Category Cincinnati

Jeff Suess: Renaissance Man

Jeff  Suess, who helms the Mercantile’s Graphic Novel Reading Group, has published a story in Torn Realities, a  collection of Lovecraftian (Lovecrafty?) stories put out by Cincinnati’s own Post Mortem Press.  Jeff also writes a weekly column, “Our History”for Cincinnati’s own Enquirer.

-Ed Scripsi

A Rare Library on Plum


The Lloyd Library, as it appeared in Cincinnati Magazine, June 1972.
Click photo to travel back in time.

Spring being the season when folk “longen to goon on pilgrimages”, we thought we would make several pilgrimages of a humanist nature to area libraries.  First up: The Lloyd Library and Museum.

It’s easy to pass the Lloyd Library at the corner of Court and Plum without realizing the wealth it contains.  If civilization looks like it’s finally decided to collapse, you’ll find me knocking on this botanical and pharmaceutical library’s front door with freshly baked cookies, canned goods, and all the toothpaste I can find in the hope of bribing my way into its five levels, the lowest of which was once probably outfitted as a fallout shelter by former Lloyd librarian Corinne Miller Simon given her predilection for Civil Defense.  Reinforced concrete ribs stand closely spaced across the ceiling, suggesting Armageddon-proof engineering on the part of the building’s 1970s architects.  It all began as the collection of three pharmacist brothers, John Uri, Nelson Ashley, and Curtis Gates Lloyd.  John Uri might be the most famous, the all-around Renaissance man, renowned in scientific circles and the eccentric author of novels like the fantastic Etidorhpa (Aphrodite, spelled backwards).  Clifton Avenue makes a sudden right-hand turn in the Gaslight District to avoid running straight into his magnificent home.  Nelson Ashley was the “George Bailey” of the three, passing up dreams of piloting a riverboat to become the money-savvy backbone of Lloyd Brothers Pharmacists Inc.  The youngest, Curtis Gates Lloyd, is the favorite of Betsy Kruthoffer, MLS, the Lloyd’s Cataloger, who has agreed to show me around. Read More

Boz on Cincinnati . . . and the BBC

Bleak Expectations Series 2Despite coming to share Mrs. Trollope’s general scorn of the Americans, Dickens said some nice things about Cincinnati.  His accounts in American Notes for General Circulation paint a vivid portrait of a teeming metropolis, albeit one reached by steamboats, the kinks of which, vis a vis personal safety, had yet to be worked out.  Here is a sample etext.  And here.

Speaking of Dickens, if you told me yesterday that a new Dickensian TV Comedy Series was coming to the BBC, I would have slapped the cup of earl grey out of your hand.  But then it turns out the BBC has been poking fun at Dickens all along.

-Ed Scripsi

The Original Gatsby?

Mens sana in corpore sano or just insane?

Former Price Hill resident George Remus has been getting a lot of publicity recently, what with the airing of Ken Burn’s acclaimed “on-the-rocks-umentary”, Prohibition, and showing up in HBO’s Boardwalk Empire.  Some theorize Remus was the inspiration for Fitzgerald’s Jay Gatsby, and it’s easy to see why.  He was, like Gatsby, a bootlegger. He presented guests at lavish parties with diamond jewelry and cars.  That he met F. Scott Fitzgerald at the Seelbach Hotel in Louisville (the rathskeller of which sports Rookwood tile) is likely, and while a bartender at the Seelbach claims to possess a photo of Remus and Fitzgerald, I wonder if this isn’t legend, as well as the claim that the novel began there as notes on cocktail napkins.   Sounds like just the sort of mythology that comes to be under the influence of bourbon.   Fitzgerald frequented, and was apparently once forcefully ejected from the hotel while training to be deployed for WWI, not the sort of lifestyle conducive to the production of great literature–although this is, after all, Fitzgerald, so who knows?  Whatever the case, Remus was a truly epic American character, and his saga remains a fascinating read.  Here is a particularly pithy version on (scroll to the bottom and abandon all time, ye local history buffs who enter here).    -Ed Scripsi

Get your Books on at Books by the Banks 2011

The leaves have begun to turn which can only mean one thing: hundreds of authors will soon converge on the Duke Energy Convention Center for that regional orgy of books and literariness, Books by the Banks.  Mark your calendar for Saturday, Oct. 22nd.   This is the perfect opportunity to chat up a favorite best-selling author like Dennis Lehane, Judy Collins, Chris Bohjalian, Will Lavender, or Paula McLain while they sign your copy of their work.  You might even encounter a real life author surreptitiously swigging vodka in the restroom to counteract their  bookish stage fright as they prepare to battle wits in one of the many scintillating panel discussions on topics as diverse as regional cooking, fictional biography, reinventing the classics.  You’re in pole position to start your holiday shopping for that insatiable bookworm in the family who, denied the gift of reading material, is likely to go passive-aggressively psycho on you because it’s always the quiet, brooding types, isn’t it?  As you can see from the festival’s poster, this event fuses all that is great about the region: fine if homely cuisine that is also spicy and goes with oyster crackers, jungle cats reading about themselves, the Great American Passtime: ”necking”, free events, athletic sports teams, piles of books and the pinnacle of cool: shades.    Stay tuned for the highlights of what promises to be another superlative book festival including: an attempt on the life of a Guinness Book of World Records record, authors who have biked across the nation, another who has created their own brand of the most amazing icecream on earth other than Graeters, and another whose publicist got into trouble for suggesting someone  burn down Edith Wharton’s house, another whose novel takes place in the memory of a man who has just been crushed by a stuffed bear, and a whole host of others.     -Ed Scripsi

