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I almost never cull books, since I am shoring them up against the apocalypse. Once in a long while I let myself admit that there are books a) that I will not read and b) that won't be immediately useful after the revolution. I culled my novels on Saturday, and therefore on Sunday there were thirty boxes of free books at the library. They were left over from a rummage sale for the seniors’ centre.1 I took home five books. I call that remarkable self-control (and illness-induced fatigue).

  1. Samuel Beckett, Stories and Texts for Nothing Grove Press, N.Y. A collection of pieces first published in the Evergreen Review. In terms of material culture, this is the score. It has a great cover: fragments of Beckett's name arranged orthagonally in blue and green. The paper's water-damaged and mustier than I usually accept -- but the illustrations!

    The book is illustrated with terrific 60s-era line drawings, and these drawings are all about the line. Geometrical forms somehow give the effect both of rapid work and of obsessive precision, and the image arises out of their intersection -- almost despite the lines rather than because of them.

    I thought I had a mystery in the illustrator’s name (which I was misreading), until a friend pointed out his credit on the copyright page right where you’d expected it.

    Avigdor Arikha would've been 37ish when he did these drawings. He’d already survived deportation to a concentration camp in 1941, at the age of 12. Wikipedia offers this unbearable anecdote: “He survived thanks to the drawings he made of deportation scenes, which were shown to delegates of the International Red Cross.” He went to a kibbutz, fought for the Israeli army, and then moved to Paris.

    My vocabulary for illustrators’ styles is not very large. In the obsessive stylization & fixation on a restricted of visual language, the drawings remind me a little of Ralph Steadman, but with geometric grids rather than spatters, so that isn't all that helpful a parallel, or of Charles Keeping, but again much more ordered, and now I've run out of references.

    The images seem like attempts to locate something -- to chase it, not to pin it down but to catch it between lines -- or to triangulate a point which escapes just as it is finally specified.

    The Beckett is marked inside with pencil: 7.50.2 It has been claimed in blue ballpoint by one Grant [I? L?] Lowe. Tucked inside the front cover is a bookmark that reads, in full (all capitalization in original):

    The Best Little Wordhouse in The West!

    After 8 Years at 217 We’re Moving to 223!!

    Author! Author! Bookstore

    Visit Our NEW BIGGER STORE NEXT DOOR

    at 223 – 10 St. N.W. Ph. 283-9521



    I love old bookstore bookmarks. I sort of collect them, if stuffing them all into a small wicker basket counts as collecting. The address seems to be in Calgary; again, the phone number dates from before you had to add the area code.

  2. James Thurber, Lanterns and Lances I mean, Thurber. This is an odd artefact, a "Time Reading Program Special Edition"3 printed in or about 1962. The cover is of thick immobile cardboard, matte purple inside. There's no jacket copy, just Thurber's drawings blown up. It is also illustrated, by Thurber, natch. You'll be excited to know it has a New Introduction, probably because it's a posthumous edition.

    A thing I like very much is a book with layered introductions which, as we read forwards, take us backwards into innocence and before death. Alternatively, I have, I think, that edition of James Tiptree, Jr's Warm Worlds and Otherwise with the two introductions, before and after.

  3. (Collected by) Sage Birchwater, Chiwid Now this is interesting. It's an oral history of a Tsilhqot'in woman named Chiwid, born in 1904. She lived in the Chilcotin (a region of British Columbia just south of the Cariboo, where I was born a long time later.) Birchwater seems to have been interested in her because she was famous for living independently on the land, and maybe more as a figure around whom stories crystallized than for herself (she'd died before the book was published).

  4. Christina Rosetti, Goblin Market A tiny Phoenix booklet containing the titular poem and a few others, marked 60p. A lot of UK expats fetch up here.

  5. Vera John-Steiner, Notebooks of the Mind: Explorations of Thinking Printed in 1985, this is an obviously dated book about modes of thought, but as I leafed through I saw it had a section called “The Thinking of the Body”, which goes to my preoccupation with embodied mentation, so I snagged it on spec. As well as compiling published research, John-Steiner conducted many interviews for the book with subjects from novelists (Margaret Drabble) to psychologists, poets, and scientists (though fewer of these).

{rf}

1. I say material culture, but it's just books and ephemera. "Rummage sale" makes me think of a fluted lamp of molded pink glass or a warped cardboard landscape in a heavy wooden frame, but no -- just books.

2. The 5 looks like a 1, but that would be an oddly specific price.

3. More on that imprint here. This edition follows the design specs they detail: "The editions were trade paperbacks, with covers constructed of very stiff plastic coated paper, for durability .... each book had a wraparound cover with a continuous piece of artwork across both covers and the spine".

Crossposted from Dreamwidth (http://radiantfracture.dreamwidth.org/5364.html), where there are comment count unavailable comments. Comments either place are great.
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