Saturday, September 30, 2006


This American Life

A quick note: I'm listening to Maine Public Radio this morning, and I hear a familiar voice floating out over the airwaves - and I think I know who that is, and indeed it is, Nick Hornby. I heard an ad - he will be reading a new short story on This American Life this weekend. In Maine, it's on Sunday evening at six. Check your local listings. He's got a wonderful speaking voice. Did I mention yet that the books that Ryan brought me back from Second Story Books in Washington, D.C. included a signed, boxed limited edition copy of Hornby's latest novel A Long Way Down? Good man, he knows what I like.

Friday, September 29, 2006


A few articles worth reading

I like to check in from time to time at the Guardian. Next to the TLS, it's got the best reviews and bookish stories around, and this week they interview Richard Ford at his home here in Maine. I can't remember which coastal town he lives in, but it's close by, and the description could be any of three I can think of off the top of my head (working harbor, old opera house in town, great architecture, etc).

And something more up my alley, since (oh the shame) I haven't actually read anything by Richard Ford, except a short story that just did not do it for me, and yes I do know the awards he has won, my friend B just emailed me this story, from the Chronicle of Higher Education. An excerpt:

"Another novelist I once visited was Anthony Powell, who actually wrote a novel called Books Do Furnish a Room. Indeed, they did so in his case. He lived deep in the English countryside, in Somerset, in an old stone manor on many green acres. We had tea in his sitting room, which had floor-to-ceiling shelves on every wall. There were first editions by his good friend Evelyn Waugh, and countless volumes culled from his decades as a reviewer. "I can't give a book up, if it's a book that meant something to me," he said. "I always imagine I'll go back to it one day. I rarely do, but the intention is there, and I get a warm feeling among my books." I wished I could have spent days wandering in that house, as he had books in nearly every room."

Me too. I've had a softcover set of Powell's A Dance to the Music of Time for years, and this past spring at a library sale I picked up most of it in hardcover too. I'm wondering if this will be my long winter reading project this year.

Thursday, September 28, 2006


Shall I change my name?

I've received three pieces of junk mail this week addressed to "Sarah S. Books" - all credit card solicitations. I mean, usually I get Sarah Farringer, Farragut, Fragher, and Farah Faragher (my least favorite), but Sarah S. Books? How about Sarah "Books" Faragher. As in, Books are my middle name...

Wednesday, September 27, 2006


Mary Oliver reading her poetry

I went to Mary Oliver's reading in Lewiston on Monday night, and yesterday I got caught up in an afternoon game of Scrabble at the shop instead of blogging about it. So today: the 300-seat auditorium was packed, standing room only, and because she was reading at a podium on the corner of the stage, she said people could sit on the stage around her. By the time she started, the stage was filled, and folks were still sitting in the aisles and standing along all the edges of the room. We were all giddy with our good fortune at being there, truly.

She started with Our New Dog - Percy, The Ponds, Lead, and When I am Among the Trees (after saying "I am very fond of trees.... I have said good morning to the same tree for thirty years."). I won't go through the list of everything she read, but here are many: Wild Geese (she said she'd read it aloud until she was 90, if people still wanted to hear it), Oxygen, At Blackwater Woods, Some Questions You Might Ask, The Summer Day, In the Storm, Bone, Am I Not Among the Early Risers, The Swan, and In the Evening in the Pine Woods.

A few comments between poems (I paraphrase):

She wants to "...write something to persuade the unconverted to read a poem from beginning to end," so she uses a few techniques, including the single sentence poem, "...because conscientious readers will usually feel obligated to finish all the sentences they start," dashes and semicolons, questions to the reader, etc. Then she read The Sun, a 36-line poem consisting of just one sentence.

Near the end of the reading, she said, "Where's my swan... can't have a poetry reading without a swan..." before finding and reading The Swan, one of my very favorite poems of hers.

The question-and-answer period at the end of the reading was wonderful; the audience members were intelligent and moved by her reading, and except for a few clunkers the questions were decent. Here are about half:

How do you keep your sense of wonder every day? She said, "I go outside immediately." The natural world, nature, always awakens her gratitude.

