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Looking Back and Moving Forward—Reflections on Memorial Day and D-Day

June 1st, 2017

Alan Lewis, President
Ground Zero Books, Ltd.

There is WAR out in the world.  It has been there for a long time.  How long it will stay with us is an imponderable.  We have daily reminders of it, as we do of politics.  We have fewer reminders of peace.

In the United States, Memorial Day is a day that is set aside for remembering the people who died while serving in the country’s armed forces, and is currently observed every year on the last Monday of May.  It originated as Decoration Day after the American Civil War.  As we embark upon the month of June, we in the United States have just observed Memorial Day 2017.  I say observed.  Many say “celebrated” because it is a holiday and the unofficial start of the summer vacation period.  For others, such as the motorcycle riders who bring Rolling Thunder to downtown Washington, DC, it is a day of remembrance, and a day of reflection on loss of life and on life after loss.  It is more a day of recognition than a holiday.  Neither those who “observe” the holiday nor those who “celebrate” on it are wrong—they just bring different perspectives from their family history and their life experiences.   Often people who have significant accomplishments refer to those who achieved before them and say they “stand” on the shoulders of giants.    For those of us able to aspire and achieve in freedom today perhaps we should acknowledge that we build our today and our future on the foundation of the fallen who sacrificed themselves so that we could have our chance to live free and strive mightily.

While it is important to look back, to understand not only where we came from, but also the struggle that brought us to today, it is also important to move forward.  This brings D-Day to mind.  Now before you go into deep cognitive dissonance because D-Day is over 70 years before our recent Memorial Day, let me explain.  D-Day was both a culmination and a beginning.  It was a quintessential forward movement.  It was not only the movement from sea to shore, or from the coast to Berlin, it was also the movement from occupation to freedom, and ultimately the movement from desolation to economic and cultural revival.  I contend that much that we are experiencing today is a continuation of the moving forward that started with D-Day.  There may be expectations, and the trend line (up and to the right) has not proceeded without a few plateaus, pauses, and even set-backs, but decade after decade the globe has been moving forward.   Often in the daily spin of events, or the spinning of events by journalists and propagandists, we get fixated on a point in time and lose sight of the steady movement.  It is helpful, and often hopeful, to pause and reflect on this perspective.  Let this inner voice drown out the external noise.

Now for the sales pitch!  Low key to be sure.  Changing metaphors, inner voices benefit by being fed from time to time, best with a diet of ideas, insights, facts, and even theories and conjectures.  Entrees from such a menu can be books, pamphlets, ephemera, images, documents, analyses, arguments, humor, etc.  Etc. may be the largest category.  While we do not have a restaurant or caterer license, we have a track record of feeding intellects and nourishing curiosity.  Best of all, consuming mass quantities of our items has no negative caloric impact!

Sometimes our columns are humorous, other times whimsical, and we hope always informative.  This month’s has perhaps been more reflective that most.  If you are in a reflective mood, we hope you will reflect on the potential intersection of your interests and our stock.  As always, we have added substantially in multiple areas.  We hope you will find items, whether newly posted or just rediscovered, of interest to you.  We appreciate your comments, suggestions, occasional corrections, want lists and research requests.  We continue to offer, upon request, a ten per cent discount for purchases made directly with us, rather than through our third-party partners.  We look forward to hearing from you—by phone, e-mail, snail mail, fax, or even ectoplasmic visitation.

For those of you who served in uniform, we thank you for your service.  For those of you who have served society in other ways, we also thank you for your service.  We end this month’s column with our own request, that you permit us to continue to be of service to you.

An Uncompleted Life—the Centenary of the Birth of John Fitzgerald Kennedy

May 1st, 2017

Alan Lewis, President
Ground Zero Books, Ltd.

What is a historian?  Wikipedia tell us he or she is a person who researches, studies, and writes about the past, and is regarded as an authority on it.  Historians are concerned with the continuous, methodical narrative and research of past events as relating to the human race; as well as the study of all history in time.