A Mercantile Nature Moment–Library Under Attack

The Merc is not altogether unfamiliar with wingéd visitors, or, as T.M. Brewer fondly refers to them in his 1840 edition of Wilson’s American Ornithology, “our feathered tribes”, and it was a member of our feathered tribes that, following a loud THWACK against one of the Library’s east-facing windows, appeared to be in an altercation with a whirring tree-branch.  The altercation reached some sort of a draw, and the branch-resembling combatant, which turned out to be an insect that was introduced to this country around 1895, remained to scare the bejesus out of me

Tenodera sinensis or Chinese Mantis, menaces the Great American building with her toothsome claw

As I photographed the enormous, loathsome, but oddly fascinating beast, her head pivoted toward me.  I removed to a safe distance.  -Ed Scripsi

A four-inch Chinese Mantis considers the nutritional content of a librarian

Beatniks in the Mist: Robert Lowry and Jim Flora : Little Man Press, Cincinnati 1939


Robert Lowry, who ended his days tragically going mad in Cincinnati, began Little Man Press in 1939 with Jim Flora, whose artwork is all too recognizable, whether you're a collecter of vintage LPs, or ever read a children's book growing up.   Lowry found Flora at the Fine Art Academy and they began the press from literally nothing, drumming up (read: bullying) subscriptions out of people.  While Lowry may have been a nascent crazy person even then, their collaborations really are something to behold--the covers of a couple of their collaborations can be found here on OpenLibrary.  

-Ed Scripsi

Bike Month 2011 : open mouth, insert gold-certified foot

bike month logo

I came within a hair’s breadth of colliding with another cyclist this morning so it must be National Bike Month (sorry, lady cyclist on the sidewalk outside of Spring Grove–I promise to look both ways when crossing the sidewalk in the future and also to tighten my brakes).   The Mercantile Library has received a GOLD certification from Queen City Bike’s Bike Friendly Destinations program.   In celebration, and because we’ve gone and bragged about it, we’re offering a special human-powered promotion for the month of May:  free book delivery by bike to Mercantile members within 5 miles of the library*.  Seriously!  Simply call or email us and mention this offer by name and the next time it actually stops raining for a couple of hours, presto!  A Mercantile Library Cyclist will bring the requested items to your doorstep.  Oh, and be sure to keep abreast of Queen City Bike’s busy Bike Month Schedule of events.   -Ed Scripsi

*Certain conditions apply: Cyclists may arrive somewhat sweaty and dishelveled.  Limit 5lbs of books per customer.  Cyclists are unable to pick up pizza, booze, or groceries for you on their way to deliver your books.  Also, delivery may be delayed due to inclement weather, steep hills, Mercantile events, inherent grouchiness (on the part of both delivery person and or recipients), bad traffic, solar flares, and or whimsy.  However we really do want to deliver some books by bike, and will give it our best effort.  Distance refers to distance by bike route–we are not, nor have we ever been, crows.  Delivery personnel reserve the right to refuse to deliver books that they consider not actually worth reading or to replace them with worthier, more wholesome literature, but realistically, this probably won’t happen to you, as you are no doubt going to request only quality literature.

The Mercantile Guide to Bockfest 2011


Despite the decline of beer culture in Germany, it continues to do well here in “Over-the-Rhine”, and it’s time once again for the city’s lesser malt-beverage-oriented fest: Bockfest.  We recommend this festival and its attendant parade, and offer this modest guide to maximize your enjoyment.

-Goats, much-maligned throughout the ages as symbols of Pagan debauchery, etc., are actually quite nice and are far more environmentally friendly than, say, lawnmowers.  That being said, they have indiscriminate, voracious  appetites, especially when they’ve been drinking.

-It’s easy to miss the parade…  but Cincinnati’s most venerable watering hole, Arnold’s, where the parade kicks off, gets pretty crazy.  We recommend obtaining a cassock, taking a quick vow, then falling in with the monks behind the “Trojan Goat”/rolling keg.

-Bungs from beer kegs are projectiles and, as such, ought to be considered with caution using only one eye.

-If it looks like you’ve actually walked into a frat party, never fear.  They’re not “Greeks” but developers, intoxicated by the Brewery District’s halcyon future.

-When Tarbell waves some sort of magic wand and says a few words, the parade is over, but there’s still a weekend of fun to be had.

-If you thought you just saw Woody Guthrie, you didn’t… It’s Jake Speed come to serenade his old friend Schtnitzel the goat.

-Ed Scripsi

The one-stop shopping spot for all your holiday needs

At the Center: 175 Years at the Mercantile Library by Robert Vitz: $30.00

Gift individual membership with gift card and 175th Anniversary T-Shirt: $45

Gift household membership with gift card and 175th Anniversary T-Shirt: $75

175th Anniversary T-Shirt: $15

100% Silk Mercantile Logo Tie:  $40

Boxed Note cards (set of 10): $10

2011 Word-a-Day Calendars: $14.00

Breathing in Africa by Buck Niehoff: $25

Something Funny at the Library by Buck Niehoff: $25

America’s Membership Libraries edited by Richard Wendorf: $40.00

Brilliance and Balderdash by Dale P. Brown: $30.00

The satisfaction of getting that holiday shopping done and bringing a twinkle to the eye of your book-lovin’ friend, family-member or loved one while supporting your favorite old-timey library: Priceless.

And where else, besides The Bookshelf of Madeira, Half-Price Books, Joseph Beth Booksellers, Ohio Book Store, or Duttenhoffer’s, can you conveniently alternate maxing out your credit card with flopping in an easy chair and taking in great literature?    -Ed Scripsi