Friday, June 26, 2015

Meditations on "Meditations on 'Meditations on Oysters'


It was on a bitter-cold February day that I set out on a three-block Odyssey from Seventh Street to Ninth in Center City Philadelphia. To explain how this came about, I must first write a few words about Dragonstairs Press.

Dragonstairs Press is not, as some have assumed, my vanity imprint. The truth is a bit more complex than that. Dragonstairs is wholly owned and operated by Marianne Porter, my wife. The chapbooks she assembles are issued in limited editions at affordable prices and consequently they sell out pretty fast.

As an editor, Marianne has the enviable advantage of having an in-house writer -- and one who needs only to be paid with kindness and breakfasts. Sometimes she creates chapbooks from existing materials, such as the sketches I drew while working on Chasing the Phoenix, which became the stab book, Hunting the Phoenix. Other times, she commissions a work, such as the Lizzie O'Brien story that became Tumbling.

One day, roughly a century after it was written, Marianne came upon Christopher Morley's essay, Meditations on Oysters and was charmed by it. The writing was graceful and the substance was lighter than air. Essentially, Morley took a three-block amble to lunch, jotted down a few observations about the voyage, and then went back to his office at the Philadelphia Evening Public Ledger and typed it out.

Since the essay was out of both print and copyright, Marianne conceived of the possibility of reprinting it in pamphlet format. Since she had a writer at her disposal, she requested that I compose a companion essay.

Which is why the two of us were walking slowly up Sansom Street while I jotted down everything I saw in my notebook.

Now, publication day approaches for the fruits of our labor. Marianne is currently at work assembling and sewing a tĂȘte-bĂȘche (what we in the genre call Ace Doubles style) chapbook with Morley's essay on one side and my own Meditations on 'Meditations on Oysters' on the other.

That's it, up above, midway through the process of creation. Note the cultivated pearl knotted into the binding threat.

The chapbook will be issued in a numbered and autographed (by only one of the authors, obviously) edition of fifty.  It's not available yet, but when it is, you'll be able to find it on the Dragonstairs Press website, here.


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