“As relating to the human race” also indicates that the study of history is about the future.  The past can more help inform the present than it can predict the future.  It is left to the futurists and the fiction writers to flesh out pseudo-narratives of plausible alternative events and impacts.  For us, grounded in history, it is important to note moments of change.

People can argue whether the birth of John Fitzgerald Kennedy on May 29, 1917, was one of these moments of change.  Few, if any, can argue that his assassination on November 22, 1963, was clearly a moment of change, for him, for his family, for his Nation, and arguably for the world.  It is important that the world pause and take note of his birth 100 years ago, because his was a life that touched the lives of many of his generation, and of future generations, and continues to have residual impacts now and likely into the future.  For most of us, the time between birth and death provides the measure of our lives; for some they leave a legacy—whether positive or negative—that provides variable measures of their importance, impact, and even the content of their lives. President John F. Kennedy was one of those few among the billions who have inhabited this Earth, whose impact in life transcended his death and helped shape a future he never experienced.

There is not space here, nor necessarily is this the place, to delve into the details of President Kennedy’s life, his death, or his legacy.  It is enough, for now, to note the anniversary of his birth and to encourage us all to review and reflect upon his life and times.  To assist in that end, we at Ground Zero Books, Ltd., have added a number of items related to President Kennedy to our online holdings.  We have also continued to add a significant number of items across all key topical areas.  Additionally, we are pleased to inform you that we have listed a substantial number of early National Geographic Society items.  The National Geographic magazine was often the first publication of key authors, photographers, and ‘individuals of note.  For example, their issue of May, 1917—marking the entry the previous month of the United States into the first World War—included articles by Herbert Hoover, Newton D. Baker, John J. Pershing, and former President William Howard Taft.  We encourage you to browse through our holdings and we hope you will find items that are of interest– items that will inform and perhaps inspire.

As always, we appreciate it when you work directly with us, and we continue to offer upon request a ten percent discount on your purchases.  We also appreciate your comments on our columns, your research and want list requests, and your suggestions for future topics and enhancements to our key word selections.

As we end this column, we recall that we started with a recognition of a birth and noted the defining moment of President John F. Kennedy’s death.  Birth and death are the bookends of a life.  Some lives can also be measured in bookshelves.   By this measure, President Kennedy’s legend, legacy, and life’s impact continue to grow.  Like the Camelot of King Arthur which became a metaphor for the Kennedy Administration, so too has his Camelot become a symbol not only of a lost time, but moreover, a loss of opportunity.  It is also symbolic of a deferral (at least!) of the achievement of a laudable set of goals and the betterment of conditions for citizens of the United States and of the World.  Let us all hope that such a dream deferred does not permanently become a dream denied.

Ode to the Cherry—Cheery and Uncheery Musings

March 31st, 2017

Alan Lewis
President, Ground Zero Books, Ltd.

As you know, Ground Zero Books, Ltd., is located in Silver Spring, Maryland—an immediate suburb of Washington DC.  As such we annually experience the Cherry Blossom fixation that besots the citizens and attracts tourists from around the globe.  With admirable consistency, the National Park Service predicts weeks in advance when the cherry blossoms will be at peak bloom.  Sometimes they are correct.  Irrespective of the calendar or the prognostications, there is a yearly ritual of honoring the beauty, fragility, and brief existence of the fully bloomed blossoms.  Frequently the Cherry Blossom Festival does co-exist with the time of blooming.

Cherry blossoms in full bloom last only for two weeks. It’s like Life, because Life is also short.
To the Japanese, celebrating cherry blossoms has a significant meaning.  The cherry trees in Washington were a gift of friendship by the Japanese to the United States in part as a thank you for Theodore Roosevelt’s role in ending the Russo-Japanese War (and being awarded the first Nobel Peace prize). In addition to being a celebration of life, cherry blossoms are also a metaphor for Death.  Japanese culture honors the act of dying gracefully and beautifully, such as the passage of the cherry blossoms from bloom to petals falling to the ground. Samurai and other Japanese soldiers and civilians preferred committing suicide than being killed by someone.   Just as “Aloha” in Hawaiian can mean hello and goodbye, the cherry blossom can symbolize life and death.

