Thursday, May 31, 2012

Toronto Public Library - new gay titles

The Toronto Public Library has released a pamphlet, a copy of which can be found at your local branch or at the CLGA, which showcases their many new acquisitions of LGBT books for 2012.
It's a great exhaustive list, my only complaint is I wish they put ebooks on the list.

One of the gripes I have with our society is the way it caters to children.  "Family friendly" events easily get tax dollars and public support, but adult only events, like Pride or Black & Blue in Montreal, often struggle for funds.  I don't have kids, I pay taxes, I'm an adult, and I don't see why some of the money I pay should not be used to fund events I attend and support.

It seems someone out there was listening, as in addition to LGBT books for youth, trans and lesbians, the following are some of the erotic gay works that can now be found for free at your local library! All of these books are from the aforementioned 2012 LGBT books pamphlet.

(Vancouver Nights looks good, I'm going to reserve it.)

Monday, May 28, 2012

The Red House by Mark Haddon

The Red HouseThe Red House by Mark Haddon
My rating: 1 of 5 stars

I admire Mark Haddon.
You have to admire someone who wrote a fantastic book, then a film for TV, then a book of poetry, then a novel. He hasn't followed a straight line, it seems like he has continually challenged himself and his art. With this new book he attempts to blur the line between poetry and novel.

While I do admire his attempts, I would also question the wisdom of never sticking to one thing long enough to perfect your work. Many writers' first book is not their best, and I would think by sticking to one genre you could learn things and develop.

This book is a disaster. I have read every book Haddon has written until now but unfortuantely I will be cautious before ever reading another word.

Told in eight alternating viewpoints, each character of the book sometimes has as little as one paragraph before we jump to the next character's paragraph, or we jump into a book someone is reading, or we jump into a poem someone read in 1958 or a TV show someone saw once, again only for a paragraph. I finished 25% of this book and I had no idea who anyone was. I doubt there is a writer alive that can balance eight destinct voices and random thoughts along the way and have the audience be able to continue to tell who the heck is talking.

The more important question is I think why. Why would you want to break up your story that much?

With the narrative flow gone and the reader's time spent guessing who's talking and who is who in relation to each other, or even if the person talking is a person, you really have no vested interest.

I got to 27% and I'm done.

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RENT - Lower Ossington Theatre

I saw RENT on Saturday night at the Lower Ossington Theatre.

I have seen this show onstage around 12 or 13 times so I know what I like, I know what I don't. I'm very particular, but I do also appreciate innovation and I think every production I've seen has brought something new to the table.

The first thing I noticed was an absence of the usual cast. I've seen quite a few plays, almost all, from the Lower Ossington, and the only cast member I recognized was Mark Willett as Brian from Avenue Q.

Three things that bothered me after I left. One, at the end of the first act, Aaron Sax as Mark said that Roger is going to write a "bittersweet, provocative song". The line is "bittersweet, evocative song." Roger is trying to write a song to evoke memories of his whole life and love and the disease, not a song to make people get naked to. He used the word provocative in the second act as well.

Second is that Jaclyn Herder, fantastic as Mimi in act one, left at the intermission. I've seen hundreds of plays, I've never seen this happen before. She was replaced by someone less stellar.

Third is that after Angel dies, she came back on stage before the end. There was generally a feeling of trying to use the whole cast more, for example I have never seen "Out Tonight" sung as anything but a solo and they had about 8 people on stage for the number. There were times it was too much. "Living in America" had the entire company on stage, including Angel who was dead. It really lessens the impact. Dead is dead, how are we supposed to suspend our disbelief if she's walking and having a dance party in front of us five minutes after dying? Also at the end Angel came out on the top floor, separate from the rest of the cast, which I didn't appreciate. Why keep her separate now, she was already doing a dead dance five minutes before? I would have rather seen her come out last and be welcomed by the other cast members and made to feel included.

Several more notes:

Although it's fine to listen to the soundtrack to memorize the notes, I would encourage the cast not to sing the soundtrack verbatim. Particularly Kevin Vidal as Collins, during the "I'll Cover You" reprise, he's just lost his life partner. Put more emotion into each note, building, and your voice should be strong, maybe even crack a little with emotion, when you hit the top, the line "When your heart has expired". It was too perfect.

