Category Cincinnati

Books and bloggers and writers, oh my

The 6th annual Cincinnati USA Books by the Banks Book Festival went swimmingly.   Attendance is estimated to have topped 5000 visitors who enjoyed mascot dance parties, cooking demos, kids corners, panel discussions, and some good old face-time with the people who write the books–and blogs–you love to read.   The variety of this festival is staggering:  from headliners with lines of adoring fans to authors with smaller, which is not to say less interested audiences.  The Petersiks of Young House Love fell into the former category, and and Michael Nye, editor of The Missouri Review and author of the short story collection Strategies Against Extinction, reflects on his blog on the meaning of long lines and  different forms in the book festival of today and tomorrow.   The Petersiks also offered their take on, as they put it, “Nerding it Up in the Nasty ‘Nati.”

I’m already looking forward to next year’s festival, with new Executive Director Margaret O’Gorman at a new venue: The Banks.

-Ed Scripsi

History Detective Wes Cowan Visits Merc

Last week’s By the Book lecture featured anthropologist, History Detective and Antiques Roadshowman Wes Cowan speaking on books that have influenced his career.  A consummate showman, Wes was kind enough to permit this recording of his presentation.  Apologies for my less than ideal microphone position–the first minute is somewhat quiet, but gets much louder after that.

To listen, press play on the widget below.

-Ed Scripsi

-Ed Scripsi

Cincinnati Bike Center: Your Fancy New Bat Cave

I was taking this picture of rental bikes when Jared, who describes Chicago’s bike center as his former baby, came out of the uber-spanking-modern bike shop at the front of the Cincinnati Bike Center just to say hello.  I was immediately ushered in for a full tour, of the facilities.  Boy are they swank.  The shop offers bike tuneups and repairs.  Strangest of all, while the staff was obviously hip, they lacked the dour, “you’re not worthy of staring at my tattoos” attitude one comes to expect from bike mechanics these days.  Jared took me back to the lockup room and even let me load my bike onto the second level rack.  It only took me two tries and resembled, on the whole, the bike carriers on the bus, except that instead of a bunch of angry busriders giving me the stink eye as I hold up their commute, I was aided by some friendly bike station staffers who told me they liked the color of my ride.  Secure lockup in a soothing, well-insulated bike-cave is great, but the jewel in the crown of this bike station has got to be the showers, as well as its overall greenness.  Jared explained that the facilities feature geothermal heating, solar panels, and flush-less toilets.  I overcame the insipient creepiness of taking photos in a bathroom to share with the world the niceness that is the Cincinnati Bike Station’s showers.

Look at that hardware!  Is that a detachable spray head?  Gaze upon the future of your de-sweatified, post-mid-summer-cycle-commute, and be amazed.  Jared explained that something called “water” comes shooting out of this thing that helps cyclists arrive at the office looking less like a “greasy messenger”.   I resolved to arrive sometime in my full length Victorian-style bathing attire and give the setup a try.

What’s that you say?  All this must be super expensive?  Crazily enough, an annual pass will get you daily use of this state of the art cycler’s paradise for the low, low price of $12–that’s one twelve pack of beer–a month.  Daily use is $2 and $2 for a towel.  I forgot to ask whether you can bring your own.  Their brochure includes a great cycling map…  studying this, I realized how perfect their location–a hub, if you’ll excuse the term–between the soon-to-be completed lengths of Ohio River Way and Mill Creek Greenspace trails.  -Ed Scripsi


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