BOOKS | ‘Two Dumb Ducks,’ Maxwell Eaton’s latest charmer

TwoDumbDucks“Two Dumb Ducks,” the latest from Maxwell Eaton III.

Noted children’s author, contributor and very good friend Maxwell Eaton III publishes his fourth book today.

“Two Dumb Ducks,” a Knopf title, introduces us to Steve and Carl, two entertaining foul who battle against the scourge of the seagull. Max and I have been corresponding about his new protagonists. Here’s a part of that conversation:

Q: A new book. Fantastic. Why ducks?

A: It was Two Dumb Crows for a good number of drafts until the alliteration gods cast their rays of inspiration upon this desert domicile, whereupon I changed the characters to long-billed dowitchers. Then Editorial had a suggestion.

Q: Steve and Carl. Any inspirations there?

A: There needs to be balance when writing and illustrating what might otherwise turn out to be cutesy. And nothing balances cutesy like “Steve” and “Carl.”

Q: A: And what about cans and socks? Cornelius? Zanzibar?

A: Cans and socks seemed like things ducks might come across when crossing the road from one side of a swamp to the other. And when it came to Carl’s sock friends, I suppose, in retrospect, Cornelius was a bit of a subconscious nod to a Wes Anderson flick. And Zanzibar, a nod to my East Africa aficionadic acquaintances.

Q: What about the gulls? Do you hate seagulls?

A: The trick is to pick unsympathetic antagonists. And hairless cats didn’t work in an aquatic setting.

Q: The book sends a strong anti-bullying message that very much connects to the conversation of the day. Obviously, you’re making a deliberate comment. Why?

A: The comment is more about how you chose to deal with problems and view solutions. When I was in elementary school the anti-bullying curriculum was fairly impractical. In fact, I’ve used it here as the backbone of Steve and Carl’s initial failed attempts. Ask the bully why they’re calling you dumb. Tell the bully to stop. If these work for you then great, but I want to show kids that it’s alright to deviate from the standard (and often useless) solutions and to adapt to the situation. If each bullying scenario (or any problem for that matter) if different, then each solution may have to be different. When (spoiler alert!) Steve and Carl wake up resembling muck monsters and the seagulls flee in terror, they realize that they’ve temporarily solved their problem. The seagulls aren’t really being hurt. And Steve and Carl aren’t directly threatening them. They just happened to be covered in pond scum. It’s completely passive. And, even better, it’s completely consistent with their own sense of fun and weirdness. Even if it didn’t discourage the seagulls, they’d probably still be playing in the mud. You’re talking about the same birds that are obsessed with aluminum cans and dirty socks. So I hope that readers experience “Two Dumb Ducks” not as a book about stopping bullies in their tracks, but as an example of how to go about dealing with unique challenges in creative ways that don’t hurt anyone and allow the individual to be true to him or herself.

Q: Who are you trying to reach? Are you hoping to maintain a relationship with your “Max and Pinky” readers? Are you hoping to attract new readers?

A: I think “Max and Pinky” Heads will appreciate Steve and Carl. And, of course, I would hope that some will discover the duck book only to be led back to the pig and the bald kid. But for a sappy instant I really do just want them to enjoy the story in front of them and not think about the collected works of the socially inept, marginally employable, consistantly disheveled author sitting at his desk drawing neckties on beavers.

Q: Tell me a bit about the book’s promotion. How can fans connect with you?

A: The best way to connect with an author is to write them a letter. Authors truly are attention starved creatures desperate to spend half a day or more responding to-, buying a stamp for-, and then mailing a letter in return. And if you think they’re the kind of author whose mail might be filtered by assistants or interns, simply mark the envelope “PERSONAL.” That works for congressmen, too. But, as far as promotion goes, keep your eyes peeled for further interviews and media of that nature.

Q: You’ve moved on from “Max and Pinky.” Will they ever ride again?

A: Max and Pinky have bogged themselves down with infighting and passive-aggressive displays of inter-agrarian one-upmanship. The sink is full of dishes. The barn is listing dangerously. And nobody has seen the horse, Chuck, since “The Incident.” For now, Max and Pinky are going to sit tight while a few other pairings hog some of the attention.

Q: What other projects are on the burner?