While the cherry blossom is perhaps currently the most common association with the word “Cherry” in American (as well as Japanese) culture, there are many other cultural as well as linguistic associations.  Cherry blossoms come from cherry trees—such as the one, according to Parson Weems, which the young George Washington chopped down with his axe and could not lie about it.  Accepting responsibility for one’s actions is a lesson passed down through generations.

Now, you might say that there are any number of other examples I could have used, but I cherry-picked the one about Washington, because the home of the Cherry Blossom Festival was named after him.  I did not need to ask Uncle Vanya when he was out in the Cherry Orchard.

Or, one could ascribe the selection as indicative of great taste—such as one gets with cherry jam, maraschino cherries, or Cherrystone clams.  Any of which can be satisfyingly accompanied by cherry wine or cherry soda.

Now, is there a challenge in getting this column into a discussion of war, peace and politics? We think not.  The cherry is a heart shaped fruit, and where there is a full heart there can be peace.  Cherry is also a color, and has often been used to illustrate political campaign posters and other materials, and even entire political parties (can one really trust the Reds?)  As for war, the cherry bomb can speak for itself (loudly).  Historically, one can generally refer to the Napoleon cherry.  We could go on, but risk being accused of proving that April is the cruelest month.

So, having demonstrated the centrality of “cherry” in its many forms, uses, and associations to war, peace, and politics, we now come to that part of the column where we remind you that we appreciate your business very much.  We strive to continue to earn your custom and to delight your senses by adding new, intriguing, and often remarkable items every month. We actively seek want lists and your search requests.  Your comments on our columns and suggestions for future topics and recommendations for additions to our key word lists are always appreciated.  We look forward to hearing from you by phone, e-mail, snail-mail, and through our website.  In the immortal words of Dean Martin, please “keep those cards and letters coming.”

As is our continuing practice, in addition to offering our items indirectly through third party sites, we are pleased to be able to sell our products to you directly.  We are happy to reduce our price, upon request, by ten per cent since we avoid paying commissions to these third parties when we sell directly to you.  We never tire of your requesting these discounts—for us it is a pleasure—like the cherry on top of a sundae.

The Ides of March—The Warrior Month

March 3rd, 2017

R. Alan Lewis
President, Ground Zero Books, Ltd.

Caesar was a warrior, but he is not the reason, or at least not the sole reason, to consider March as the Warrior Month.  What do armies do?  They March.  The goal is to go forward to Victory.  Marching backward is not only physically difficult to do, but it also signifies a retreat—and not the kind that results in peaceful contemplation.

Time marches on.  Troops march on.  Thus, time and troops are similar?  Perhaps so—they both can have rhythm.  Day follows night follows day, and so forth.  Troops march in cadence—and thus an important genre of martial music was born.  Night and Day was a song by Cole Porter.  Armies, especially British and French units in colonial Africa, used porters.  See, it all fits—or gives some of us fits.

Marches were not only troop movements, but they were also ‘things,’ or geographic areas.  The Lord Warden of the Marches was an office in the governments of Scotland and England. The holders were responsible for the security of the border between the two nations, and often took part in military action. They were also responsible, along with ‘Conservators of the truce’, for administering the special type of border law known as March law.

The Marches on both sides of the border were traditionally split into West, Middle, and East, each with its own warden answerable to the Lord Warden-general. The English Western March was based on Carlisle and the Eastern March on Berwick-upon-Tweed.  Middlemarch became a novel by George Eliot.  It is true that these Lord of the Marches used some animals militarily, such as steeds for knights in armor.  However, it is not true that the militarized rabbits turn into March Hares!  Rather, scientists have noted that the hare will behave strangely and excitedly throughout its breeding season, which in Europe is generally the month of March.  This odd behavior includes boxing with other hares, jumping vertically for seemingly no reason and generally displaying abnormal behavior—in short, they act in a manner similar to many recruits going through basic training.

