Carefully Selected by Your Crack Staff of News Sleuths
Column Editor: Bruce Strauch (The Citadel, Emeritus)
Against the Grain Vol. 33 No. 2
Editor’s Note: Hey, are y’all reading this? If you know of an article that should be called to Against the Grain’s attention … send an email to [email protected]. We’re listening! — KS
Rare Book Heist
A warehouse break-in near Heathrow Airport in 2017 turned baffling when the police discovered that all that was missing was 240 rare books of staggering value. It came to be called the “Mission Impossible Case” due to the acrobatics needed to scale to a roof and descend avoiding laser alarms.
Then the gang spent five hours selecting treasures such as the Einstein copy of Johannes Kepler’s The Cosmic Mystery and Newton’s Mathematical Principles of Natural Philosophy.
Connoisseur book thieves are very much a problem, but they typically pilfer over years. The rare book archivist at the Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh lifted $8 million worth, but it took him 25 years.
The London haul was $3.4 million in a night.
As it turned out, the culprits were garden-variety thugs who operate freely now in the EU and Britain, and they were captured in 2020 by standard police sleuthing. When they were rounded up, only four books were missing, and there was little damage to the rest.
A London bookseller pronounced the crime brilliant due to the technique, but extremely dumb because “there is nothing less fungible than rare books.”
Is that why they still had the books three years after the theft? But how did they know which ones to pick?”
See: Marc Wortman, “The Case of the Purloined Books,” Vanity Fair, April, 2021, p.86.
Southern Turkey is a land of pomegranates. A symbolic part of the culture, they are given as wedding gifts to symbolize fertility and smashed on doorsteps for New Year.
Pomegranate molasses is catching on in the US, although many are put off by the name “molasses,” thinking it will be icky sweet. In fact, the Turks call it “pomegranate sour” as it is super tart.
It’s put in sauces, marinades and soups. Mixed with olive oil, you can dip your bread for breakfast. Spice up a salad, drizzle over seared tuna, marinate a rib-eye. It will definitely penetrate the meat. A burning rosemary sprig adds another layer of smoke.
See: Albert Stumm, “The Home of Pomegranate Molasses,” Milk Street, March-April, 2021, p.16.
Librarian of Note
Faye Jensen is CEO of the South Carolina Historical Society in the historic Fireproof Building in Charleston. They have two million maps, plats, photographs and manuscripts.
Faye has a doctorate from Emory and worked in the National Archives and the Jimmy Carter Presidential Library.
Her favorite eating spot is the Grocery.
See: “Faye Jensen,” Garden & Gun, April/May,2021, p.45.
Obit of Note
Lawerence Ferlinghetti (1919-2021) was a UNC journalism grad by golly, then a naval officer in WWII. Afterwards, he took degrees at Columbia and the Sorbonne and failed to make a living as a painter in SF. Then opened the legendary City Lights bookstore which he ran while writing poetry and essays.
He published Corso, Burroughs and Ginsberg, was prosecuted for obscenity for Ginsberg’s Howl, but acquitted. His poetry collection, A Coney Island of the Mind sold over a million copies.
See: “The poet who became a counterculture icon,” The Week, March 12, 2021, p.35.
And Speaking of Bookstores
When you’re in Charleston, there are two noteworthy independent bookstores just over the Cooper River in Mt. Pleasant. Trade-A-Book is on Ben Sawyer Boulevard. The owner, Beverly Gibbs, is noticing growing numbers of young people who are tired of screens and want physical books.
Karen-Ann Pagnano’s The Village Bookseller is on Coleman Boulevard. She delivered books to homes during the pandemic, now is having face-to-face conversations with customers eager to talk literature. She has a strong Classics section that is popular with young readers.
See: Kenna Coe, “Independent bookstores anticipate interest in tangible, physical books,” Moultrie News, March 17, 2021, p.A1.
Let’s Read About the Cabinet
Peter Baker, Days of Fire (2013) (how Dick Cheney and George Bush were tight and then grew apart); (2) Doris Kearns Goodwin, Team of Rivals (2005) (Lincoln appointed his rivals to the cabinet, and they did not get along); (3) Robert Dallek, Camelot’s Court (2013) (the unlikable men in Kennedy’s cabinet, none of whom trusted the military); (4) Stephen Kinzer, The Brothers (2013) (Allen and John Foster Dulles running the CIA and State Department under Ike); (5) Jill Watts, The Black Cabinet (2020) (a group of black advisors to FDR among whom was Mary McLeod Bethune, founder of Bethune-Cookman University).
See: Lindsay M. Chervinsky, “Five Best,” The Wall Street Journal, March 27-28, 2021, p.C8.
Chervinsky of the author of “The Cabinet: George Washington and the Creation of an American Institution.”