Will you comment about poetry as a vehicle for social change? She said, "Absolutely, poetry can be a vehicle for change, look at Neruda, at Milosz.... Remember history and hope. Write for each other, to lift everyone up together, the time for personal stories is over." She thought that the women's movement and various ethnic groups had done so much to better the world, but the time has come for people to focus on humanity, rather than groups of any kind. And, "You can catch more flies with honey than vinegar..." so she often writes about the beauty and mystery of the world.

When did you first conceive of yourself as a poet? She said at a young age she read a lot, to get into another world. She needed to be in another world, for reasons that she won't go into because we would find them boring (!). She read a lot of poetry, and because children learn by imitation, she began to write.

Who are her favorite poets? "I'm stuck in the eighteenth century. Whitman, Emerson - though he's not really a poet - Shelley, Keats, Wordsworth." More recent poets she mentioned were Neruda, Czeslaw Milosz and the translations of Robert Bly.

Do you ever look back at old poems and re-work them, or want to change them, or do you let them lie? What is your writing technique? She said once it's done, it's done. She's changed and she moves on, though of course she sees things she could have done differently. She carries a pencil or pen and a notebook to make notes on the fly, then writes in a quieter location later. She has a typewriter. She doesn't have a computer or use the internet. To recycle, she often writes on the blank back sides of manuscript pages people have sent her. "Really."

Do you practice a formal poetry technique, do you recommend that, or should you just write what comes to you? She said, "I don't know what a 'formal poetry technique' is.... I wrote The Poetry Handbook so I wouldn't have to teach anymore...." (The Poetry Handbook covers various poetic devices.) About writing what comes to you: "Make a promise to yourself, and show up. Like Romeo and Juliet in the orchard - if they hadn't both showed up, no love story! ... Be reliable (with yourself), pay close attention, then you can write what comes to you, because it will be coming from that deeper place, because you are ready. Go to the orchard."

One of the last questions was about the sense of place in her poems, Provincetown in particular, her home. She said that it is her home, but anywhere could have been her home. She's taken the same walk every day for thirty years, and she's gone deeper and deeper with her attention and devotion to the same place, over and over. And when she's away, she can't wait to get back. Her dog Percy (after Shelley) will be upset with her for being gone - Where were you!

She signed books in the lobby afterwards. Ryan and I waited in line for a time, bought her brand new book Thirst, hot off the press. I brought six others with me, including the book I take with me whenever I travel, House of Light. What a night, I can't even tell you. I was in tears half the time, her words are so moving and cut right through everything like a sharp knife. She's one of the only living writers who can really get me right where I live. A few times after she finished reading a poem, the last line of it - final, direct, charged, strong - would float out there in space over our heads and you could have heard a feather hit the floor it was so silent. Then everyone would breathe again, like a long sigh. I've never heard anything like it, it was extraordinary. And she's just this wiry little person. But she has such presence, and extreme dignity and humbleness all at the same time. The last lines from The Summer Day, in House of Light:

Tell me, what is it you plan to do
With your one wild and precious life?

Monday, September 25, 2006


A fall painting, and a poem about freedom

I'm back from a week of bliss. And I am still feeling blissful, strangely, even though the week did come to an end (I hate that). But it's hard to feel bad about coming back to work when it's a perfect fall day in Maine, cool enough for a sweater but not cold enough for a jacket, bright sunshine and the air like crisp apples. Here's a watercolor I made on Friday, on another such day - the huge old maple across the road from my host's sister's house was just beginning to turn red, and the leaves were tossing in the strong southwest wind:

I thought instead of a huge long post about books and reading and my fabulous week (nine oil paintings, fifteen watercolors, many poems, my darling host - a great friend and wildly talented painter - not to mention my book purchases at the island bookshop) and this and that and the kitchen sink, I'd try this - when I came back to the shop this morning I opened The Practical Cogitator: The Thinker's Anthology at random and read a poem (p. 342), which sums up my present state of mind more than I could myself. Which is what poetry should do, isn't it - and speaking of poetry, don't forget, Mary Oliver reads tonight at Bates College (Olin Arts Center, 7:30 p.m., it's free, I'll be there). But for right now, this from Emily Brontë:

I'll walk, but not in old heroic traces,
And not in paths of high morality,
And not among the half-distinguished faces,
The clouded forms of long-past history.