Now, you have an opportunity to steal a march—you can get an advantage over others by acting before they do!  How, you ask?  By browsing through our on-line holdings and finding items of interest before they are snapped up by your competition—and placing your orders promptly.  We continue to have thousands of items to potentially delight, inform, challenge, educate, and illuminate you and those you know well enough to give the gift of books.   If you don’t see what you are looking for, please let us know.  We have thousands of items waiting to be catalogued, and contacts with colleagues around the world.  Give us a chance to find that elusive book for you!

As you recall, we encourage direct purchase from us—via our website, by phone, by e-mail, and by post.  By avoiding the costs of selling through third parties, we are able to provide upon request a ten per cent discount on your direct purchases.   We wish you both good buys, and good-bye until next month.

To Tsundoku or Not to Tsundoku—That is a Choice and Not a Question

February 1st, 2017

R. Alan Lewis
President, Ground Zero Books, Ltd.

As we all know, even if only after googling the term, Tsundoku is the practice of acquiring reading materials and letting them pile up and not reading them.  It is an interesting term—sort of like ‘hoarding’ but specific to reading materials.  It is also used to refer to books ready for reading later when they are on a bookshelf.   The word originated as Japanese slang.  As currently written in Japanese, the word combines the characters for “pile up” and the character for “read”.

We confess, as booksellers with an about 60,000 items listed on-line and perhaps an even greater number of items awaiting cataloguing, that we practice Tsundoku in effect but not in intent.  We revel in each book, professional journal, pamphlet, brochure, report, manual, and other material as we prepare our database entries.  We often experience the joy of discovery when we determine that a signature is significant or that an item was a seminal work in its field or that there was an unexpected association—such as learning that Sendak’s first published illustrations were in a book on nuclear energy—Atomics for the Millions published in 1947.  While we do not delve into the motivations of our customers, we hope that the purchases we fulfill provide stimulation as well as the joy of possession.  But we respect the goal of possession for its own sake.  A. Edward Newton is quoted as saying: “Even when reading is impossible, the presence of books acquired produces such an ecstasy that the buying of more books than one can read is nothing less than the soul reaching towards infinity … we cherish books even if unread, their mere presence exudes comfort, their ready access reassurance.”  Please be assured that we would never shrink from the opportunity to sell items to provide ‘mere presence.’

The United Kingdom’s National Literacy Trust recently examined the possession of books in its study: Book ownership and its relation to reading enjoyment, attitudes, behavior and attainment.  This report presented findings that show that book ownership is not only associated with educational attainment but is also related more broadly to reading enjoyment.  Book ownership can be exceptionally important for children.   The number of books in the home has as great an impact on children’s educational attainment as parental education levels.  The multi-year study by Mariah Evans and her colleagues at the Australian National University, UCLA, and other academic institutions found that having as few as 20 books in the home still has a significant on propelling a child to higher level of education, and the more books you add, the greater the benefit.  Can you imagine the quantum increase in benefit if there were 20,000 books at home?  Thus, the acquisition of books can, and we hope should, have a multi-generational positive impact.  Purchasing books today, then, can directly benefit the next generation and beyond.  Perhaps destiny is calling you to buy books today, for your own purposes and to benefit future owners and readers.  Do you owe it to your posterity to perform Tsundoku?  Only you can say.

So, what to buy?  As you know, we have a broad and deep stock of books, monographs, pamphlets, technical reports, government documents, and some odd-ball items.  While we focus on the areas of war, peace and politics, we have significant holdings in many other areas—as a result of acquiring collections over the past 40 years or so.  We hope as you browse our website you will find items to delight your senses, or at least satisfy a need.  Additionally, if you do not see exactly what you are interested in, please let us know and we can survey our current holdings and work with our international network of other book dealers to try to find what you want.

As always, we appreciate your comments on our columns, your suggestions for future topics, your requests for additional information on items we have for sale, your want lists, and your research needs.  We invite you to contact us directly, by phone, mail, and/or e-mail, to purchase our items, and will gladly grant, upon request, a ten per cent discount.    As we end this month’s column, even if it seems like we are ‘piling on,’ we will use a forced metaphor—May the Tsundoku be with you!

How 2017 Equals 10, and should you care?

