The Air at the Top of the Bottle

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Children’s Card Games (218)

September 14th, 2015 · No Comments


“Frank Buck’s Bring ‘Em Back Alive Game” was published by Fairchild in 1937. Frank Buck had a long career as an animal collector, with ancillary forays into writing and acting. He collected animals for circuses and zoos, his motto being “bring ’em back alive.” This deck has striking illustrations of animals, to be collected in groups of three. (You can click the image for a larger leopard.)


Naturally, the backs of the cards show the dashing Buck, in his requisite pith helmet.


(Posted by Doug Skinner)

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The Blaireau Affair

September 1st, 2015 · No Comments


The Blaireau Affair is now available from Black Scat Books!

Alphonse Allais’s only novel, first published in 1899, has never been out of print in France, and has inspired four movies. It’s summer in the provinces, and Blaireau, the local poacher, is convicted of a crime he didn’t commit. There are futile political squabbles, a memorably obtuse constable, a couple of charming but ridiculous love stories, too much bad champagne, and innocence is rewarded in the end. It’s the most extended fiction by Allais, the seminal absurdist who inspired Jarry, Duchamp, the Pataphysical College, and Oulipo. Doug Skinner has translated and annotated this delicious tale for its first appearance in English; it’s available from Black Scat Books in a handsome edition designed by Norman Conquest.

“An Alphonse Allais universe this little tender disordered universe of an intense and unalloyed logic” — Jacques Prévert

(Posted by Doug Skinner)

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Memorable Magazines (4): The Hollow Hassle

August 25th, 2015 · No Comments

The Hollow Hassle was a newsletter devoted to the idea that the earth is hollow, published by Mary J. Martin in the 1970s and ’80s. I don’t know how long it lasted, but I note that a collection has been published. There weren’t many hollow earth newsletters; it’s a fascinating glimpse of a curious subculture.

This third issue (September 1972) is four pages; it contains names and addresses of readers, thoughts on subterranean UFOs from Commander J. Strauss of the Brazilian Navy, a description of Jules Verne’s tomb, information on other newsletters (Polewatchers and Meeting Place), discussions of news stories, and reproductions of “sky gods” from a Mayan manuscript. The first page mentions that that there have been “unfavorable reports” about Ray Palmer, editor of many magazines (Fate, Mystic, Search, Other Worlds, Flying Saucers), and Richard Shaver’s collaborator on the “Shaver Mystery” in Amazing Stories. It’s not clear if Palmer was ill, or had simply been unfavorable to The Hollow Hassle. Click to read the first page.


(Posted by Doug Skinner)

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Bulletin (33)

August 17th, 2015 · 1 Comment

There will be a book launch for my translation of The Zombie of Great Peru, by Pierre-Corneille Blessebois, published by Black Scat Books. It will take place at the Morbid Anatomy Museum in Brooklyn, Thursday, August 20, at 8 pm. The museum is at 424 Third Ave. I’ll talk about Blessebois — murderer, arsonist, pornographer, mercenary, deserter, gigolo, galley slave, and man of letters — and read some juicy parts. There will be cold drinks as well.

I’ve finished my translation of Alphonse Allais’s only novel, The Blaireau Affair, which will be published by Black Scat Books sometime in the fall. Norman Conquest writes about his cover design at his new blog, over here.

My ever popular ukulele classes will resume at the Jalopy Theater on Monday, September 21. There are two levels (known officially as I and II); each class is eight weeks and is limited to eight students.

(Posted by Doug Skinner)

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Children’s Card Games (217)

July 27th, 2015 · No Comments


“L’Histoire de France Jouée par les Enfants” (The History of France Played by Children) was a “loto historique” that promised “Grands Faits — Petits Résumés” (Great Actions — Short Descriptions”). The one I have is the second part, which covers 1800 (Napoleon crossing the Alps) to 1919 (Foch, Joffre, and Pétain). It was published by Fernand Nathan, probably around 1920. As in any lotto, the players fill a board with the proper cards. There are 36 cards, each bearing a scene from French history on one side, and a brief description on the other. The one above shows the death of Napoleon. The history is, perhaps not surprisingly, selective: there’s plenty about Napoleon, but no mention of the 1871 Commune or the Dreyfus Affair.

(Posted by Doug Skinner)

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The Doug Skinner Dossier

July 8th, 2015 · No Comments


The Doug Skinner Dossier is now available from Black Scat Books! This blessed compendium features articles, short stories, verses, columns, literary essays, alphabets, metrical translations, monologues, talks, cartoons, rounds, lipogrammatic smut, a puppet show, a ventriloquism routine, and a one-act play.  248 pages of pure, unadulterated Skinner. Holy cow!

(Posted by Doug Skinner)

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101 Plots Used and Abused

July 1st, 2015 · 4 Comments


101 Plots Used and Abused, a 1946 writer’s manual by James N. Young, is one of my favorite books. Young, an editor at Collier’s, collected all of the tritest plots he knew, so that short story writers could avoid them. In this revised edition, there are actually 126 of them. They’re all here: the prisoner who tunnels out of his cell, only to emerge back in prison; the gullible sucker who turns out to be a swindler himself; the ransom check in invisible ink; the husband who has a fling with his wife in disguise; the woman who becomes disfigured, only to learn that her fiance has become blind; the driver who suspects a hitchhiker has stolen his watch, and takes it back, only to discover that he left it on the dresser. Although the short story market has largely evaporated, many of these plots can still be found in urban folklore. Forteans and folklorists should find it a useful resource. Unfortunately, used copies seem to be expensive; maybe somebody will reprint it. Here’s a sample page:


(Posted by Doug Skinner)

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Children’s Card Games (216)

June 24th, 2015 · No Comments


This deck of cards was issued to promote Lion Coffee. There’s no date, but it was probably around 1900. The back is a handsome ad for the product.


One of the unique features of the deck is that a coffee break is part of the game. Did children drink coffee then? Maybe this was meant for adults.


(Posted by Doug Skinner)

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June 16th, 2015 · 2 Comments

This five part story was apparently cut from an A & P catalog, long ago. Poor frog! But it does end happily.






(Posted by Doug Skinner)

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Children’s Card Games (215)

June 8th, 2015 · No Comments


Ah, the perennial joys of “Crazy Eights.” This undated (60s?) deck from Whitman has a circus motif, and bold designs to go with it.

(Posted by Doug Skinner)

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