► In addition to getting some books for my class, I also got some for myself.  At this rate, I’m going to have to put a bookshelf in the kitchen or the closets.  In the BBC show COUPLING, Steve tells his girlfriend Susan that he used to store books in the oven — until that unfortunate "fire" incident.  Yeah, I’m thinking of going there.

Have you ever noticed that in movies, the actors don’t know how to get physical with a book.  They don’t hold it correctly — that is, they don’t hold it as if they know what to do with it. They tend to treat it like a paper plate that they don’t know whether to hang on to it and get seconds or throw it away. In their hands, it doesn’t look natural.  If they are supposed to be reading, they have it open to the very beginning, which throws off the timing of the scene.  Or, they have it open halfway, but it’s obvious they’ve been staring into space for about a hour.  They don’t look at it.  They don’t interact with it.  Any other prop works out: a table, a chair, a pen.  Books? They don’t have a clue what to do with it. 

Watch people with books some time.  You can tell the naturals from the unfortunates.  The Naturals hold it and manipulate it like an extension of themselves.  The Unfortunates treat it like a runny ice cream cone they can’t wait to divest themselves of.◄

So…yeah…I bought some for myself.  Here’s the damage:

Speaking of Chaucer (E. Talbot Donaldson)

→ Published in 1970; a collection of Donaldson’s lectures and essays; not the first printing of several of the entries; published by The Norton Library.  This edition used to belong to a local professor. His name is written on the first page. I liked this one because I took a Chaucer course at uni and I loved it! I don’t know how many top authorities on Chaucer there are who write in English, but Donaldson and F. N. Robinson seem to be IT as far as Chaucer scholarship.  I’m sure there are many more, certainly in other languages, but in referencing research, everyone seems to gravitate back to Donaldson and Robinson. Plus, it’s a great companion to Approaches to Teaching Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales.

Our Town (Thornton Wilder)

→ A play in three acts.  Winner of the 1938 Pulitzer Prize.  A staple of legitimate theatre.  A lot of actors learning their craft cut their teeth on this play, either in school or off-Broadway.  This slim, purse-friendly copy used to belong to a girl/lady C. M. And — it looks like it was never opened. There’s the merest hint of spine-wear. And! And! It’s perfectly FLAT!  Yup, this was never used.  But, now it’s going to be my new purse book.

Mont Saint Michel and Chartres (Henry Adams)

→ This is what the blurb says (and you’ll see why I have an attitude about blurbs):

Mont Saint Michel and Chartres is a record not of a literal journey but of a meditative journey across time and space into the medieval imagination.

Sounds a bit like Mighty Boosh, doesn’t it. I’m a half-decent reader, and I don’t have a freakin’ clue what that means.  Sounds great, though. hahaa.  This Penguin Classics edition has an annoyingly long and supercilious wank-fest of an introduction by Raymond Carney of Middlebury College.  What I’ve been able to glean so far is that it’s a rapturous history of Mont St. Michel — the architecture, the construction, its place in history and politics — the whole enchiladagenda.  I like architecture. I think I’m going to skip the intro and just go straight to ch. 1.  Btw, another book that just sat on a shelf. No signs of wear, only age. A pristine spine. So sad.

Epochs of Italian Literature (Cesare Foligno)

→ Considering the title, it’s awfully slim.  It’s an old library cast-off. Excellent condition.  Originally published in 1920. It contains five essays:

  1. The Dawn (mostly verse; the Vulgar Italian of merchants and bureaucrats, Latin "on high")
  2. The Renaissance — Foligno does a great job of setting up the attitude at the beginning of this section

…cultured Italians during the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries came into direct contact with the greatest works of ancient Rome.  They were able to appreciate them correctly, though with the enthusiasm of neophytes, they were inclined to overrate them.

That struck a chord with me because it speaks to my mindset about teaching literature.  Hype, merchandising, marketing, adaptations — all the mechanisms that detour a student from the original text and whirl them into mindless consumers.