I'll walk where my own nature would be leading:
It vexes me to choose another guide:
Where the grey flocks in ferny glens are feeding;
Where the wild wind blows on the mountain-side.

Friday, September 15, 2006


The day before a vacation (yes, another one)...

...things always get a little out of hand, as the hours fly by and I realize I've still got way too much to do before I get out of here. I've been ridiculously busy at the shop - selling books left and right - and am packing up my painting supplies, in between helping customers and talking with friends. So I'll keep this post short. Still daydreaming of that Ideal Library, and I think I'd have to add the complete works of P.G. Wodehouse, a writer I've read very little of, but whenever I do, I always want more. I could read one of his novels per month for the next several years. It's so good to laugh, there's enough dour literature in the world. Another addition: how did I forget a complete set of the Loeb Classics? I could alternate between Wodehouse and the ancients, and learn pretty much everything there is to know about human nature. I do need a new winter reading plan, hmmm... Have a great week next week, dear readers. I'll be back in the shop on Monday the 25th. Until then -

Thursday, September 14, 2006


The ideal library

Now that I've built (in my head) a replica of a library to live in - see last post - with what shall I stock it? I've got a few thousand books, but not enough to fill an actual library. Yet. I've always wondered what it would be like to be one of those people who builds libraries for non-readers. For show. Like a personal shopper, kind of, but just for books. I used to sell monumental leatherbound sets to these folks - interior decorators, essentially - for clients of theirs who wanted "an old-fashioned library-looking library." Think merrie olde England and the National Trust estate libraries of yesteryear, delicious rows of gleaming gilded morocco bindings, in colors which match the panelling (and perhaps the few muted fox-hunting prints). I say I used to sell these sets, because I can't find them anymore, or if I do, it's by dumb luck.

Anyway, that wasn't the purpose of this post, which was to daydream for a while about what I'd move in to my very own library, when the shelving magically expands to the size of the whole house. Of course I'd start with the coveted capital-initials-sets: the DNB and the OED. And naturally, the large-paper version of the 11th edition Britannica (I had a set once, bound in maroon leather, but caved to the pressure of its immense size, and sold it). And I'm still dreaming about the Yale edition of Horace Walpole's correspondence, huge lovely blue volumes (45 of them?). Finding a set (an affordable set would be even better) is one of my holy grail quests. From time to time I visit a set in a nearby library, but it's not the same. Walpole's gossipy, warm, sometimes catty letters are the best of the eighteenth century, and he knew simply everyone. Wonderful browsing. What else - the complete works of Trollope is not on my list - but it's coming to mind because I have two Trollope-obsessed customers trying to build complete collections, and it's been fun to go along for the ride, vicariously. The only other huge set I'd want, I already have - the Scribner Robert Louis Stevenson (24 or 26 vols.?, with his collected letters in two more vols.) - but, come to think of it, I'd also like the Haverford edition of the works of Christopher Morley, 12 vols., published when he was still young and had lots of writing ahead of him yet. Volume one in this set is always autographed, in case anyone sees it anywhere. Oh, another set - The Book-Lover's Library, edited by Henry B. Wheatley, 1880s. I have a few odd volumes and would love the whole thing.

Meanwhile, back in the real world, my book-culling project has completely stalled out. I have culled exactly zero books from my collection at home. Instead I've been reading the evenings away. And craving more bookshelf space, hence this self-indulgent post. Ryan returns on Saturday, and I'm going shopping tonight - baby needs a new pair of shoes - so my virtuous plan to cull from my library this week is essentially dead in the water. So much for virtuous plans.