January 2nd, 2017

R. Alan Lewis
President, Ground Zero Books, Ltd.

Happy New Year! Welcome 2017. Hurray for the Power of Ten—Huh?!

Well, if you add two, and one, and seven, with or without adding the zero, you get the result of TEN. That is powerful mathematical reasoning, hence it reflects the power in TEN and thus the power of TEN.

Now, did that not take your mind off a lot of other ideas and feelings about entering this new year? This introduction is neither partisan nor political, neither historical nor hysterical, but could be considered a paean to equality, since several diverse units came together into one number.

No number was left out, and the zero was free to come or go into the equation without coercion. That enough of math for the remainder of this column, as we are sure you can figure out what you want, where you are going, and what interests you. We hope that as in the past, you will find much of interest in our offered items. Every month we tell you that more has been added than has been sold. Actually, the incoming and the outgoing in December were about equal—thanks to your extraordinary interest in our wares in essentially all topical areas.

The last quarter of 2016 (this is a temporal reference and does not involve math or monetary policy) emphasized politics more heavily that war or peace—not just in terms of the U.S. presidential election but also in terms of BREXIT, European elections, and issues of nationalism vice multinationalism or internationalism. Among your interests have been Progressivism, Nativism, Isolationism, and Regional Integration (economic and otherwise), and forces for dis-integration.
Much of the literature has been in the form of pamphlets, journal articles, and a few monographs and other books. We often look to the past to understand the present and to anticipate (as best we can) the future.

In the U.S. 2016 Presidential election, candidate Trump used the phrases “America First,” and “Peace Through Strength.” As we all know so well from our civics lessons in grade school,The America First Committee was the foremost non-interventionist pressure group against the American entry into World War II. Peaking at 800,000 paid members in 450 chapters, it was one of the largest anti-war organizations in American history. Started on September 4, 1940, it was dissolved on December 10, 1941, three days after the attack on Pearl Harbor had brought the war to America. President-elect, then candidate, Trump used “America First” in ways similar to its WWII-era forebear, seeking disengagement in some regional conflicts and rebalancing of burden-sharing in some relationships, and also in ways specific to the current era and its economic conditions.

The phrase and concept of “Peace Through Strength” date to ancient times. Roman Emperor Hadrian (AD 76-138) is said to have sought “peace through strength or, failing that, peace through threat.” Hadrian’s Wall was a symbol of this policy. That wall was not, like the Berlin Wall, designed to keep people in, but was designed to keep threats out. Same as The Great Wall of China. What was old can become new again.

Peace Through Strength (1952) is also the title of a book about a defense plan by Bernard Baruch, an adviser to Franklin D. Roosevelt. During the 1964 American Presidential campaign, the Republican party spent about $5 million on a “Peace through Strength” campaign. For supporters of the MX missile in the 1970s, the missile symbolized “peace through strength.”

When these phrases, and their underlying concepts, became regular talking points during the campaign, we were happy to be able to supply your needs in these, as well as other, areas.

As we enter 2017, we can share in Carly Simon’s “Anticipation,” but we cannot predict what you may want or become interested in. Therefore, we will continue to add to our stock across the whole spectrum of topics. We will offer signed, inscribed, and significant association copies for the connoisseur collector, ex-library copies for the student and institutional researcher, and a multitude of academic, small press, and significant trade editions in very good condition for those building and maintaining research and personal/professional collections. Unlike many of our bookseller colleagues, we will continue to invest cataloging time on pamphlets, ephemera, and individual issues of professional journals and significant periodicals. Our sales experiences tell us that you appreciate having access to such items.

We always appreciate your comments and suggestions, especially regarding topics for future columns. We actively solicit your want lists and search requests. We do not have the equivalent of David Letterman’s “Top Ten List,” but we recognize the power of ten. Therefore, as has been our practice, we will gladly grant a ten per cent discount upon request for any purchase made directly from us. We hope that you will take many opportunities in 2017 (and beyond) to make our power of ten, your power of TEN.

Happy 2017, and beyond!

Electile Dysfunction or Trumpian Triumph?