The choreography was very ambitious. A little too much at times, for example in "Santa Fe", the cast links arms and does the dance from the Wizard of Oz, "We're off to see the Wizard" and we can see them rolling down the yellow brick road. Too much. I would say it worked well for "Out Tonight" though.

There was a couple of times the cast was so caught up in the dancing they missed the significance of the lines. In "Happy New Year" the line “That's for midnight” refers to the champagne bottle that one of the characters is holding and drinking. It’s Mark saying “Don’t drink that – that’s for midnight!” The line was delivered Saturday night to thin air, the bottle on the floor behind the cast tucked away and not yet touched.

Also in that song the lyric “5-4-3- open sesame!” refers to them breaking the lock off their door. The performance I saw, the lock was long gone, the open sesame command being delivered to thin air.

Graham Fleming is the most handsome man I’ve ever seen in my life.

He’s tall and beautiful, which is not an ideal fit for Roger, who is a dark and sullen rock star. Attempts were made to dirty him up, including eyeliner, fake tattoos, a leather jacket, but I don’t know that they really worked. He has an amazing voice but I just didn’t buy his depressed loner hunk. I would have suggested him for Mark instead, moving Kevin Vidal into the Roger role, a natural fit for the hunk.

I have never seen "Contact" performed without a sheet, and it was very brave of this young cast to come out shirtless, and very effective.

Marissa Dingle as Maureen was perfectly cast as the star of the show. This is the hardest role, you have to come on cold at the end of act one and instantly win the crowd over and mission accomplished.

Phil Skala as Angel and Jacqueline Martin as Joanne also stood out.

Doors Open Toronto 2012

Another excellent weekend at doors open.

We started on Saturday, my mom and I, and went first to the waterfront.  There was supposed to be 15 historic boats on display that you could tour and two buildings with historic photos and archival material.

We had seen the Harbour Commission building last year so we FINALLY found the right place (it was not really marked on signed) and the second building turned out to be a hallway beside Sobey's where they hung photos from the ceiling.  They looked cool but were a bit hard to see. 

The 15 boats turned out to be 8 per day, but we did get some excellent tours of the boats on the Mariposa Cruises ships. We plan to come back for their weekend brunch cruise, a 2 hour tour of the harbour and a buffet brunch for $49.

My mom is on the lamb from the feds, but here she is driving one of the boats.  No face!

Afterward we went to the Roundhouse at the base of the CN Tower.  We had a ride on their cool figure eight train and then went to some of the nearby buildings.
This set of switches was used to direct trains along the tracks.
 This is the Roundhouse itself.  Inside was a cool train show.
 Me going round on the Roundhouse.
 The Toronto Railway Museum was full of really nice people and I enjoyed meeting and talking to them.  They had some cool artificats set up on display.  They mentioned their museum is in danger of being closed and advised me to pass on their website at
 This is a button from a conductor's coat.  I think it's the coolest button I've ever seen. I submitted this photo and the one two above with the train car in the middle to the Doors Open TO photo contest. I also submitted one for my mom of the pews which is here later on.
 This is 1 King St West.  A beautiful banquet hall now, it was once a series of bank tellers.
 At over 100 feet, this is the longest bar in Canada.  It was originally a wall of bank tellers.
This is the vault in the basement.  That door is CRAZY, I have never seen a door so thick.  They said you could close it with two fingers.  They also drilled a series of passages underneath the vault to prevent people tunneling in.
Some facts from the sheet they handed out:
  • Built directly into the bedrock in 1913
  • 4 1/2" thick and 7' 6" opening
  • Weighs 40 tonnes
 You can click to enlarge these staff rules.  Apparently a law was passed for better working conditions and they are outlined here.  The bank called them "Utopian".  Such conditions included 11 hour days, no talking, no smoking, utopia!
 These were built in 1847 at the Church of the Holy Trinity behind the Eaton Centre.  Cool pews.

Totem pole inside College Park.

Sunday, May 27, 2012

Ready To Catch Him Should He FallReady To Catch Him Should He Fall by Neil Bartlett

Ready To Catch Him Should He FallReady To Catch Him Should He Fall by Neil Bartlett
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

I am very glad I read Bartlett's Skin Lane first.
That book is one of my favourites. Unfortunately it led me then to this one.