I'll be in the shop tomorrow, then will be closed for the next ten days for another vacation - I know, I know, I've been hearing it (How does that girl expect to make a living! Answer: I'm a bookseller, I don't expect to). I'll be painting this time, with a small group of artists, at a friend's house on Islesboro. Talk about self-indulgent. I'll probably post again tomorrow, then will be computer-less for the duration. I have no book lists to keep people occupied this time, so I hope folks will check back in on their own - thanks for reading, and of course I want to hear what people would love to have in their own Ideal Libraries. The works of Charles Darwin, all first editions? A complete run of Camera Work? A few First Folios?? Go crazy!

Tuesday, September 12, 2006


Housing books, and books about housing

Ryan and I are considering buying some land and building a house. Or more accurately, paying someone else to build us a house. We've been living in a series of book-stuffed apartments for years now, and though the commute from home to work (for me) is a mighty convenient couple of blocks, I'm tired of seeing parking lots and dumpsters from my windows at home, and having to pass smokers on the sidewalk on my way to work every day. So we're scouting around, although this is a dangerous time of year to look, because everything looks more beautiful in the fall. Bogs are dry, blackflies and mosquitoes are nearly nonexistent, and everyone's hurredly swapping property before snow flies.

This is in the front of my mind today because I've been browsing in a book I picked up last week, Beautiful in All Its Details: The Architecture of Maine's Public Library Buildings 1878-1942, by Kirk F. Mohney (Maine Preservation 1997). And I see several structures I could happily inhabit, with Ryan and our several thousand books. The book has around 100 pages of photos and old postcards of Maine's small- and large-town libraries, and lists each one's architect(s), building style, construction and dedication date, contractor and builder, and in many cases - and most importantly for our purposes - the location of the original plans. Many are in fact on file at the library in question. I sure would like to build a replica of this library, to be our home - it's the library on Isle Au Haut, a sweet little shingle-style building completed in 1906:

Just add a kitchen and indoor plumbing and we'll be all set. All that bookshelf space, planned for already and thought out, it would be heaven! We can't afford the stonework, or the ocean view, but replace that with cedar shingles and some woods and I'd be happy. I'll let you know how it goes. For now, I can dream.

Monday, September 11, 2006


Nine Eleven

Thoughts about today: I've got 'em, in spite of the ubiquitous and relentless mainstream media sledgehammer. Five years ago today I saw Ryan off to Boston, and headed down east to hike for the day, alone. It was still my first year in the bookshop and I felt a bit guilty about taking a weekday off (I no longer have this problem), but it was one of those perfect high clear blue days of fall and the leaves were starting to turn and I couldn't stay indoors. I listened to a cd in the car on the long trip down Route Nine, and as I turned off Nine to head for the coast the cd ended and the radio came on. It was just after nine o'clock in the morning. Ryan had left at five a.m. for Boston. I stopped the car and thought about what I should be doing, right now, if the world was ending (it wasn't, but who could say, that day). I had no way to reach Ryan. I have relatives in NYC and I had no way to reach them either. After a few minutes I decided to keep going. Washington County, Maine, the easternmost county in the U.S.A. and a place of extreme rural wildness - my spiritual home, where I grew up, and a fine place to be on a day such as this, if there wasn't anything I could do elsewhere but wait and feel helpless. Also, I didn't want to be in a city that day, and Bangor is almost a city. So I went to the wildlife preserve that was my original destination, and spent the day alone, walking the trails and stony beaches, looking at eagles and osprey and porcupines, thinking about the impartial beauty of the day, wordlessly praying with every step, feeling myself on the edge of a great change and allowing myself to just be with that feeling, without panic. I had my journal with me, and wrote down some observations. One thought I remember feeling but I don't remember writing down, but I'll write it here: look at your loved ones each day as if it could be the last time you'll ever see them. Tell them you love them, every day, every time they go off to work, or you do, every time they come home, safe. There can never be too much love in the world. We will never run out, we have an endless, regenerating supply which should be extravagantly and liberally given away, daily. I could say more, but I'll leave it there. Because what else is there to say, really.