December 1st, 2016

R. Alan Lewis, President

Ground Zero Books, Ltd.

We know—most of us have election fatigue, but it is hardly surprising that in our first column after this transformative election that we will at least provide some commentary (and perhaps some perspective) on the election.

First, as a purveyor of a wide array of works on war, peace, and politics, we have no wish to either pander to or to alienate portions of our customer base. Our collection is a “big tent”’ with works representing all perspectives and most if not all eras, geographic areas, memoirs, and analyses. As trained historians, we advocate research, analysis, and learning over promotion of one or another viewpoint. Actually, we encourage the investigation of many viewpoints in support of understanding and as a process for validating one’s own views.

In the United States, the election of Mr. Trump was by many unexpected (especially by those who placed undue reliance on opinion polls and even exit polls). From another perspective, it was the continuation of a trend that has developed within Europe and was most recently communicated through the “BREXIT” vote in the United Kingdom. As a recent Nobel Prize recipient once opined, “The times, they are a-changing.” For political scientists, this is a continuation of a trend of Republican resurgence since President Obama took office—they will point not only to the Presidency, but to net losses by Democrats in the Senate, House of Representatives, governorships, and control of one or both houses in state legislatures. Social scientists, and especially sociologists, may look at the alienation of many population sectors, not just rural white males without college degrees. Economists, whether they hark back to candidate Bill Clinton’s War Room focus on “It’s the economy, stupid!” or just look at the economic stagnation, lack of growth in real wages, and increases in health care and other costs, will have their own take on the results of the voting across the country.

What does all this mean? There are at least two answers. The first is, “watch this space,” as over time there will be post-mortems, rebuttals, digital indications (i.e. finger pointing), propaganda, advocacy, instant analysis, and ultimately scholarly analysis that may even lead to generally accepted understanding. Another is, “browse this space,” as we at Ground Zero Books, Ltd., will continue to acquire and offer books, journals, monographs, pamphlets, technical reports, government documents, ephemera, and other materials that can help each of us to obtain information, appreciate perspectives, and reach understandings on issues, individuals, and impacts.

You do not have to wait for the incoming wave of newly produced reactions to the election, or to other current events, trends, personalities, and perspectives! We have over 57,000 items currently available online and an equal or greater number of items awaiting cataloguing and uploading for your perusing pleasure. Many of these items are informative not only for understanding what went on before, but for understanding our present situations and circumstances, and providing in part a basis for anticipating (not predicting) unfolding events and their impacts and implications. We still have copies of books by President-elect Trump and Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton, as well as titles by others who put their hat into the ring, including Mike Huckabee, Carly Fiorina, Martin O’Malley, and others. We have assessments of past elections, their surprises, validations, and impacts. We have platforms and manifestos reflecting pragmatic to utopian visions of a future folks would have liked to attain. We have items from the perspectives of acting on perceived mandates and on the power and potential of political protests.

We started this column by noting that we respect the divergent views of our clients and do not choose to use this space to advocate or denigrate any party, position, or perspective. We respect the diversity of opinion and the integrity of individually held belief. It is our hope, nay more than that—it is our mission and our goal, to be a provider of choice because of the quality of our products, the integrity of our business practices, and the excellence of our customer service. To that end, we once again remind you that if you choose to deal with us directly, rather than through third party providers, we will pass along savings from not paying sales commissions. We encourage you to request our ten per cent discount when you purchase directly from our website, via e-mail, snail mail, and/or by phone. If the order and payment confirmation process can be validated, we will even accept telepathic orders. We appreciate your dialogue on our catalogue descriptions and annotations and other comments. We welcome want list and search requests, and have an earned reputation for assisting scholars and organizations through research tasks.

We look forward to continuing to serve your needs, wants, and desires (at least some of them) as we move into 2017. Permit us to wish you all the best for the upcoming holiday seasons. May your New Year may be filled with health, happiness, and the occasional “got to have” purchases from Ground Zero Books, Ltd.