A: “The Flying Beaver Brothers” first and foremost. In a transparent attempt to stalk my first readers throughout their subliminally scarred lives (read The Mystery backwards in a mirror), I’ve upped my audience’s age bracket with a graphic novel series about two beavers (brothers, I believe) that surf, skateboard, and indulge in detrimental levels of napping. I’m hard at work on the first two stories as we speak and will have concrete release dates soon. But more on that later!

Eaton offers readers a chance to preview “Two Dumb Ducks” at

Eaton lives in Arizona with his wife, Kristin. He graduated from St. Lawrence University in 2004. We talked last year about his extensive creative process.

Contact your local bookseller to purchase a copy of “Two Dumb Ducks” today.

“Two Dumb Ducks”
Maxwell Eaton III
Alfred A. Knopf, Oct. 12, 2010
Hardcover, 32 pages

BOOKS | ‘Take Ivy,’ at last

TakeIvy‘Take Ivy,’ the iconic collection of photography that is considered a bible of classic American style.

At last. For those of us unwilling to tender bids of as much as $1,000 on eBay, there is salvation. ‘Take Ivy,’ the iconic collection of photographs that is considered by many as the bible of traditional American style, is at last available for the masses. My copy arrived in today’s mail.

At $24.95, the book, published yesterday by Powerhouse Books, is an affordable winner. Originally published in Japan in 1965 by Fujingahosha, the venerable magazine concern, ‘Take Ivy’ is a journalistic exercise. Photographer Teruyoshi Hayashida and reporters Shosuke Ishizu, Toshiyuki Kurosu and Hajime Hasegawa. In their forward, the authors write:

… Here is a report entitled “Everything About the Ivy League” with photos that our team of reporters collected during our one-month fact-finding trip.

As the name suggests, the classic buildings on Ivy League campuses are literally adorned with green ivy. Tranquil school grounds are covered in lush grass. Dormitory lights remain lit until late at night. Classrooms are compact to accommodate a small, but elite group of brilliant students. The vast dining halls accommodate hundreds of hungry students at one time. Our camera successfully captured scenes of typical and beautiful American campuses in both lively and tranquil times.

Each Ivy Leaguer wears clothes in his own way while maintaining an appropriate student look. The meaning of freedom can be found in what the students wear at their residential campuses. [We] believe that this book serves an invaluable documentary of appropriate dress codes on campuses. …

‘Take Ivy’ accomplishes that mission, but we already knew that. Several excellent blogs, including The Trad and A Continuous Lean., posted images from the original Japanese editions ages ago. Men of Dartmouth, Brown and Princeton figure most prominently, as do a lovely collection of ‘old boys’ navigating the concrete and granite canyons of Manhattan.

I suppose the joy of the book is that it’s a book, by which I mean that I still enjoy the process of turning pages and assessing photography as editors intended. On the whole, I would say it’s the third-best catalog of 1960s photographs I own, behind Slim Aarons’ oeuvre and Bill Eppridge’s “As it Was: Bobby Kennedy in the Sixties.”

One disappointment is that the color reproduction seems poor, especially when compared with the images I’ve enjoyed at the aforementioned blogs. I’m sort of motivated to splurge for an original copy to make a comparison. For example, in the scans I’ve seen elsewhere online, the Dartmouth green is decidedly green. In the Powerhouse edition, it often seems black. Still, other frames, particularly in the section on Bermuda shorts, seem to reproduce beautifully.

The glossaries, on the upside, are charming. They include brief discussions of the Eight, anecdotes about the raising of Old Glory over each campus, President Kennedy and the the tradition of working and playing hard. The Japanese authors also offer a dissertation on Ivy League vehicles that includes a note on the 1960s obsession with vintage vehicles.

And, finally, of course, is an outline on traditional style, at its apex in 1965. Going barefoot, school colors and madras are all discussed in brief before the authors present a nice little guide to the wardrobe essentials.

So, reproduction issues aside, get thee to a bookstore!

‘Take Ivy’
Powerhouse Books
First English Edition, 2010

COCKTAILS | Sail to Bermuda with the Mid-Ocean Highball

MOHballThe Mid-Ocean Highball, another classic from Charles F. Baker Jr.

