Posts Tagged ‘James Bryant’

Old friends, new friends, and more from the Monterey Coast

Saturday, July 14th, 2012

When he wasn't starting forest fires, he was here.

Old friends, new friends:  Thursday’s post about reconnoitering with an old friend James Bryant, thanks to an Islamic prayerbook, fell into grateful and unfamiliar hands.

I received a pleasant note from Dwight Green, who was on his way to Monterey about the time he ran across my jottings.  He was already planning to visit the Robert Louis Stevenson house, where the author chilled while  awaiting the divorce of his wife-to-be. (“Yeah. It was complicated,” says Dwight.) I was pleased to discover that Dwight is a kindred spirit in the blogosphere: he runs the excellent blog, “A Common Reader”  – so you can read about his whole visit here.  He also points out that there’s some fascinating background about Stevenson’s stay in California here, But thanks to my heads-up, he also stopped into Carpe Diem and, given its excellent selection on California and the American West, resolved to save his pennies for the next visit.  (He also stopped into another Book Haven – no relation.)

The crowded shelves of Carpe Diem

And do yourself a favor and make a visit to this rugged stretch of the Pacific coast yourself: “The waves which lap so quietly about the jetties of Monterey grow louder and larger in the distance; you can see the breakers leaping high and white by day; at night, the outline of the shore is traced in transparent silver by the moonlight and the flying foam; and from all round, even in quiet weather, the distant, thrilling roar of the Pacific hangs over the coast and the adjacent country like smoke above a battle.”

Meanwhile, what is it about famous authors and forest fires?  Are they just more careless than other people?  I wrote about Mark Twain, Henry David Thoreau, and burnt acres on the Fourth of July here – now this from the Robert Louis Stevenson website:

While in Monterey, RLS also started a forest fire. He was fascinated by the many fires that spring up in the Californian forests and wondered whether it was the moss growing on the trees that first caught fire. The moss did catch fire – and quickly spread. RLS later described the incident in “The Old Pacific Capital” (1880).

Otherwise, I’m having a quite day, transcribing notes and revising a draft. Hope you are enjoying Bastille Day in a livelier way.

The best bookstore I’ve never seen: Carpe Diem in Monterey

Thursday, July 12th, 2012

A bit of heaven in Monterey... if heaven isn't redundant on the Pacific Coast.

Fate does strange things.


Some time ago I had written a short article on an Islamic prayerbook, “Beauty with an Unknown Past” (it’s here).  A Stanford curator found the mystery book in a small bookshop in Monterey.

The article generated some interesting reaction – but the biggest reaction was mine, when I got a letter from the proprietor of the bookshop (who is also a fan of the Book Haven, incidentally).  It turned out to be a long-lost friend, James Bryant, whom I met over three decades ago in London.  And the bookshop is Carpe Diem Fine Books.  With his wife, Mary Hill, he has been running Carpe Diem since 1995, in a charming 1930s Carmel-stone building in historic Old Monterey.  It’s a few doors down from Robert Louis Stevenson‘s house.

Lunch at the Faculty Club followed a few weeks later, with a long chat to swap memories and bring us up to 2012. He had become an eminent bookseller and patron of the arts, while Humble Moi remains a lowly writer, tapping on a keyboard in the blogosphere, into the wee hours.

Later, he sent me photos from Carpe Diem. Wow. I’m a sucker for the Carmel style – the Robinson Jeffers home is still one of my favorite houses anywhere – and this shop epitomizes it.  No surprise, then, that its “discriminating selection” of out-of-print, signed and unusual books in all fields has a special emphasis on the history and literature of California and the West.  (It also has a special collection of signed John Steinbeck books here.)

The AAA magazine Via wrote, “The entire shop … is a bibliophile’s delight.”  A local magazine, Pebble Beach, claimed it was “simply the Best… featuring a constantly changing inventory – from the classics to the unexpected…”

As for me, I still haven’t seen it yet.  But I hope to sometime between September 13 and 16.  You see, the bookshop is just one of James’s ventures.  He’s also one of the founders of the Art in the Adobes Festival, which is featuring a program, “Rediscovery: Monterey Peninsula Artists at Home and Abroad” this year.

Organizers claim that “influential artists, important paintings, and some of the roots of Western U.S. art will all be rediscovered at the Art in the Adobes Festival weekend.”

How good are the paintings?  You can get an idea from Abel Warshawsky‘s Paris Studio, circa 1930, at left  (courtesy City of Monterey).  But stop and browse Carpe Diem’s shelves while you’re there.

See you in Monterey – Insha’Allah.