This book seemed to have everything going for it, nameless characters, as in Skin Lane, referred to here as O and Boy. Bartlett's poetic writing style is as always on display. A plot that sounds interesting.

What you find as you get in to the book is that the plot described on the back cover is the entire plot. Two men meet and fall in love at a local pub. Nothing else much really happens.

Bartlett's flowing narrative is on overdrive. It seems in this, his first book, he hadn't yet learned how to reign it in, and there are many times when it just becomes a rambling incoherent mess. These numerous jaunts take away from the already thin plot to the point that several times I found myself falling asleep trying to read the book.

I like the author's strong pro-gay tone, being openly gay and direct about it is never an issue. I totally agree though with another reviewer who said that this book is better to contemplate than to actually read.

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Friday, May 25, 2012

Two things

Saw this on the side of a streetcar

And this is the best book title ever.

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Keep the Lights On

In response to:

I found it interesting how for the most part, although they are both telling the same story, both Sachs and Clegg make sure to tell THEIR side of it and not too heavily involve the other in their narrative.  The one moment of cross over in both stories is the hand holding with the hooker.

I have read Clegg's books, Galassi's book, and tonight I saw Sachs' film and after having spent two weeks living these people's lives, I am really glad to be finished and to be able to walk away. 

So many thoughts came up, the meaning of life, our interactions with our selves and with others, our insecurities and how we hide them and what we sacrifice along the way.  Shame and guilt, and is shame selfish, and how to accept the past and move on, and how to learn from our mistakes and how to make better decisions.

Deep in thought for two weeks, and as I said, I am ready for a release.  I heard about Galassi's book from this blog and have referred many people to this post recently.  Thanks much.

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Flower in my hair

I'm going to San Francisco and LA!

I'm offiically booked, Air Canada departing Oct 18 for San Fran at 6:30 pm, flying to LA on Oct 24 at 1 pm, a cruise from Oct 28-Nov 4 and then home on Nov 4 at 3:15 pm.

I've booked the Golden Gate Hotel, complete with cat, for 6 nights.

While in San Francisco, I have to see:
- The GLBT History Museum
- Alcatraz
- Chinatown
- Muir Woods / Golden Gate Bridge
- Museum of Modern Art
I also have tickets to Wanda Sykes on Sat Oct 20

While in LA, I have to see:
- ONE National Gay & Lesbian Archives. They also have a Gallery/Museum 10 miles away from their research facility
- Hollywood Walk of Fame
- Hollywood sign
- Paul Monette's grave (others buried at this cemetary include Arnold the Pig, Steve Allen, Lucielle Ball, Bette Davis, Liberace, and many more)
I also have tickets for The Book of Mormon on Thurs Oct 25

I've booked the Banana Bungalow in WeHo for 4 nights. Booking a place was confusing.  Do I want to stay near the Hollywood sign?  Near the cruise port?  Who knows.  This is right near Hollywood and Highland which is an interesection I've heard of, but I'm not sure if it's because of the gang territory there or not.  I guess I'll find out.

Cool city guide to SF here.

Monday, May 21, 2012

Blaze of Summer by Alexander Goodman

Blaze of SummerBlaze of Summer by Alexander Goodman
My rating: 2 of 5 stars


Four short stories:

BLAZE OF SUMMER - A small-town teacher with a history of being blackmailed and having to run from town to town for being gay starts a relationship with a local farmhand with devastating consequences.

THREE IMMORAL FABLES - An interesting enough read, even if the stories go nowhere.

A CASUAL AFFAIR - Probably the best of the bunch, a theatre producer uses a boytoy to get investments for his latest play.

JOE'S OTHER HUSBAND - A couple argues in bed one night after one of them gets schooled in the world of S&M with a trick. High drama, as with most of the book. The partner complains that he doesn't care if the guys screws around, he just doesn't like it when he gets home tired. "I don't ask for much, why can't you just save a little for me?!?!?!"

