Philip Aaberg, Jimi Hendrix, and Earth Abides: The First Review of The Life and Truth of George R. Stewart

Here’s the link to Philip Aaberg’s review of the GRS biography, Bonds of Literature and Music Run Deep. 

One of the greatest joys from researching and writing a book comes from the remarkable encounters along the way of the work.  In the case of the Stewart biography, one of the most enriching encounters was with Grammy-nominated composer and musician Philip Aaberg and his family.

The credit for that meeting goes to Richard Brong, a fine science teacher in the Reno, Nevada, area  After I’d done a NASA presentation for his students, which included some references to Earth Abides, Richard asked if I knew the music of Philip Aaberg.  I did not, so he recommended that I look up a piece written and recorded by Aaberg, “Earth Abides.”

Later, working in Missoula, Montana, I went to the local Hastings Book and Music store (one of a fine small chain of bookstores usually found in small college towns) to look for Aaberg’s recording.  One of the bookfolks directed me to Napoleon (whose last name I have forgotten), their music & jazz expert.  Napoleon quickly found a recording which included Aaberg’s composition — but Hastings did not have a copy.  So Napoleon called Rockin Rudy’s, discovered  they had a copy, and sent me to that store.

Later that day, for the first time,  I heard Phil Aaberg’s musical response to the book.  The music was so rich and inspiring that it went on the desktop, to be played whenever there was a need for inspiration, or the calming that precedes inspiration.

After a little research, I found Philip Aaberg’s business phone number on the web.  I called.  His wife, who manages Sweetgrass Music, answered the phone.  I explained to Patty why I was calling.  She suggested that I call Phil at a pre-arranged time, and interview him.

Not long after, I talked with Phil at length about his interest in Stewart.  That first conversation would lead to visits with Phil, Patty, and Jake at their home in Chester, Montana, Phil’s participation in the first George R. Stewart Symposium at CONTACT, and wonderful stories for the Stewart Biography.

Now, Phil has written the first review of the book that’s been published.  And well-published, too, in The Great Falls Tribune, which is part of the Gannett chain.  Phil’s review of the book takes a Stewart-like approach; it’s interdisciplinary, weaving music and literature together, showing the effect each has on the other.  He includes a reference to Jimi Hendrix, another musician inspired by Earth Abides (said to be Hendrix’s favorite book), making the point that the same work of literature can influence composers with two very different styles to create their own responses to it.

George R. Stewart would be very happy with this review.  As am I, and grateful to Phil for taking the time to write it.

Bookstores — Still independent, still thriving

Bibliophiles — those who love books — are numerous.  You can always spot one — when you visit someone for the first time, look for their library; and then look to see what’s in it.  A friend, Diane Sternbach once suggested to me that a good motto for our time might be “by their books shall ye know them,” and I think she’s spot on. (Diane even asked Google to translate the phrase into Latin: “a libris eorum cognoscetis eos eor (know them from their books).” She comments,  “Doesn’t exactly fall trippingly from the tongue, does it?”)

Bibliophiles have even entered legend — Captain Kirk is a lover of books.

One of the great pleasures of being a bibliophile is the discovery of a new independent bookstore.  The folks that own them love books, too, and it shows in what they sell and how they sell.  It’s not just a job with them.  Like good librarians, they will often size up a patron and make suggestions which lead to the reader’s discovery of new authors and new books.   Over the years, I’ve had some very happy times wandering through independent bookstores, talking about books with staff folks, and following their suggestions about things to read.

Amazon and the Big Box stores have killed a lot of small bookstores.  But independent bookstores are still with us.  They provide service not available at the big box stores or online — try calling Amazon with a simple book or author question.   The independents also offer books that the big places are not interested in carrying because they can’t sell enough copies.

Here are some favorites:  Shakespeare & Co., Green Apple Books in San Francisco, Bookstore WestPortal in San Francisco, Powell’s in Portland, Oregon, Moe’s in Berkeley, Books Inc (“the West’s oldest independent bookseller”) in Mountain View, California,  Kepler’s in Menlo Park, California, Book Boutique in Henderson, Nevada, Vroman’s in Pasadena, California  — I could list these all night.

There’s a new book out now, of essays about authors’ favorite bookstores.  The LA Times has an excerpt from one of the essays here

What about you?  Do you have a favorite bookstore, a place where you like to browse for a while, maybe have some coffee, and talk books with a passionate staff?  If so, put it in the comments section, please.

A Small Gift From Bob Lyon

Bob Lyon, founder of The Friends of George R. Stewart, has been kind enough to send  a small collection of items that were not sold to Back of Beyond Books so I can add them to my Stewart collection.  This was a kind and unsolicited gift from Bob, and I want to express thanks to him.

As time permits, I’ll review the items Bob sent, then report on the materials here in this site.  Who knows what is in that package from Bob?

Thinking about this brings two questions to mind:

What’s your favorite George R. Stewart book?

Which of his books would you like to read, but have not been able to find?

The Life and Truth of George R. Stewart in eBook — the good, and the not-so-good

The Life and Truth of George R. Stewart is now available as an eBook.   Here’s a link to one site, although I’m sure it’s also available on others:

That’s good news.  The not-so-good news is that the price is the same as it is for the paper version.  So for most of you, the regular version probably makes more sense.

However, the other good news is that you can now preview the first twenty pages of the book to see if you’d like to buy a copy.  Follow the link from the ebook page above to get to the preview.

McFarland does not expect to sell thousands of copies of the book, printed or e version, since their market is libraries and universities.  So they must charge a high price for the book.  On the other hand, this price is about a third that’s charged for the first biography of GRS, a fine work by Dr. Fred Waage.  So perhaps the next biography of GRS will be priced more reasonably.  Or, hopefully, the book will prove popular enough to find a trade publisher who might release it at a lower price.  Stay tuned.

But in the meantime, please take a look at the preview on the eBook page.