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A Soul in a Bottle by Tim Powers

A Soul in a Bottle cover
Trade Edition SOLD OUT
Limited Edition SOLD OUT
Lettered Edition SOLD OUT


Excerpt available

A note about the lettered edition: It is identical to the signed, limited edition. More than half the copies were sent to the author for his personal use. We've finally unearthed ours, and decided to offer them for sale. One to a customer, please.

Tim Powers graces us with another original tale, this one roughly twice the length of his sold-out-on-publication chapbook, The Bible Repairman.

A first edition of a 1968 book of poems, with a sonnet that appears in no other copy—a mysterious girl with a special fountain-pen, who needs a special favor—and an old woman who warns used-book dealer George Sydney that helping the girl he's fallen in love with will mean that he will never have fallen in love.

Hollywood Boulevard, with its bars and used-book stores and the legendary Chinese Theater, is the psychic killing ground where Sydney must learn the rules of an old supernatural rivalry—and choose to save either the woman he loves, or his soul.

Soul will be a heavily illustrated small form hardcover, available in two unique states:

Trade: fully cloth bound hardcover, in dust jacket
Limited: 474 signed leatherbound hardcovers, with a different dust jacket than the Trade Hardcover

Special Note: We’ve just unearthed three unpublished sonnets by Cheyenne Fleming, the haunted poet at the center of Tim Powers’ new illustrated tale, A Soul in a Bottle. These lost poems were discovered too late to be included in the book proper, so we’re arranging to have copies made, which will be laid into the limited edition.

From Publishers Weekly:
“In this taut, eerie novella from Powers (Three Days to Never), used-book hunter George Sydney finds he can summon a beautiful poet when he discovers a signed volume containing a previously unknown variant on one sonnet… There are no thin, hairy specters lurking in this tale, and no cold grue to chill one's bones. Its impact is more moral than visceral, evoking the pity and fear that are hallmarks of tragedy. Exquisitely illustrated by J. K. Potter, this slender volume is sure to appeal to epicures of the terrible.”

Charles de Lint, in F&SF
“Powers is responsible for many of my favorite novels and stories, but I particularly loved this book. Not least because it reminded me why I love reading—more, that I do love reading. I haven’t lost that joy; I’m just not finding enough books that do it for me.

“But here was a book that utterly absorbed me. I wasn't distracted by showy writing (though the prose, in retrospect, is lovely) or the author parading his cleverness. Instead, I was given a lovely tale that wasn't afraid to tell a small, simple story with freshness and a great deal of heart.”

From Rambles.net
“Powers serves a subtle and memorable brew.”

 

Excerpt:

A Soul in a Bottle
by Tim Powers

The forecourt of the Chinese Theater smelled of rain-wet stone and car-exhaust, but a faint aroma like pears and cumin seemed to cling to his shirt-collar as he stepped around the clustered tourists, who all appeared to be blinking up at the copper towers above the forecourt wall or smiling into cameras as they knelt to press their hands into the puddled hand-prints in the cement paving blocks.

George Sydney gripped his shopping bag under his arm and dug three pennies from his pants pocket.

For the third of fourth time this morning he found himself glancing sharply over his left shoulder, but again there was no one within yards of him. The morning sun was bright on the Roosevelt Hotel across the boulevard, and the clouds were breaking up in the blue sky.

He crouched beside Jean Harlow's square and carefully laid one penny in each of the three round indentations below her incised signature, then wiped his wet fingers on his jacket. The coins wouldn't stay there long, but Sydney always put three fresh ones down whenever he walked past this block of Hollywood Boulevard.

He straightened up and again caught a whiff of pears and cumin, and when he glanced over his left shoulder there was a girl standing right behind him.

At first glance he thought she was a teenager—she was a head shorter than him, and her tangled red hair framed a narrow, freckled face with squinting eyes and a wide, amused mouth.

“Three pennies?” she asked, and her voice was deeper than he would have expected.

She was standing so close to him that his elbow had brushed her breasts when he'd turned around.

“That's right,” said Sydney, stepping back from her, awkwardly so as not to scuff the coins loose.

“Why?”

“Uh ...” He waved at the cement square and then barely caught his shopping bag. “People pried up the original three,” he said. “For souvenirs. That she put there. Jean Harlow, when she put her hand-prints and shoe-prints in the wet cement, in 1933.”

The girl raised her faint eyebrows and blinked down at the stone. “I never knew that. How did you know that?”

“I looked her up one time. Uh, on Google.”

The girl laughed quietly, and in that moment she seemed to be the only figure in the forecourt, including himself, that had color. He realized dizzily that the scent he'd been catching all morning was hers.

“Google?” she said. “Sounds like a Chinaman trying to say something. Are you always so nice to dead people?”

Her black linen jacket and skirt were visibly damp, as if she had slept outside, and seemed to be incongruously formal. He wondered if somebody had donated the suit to the Salvation Army place down the boulevard by Pep Boys, and if this girl was one of the young people he sometimes saw in sleeping bags under the marquee of a closed theater down there.

“Respectful, at least,” he said, “I suppose.”

She nodded. “'Lo,'” she said, “'some we loved, the loveliest and the best ...'”

Surprised by the quote, he mentally recited the next two lines of the Rubaiyat quatrain—That Time and Fate of all their Vintage prest,/ Have drunk their cup a round or two before—and found himself saying the last line out loud: “'And one by one crept silently to Rest.'”

She was looking at him intently, so he cleared his throat and said, “Are you local? You've been here before, I gather.” Probably that odd scent was popular right now, he thought, the way patchouli oil had apparently been in the '60s. Probably he had brushed past someone who had been wearing it too, earlier in the day.

“I'm staying at the Heroic,” she said, then went on quickly, “Do you live near here?”

He could see her bra through her damp white blouse, and he looked away—though he had noticed that it seemed to be embroidered with vines.

“I have an apartment up on Franklin,” he said, belatedly.

She had noticed his glance, and arched her back for a moment before pulling her jacket closed and buttoning it. “'And in a Windingsheet of Vineleaf wrapped,'” she said merrily, “'So bury me by some sweet Gardenside.'”

Embarrassed, he muttered the first line of that quatrain: “'Ah, with the grape my fading life provide ...'”

“Good idea!” she said—then she frowned, and her face was older. “No, dammit, I've got to go—but I'll see you again, right? I like you.” She leaned forward and tipped her face up—and then she had briefly kissed him on the lips, and he did drop his shopping bag.

When he had crouched to pick it up and brushed the clinging drops of cold wanter off on his pants, and looked around, she was gone. He took a couple of steps toward the theater entrance, but the dozens of colorfully dressed strangers blocked his view, and he couldn't tell if she had hurried inside; and he didn't see her among the people by the photo booths or on the shiny black sidewalk.

Her lips had been hot—perhaps she had a fever.

He opened the plastic bag and peered inside, but the book didn't seem to have got wet or landed on a corner. A first edition of Colleen Moore's Silent Star, with a TLS, a typed letter, signed, tipped in on the front flyleaf. The Larry Edmunds Bookstore a few blocks east was going to give him fifty dollars for it.

And he thought he'd probably stop at Boardner's afterward and have a couple of beers before walking back to his apartment. Or maybe a shot of Wild Turkey, though it wasn't yet noon. He knew he'd be coming back here again, soon, frequently—peering around, lingering, almost certainly uselessly.

Still, I'll see you again, she had said. I like you.

Well, he thought with a nervous smile as he started east down the black sidewalk, stepping around the inset brass-rimmed pink stars with names on them, I like you too. Maybe, after all, it's a rain-damp little hippie-chick that I can fall in love with.