Spring is here and with the welcome change in weather, I’m more interested in cocktails that rely on either tonic water or soda. Charles F. Baker Jr.’s aforementioned “Jigger, Beaker and Glass” offers a wonderful selection of cocktails from warm and exotic climes around the globe.

One such recipe comes from the Mid- Ocean Club in Tucker’s Town, Bermuda. The Mid Ocean Highball was discovered by Baker during a stay on Bermuda in the late 1920s or early 1930s. He writes:

“Not so long ago we went to this charming island with St. Georges as a base camp. We pedalled, sailed, fished and golfed. Swam naked as Adam off small isolated islands with beaches like faintly rose-tinted granulated sugar. The Mid-Ocean Country Club had a gentleman back of mahogany who, then at least, took his art seriously. Actually called it a ‘cocktail.’ Burt MacBride — Associate Editor of Cosmopolitant — who flew down on the first Bermuda Clipper with Pan-American Airways and first told us about the drink, called it a “highball,” but in spite of this odds-on risk, we call it a ‘fizz’ still.

I find the Mid-Ocean somewhere between the highball and the fizz but, regardless of how you choose to classify it, I imagine you’ll still enjoy it. Relying on cognac, French vermouth and gin, it adds soda and a twist of lime to amplify its refreshment. Should you not care for vermouth, as I generally don’t, you may choose to scale its role in the performance back.

• 2 ounces gin
• 3/4 ounce French vermouth
• 3/4 ounce cognac
• Dashes orange bitters
• Soda
• Twist of lime

Gather the gin, vermouth, cognac and bitters together over ice in a shaker and shake well. Strain into a highball glass and add soda and the lime peel. An alternate would be to serve sans ice and soda in a cocktail glass.


BOOKS| ‘Take Ivy’ re-release available for preorder

Take IvyThe cover overleaf of “Take Ivy,” a collection of photographs taken of the 1960s that focus on Ivy League style.

Aficionados of classic American style rejoice: “Take Ivy,” the coveted photographic collection is due to be released, it seems.

As was earlier reported tonight over at Ask Andy, the compendium of photographs taken on Ivy League campuses by Japanese photographer Teruyoshi Hayashida in 1960s is now available for preorder at An August 31 release is set for the title, which is currently on offer for $24.95.

The book, authored by Kensuke Ishizu, Toshiyuki Kurosu and Moto Hasegawa, was first published in 1965 and has since been released a couple of times. The book, whose title plays on Dave Brubeck’s classic “Take Five,” plays on the Japanese affinity for both jazz and classic American style. It remains unclear if the book’s text will be translated to English but no matter. The photographs, which you can explore over at The Trad, speak volumes themselves about enduring style.

To give you a sense of both perceived value and demand for the book, I turned up a used copy this evening for $2,000. This reprint is welcome news for the thrifty.

“Take Ivy”
From $24.95

BOOKS | A trio of Auchincloss titles

AuchinclossThree of Louis Auchincloss’ novels: “World of Profit,” “Portrait in Brownstone” and “The Embezzler.”

The death last Tuesday of Louis Auchincloss, the patrician chronicler and critic of Old New York, was deservedly overshadowed by the J.D. Salinger’s passing. Auchincloss, who worked by day as an estate attorney, while popular, is not being taught in very many college English courses.

Still, there’s good stuff in his oeuvre. My grandmother was a fan, apparently, as these three first-editions were part of her library. “Portrait in Brownstone,” published in 1962, deals with what the Times called the “social mountaineering … of a prosperous Fifty-third Street clan.” The Denisons, of whom Auchincloss paints his portrait, don’t get very far up Manhattan’s peak, scrambling along the way with one another over perceived insults and the prospect of financial insecurity. “The Embezzler,” which appeared in 1966, eviscerates Guy Prime, a white-shoe Wall Street titan who embezzles $350,000 from the country club he helped birth and wean. Prime, who narrates the novel, laments his moral decline, a central fact in most, if not all of Auchincloss’ books. Jay Livingstone, hero of “World of Profit,” published in 1968, is an aspirant Jew who seeks to cast off his background for the social realm of Manhattan’s Protestant elite. The world he finds there is far shabbier than the one he came from.

