Monday, June 04, 2007

Books and More Books!

This past Saturday the area library held its annual book sale.

And regular income or not, I needs must go and see what I can find. At a dollar per hardback, I'd be an idiot not to.

Here is this year's haul, in the order they happen to be stacked on my study floor:

1) Common Errors in English and How to Avoid Them, by Alexander M. Witherspoon, Ph.D., 1943.

I've inherited some of my English teacher grandmother's propensity for being a grammar and usage cop. And as much fun as it is to deplore others' mishandling of the language, it's salutary for me to make sure my own writing is itself up to par (hmmmm . . . . should that actually be "propensity to be"? And would it be more accurate to say I want to get "down to par"? I'd better read this book and find out!). Then, too, it'll be interesting to see what usages have absolutely changed in the past 64 years. I actually hadn't known that "contact" hadn't always been a verb as well as a noun!

2) Hypatia, by Charles Kingsley, no copyright date shown but originally published in 1853. The design and frontispiece illustrations of this American edition look more Edwardian. 1905, let's say.

Charles Kingsley is a familiar name, somehow in association with the Inklings of Oxford. A predecessor? And I'd heard of his Hypatia, but I hadn't known what it was about. Turns out it concerns a young woman, a philosopher and teacher, who is trying to bring back Classical paganism against the momentum of post-Constantinian Christianity. But that's only the first two chapters. I'll see what ensues.

3) David Copperfield, by Charles Dickens, 1948 Literary Guild edition, first published in 1850.

Everybody needs a copy of David Copperfield. Otherwise, how are you going to know when Masterpiece Theatre gets it wrong?

4) Les Miserables, by Victor Hugo, English translation 1943; French original published 1862.

Gosh, I hope, I hope, I hope this version is unabridged, discursions on argot, the Battle of Waterloo, and all!

5) Cathedral, Forge, and Waterwheel: Technology and Invention in the Middle Ages, by Frances and Joseph Gies, 1994.

Promising-looking treatment of Medieval architecture and technology, with reproductions of period illustrations. The people who put together the library sale tables had filed it under "Religion." Hilarious! (Unless you really do think that architects will save the world).

6) All Things Bright and Beautiful, James Herriot, 1974.

Dogs! Cats! Horses! Furry critters in general! And the vicarious pleasure of looking in on a country vet's life without having to get cold and tired and grotty oneself! Eh, oop!

7) Laughing Stock, Bennett Cerf, editor, 1945.

In his Introduction, Mr. Cerf states, "The joke book of the future will bear little resemblance to this collection. My grandson will tell me . . . 'For Pete's sake, is that what people laughed at fifty years ago?'" Alas, Mr. Cerf was right. But there are still enough good ones to amuse any occupant of the porcelain throne-- which is why I pick up books like this in the first place.

8) The Hymnbook, David Hugh Jones, editor, 1955.

Not a lot of Presbyterian Church (USA) congregations still use the Dark Red Hymnal. But occasionally I'll preach at a church that does. Now I can return the copy I borrowed from the church of a pastor friend of mine two years ago (sorry, Deb!)

9) The Presbyterian Valley, William Wilson McKinney, editor, 1958.

A collection of essays on the history, development, and accomplishments of the earliest Presbyterian churches in the Upper Ohio Valley. The church I used to pastor is shown on the map on the endpapers, but far, far south of where it's located now. Another congregation by the same name? Or the same one, and is this yet another example of the lack of communication and obscurantism I encountered in that parish? I knew when I was there that the church had moved at some point to its present location, but nobody could or would tell me from where. Maybe they had no historic sense and simply didn't know. Or maybe it was more of the quality that made the clerk of session keep the church register and Session minute book at his home and refuse to ever, ever let me see them.

10) Home Painting, Wallpapering and Decorating, a "Wise book," 1951.

Screamingly out of date for many products, tools, and techniques, but containing some recipes that may come in very handy as I renovate my 1920s foursquare house (see my blog The Sow's Ear). Worth spending a buck for, just in case.

11) Decorative Painting, by Emma Callery, 1990.

I've already done some nice (I think!) faux finishing on my kitchen (which someday I'll get round to publishing on my house blog). This book should come in hand for the next such project I may try. Lots of well-photographed illustrations.

12) A Certain Justice, by P. D. James, 1997.

I "read" this story before, in 1999, by way of Books on Tape, while en route to a Face-to-Face pastor search cattle call in Corning, New York. Got so wrapped up in the story that I missed my exit for my friends' house in Cincinnati (where I was to spend the night) and ended up in Over-the-Rhine. There are times when that could've been very awkward for someone like me, but happily, that midnight was not one of them. A friendly gas station clerk set me straight and I eventually made it back to the suburbs.

As for the story, P. D. James can always be relied upon to give the reader a grim but gripping, well-constructed, psychologically-motivated tale. And, what fun, I see that she has signed this copy on the flyleaf!

13) The Norton Anthology of World Masterpieces, fourth edition, Vol. 1, Maynard Mack, general editor, 1979.

14) The Norton Anthology of English Literature, fifth edition, Vol. 1, M. H. Abrams, general editor, 1986.

15) The Norton Anthology of English Literature, fifth edition, Vol. 2, M. H. Abrams, general editor, 1986.

Back in June of 1975, Judy, an architecture school classmate at my Great Midwestern University, borrowed my Norton Anthology of English Literature; I think it was to clear up an Incomplete she'd had to take in an English class. But she absconded to Iowa, transferred to Maharishi University, and I never saw her or my Norton again.

When I laid eyes on these books last Saturday, I thought, "Ah! here's my chance to recover my loss." But the sale room was too crowded and the books were too heavy to see if any of them were the same one I had in the mid-'70s. I'm particularly looking for a story called "August Heat," about a man who goes walking in London on a blindingly hot Bank Holiday afternoon, and somehow ends up in a stonecutter's yard where the unknown craftsman has just finished chiseling a tombstone with the protagonist's name on it . . .

Haven't found it yet. Maybe it was in the 1974 edition, but left out of this. I know it always creeped me out enjoyably.

There should be one more, going by the amount I was charged. But I can't find it. Oh, well, if the volunteer made a miscount, that's one more dollar for the library fund!

1 comment:

Thom M. Shuman said...

Very nice blog. I look forward to finding the time to read your other ones. I liked the term 'cattle call' for our infamous Face2Faces!