Sunday, June 13, 2004

Collecting the Classics

My beloved brought home a bag of bookstore goodies last night, taking advantage of the hyped up employee discount. I've been collecting "the classics" since the recent advent of the new Barnes and Noble Classics series issued in hard cover, trade paperback and mass market (I've been collecting the trade editions). They are attractive and cheap (and even cheaper through June even of you aren't an employee--they are buy two get the third free). There are "classics" I have not read and would like to read but haven't gotten around to them. They are not books I own and I always tell myself I will get them from the library. But I never do. It's sort of an out of sight out of mind thing. So I have decided that since these new Barnes and Noble editions are so cost effective, I will begin collecting some of those books I have always meant to read. In this way they can sit on my bookshelf and stare at me, daring me to read them. And I can ignore them and not worry about whether or not they are overdue and how much of a fine I will have to pay for a book I didn't get around to cracking open. But I won't be able to ignore them forever. They will sit on my shelf whispering to me, and in the fullness of time, for I believe, there is a right time and a wrong time to read a book (any book), I will pick one up and begin to read. And another. And another. I have added to the shelf:

  • The Histories by Herodotus. I was never much interested in this book until recently when I read American Gods by Neil Gaiman. The main character in that book swore by Herodotus. So of course I am now curious.
  • Alice's Adventures in Wonderland and Through the Looking-Glass by Lewis Carroll. I have seen the Disney version and it terrified me as a child, so much so that I was afraid to read the books. I have not been able to overcome by fear of the oompa-loompas or the flying monkeys, but I am going to make a valiant attempt to stand up to the Mad Hatter and the Queen of Hearts.
  • Tom Jones by Henry Fielding. I wasn't particularly interested in this one until I read the back cover "Soon after its 1749 publication, Tom Jones was condemned for being "lewd," and even blamed for several earthquakes." How can any reader worth her/his salt resist a book that was blamed for causing earthquakes? Especially one who grew up in southern California and lived always with the threat of "the big one" as I myself did?
  • The Romance of the Forest by Ann Radcliffe. I owe this one to my Bookman. It is a Gothic Romance. I have no idea what it is about, but I enjoy a good Gothic Romance, and she authored The Mysteries of Udolpho, a book I don't think I own but I have been told is wonderful. The Romance is published by Barnes and Noble but is not part of their new classics series. However, it still has a good price.
  • And last but not least, Beowulf translated by Seamus Heaney. This is not the bilingual edition, however, this is the Norton Critical Edition. The husband rightly figured that the bilingual version, however nifty, was not that interesting when it comes right down to it. Neither of us can read Old English so what's the point? In the Norton edition it has a photo of a page of the original, that's enough for me. It also has a bit of history and critical essays by scholars at the end of the book. Potentially enlightening, more so than looking incomprehensibly at words that mean nothing to me except in translation.
There you have it. My Bookman got a few books for himself too and the spree spilled over into the movie and music department as well, but here it's the books that matter most. I already feel their gaze and hear their whispers.