This trio has sat on my shelves since college. (Missing from the series, of course, is Auchincloss’ greatest triumph, “The Rector of Justin,” published to acclaim in 1964. I suspect this book is on a shelf at my parents’ place in the Upper Delaware Valley.) The covers of these books, while clearly dated, are nonetheless graphically pleasing. As a newspaper man, I’ve always been particularly taken with the cover of “The Embezzler,” which immortalizes the much-lamented stock pages. They all have the look of “Mad Men” props and I’m surprised that Auchincloss hasn’t warranted a mention on the show. (Though few major literary figures have yet been mentioned, it’s obvious that Matthew Weiner is a student of the writers of the day. Cheever’s influence, for instance, is transcendent.) Don Draper, it could be argued, is as much an Auchinclossian character as he is a Cheeverian one.

These turn up cheaply at used bookstores and make for good reads, especially for those interested in the rapidly vanishing Manhattan of yore.

FIND | Celebrate your literary heritage, casually

TshirtThis shirt from Out of Print celebrates Fitzgerald’s “Tales of the Jazz Age.”

“Atlas Shrugged.” “Moby Dick.” “1984.” “Of Mice and Men.” Classics of American literature, they’ve become enshrined on a new line of T-Shirts.

Resolved to “celebrate literature through fashion,” the shirts come from Out of Print of Brooklyn. Distressed and softened for comfort, Out of Print’s line pays tribute to classic works of literature and would make the perfect shirt for any English major who spends Sunday morning lost in the folds of the Book Review.

The shirts are graphically beautiful. John Held Jr.’s cover for “Tales of the Jazz Age” is a classic, as are the covers of “Of Mice and Men,” “Lolita,” and “Wisdom of the Heart.” For $28, you’re not only getting a wonderful shirt, you’re also sending a book to Africa, as Out of Print has partnered with Books for Africa.

LIVES | J.D. Salinger, reclusive literary icon, 1919-2010

SalingerJ.D. Salinger.

J.D. Salinger, the reclusive writer whose 1951 novel, “Catcher in the Rye,” is considered one the great American novels, has died. He was 91.

Salinger, born the son of a well-off Jewish father and a Scots-Irish mother on Jan. 1, 1919, was born and raised in Manhattan. His education was a long journey with a number of unimpressive stops: McBurney School on the West Side, Valley Forge, which became the model for Holden Caulfield’s Pencey Prep, and brief stays at both New York University and Ursinus in Pennsylvania. “Slight Rebellion Off Madison” was Salinger’s first short story accepted in The New Yorker. He submitted it in 1941 but the magazine held it for five years, as the Times reports, perhaps because its editors did not think it responsible to support an author with a checkered educational past like Salinger’s. It was a sketch that later evolved into “Catcher.”

After service in the Counter Intelligence Corps of the Army during World War II, Salinger returned to New York and resumed his career, landing several pieces in The New Yorker before “Catcher” was published in July 1951. Salinger followed it with “Nine Stories” in 1953, “Franny and Zooey,” published in 1961, and “Raise High the Roof Beam, Carpenters and Seymour: An Introduction,” in 1963.

Salinger has lived a hermetic existence in Cornish, N.H., since he moved there in 1957. Current and former awkward teenage boys the world over mourn him.

Here’s the Times obituary.

To honor the author, The New Yorker has put all of his short stories on its Web site. You can explore his work here.

LIVES| Louis S. Auchincloss, chronicler of patrician New York, 1917-2010

AuchLouis Auchincloss.

Louis Stanton Auchincloss, the scion of a venerated New York family, attorney and celebrated novelist died Tuesday evening at his Manhattan home. He was 92.

Born on Long Island on Sept. 17, 1917, Auchincloss grew up in an aristocratic New York that has largely vanished. Educated at Groton, Yale and the University of Virginia Law School, he served in the Office of Naval Intelligence during World War II. At Virginia, he discovered a passion for estates law; after the War, he joined the Wall Street firm of Sullivan and Cromwell.

His first novel, “The Indifferent Children,” was published under the pseudonym of Andrew Lee in 1947. In 1954, he joined Hawkins, Delafield & Wood, where he remained until 1987, practicing trust law. “The Rector of Justin,” for which he received the most critical praise and is perhaps best remembered for, was published in 1964. Other successes included “The Embezzler,” “Portrait in Brownstone,” and “A World of Profit.” His final novel, “Last of the Old Guard,” was published in 2008. In his chronicling of the decay of America’s ruling class, Auchincloss often found himself compared to the likes of John P. Marquand, John O’Hara. Still, his efforts are better compared to Edith Wharton, who also devoted her work to the people and institutions of Old New York.