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Sunday, May 20, 2012

Left-Handed: Poems by Jonathan Galassi

Left-Handed: PoemsLeft-Handed: Poems by Jonathan Galassi
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

There's a lot going on with this book. The author wrote for and about a time when he left his wife and kids for another man, literary agent Bill Clegg. It's not like you can fully understand that from the text though. It seems the author hides a lot behind poetic license and double talk to mar the situation and hide his feelings.

Certain elements ring true, the infatuation phase of love is clearly conveyed. His wonder of Clegg is apparent but you can see the path he's on from the beginning. He over thinks the relationship, he's home writing poetry about Clegg while Clegg is I'm guessing living his life. I can relate, it's hard not to let new love enter infatuation. But the author really loses himself, his sense of self worth, he has validity, he brings things to the table too, but he loses sight of these things.

I like that he keeps some rhyming in the poetry and that it often has a strong structure. What is less good is the over analysis to the point of getting lost in the details. The details choke out the emotion. It's like the author couldn't fully let himself express his school-girl infatuation feelings, that he felt he had to be more high-brow than that.

A celebration of the transience of beauty is related as:

The snow on the table? I don't understand how the Times says "direct and plain-spoken" of this work. To me he is bringing in metaphors that cannot be understood by anyone who isn't him which really serves to alienate the reader from the emotion of the work. I believe he is intellectualizing with the purpose of keeping us out.

As the relationship deteriorates there really is less and less the ability for an outsider to distinguish what is actually happening or to find the emotion in Galassi's riddles. It ends up making love feel sterile.

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Ninety Days: A Memoir of Recovery by Bill Clegg

Ninety Days: A Memoir of RecoveryNinety Days: A Memoir of Recovery by Bill Clegg
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

There is no prize for beating an addiction, there is no finish line. Like life itself, it's a work in progress.
You can't have it all. You have to choose, do you want your addiction or do you want life. You can't have both.
You get to a point where you're sick and tired of being sick and tired.

I never understood the AA philosophy until I read this book. I was reluctant to look at it because of it's emphasis on God or a higher power. I never liked the line "I accept I am powerless over drugs and alcohol" as the only way I could see to get sober was to take back the power from drugs and alcohol. But what this book really illustrated for me was the community aspect, how people can help each other, talk to each other, look out for each other. When you're at your lowest point you have someone in the same situation and the two of you are stronger together.

I don't know that I've ever relied on someone like that, that I have ever let my guard down enough to need someone else. With this book I hope to have made a step in that direction, to be able to trust.

I bought signed copies of the physical books and the ebooks for both of Clegg's book before reading a word. He is attractive, gay, powerful, someone I want to be. And you read the harrowing account, and it reminds me that we are all the same, all human. Everyone has plusses and minuses. Clegg has looks and power and fame and he also has a desire to throw it all away, to kill himself, to smoke crack. He has lied and cheated and stolen from those closest to him.

So many thoughts came out of this book, it's hard to summarize. I had to stop reading frequently to think.

Clegg mentions in this book feeling like there was a primer, a set of rules to live by and that he feels he's the only one who never got the memo. I've felt like that my whole life. This book has helped me to not put other people on a pedestal above myself, that they are not better, just different. We all bring something to the table.

This book has helped me realize that kicking the addiction is not the end of the process. There is a bigger picture, where you take the shame and the guilt and the reasons that led to the addiction and you get a chance, in the light of day, to see them.

I have not treated myself well, and I accept that, and now I am ready to try harder.

I have held on to guilt and shame and I am ready to release them and let something else fill that space in my life.

I have held myself back, been afraid, hidden in drugs and alcohol, hidden in myself, hurt myself. I see this now. I will not beat myself up for it, but will acknowledge these feelings and use them to help me be stronger, and braver and better in future. And to be myself.

Thank you, Bill Clegg, for sharing your journey. I wish us both luck.

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Saturday, May 19, 2012

Amazon Kindle: Pricing and Copyright

I have been aware for some time that book rights do not cross borders.  For example, Equus is available on ebook but only to Americans, not Canadians.  Christopher Isherwood's A Single Man is only available to people in the UK, not people in North America, same with James Baldwin. One wonders what the point is. 
I have recently found a solution however, pick a hostel or hotel from the country you want to buy your book from and change your home address on Amazon to there. Buy the book, then change your address back.  Done.  A quick fix around stupid rules.