Saturday, September 09, 2006


Sloooooow sunny Saturdays

It feels like the last day of summer outside - sunny, warm, soft air, light humidity, about 75 degrees; I think this will be one of the last flip-flop days of the year. A front is coming through tonight and tomorrow to cool things off and it will be in the 40s at night. Good sleeping weather, we call it around here. I sat outside in the park for 45 minutes before opening the shop this morning. I've had two people wander in with collegiate book lists in hand, and I didn't have a single book on those lists. No other customers in sight. It's just too nice out - everyone's either at the ocean, or *ack* at the mall.

An episode of note: yesterday a man came in and we chit-chatted about books and this and that, and out of the blue he said, "My son is the president of The Christopher Morley Society." I goggled at him, and said, "Are you from Roslyn??" And yes, yes he is. He summers in Maine, at a camp which is coincidentally (if you believe in such things, vs. fate or destiny) on the same road my younger sister lives on. He goes by her house every day on his morning run. Small world, I love it. He went on to tell me that his son is the person who tends Christopher Morley's grave. I almost cried. I told him with firm conviction that Morley's work has meant a great deal to me, and still does, and would he please give my card to his son. Perhaps I need to finally join this Society. His son also went to the same college I did, although a decade earlier. The man said, "He'll call you!" I hope he does. All this on an otherwise quiet Friday afternoon. What a life I lead.

Meantime, Ryan is about to head to Washington, D.C. for a week. I can't go on this trip, so I plan to engage in some heavy-duty moping for the forseeable future. We're not codependent, but we are interdependent, and I'll miss him like mad. He says he'll visit Second Story Books for me. I think I'll spend some time in the evenings this week - get ready for this - culling my books at home. It's gotten to the point where I can't bring any new books home, I just can't, because I have no space left, not for one single book more. And they are multiplying like toy lop-eared bunnies in my miniscule storage area at the shop, and subsequently I can't store books for the shop in my shop storage area. It's bad. I have several three-foot-high piles of books behind me, and customers keep asking, "Whatcha got back there? Those for sale? Can I take a look?" And I have to say, "No, no, those are my books, I'm taking them home to read... soon." But I'm not, am I. With no shelf space. So, a project for this week. And I can - ahem - dust the keepers, at the same time.

Back to the sunny park this morning: today I was reading James Schuyler's Collected Poems (Farrar, Straus, Giroux 1993), and finding it deeply rewarding. Much of it is (as I also find some of the poetry of his pals Frank O'Hara and John Ashbery to be) often incomprehensible to me, but I can let this ride because my confusion is offset by his frequent flashes of sheer beauty and fine phrasing that are veins of gold. And because sometimes I need to be reminded that I don't have to, and in fact can't, understand every little thing. Here are a few lines that really get me:

p.16 - the first line of A Man in Blue:

"Under the French horns of a November afternoon..."

pp.59-60 - a few lines from the marvelous Things to Do:

"Balance checkbook.
Rid lawn of onion grass. ...
Impasse. Walk three miles
a day beginning tomorrow.
Alphabetize. ...
Complain to laundry
any laundry. Ask for borrowed books back."

p.99 - a few lines from The Trash Book:

"...that stump there that knows
now it will never grow
up to be some pencils or
a yacht even. ..."

p.117 - from The Crystal Lithium:

"...January, laid out on a bed of ice, disgorging
February, shaped like a flounder, and March with her steel bead pocketbook,
And April, goofy and under-dressed and with a loud laugh, and May
Who will of course be voted Miss Best Liked (she expects it)..."

I won't go further (a polite hat-tip to copyright infringement), although I'd love to quote a few poems in their entirety - particularly Salute (p.44) - but instead I'll just say, Go find the book yourself, and read it. I'm off to have lunch and wonder if I will sell a single book today.