In its obituary, the Times quotes Gore Vidal, an Auchincloss admirer:

“Of all our novelists, Auchincloss is the only one who tells us how our rulers behave in their banks and their boardrooms, their law offices and their clubs,” Gore Vidal once wrote. “Yet such is the vastness of our society and the remoteness of academics and book chatters from actual power that those who should be most in this writer’s debt have no idea what a useful service he renders us by revealing and, in some ways, by betraying his class.”

Mr. Vidal added, “Not since Dreiser has an American writer had so much to tell us about the role of money in our lives.”

FIND| ‘The Lake Placid Country: Trampers’ Guide,’ 1922

MapA detail of a map from “The Lake Placid Country: Trampers’ Guide.”

When I was the editor of the Lake Placid News, we ran a series of feature stories on historic hikes — walks along forgotten trails around the northern Adirondacks. One of my writer’s key guides to this series was “The Lake Placid Country: Trampers’ Guide.” I recently acquired a copy of this little piece of Adirondack history.

Trampers GuideAt left, the cover of “Trampers’ Guide.”

Published in 1922 by the Adirondack Camp and Trail Club, an offshoot of the Lake Placid Club, the guide was assembled by T. Morris Longstreth, a prolific travel writer whose work includes a long list of books on the Adirondacks, among them the great “Mac of Placid.” “Trampers’ Guide,” features 60 hikes of various difficulty in and around Lake Placid and the surrounding High Peaks. Longstreth’s writing is terrific in its simplicity and accuracy. Many of these hikes could be similarly described today. The book also includes a few automobile drives, a suggested canoe route around Placid Lake and a wonderful introductory passage that includes this gem:

“Lake Placid has an exhaustless wealth to offer. It is a wild Eden with a little arboretum of knowledge in the center; or rather, it is a nucleus of civilization set within a beautiful wilderness dedicated to adventure.”

The greatest treasure of the “Trampers’ Guide,” though, are the wonderful maps that are appended to its pages. My copy has four, though it have had included more when it was published. The best map, which details trails around the village and Mirror and Placid Lake, is attached to the book’s cover as an endpiece. The others detail the Ausable Lakes in St. Hubert’s, the Heart Lake area and the roads and highways around Lake Placid.

Does anyone know more about Longstreth? Neither the Times’ nor the Lake Placid News’ archives yielded an obituary. Does anyone have any other maps from this guidebook?

Take a look at these maps:




GIFTS| The 2009 holiday list

FWaterFallingwater, the centerpiece of LEGO’s new Architecture series. See below.

With only nine days until Christmas, you’d better hustle to get all the presents you need for all the dear friends and relatives on your list.

Here are some gift recommendations from your writer:

• Ceramic New York City coffee cup: Iconic and happily non-disposable, this ceramic version of New York’s ubiquitous coffee cup preserves the classic 1963 design while being friendly to the environment. $12.

McAllan• MacAllan Cask Strength Single-Malt Whisky: We got into this the other night after a party and we probably shouldn’t have. With notes of cheese and chocolates, it’s a tasty aperitif. From $55 at your local liquor store.

• Monogrammed double old-fashioneds: Serve your cocktails in style with these terrific glasses from Buffalo’s Pitt Petri. $45 for a set of 4.

• Newburyport seat: Designed in 1928 for use in rumble seats, this wooden folding seat is a design classic. Crazy Creeks, so popular in camping circles, owe their design heritage to this beauty. $54.99.

• Wooden backgammon set: While we don’t play nearly often enough, Mrs. F. and I love our wooden backgammon set. The granddaddy of all board games, it’s well worth learning. $68.99.

• Personalized cheese server: We received one of these as a wedding present and it’s one of our favorite serving pieces. Perfect for preserving a beautiful triple cream, this covered glass piece will serve you and yours for years. $49.

Tote• Filson log tote: My father won’t relinquish his old canvas L.L. Bean tote, so I’ll have to settle for this terrific Filson product. $69.50.