One thing I noticed recently when changing my account back from American to Canadian is that the prices changed.  Here is a quick sample of books with their American and Canadian prices below.  What's up with that?

by Dan Bucatinsky 
US Price $9.99
Canadian Price $14.04
by Cathy Marie Buchanan
US Price $4.61
Canadian Price $(not available - for a Canadian book!)
by Brandon Williams
US Price $2.99
Canadian Price $2.99
by Alan Bennett 
US Price $11.99
Canadian Price $16.12
by Herta Müller
US Price $12.99
Canadian Price $16.59
by Nell Freudenberger 
US Price $12.99
Canadian Price $18.42
US Price $11.99
Canadian Price $(not available)
US Price $14.99
Canadian Price $16.47
by Scott Sherman
US Price $10.52
Canadian Price $9.99

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Ethan Green Chronicles by Eric Orner

Ethan Green ChroniclesEthan Green Chronicles by Eric Orner
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Good, but not great.

I read this after watching the amazing movie. I feel there were elements in the movie that need to be used more in the comic. The comic at times reminds me of Cathy, which I used to read in my teens. This is a grownup gay version, which appeals.

There are several things that really work. The candour, the hat sisters, the cat, all great. The universe is also highly established which is good.

The negative, the whole thing is too busy. Elements such as people sleeping around on Ethan are touched on for one frame of one comic. It moves too fast and while the creator may know the story well enough to move that fast, we don't.

It seems like this strip has stopped which is too bad as I feel it has loads of potential. Something to keep in mind would be to have one idea or focus for each strip. Something like Ethan flies to Montreal and meets a chef who has a boyfriend and is a shady cook and then has a friend fly him to the airport and the friend is silent in the car like she's done this too many times before is really too much for four squares and things get lost along the way.

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Signed: The Complete Works of Paul Russell

I met Paul Russell in November of last year.

Being my favourite author, he was top of my list for my September mailing.  I contacted him and he agreed to sign a book for me, I didn't exactly mention I was sending him ALL his books.  I figured he would never come to Toronto.

I sent all his books in a box with some packing tape and about $30 or $40 worth of stamps on it.  My copy of Boys of Life and Sea of Tranquility were both in terrible condition, I thought "I can't get him to sign a book that looks like it's been through the washing machine!" so I bought new copies of these two at the STRAND bookstore in New York City, I managed to find hardcovers. My favourite book of his, The Coming Storm, I only had in paperback. I now have all his books in hardcover except his first, Salt Point, and his last, Navakov, which I don't think was published hardcover.

Anyway, so at the end of September I get an email from Paul saying he's sent my books back and he'll be in Toronto in a couple of months!  Ha!  I wasn't expecting that.

It was a real honour to meet him, he was very charming and down to earth in person.  I also, by sheer coincidence, managed to find a discard hardcover copy of The Coming Storm from the archives and when I met him I bought his new book, The Unreal Life of Sergey Nabakov, which he also signed. I now have two signed copies of The Coming Storm, one in paper and one hardcover, and I bought the ebook.  An embarrassment of riches!

The first book I read of Paul's was The Coming Storm and I loved it.  It was literary but relatable with a great story.  The second book of his I read was Sea of Tranquility, which I also loved to death.  There were sentences in there that made my hair stand on end.

After that I went back and read his first two books, The Salt Point and Boys of Life, and unfortunately I didn't care for either.  I waited what seemed like an eternity for his next book, War Against the Animals.  I did enjoy it but not nearly as much as the first two I read.  It was well written but the story didn't hold me as much.  I was also young then, the book came out in 2003 so I would have been like 23 and maybe not yet at a place where I could relate.  I think I would relate more now and am looking forward to re-reading it.

His new book, The Unreal Life of Sergey Nabokov, after meeting him I couldn't wait to read the book and tell him all about it.  Now it started off very good, I was enjoying the character's life in Russia and his growing up stories, though I wasn't really glued to the page as his life is very far removed from mine and tales of the upperclass I find tend to be a bit dry.  This was a little dryer than I was expecting but still readable.  As I mentioned above, I met Paul in late November, and once I got to the point in the book where the character moves to Paris, a whole flurry of things happen.  The book went from a simple story about a boy to his whole life and the world in Paris of the time, and loads of new characters.  It was around Christmas, I was very busy and had my mind on other things, and I did not have the ability at that time to keep the characters straight.  I stopped reading on page 245 of a 378 page book as I just wasn't following it anymore.

