Away from home for three weeks, Saturday was a day for getting things back in order around the house. During the time away family members drove over a couple of times to spend a few days here in my absence, a good deal because they could check on things and give the place a look of occupancy for anyone looking over the fence. And surprise to me, I returned to find a near-full refrigerator and the place bedecked with fresh flowers and a few potted plants as well.
All that being well and good, there were a few domestic mysteries about what and where that had to be solved before everything was just where I like it. Where was the fountain pen washing machine? Where was the plant that used to be in the bedroom? What to do with all the fancy Italian gelato in the freezer? None of it major or cause for alarm, but merely a process of putting home in the order accustomed to. That aside another larger ‘task’ was on the settling-back-in list.
This place is about three inches from being out of room for anymore books, and already some areas require a careful tread to avoid knocking over a stack. That thought never entered my head during the time in Louisiana and I bought a little over ten books per week while there. Most of the backseat of the car was stacked with books on the drive home. On Saturday all the books got lined up for inventory with thought to where they might fit in among others.
It’s a job any book lover enjoys—pulling out books purchased recently and once more turning through the pages, reading random lines, breathing in the smell of old paper and ink, and enjoying all over again the first thrill of discovery on some dusty shelf. Books brought home from Baton Rouge and New Orleans are too many to list here, but that doesn’t mean I can’t share a few titles and points of interest along the book buying way.
Hard to ignore others, but here is a list of fifteen books that tickle the fancy this time around:
1. You Are Not I, a portrait of Paul Bowles by Millicent Dillon; several stories and novels by Bowles are familiar, and though I knew he lived for many years in Morocco, much of his life there is a mystery and I bought the book with an eye toward learning something about the writer and Morocco as well.
2. Boy on the Step, poems by Stanley Plum; this signed 1st paperback edition was a gift from my good friend and host in Baton Rouge, Raymond. Both the poet and this collection are unfamiliar to me, but the book is sitting at the top of my list of books to read.
3. When the Emperor Was Divine by Julie Otsuka; hardback 1st edition picked up in New Orleans, a 2003 book about the US internment camps for Japanese-Americans during WWII. The writer’s latest book, about Japanese war brides (The Buddha in the Attic) is now making waves.
4. Isle of Joy by Don Winslow; unfamiliar paperback of an old 1996 book by a writer I have long liked.
5. Crackpot: The Obsessions of John Waters; admittedly, John Waters is someone many look at with trepidation, but his nuttiness has always given me belly laughs. Who else quits smoking because of the difficulty of childproof lighters and because butts on dessert plates are repulsive?
6. Ernest Hemingway: A Life Story, by Carlos Baker; a writer I want to know more about, and a book recommended by a friend.
7. Act One by Moss Hart; a 1959 1st edition of the well-known playwright’s novel about putting his plays together for Broadway. This book too was a gift from my friend, Raymond, one we both read in high school.
8. Embracing Defeat by John W.Dower; hardback of the 1999 book about Japan during its post-war period from 1945 to 1952. I have a paperback of this excellent book, one that covers every aspect of Japan’s defeat in WWII, and the country’s resurgence.
9. The Prince of Frogtown by Rick Bragg; 1st edition of the 2008 memoir, third in a trilogy.
10. While England Sleeps by David Leavitt; 1st edition of a 1993 book that was recalled by its publisher and pulped in mass over legal discrepancies later resolved. This copy is one that escaped the pulp mill and replaces a paperback copy on my shelves.
11. Heart of the Journey, a 1985 novel by Greg Matthews; another book bought on recommendation.
12. Travels with Virginia Woolf, edited by Jan Morris; 1st edition by a writer I enjoy on occasion.
13. Me and My Baby View the Eclipse: Stories, by Lee Smith; 1st edition of a 1990 collection by a writer who makes me laugh out loud again and again.
14. The Final Solution by Michael Chabon; another 1st edition of a book I already had in paperback. In my opinion Michael Chabon could make a grocery list sing.
15. Journey of the Wind by Tomihiro Hoshino; a rare hardback edition of a 1988 book by one of my favorite Japanese painter-poets.