Friday, December 3, 2010

New Books, Old Books

Several days ago, while still in Louisiana I wrote some words here about the time spent in New Orleans browsing French Quarter and Garden District bookstores. That was a grand time, but in fact the browsing was only the first phase of the experience. Those who love books and enjoy reading will tell you that in such cases the enjoyment comes in successive steps. The first is browsing among crammed shelves and suddenly discovering a book long tickling the back of your mind. Then there is the first minute or two of taking the book down, opening the front cover and verifying it is that long sought edition. But the third phase of pleasure comes when you arrive home and unpack your book or books and in your favorite reading chair spend a longer time examining dust jacket and binding, reading passages, or perhaps with a new release pressing the pages to your face and breathing the smell of ink and paper.

With one or two exceptions, I saved the last part of this experience for my return to Florida and the familiar cushiness of that well-worn chair with the lamp beside it. Altogether, I came home with thirty-one books, an unwieldy number to comment on in this small space. The bulk of those have now been fondled, perused and considered and wait for time and occasion to allow a deeper reading. From the teetering stack of thirty-one here is an armful of ten books that brought some sparkle to my eyes.

In no particular order…

(1) In the Land of Dreamy Dreams by Ellen Gilchrist — A signed 1981 University of Arkansas softcover edition of the writer’s first collection of stories. One of my favorite southern writers.

(2) Christopher Isherwood’s The Sixties Diaries 1960-1969 — Long awaited second volume of diaries from another of my favorites, and a sublime writer.

(3) The Widower’s Tale by Julia Glass — Anyone who has read Three Junes by Ms Glass will understand this purchase; a just released and signed first edition/first printing.

(4) The Points of My Compass: Letters from the East, the West, the North, the South by E.B. White, — A 1962 Harper & Row edition of essays (letters) by the man who for many years virtually set the standard for American writers; a hard to find edition.

(5) Plainsong by Kent Haruf — The discovery here was not of a particular edition, but more importantly of a writer who writes of ordinary people in language that sparks a sunrise in the heart.

(6) Eventide by Kent haruf — More of the same; this one a surprise gift from my great friend in Baton Rouge.

(7) Sunset Park by Paul Auster — The latest from a man who is surely one of the better American, if not international writers.

(8) I Will Bear Witness: A Diary of the Nazi Years 1933-1941 by Victor Klemperer — First heard of this book from a friend and was intrigued by the title.

(9) A second volume by Klemperer, this one covering the years 1942-1945. Once more I thank Raymond for putting these two heavy volumes in a gift bag for these Florida shelves.

(10) Collected Sonnets by Edna St Vincent Millay — A rare 1941 first edition from Harper & Brothers. The discovery of this edition in Librairie Bookshop in the French Quarter nearly brought on hyperventilation.

Much to look forward to in these books, and hopefully they will be enough to temper my book buying urges for a while. But then, how many times have I said that?

1 comment:

  1. Aaahh, what a great sampling of books. Although you did a fine job of clarifying the inner need, I am sure most folks without our unexplainable desire to possess bound language find it hard to understand the thrall that books have over us. Always when someone mentions that they do not read I always think, How else can you experience so many lives while just living your own?


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Oak Hill, Florida, United States
A longtime expat relearning the footwork of life in America