Sunday, June 04, 2006

An Attempt To Fill the Holes

My Bookman has a rare weekend off from work so what do we do today? Go to the used bookstore! We've been cataloging our books on LibraryThing and as we go we are removing books we read and did not like, books we have more than one of, and books we have no idea how we acquired and have no idea why we'd want to keep them. We took six plastic grocery store bags of books to sell. Two of those bags came back home with us because even the used bookstore didn't want them. The rejects will go to Goodwill. Someone will want them. And of course, while we were there we had to shop and bring home two other grocery bags of books to add to our shelves! Here is what will be filling the empty spaces left by the books we removed:

  • Simone Weil Reader. Even though I have read hardly anything by her, she fascinates me for some reason. I have been looking for her First and Last Notebooks for ages but have yet to come across it. The Reader doesn't have anything from her Notebooks in it, but it does have some intriguing essays with titles like " The Power of Words," "The Responsibility of Writers," and "Morality and Literature."
  • The Uses of Enchantment by Bruno Bettelheim. Someday I mean to make a study of fairy tales. When I finally get around to it, this book will come in handy.
  • The Romantic Movement: Sex, Shopping, and the Novel by Alain de Botton. It's a novel. I haven't read any of his novels. I see from the back of the book he was born in 1969. I am a year older than he is. He was also educated at Cambridge and lives in London (at least he did in 1994). There is also a photo of him. All I can say is, he may be younger and better educated and live in a really cool city, but I am much better looking.
  • F.M. Dostoievsky: The Diary of a Writer, translated and annotated by Boris Brasol. This particular publication is from 1949 and just over 1000 pages of tiny print. The beat up dust jacket says "The intimate self-revelation of a man of genius: a treasure-house of anecdote, reminiscence, criticism, short stories and sketches by a master." I passed it by a month ago. This time I could not resist its call.
  • Baltasar and Blimunda by José Saramago. A first edition even!
  • Survival by Margaret Atwood. What? You've never heard of it? Neither have I. It was published in 1972 and is about Canadian literature. At the time she had "only" five books of poetry and two novels to her name. The guiding question of her survey is "What have been the central preoccupations of our poetry and fiction?" That "our" being Canadian of course.
  • Willa Cather by Hermione Lee. Both are wonderful writers, put the two together it has to be good.
  • I had my eyes open for short stories while browsing and came away with Alice Munro's Runaway and The Collected Stories of Eudora Welty. I have not read anything by Munro in spite of the passion she seems to inspire in her readers. And the only thing by Welty that I have read is One Writer's Beginnings and various things about her love of gardening. Time to make the leap with both of them in my effort to become more literate in short stories.
  • And finally, a tiny little book, more of a long essay really, sandwiched between two big books and almost lost to sight, A Reader's Manifesto by B.R. Myers. I hesitated because of the subtitle, "An Attack on the Growing Pretentiousness in American Literary Prose." Just another grumpy critic. But I decided to get it because of the the first paragraph of the Preface:
    In late 1999 I wrote a short book called Gorgons in the Pool. Quoting lengthy passages from prize-winning novels, I argued that some of the most acclaimed contemporary prose is the product of mediocre writers availing themselves of trendy stylistic gimmicks. The greater point was that readers should trust our own taste and perception instead of deferring to received opinion. A banal thing to say? I only wish it was. For decades our cultural establishment has propagated a very different message.
    Definitely a grumpy critic, but perhaps more than that, because, in the face of established opinion, what reader has not, at one time or other, doubted their own perception?
I also bought a new bookmark, a sort of shimmery one with sea turtles on it. I like turtles and bookmarks, combine the two and I couldn't resist. I will add it to what seems to be a growing and unintended collection of bookmarks. Maybe I should become a serious collector of bookmarks (is there such a thing?) I could have the world's largest collection of turtle markers. I think I currently have three so I might have a long way to go on that one. Or maybe I could collect giveaway bookmarks--the ones from publishers and bookstores and special events. Or art bookmarks. Or markers with author's faces on them. Or--maybe I should stop before it gets out of control. Back to the books. We made a valiant attempt to fill all the empty spaces left by the books we removed, but, I am afraid, failed. No matter though. I'm sure within a few months we will be wondering where all the extra space on the shelves went!