98 going on 100—Putting some Sense into the Centennial

November 1st, 2016

R. Alan Lewis, President
Ground Zero Books, Ltd.

We are just about two years away from the one hundredth anniversary of “the eleventh hour of the eleventh day, of the eleventh month” of 1918, marking the Armistice that suspended—rather than ended—the First World War, initially called the Great European War.  The Armistice was followed by a Peace Conference and Peace Treaties, but was not really followed by peace itself.

Immense amounts of ink have been expended in writing about this war—but probably nowhere near the volume of blood that was spilt in that global conflict.   One of the key differences is that the blood did not last.  The ground absorbed it, the stains faded—but the printed word endured and continues to endure and to expand—to confirm and to challenge our beliefs, perspectives, and understanding.

More than many other conflicts—both those before it and those that came afterwards—the First World War continues to fascinate.  This conflict is a microcosm of war, peace, and politics.  One can find everything if one looks deeply into the First World War.  There is the advance of military technology from the tank to reconnaissance and armed aircraft.  There is heroism and cowardice.  There are spies and counterespionage operations.  There are clearly civilian impacts.  There are plans for the post-war world order, although revolutions complicated such plans. There are those who followed the rules of war, and there are those who committed atrocities and war crimes.  There are naval battles and submarines silently destroying civilian vessels.  There is generalship and statesmanship, and alliances which endured and those that “shifted.”  Some monarchies fell and others were reaffirmed.  Empires were carved up.  Victors punished the vanquished—resentments were compounded by “stabbed in the back” mythology.  The League of Nations was born out of the ashes of the First World War.  Peace movements gained momentum from the widespread revulsion against the level and extent of the violence.

Just as there seems to be a bit of everything evident in the First World War, there seems to be equal diversity in how it has been documented, memorialized, assessed, and interpreted.  Within our holdings are contemporary materials from memoirs to training materials to propaganda.  There are post-war recollections and the initial lessons learned.  There are critiques of generalship and naval operations.  There are pamphlets on specific weapons and treatises on the evolution of military technology.  Military medicine was advanced from head to toe—neurosurgery to trench foot.

We invite you, as always, to explore our online holdings and to inquire about what items we have not yet completed cataloguing.  We believe the depth we have in all aspects of the First World War is impressive, and perhaps unexcelled.  This is also true of many of the other aspects of war, peace, and politics.  As always, we offer upon request a ten percent discount for all direct purchases—you can phone us, fax us, e-mail us, visit our website, or catch us in person when we are out and about.  We continue to invite your want lists and search request.  We also accept some research assignments (and our contributions have been acknowledged by authors in their publications).  Your comments, corrections, and suggestions are much appreciated.  As we close this column, we pause as we started to reflect not on the bibliographic product of war but on the cost of war.   In November, we commemorate the fallen, the injured, and those otherwise impacted on Veterans Day, formerly Armistice Day.  What we have today we owe in part to the past sacrifices of others.  How we use what we have today is a foundation of the legacy we will leave to those who come after.    Let us hope that the blood that was shed from veins was not shed in vain, not then, not now, and not in the future.

When Eight Equals Ten, and When You Combine Kildare and McDreamy You Have a Pair of Dox.

October 2nd, 2016

R. Alan Lewis, President
Ground Zero Books, Ltd.

October–how did the root of some words for ‘Eight” become the ‘Tenth” month? Blame it on the Italians?!! October is the tenth month of the year in the Julian and Gregorian Calendars, and one of seven months with a length of 31 days. The eighth month in the old Roman calendar, October, retained its name (from the Latin “octo” meaning “eight”) after January and February were inserted into the calendar that had originally been created by the Romans. So, if they had put January and February at the end of the year, we would not have this conundrum or paradox.

So, the Romans doctored their calendar, as well as going a long way to create the medical arts and sciences. I am pretty sure that sacrificing roosters to the gods to address a medical condition falls into the “arts” category. On the science side, war has been an accelerating influence in the development and implementation of a range of medical improvements, from air evacuation to synthetic blood products. Not every development has been in vein.

