmare of forced separation, imprisonment, madness, and hair's breadth escapes that are, miraculously, superseded with the assistance of individual guardian angels, by salvation, and eventual international acclaim.  

For Max Ernst, in the male-dominated, post-war art world, that acclaim was a culmination. For Leonora Carrington, who died in 2011 at the age of 94, it was more of a gradual and posthumous revival, with recent republications of her extraordinary surrealist writings and recognition of the allegorical brilliance of her paintings. This novel's roller coaster ride is a worthy extension of that ongoing tribute and rejuvenated fascination.
by Michelle Nijhuis
Reviewed by Frank
W. W. Norton & Company
Hardcover $27.95

Beloved Beasts is a truly remarkable human history of the conservation movement.

This is a must-read book for those who are interested in how we have gotten to this point in helping to preserve species in an age of loss of species. Nature writer Michelle Nijhuis has written a well-researched book on the individuals throughout history, since the late 19th century, who realized that our rapidly industrializing and globalizing societies were driving other animal species to extinction. Questions soon arose about the abuse of domesticated animals, our responsibilities toward animals hunted for food and sport, and why any of us should make sacrifices, even in the short term, to ensure the persistence of other species on the planet.

“This book,” writes Nijhuis, “is about the humans who have devoted their lives to questions – the scientists, birdwatchers, hunters, self-taught philosophers, and others who countered the power to destroy species with the whys and hows of providing sanctuary. Each person profiled here stood or stands, at a turning point in the story of modern species conservation – a story which, for better and sometimes worse, still guides the international movement to protect life on earth.”

Some of the people in this book are familiar to us--Aldo Leopold, Julian Huxley, and Rachel Carson--but others are not. One of my favorite early characters was a feisty, wealthy lady named Rosalie Edge who confronted the then fairly new Audubon Society for its support of the hunting communities who contributed to its funds. A pivotal person in this book is, of course, Aldo Leopold who realized that not only was protected game vital for sustaining the health of natural communities, but so were the large predators who relied on those populations for food.

This is a fascinating study, not idolizing those who paved the way, but chronicling the evolution of conservation thought. It’s not a light, fluffy history, but a well-told, and thought-provoking book. Each chapter details the life and thought processes of each individual and how they influenced the movement. At this pivotal time in our human history when we see the effects of climate change, this is a great book to reflect on. It is easy for us to forget these people and what they accomplished, but the world we live in is far richer for their efforts. The author’s wish is that this book will also offer hope for those conservationists yet to come.
Pandemic Reflection
Quarantine Daydream
A sonnet and watercolor by José Knighton

In pungent shade of juniper I peel
a hard-boiled egg while seated on a throne
of tumbled quartzite stone, smooth, hard and real.
Each in their turn, distanced but not alone,
lazuli buntings, in a trio, sing
from scrub oak boughs that cluster openly.
Ahead, in fissured cliffs where shadows cling,
soars Jumpoff Canyon's arc—embracing me.
Behind me, down below—a quilt of streets,
an asphalt petri dish—our culture grows.
That sparkling patch—catchall for cheap receipts
is where Walmartyr crowds share COVID's dose.
I'll look for firechalice's fevered fronds,
late-summer fuchsia's, blood-wild, magic wands.
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