Saturday, December 06, 2008


The Man Who Knew Too Much

I'm in the NY Times Book Review with an essay on sporting goods retailer and inimitable advice author George Leonard Herter:

His enchantingly bombastic catalogs included listings for more than a dozen of his self-published works, bound in metallic silver and gold covers, and bearing titles like “How to Get Out of the Rat Race and Live on $10 a Month” — which apparently involves moving to Alaska and zapping up fresh fish by running two car batteries into a stream’s shallows. (If you don’t have batteries, “drop 10 pounds of quicklime” upstream.) George often listed his wife, Berthe, as a co-author, though she’s notably absent from his marriage guide, “How to Live With a Bitch.” This, perhaps, accounts for the revised edition’s chastened advice to “under no circumstances call your wife a bitch.”
Herter catalogs are an extraordinary slice of eccentric Americana, not least because Herter's inventiveness extended to creating many of the goods that he sold. There's piles of patents in his name; one of my favorites is his notion for a Fish Calling Device:

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