I will go back and re-read it.  I have never been one previously for having to dig too deep into books but as I get older and more mature, I find I'm willing to put in more work.  I do want to finish it, but all these other books keep jumping up at me, book club books, recommendations from friends, etc.  Hopefully soon.

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Portrait of an Addict as a Young Man: A Memoir by Bill Clegg

Portrait of an Addict as a Young Man: A MemoirPortrait of an Addict as a Young Man: A Memoir by Bill Clegg
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

When you look into an abyss, the abyss also looks into you.
- Friedrich Nietzsche

Many things came to me while reading this book and I had to stop reading several times to just sit and think. The main one is reflected in the quote above, how did he go through this again? How was he able to get past the shame and guilt of this time in his life to be able to write it down and then to be able to share it with others? I spent a lot of the book marvelling at that.

"Nothing but death can keep me from it" Clegg says in the book, and who among us hasn't felt that feeling, in some way. I related to the thrill of going out and getting high with friends and of being a rebel and doing something grown up and being in control of something at a time when you feel you have no control of anything. But there is that time when the music stops and you look around and you're the only one left dancing. At some point it becomes about you, your addiction, your life, your goals and hopes and the other, the absence of those things, which was perfectly chronicled in this book.

He talks about shame. The scene with the partner in the bed broke my heart into pieces. How can you stand to go back there, to actually acknowledge that happened, and ever be able to look yourself in the mirror again? But Clegg mentions these emotions evolving as he worked through them "into something less self-concerned" which I had another A HA! moment at that. To be able to see the past and process it and learn from it, not as a victim, not as all about you, but that there is what was, and also there is what will be. Mind blown.

Another passage that stuck with me was where Clegg attempts to forgive the actions of his father by putting himself in his place. Did he think through his actions, or "did he simply believe that whatever was broken could be fixed by force, that something bent could be hammered straight?" And again we move on the bigger picture, that whatever the motivation of his father was, there is what was and what will be.

There is no prize, once you get to the realization that you have been through things, that people may have been trying their best but that you were done wrong, there is no medal at that point, no easy fix to say "This is the cause of my problems!" Because what comes next?

And eventually, hopefully, you get to the realization that I did, after many tears, though this book. That Bill Clegg did. That there is what was, there is what will be, and that that is okay.

That I...

am okay.

Signed: Ejaculations from the Charm Factory by Sky Gilbert

I really want to read this book and will download it for my ereader when I get home tonight.  I have carpal tunnel and I can no longer hold a print book for an extended period of time, it's uncomfortable.  Also I find on the ereader I can read faster, the type is clear, I love it.

I also have a signed copy of Gilbert's first book Guilty but it appears to be in storage.  I got this copy from the archives.

Signed: Lettin' It All Hang Out by Ru Paul

Well, my display of signed books has come to an end, for now.  I have many more but they are in storage and I will at some point in the future put them up here.

This was the last book I received back from the books I sent to Americans in September.  I had given up hope of getting this back, especially as the postal rates changed in January and the number of stamps I had put on the envelope was no longer enough. But, lo and behold, it arrived!

Monday, May 14, 2012

Signed: Gay Bar by Will Fellows and Helen P. Branson

I found the book Gay Bar by Helen Branson while working at the CLGA. I wanted to buy a copy of the book so I could read it but when I found a single copy on ebay a week or so later, it quickly went over $100 and out of the range of what I was willing to pay.

Being a volunteer has it's privledges, I was able to make a copy of the short book and I read the photocopies at home.  I loved the book, it was published in 1957 and tells the story of a real straight-talkin' lady who ran a gay bar in Los Angeles.  So many cool things in the book, the best of all is Helen's attitude, she doesn't take any bull. 

I later found on that Will Fellows was re-issuing the book with new material and ordered it happily. When I was sending out my few books this past September, getting this seminal book signed was definately near the top of my list.  I contacted Will and he agreed to sign it and sent it back with two postcards as well, he seems a delightful guy.