There are two nearby charity shops that somewhat make up for the complete absence of proper bookshops anywhere near to my home. I don’t go very often, but when I do, I usually find something to make the visit worth my time.
Yesterday, I managed to hit both, with mixed results…
The grand total for both locations? $9.25. Not my best price ever from similar expeditions, but definitely not bad.
Here follow a few random notes on the acquisitions:
Edgar Rice Burroughs, John Carter of Mars series: I read this entire series when I was twelve or thirteen, in this same edition. I may even still have these in a box somewhere, but they could well have gone missing in one of my various moves over the past several decades. I started re-reading these several years ago, and found them quaintly enjoyable, even a hundred years after their first appearances. The already-noted lurid covers are quite distinctive, and although I don’t generally like stickers left on books, the old B. Dalton stickers are suitably nostalgic that I may just leave them in place. For 50¢ each, I could hardly skip these.
Edith Hamilton, The Greek Way, and The Oedipus Plays of Socrates, Mentor Editions: the New American Library published the Mentor and Signet Classics. I’m not sure if the Mentor range still exists, but the first copies of the Iliad and the Odyssey that I owned and read were the Mentor editions (and I wish I knew where they were). As I finally got round to reading Edith Hamilton’s Mythology last year, The Greek Way seems like a plausible follow-up. But what’s most striking about these two volumes, apart from the fact that they were 25¢ each, is that they seem almost like new: scarcely age-toned pages, covers crisp and nearly undamaged. Why is that surprising? Well, they were printed, according to their copyright pages, around 1964. That’s a long time ago for a paperback to look this good. Whoever used to own their either never read them, or was as fastidious about their books as I am. Or both.
Elizabeth Gaskell, Cranford / Cousin Phillis: my wife likes to give short tours of our house, including the reading nook upstairs. There are several shelves in the nook where I have my Penguin Sanctuary. There, the Penguins are neatly and lovingly packed into stacks two-to-three books deep. It’s humane, I promise you. For my money, the Penguin Books editions are some of the best versions of classic literature around, and again, for a measley quarter, I’ll always pick one up if it’s in decent shape (and I don’t already have it, or occasionally even if I do). I aspire to one day having read all of the Penguins that I own, but let’s be honest, it’ll take decades. Good to have a plan, though, right?
Sophocles, Antigone (Oxford University Press): so why does anyone need two translations of Antigone? For a start, without the Greek edition, I’m completely at sea here, because the Mentor version, translated by Paul Roche, is wildly different from the Oxford edition, translated by Richard Emil Braun. Just consider the opening lines, spoken by Antigone herself:
Roche’s translation of Antigone begins like this:
“Come, Ismene, my own dear sister, come!
What more do you think could Zeus require of us
To load the curse that’s on the House of Oedipus?
There is no sorrow left, no single shame,
No pain, no tragedy which does not hound
Us, you and me, towards our end.
What’s this promulgation which they say
Our General’s lately made to all the state?
Do you know? Have you heard? Or are you sheltered
From the news that deals a deathblow to our friends?”
While in Braun’s version, the same passage
Let me see your face:
my own, only sister,
can you see
because we are the survivors
today Zeus is completing in us the ceremony
of pain and dishonor and disaster and shame
the began with Oedipus?
And today, again:
the proclamantion, under the rule of war
but binding, they say, on every citizen….
Haven’t you heard? Don’t you see
hatred marches on love
when friends, our own people, our family
are treated as enemies?”
Although clearly related, these two distinctly different versions of the same original Classical Greek text make clear what a difficult art translation can be. So, yes, in answer to your question, I do need copies of both editions. 🙂
* Susan Jacoby, The Age of American Unreason: Actually, I read this last year, in paperback. Yes, I know that the paperback is even slightly expanded, but having a near-pristine hardcover copy for a cool $1 cash was irresistible, especially as I was recently gifted a 300-ft. roll of Bro-dart dust-jacket protector. Jacoby’s book is a sort of unofficial follow-up, written during Bush 43’s administration, to Richard Hofstadter’s landmark 1963 book, Anti-Intellectualism in American Life. Together, these two books are a damning commentary on American intellectual priorities and failings (and almost entirely in the pre-“smart”-phone era). Unfortunately, while Jacoby’s book assessed the state of play for the first decade of the 21st century, it did not predict the falling of the new American Dark Ages that began in January 2017. #AmericanDarkAges
* Robert H. Ferrell (editor), Dear Bess: the Letters from Harry to Bess Truman, 1910-59: I’ve been a bit obsessed with Ferrell since I read his book on the Harding Presidency, The Strange Deaths of President Harding. From what I can tell, though, most of his academic work was on Truman, so this collection of Truman’s letters will make for some interesting reading. By all account, although Truman had his flaws, his long-term partnership with Bess makes for a model that few modern Presidents, with the possible exception of Carter, Bush & Bush (sounds like a law firm) could match.
* Ben Bova and Byron Preiss, Editors, First Contact: The Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence: this was a $2 book, or, if you bought it from the Waldenbooks chain in 1992, a $4.98 book. In my case, I picked it up not so much for the subject matter, but because of that red sticker on the cover, which provoked an instant and violently nostalgic reaction in me. Again, I’m not really an advocate of leaving stickers on books, but for this one, which reminds me of long ago, better times, I’ll make an exception. Not everything was better in the past, no. But I didn’t wake up in a cold sweat every morning, with that question of “oh fer feck’s sake what now?” poised on my lips.
* Haynes Johnson, Sleepwalking Through History: I remember this history of America in the Reagan years when it was new, and had forgotten about it until yesterday. At which point, on seeing it and glancing over the subject matter, I decided that not only might it have new relevance in the American Dark Ages, but that it might provide some solace as well. Probably won’t help with me being able to sleep through the night, though. Another book for a cool greenback dollar.
… Anyway. That’s most of the haul. The mad thing is that I went out later in the day and did it again. Yes, I have a problem. Yes, I probably need professional help. More on that subsequent shopping expedition in the next segment.