We are now entering the month of October. The end is nearer–end of the year, of course. It is time for some to take stock. To help this process, we encourage you to take some of our stock–books, monographs, ephemera, pamphlets, government documents, technical reports, and even some odd-ball items that defy conventional description. We have not figured out yet how to catalogue it, but we have a Japanese ten cigarette pack that we were advised dates from the Second World War (offers welcome). We also have several items in Farsi (including one signed) which we are investigating (scans available upon request).

Since our last column, we have continued to add items to our holdings in essentially all areas. We have a large amount of material awaiting cataloguing, including many signed items, entertainment related, memoirs, holocaust-related, political, and military campaigns and training. Many of these items have been put online in response to your requests that we add items on specific topics, themes, and authors. Perhaps I gression? Gression–why whatever do you mean? Actually it is a seldom used word meaning to walk backward. But I digress, but hopefully do not regress so as to evoke an aggressive response from you our dear clients.

The point is, with over 50,000 items on line and more than that awaiting cataloguing, we serve you, as we have tried to do for nearly 40 years. We replace thousands of sold items with “restocks” and comparable items (putting online an inscribed item back-filling one that has sold, but clearly inscribed to a different person). We seek to keep up with new publications, but generally wait for such items to go out of print unless they are signed or otherwise distinguish themselves. We continue to delve into the recesses of our holding areas for 19th and early 20th century items that are no longer common in the marketplace. Unlike many of our colleagues, we will catalogue single issues of magazines (such as two issues from the early 1900s of The Outlook for which Theodore Roosevelt was a Contributing Editor), pamphlets, and ephemera.

We thank you, once again, for your wants–whether single items or lists, research projects, column suggestions, expansions and elaborations of our annotations (and occasional corrections), and of course purchases. We continue to offer, upon request, a ten per cent discount for all purchases made directly from us–through our website, by phone, by e-mail, by regular mail, and even by telepathy (if verified by PayPal).

We hope you have a wonderful October, with or without paradoxes.

Blow It Up! and Blow Me Down—Linguistic Versatility and the Ingenuity of the English Language

September 1st, 2016

R. Alan Lewis, President

Ground Zero Books, Ltd.

“Explosion” and “amazement” both from the same word. One associated perhaps with a terrorist context and the other tied firmly to nautical origins. The uses and meanings of the word “blow” and associated phrases are potentially infinite. The phrase “blow this place” is not likely to refer to demolition, but rather to departure (perhaps rapidly). The versatility is also enhanced or enabled grammatically; in many of our books about espionage, an agent’s “cover is blown”—meaning both revealed and destroyed.

The lyric “blowing in the wind” conveyed the meaning of movement through the air, as well as the anti-war movement convulsing a nation. The protesters were trying to metaphorically strike a blow for peace; in other situations people strike blows for freedom and/or victory. Not to be snotty, but there is also the process of “blowing one’s nose.” Not exactly the same image or process of blowing in the wind.

Then again, the word “blow” can be an alias, a nickname, such as when it is used to refer to cocaine. It is perhaps an odd use, since the user typically would snort a line and would not dream of exhaling air through a nostril and thus distributing the white powder hither and yon.

So, where is this linguistic rumination taking us? Clearly to a discussion of books, pamphlets, ephemera, etc. generally in the areas of war, peace, and politics. We have a mind-blowing mass of opportunities. Since we last penned (or rather key-stroked) our monthly column, there have been substantial numbers of departures (thank you all) from our stock, and a slightly larger number of recent additions unevenly distributed across our major categories. Uneven does not mean we “blew it,” but rather reflects market factors of what items come our way and also the luck of the draw as we delve into boxes of stock opened for cataloguing. We continue to add signed and association copies in all areas and in deference to the election cycle have also added significantly to this area. Also, we were fortunate to come into possession of a number of items, including ephemera, associated with the Y-12 National Security Complex in Oak Ridge, Tennessee—a key nuclear weapons complex site.

As always we are pleased to grant, upon request, a ten percent discount for all purchased made directly with us—whether from our website, by phone, by fax, by e-mail, or snail mail. We also invite inquiries, want lists, research and search requests, recommendations for future column topics, comments, corrections to our annotations (thankfully a rare occurrence), and suggestions.