Thursday, September 07, 2006


Don't judge this book by its cover

My favorite book title of the day. It's Edible: My Maine Recipes by Kathleen Olsen LaCombe (self-published, no date):

This is actually the cookbook of a small-town lunch counter, so while one recipe calls for half a pound of shredded american cheese and a can of mushrooms, and another recipe is for something called a pineapple cheese ball (mercy), the chowders, desserts, and blueberry-theme items do look truly great. I've got a copy of this at home already, in my kitchen, now I have another for the cookery shelf at the shop. Good stuff.

I just flipped through it again and spotted a recipe for tomato soup cake. A can of tomato soup is on the ingredient list. Along with nuts, raisins, a power of spices, flour, a CUP of sugar, a HALF CUP of butter, and various other odds and ends. What can it taste like? I'm not curious enough to find out.

Wednesday, September 06, 2006


Happiness is an island in Maine

I picked up my vacation photos last night from the lab. I took ten rolls over the week I was away, mostly snapshots to make paintings from this winter. Here's one of me on the front porch just before I took the boat back to the mainland (photo taken by my friend Daphne). I've got my hair pulled back because the water table on the island is dicey, so bathing and hair-washing is kept to a minimum when the house is full of people. Washing dishes for twelve people and having water to cook with and to drink is more important than bathing. I did manage to bathe a few times over the course of the week, and I also jumped in the ocean a few times, hardy Maine girl that I am. That morning I was feeling sanguine about leaving; I'd had such a great week I didn't feel like I could reasonably expect to prolong it. Besides, the warm early morning light on the bay didn't leave any room for unhappiness:

And here's another shot, of one of the paths on the island. They hug the shore all the way around, open out onto many small stony beaches, and criss-cross through thick spruce forests and along the edges of a few long open meadows. Most of the paths have beautiful moss growing along their edges, and are dark red from layers of old soft spruce and balsam fir needles. I'm working on a series of paintings called island pathways - roads and paths, both good metaphors and literally good places, in this case:

It was both strange and wonderful to spend a week with no phone, computer, car, and even books - I did take two books, and the house had around a thousand books in its many bookcases, but other than browsing a bit here and there, I didn't read at all. When it was daylight I wanted to be outside as much as I could, and in the evenings we were meditating, having supper, then talking and laughing in front of the fireplace. We read some poetry aloud, too. I never think I can be truly happy without books nearby, but a few were on a small shelf over the bed in my room, including a battered copy of Mansfield Park and a great old children's book, Strawberry Girl, by Lois Lenski.

So, at this point I'm feeling fine about rejoining the world, and the photos all make me smile. It's good to go away, and it's good to come back. I'm very grateful that customers at the shop have been both browsing and buying both last week and this. Even the fussy ones. A selection from the recent sales slips: The Forgotten Art of Building a Good Fireplace, The Selected Writings of Gertrude Stein, an early edition of Fannie Farmer (he was so happy to find it), A Farewell to Arms, several books about and by Charles Darwin, some John McPhee, a nice hardcover edition of Donne, an art book about Alexander Calder's mobiles, poetry by William Drummond, and on and on and on. Back to the easel, and the book desk. Happiness is also a bookshop in Maine.

Tuesday, September 05, 2006


A change of season

Fall always hits me a little hard - the daylight is receding noticeably and I'm sleeping two extra hours a night to compensate (I'm part bear so I long to hibernate, much as I love winter). And on my way to visit someone else's bookshop on Sunday I noticed that a few of the sugar maples are beginning to turn orange. It's too soon! Where did the summer go! Other signs of fall: the phone is ringing off the hook with calls from local university students who want everything from Cliffs Notes to Biology textbooks to Kafka. I always have a few books for the English majors - novels, plays, and poetry, some Norton critical editions and such - but not much else for the hapless student desperate not to have to fork over a hundred bucks for an anatomy textbook. Every fall I get a sinking feeling of dread and despair, which is then quickly replaced with overwhelming relief and glee that I myself DO NOT have to go back to school. Looking back, I wish I had done things differently in high school, college, and shortly after college. It's like a bad past life I'd rather not remember. Most of all, I wish I had discovered used books earlier in life. I mean, I grew up in a house full of books, but I didn't really discover the used bookshop as a way of life until I was 24 or 25. I remember the first antiquarian bookshop I ever walked into, when I thought, Hey - wait a minute - no one ever told me that THIS was an option! I was working at a new bookstore at the time, so I was immersed in books (albeit for just above minimum wage), but used books, old books...