3.  The Transition to Modern Times ( the intellectual challenge of following the Renaissance )

4.  The Rise of The Nation (Italy’s modern identity and the maturity of political writing — scritti politti — if you will )

5.  Modern Italy (wealth from industry and trade; its place in Europe; politics; the influence of The Romantics)

At the end of the book is an index of authors and their cited works by chapter, then an alphabetical index of authors.

The Devil’s Dictionary (Ambrose Bierce)  The zenith of piss-taking.

I am so going to love this book.  It cost a quarter. One of those Dover Thrift Editions. Good purse size.  Easy to read in short bursts because it really is a dictionary.  But the definitions!  Ha! 

It’s quite the caustic cutting edge. Cut to the quick.  Cut the crap.  Cut the clutter. Cut to the chase. Cut things down to size. It’s super sarcastic, bitter even.  Viciously honest. Blunt as a baseball bat to your toilet bits. Mark Twain, S. J. Perelman, or John O’Hara so WISH they could have written this. 

I already love that this dictionary contains lots of examples that are verses and quotes from various authors.  However, I don’t recognize a lot of the names and I’m wondering if they aren’t maybe fictional.  Bierce was a journalist, and by the looks of these references, a great reader and a great mind.  And if he wrote those verses and quotes in the guise of characters — WOW!!! 

I would compare this to Hemingway or Pound, Eliot or Harold Bloom, for breadth of information and depth of associations.  It’s going to be a serious treat. (I’m going to need a bigger purse.)

Here’s the "definition" of "language":

The music with which we charm the serpents guarding another’s treasure.

For "material":

adj. Having an actual existence, as distinguished from an imaginary one.  Important.

It sounds sensible, prosaic.  Common sense itself — then that little jab at the end. Perfect comic timing — that single word set apart to draw your attention to it.

Howard’s End (E. M. Forster)

Back in the 80s when everyone was trying to gentrify their lives, I was utterly absorbed by Forster.  It was the first time I had been so obsessive about an author.  I read this novel, A Room With A View, Maurice, A Passage to India, and Where Angels Fear to Tread between 1986 and 1988.  ARWAV — 3 times.  HE — 3 times.  M — 2 times, WAFTT — 1 time.  It was because of the movies.  But unlike most people, I kept coming back to the stories.  I didn’t fixate on the movies.  There was no DVD back then.  My friend L. and I waited until ARWAV came on HBO or Showtime and then we watched it and recorded it on VHS.  We would read bits of it in her room and quote from it constantly.  Poor, poor Charlotte."  Since then, the only ones I re-read are this one and ARWAV.

I was glad to find another Bantam Classic edition.  My first one is coming undone at the seams.  This one, strangely, is also unused. Unopened. Unmarked.  Unbent. Pristine.  Hmmm…I see a pattern developing.  Oh well.  Lucky me. Perfect purse size, btw.

My fav scenes are the ones between Margaret and Helen.  Their banter is cool.  Forster, when he puts his mind to it, writes quite good banter.  And I love how they speak in complete sentences, sometimes even labyrinthine.  The first Mrs. Wilcox is a character that absolutely breaks my heart.  Mr. Wilcox and his son inspire a helpless loathing in me that makes me want to ruin them once and for all.  The coincidence that Bast’s wife is the woman whom Mr. Wilcox deflowered as a girl is a bit of a stretch.  And it just makes me hate him all the more.

I comprehended more about English social mores and  after reading this story than any textbook I ever read.  Textbooks set out many lucid facts.  But after reading this story, after reading "who will inherit England" did it become clear in my head, my heart and my spirit all at once.



E. Talbot Donaldson is a writer of scholarly texts, articles, monographs, etc.  He contributes introductions, forewords and such to other people’s books, so he’s kinda all over the place.  Amazon isn’t the best place to find his stuff.  You’re probably better off with alibris or eBay or online transcriptions of his work available through many university sites.




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