• LEGO Fallingwater set: Embrace your inner child while paying tribute to an architectural triumph. LEGO’s architecture series is geared toward nearing-30 former LEGOheads like your writer. $99.

• Adirondack Pillow: With designs that summon the beauty of postcards from the 1930s and 1940s, Catstudio’s line captures the spirits of states, parks and resorts around the country. While we’re particularly fond of the Adirondacks, Catstudio is sure to have products for your favorite destination. $149.

• Monogrammed matchbooks: Calling cards in their own way, these are a great little mementos. I’ve relied on Party Basics, a Buffalo firm, for these for years. You won’t be disappointed. $31 for a case of 100 books.

• Hudson’s Bay Blanket: Winter’s here and well, warmth is key. Nothing will keep you warmer than a Hudson’s Bay Blanket. An investment, to be sure, but a very, very good one. $349.

• Grosgrain watch straps: From the source, Central Watch Station, a wonderful watch-repair and retail kiosk in the 45th Street Passage of Grand Central Terminal, these nylon ribbon bands are classics. Easy to clean and comfortable, they’ve been a staple for me since the mid-1990s. Five for $29.95.

• Filson vest: A perfect, traditional layer for a cold day in the Adirondacks or anywhere else. $105.

Socks• Collegiate socks: Show your school pride with these cozy cotton socks from Smart Turnout in Britain. $24.

• Ribbon Belt from Knot Clothing: Tie a bit of whimsy around a loved one’s waist with a made-in-New-England belt from Knot Clothing. They’re a sure bet. $35.

• Zippered cigarette bag: For your smokes, your phone or that notepad where you store your Don-Draperesque ideas, this bag is it. From the recently-launched ACL and Co. line from A Continuous Lean.’s Michael Williams, it’s based on a World War II U.S. Army-issue sack that kept GIs’ luckies dry and toasted. $32.50.

• Caravan aviators from Ray-Ban: When my father served in the U.S. Army Medical Corps in the 1970s, he wore Caravan-shaped eyeglasses and sunglasses. Keep your retinas healthy with a pair of these American icons. $119.

• Mad Bomber: The warmest hat I’ve ever owned is a navy-blue Mad Bomber I got as a present about 12 years ago. Lined with rabbit fur, it’ll keep your noggin and your ears better than warm. The Mad Bomber is an absolute must for winter.

Hat• Dale of Norway hat: If fur hats aren’t your thing, then you might opt for the Dale of Norway Vail hat. Show your support for the U.S. Ski Team. $49.

• Barbarian Rugby Shirts: The perfect alternative to that ratty sweathshirt you should have retired during the Clinton Administration, the Barbarian Rugby shirt is one of the best thing that’s ever happened to me. The St. Lawrence version, sales of which benefit the Alumni Association, can be had here. $59.95.

Reads and other media
Pano• San Francisco Panorama: Newspaper loves everywhere are singing the praises of the Panorama, a one-time print paper from the folks at McSweeney’s. Bringing together some of the best writers, designers and artists working today, the Panorama is a celebration of the power of print. $16.

• “The National Parks”: Ken Burns’ latest opus is comprehensive and, if nothing else, a love letter to some of the nation’s greatest natural treasures. From $69.

• “Store Front: The Disappearing Face of New York”:Exploring the value of enduring charm of the city’s neighborhood businesses, authors James and Karla Murray shed light on an increasingly endangered species. $65.

• “Neil Leifer: Ballet in the Dirt: The Golden Age of Baseball”:
The glorious photographs of Neil Leifer, taken in the heyday of America’s pastime, are sights to behold. A must for sports and photogrpahy buffs alike. From $27.

• “Bullet Park”: John Cheever’s 1969 novel about the lives of two suburban men, one named Hammer and the other Nailles, will seem a bit familiar to fans of “Mad Men,” as both the author and the book have inspired parts of the hit television drama series. From $10.

• “The Speakeasies of 1932″: Al Hirschfeld’s atlas of New York’s watering holes in the final year of Prohibition is a must for any cocktail fan or lover of the old city. It’s a favorite of mine and always gets pulled off the coffee table when guests visit. Complete with cocktail recipes. From $24.95.

• “Mad Men”: Season Three: While it’s not yet available, you can pre-order your DVDs of the third season of television’s finest show. $31.99.

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