I do wish that the town I'd gone to college in had a used bookstore (it does now, in fact it has two). Reminiscences aside, I had a productive weekend. When you work for yourself, you work all the time, holiday or no. On Sunday I bought a carton of books at a nearby shop, I kept my own shop open for most of the weekend and was rewarded with the last of the vacationing tourists overlapping with the first of the wild-eyed incoming college students, all of whom bought books. I also made a new oil painting yesterday, from memory: a night scene from the island, of black trees against a dark starry sky. Largely successful. I wasn't sure I could pull it off, but I keep looking at it today and thinking, Yeah, that's it.

The books I bought on Sunday include: a signed first edition, fine in fine jacket, of Robert Olen Butler's Pultizer-winning book of short stories, A Good Scent from a Strange Mountain (Henry Holt 1992), which was on my fiction list a few weeks ago. I have a first at home, but not a signed first. It was five bucks. I also found a small stash of books about books, that, miraculously, I do not already own and haven't read: Barton Currie's Fishers of Books (Little, Brown 1931), Ventures in Book Collecting by William Harris Arnold (Scribner 1923), a very nice little history of the John Carter Brown Library, The Fear of Books by Holbrook Jackson (Scribner 1932), a tiny book about the colonial printer Stephen Daye, Edmund Pearson's Books in Black or Red (Macmillan 1923, I had a copy once but it is missing in action hence I still haven't read it), a scholarly book about the censoring of Diderot's Encyclopedie, a fat lovely book about the Grolier Club's trip in 1963 to visit fine libraries in Italy, a book about bookman Frederic G. Melcher, and a two-volume set, The Journals of Thomas James Cobden-Sanderson 1879-1922 (Burt Franklin 1969). Cobden-Sanderson founded the Doves Press and bindery, and produced some very lovely books indeed. He threw the Doves type into the Thames when he closed the press - a famous incident among typophiles.

These books are doubly meaningful to me because they all came from the collection of a husband and wife team of local booksellers - the wife died recently and the husband sold a few thousand books to my pals at The Big Chicken Barn. They even had their own booksellers' ticket for a while, and two of my new books have this ticket. A grand slam purchase all around, although where I'm going to find some shelf space, I do not know. Back to fall - this purchase makes me think of growing another year older, and what will happen to my books when I go. I can't quite bear to dwell on that for long, because I know very well what happens to old book collections. I see it all the time. I've got to get to work on my own book ticket, and a possible bookplate. I like to think that my books will travel around the world long into the future. And so to work (I'm going to get back to the Pepys Diaries soon, and am psyching myself up for it).

Friday, September 01, 2006


Fun With Words

I'm getting a chuckle out of my old thesaurus, literally - I took a look at it to find a synonym and then started reading it (I do this with most any book I pick up, really, all day long), and here's what I found:

Merry: joyful, joyous, jocund, jovial, jolly, blithesome, gleeful, hilarious.
Playful: tricksy, frisky, frolicsome, jocose, jocular, waggish, mirthful, rollicking.
Laugh: giggle, titter, snigger, snicker, chuckle, cackle, burst out, shout, roar, shake (or split) one's sides.
Liveliness: life, alacrity, vivacity, animation, joviality, jollity, levity, jocularity.

It was tricksy and frisky that got me laughing out loud. What a great language English is. Another quote on this theme from the introduction to Garrison Keillor's anthology Good Poems:

"A cunning low tongue, English, with its rich vocabulary of slander and concupiscence and sport, its fine Latin overlay and French bric-a-brac, and when someone speaks poetry in it, it stirs our little monolingual hearts." (p.xxv)

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