Monday, May 24, 2010

Book ends


My dismal work ethic is exceeded only by my dreadful work habits. That’s why it’s safer to try to get something done away from home, otherwise I tend to fall in with a bad crowd; one that smokes and drinks and says things like, ”underlying patterns of symmetry,” and argues the cognitive-scientific principles of poetry. (As to the latter, after the last apple-tini, I think I was “for.”)

Not that the library doesn’t have distractions of its own, what with the aisles and aisles of stuff I like almost better than real life. The library bouncer or whatever has warned me not to leave my laptop on the table, unattended. Which is kind of flattering actually, implying someone might actually want to steal Nellie Belle. I think I’ve mentioned before that, at the computer dance, Nellie’s the fat girl sitting in the corner alone with her cookies and punch. She weighs as much as a Buick, and to kidnap her would require premeditation and at least one accomplice.

So I gave Nellie a cupcake and left to stalk the aisles. For some books, the library is the last stop before falling off the edge of the world. And face it, if an old book is not the darling of the academic community, what kind of life support can it hope for. So today I took a break to identify likely candidates for the next library rummage sale.

1. The Best Short Stories of 1935.

Just like Nellie Belle, this old man was way off in a corner by himself, with no best stories of any other year to keep him company. Maybe because of the grease stains on his cover and a bad case of old book BO. Last time anyone offered to put him up for the night was 1989.

2. Fireside Book of Dog Stories, Copyright 1943

It’s been so long since anyone looked at this puppy, there isn’t even a due date receipt or a card. But good lord, the authors: EB White, DH Lawrence, Kipling, Stevenson, Thurber. I’ve decided on an intervention, and have checked it out.

“Of all the dogs whom I have served, I’ve never known one who understood so much of what I say or held it in such deep contempt.” EB White

All right, so I thought I had a shoe-in for the third slot with Elswyth Thane’s “Tryst,” copyright 1939. But no, it was taken out in 2005. Flipping to the first page, Elswyth shows promise: “Sabrina had never picked a lock in her life, but it was done every day in books.” I won’t follow Sabrina’s exploits, but it looks like once every five years, someone does.

3. Six Days in Marpore, by Scott Paul. Or maybe Paul Scott. Copyright 1953

Like Short Stories of 1935, this book hasn’t had a date or seen solid food in 25 years. First line:
“The rains had not yet reached Marpore, and the dry heat was almost more than MacKendrick could bear. He lay on his back staring up at the high rafters of the bedroom and thought of Calcutta…”

Just a guess on my part, but I’ll bet this MacKendrick has a list of complaints 350 pages long.

34 comments:

  1. E.B. White AND Kipling, on dogs!? I want that one after you're through. :-)

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  2. Based on a previous post of yours I realize how close Scott Paul/Paul Scott came to a great first sentence:

    Many years later, as the dry heat was almost more than MacKendrick could bear, Colonel Aureliano Buendía was to remember that distant afternoon staring up at the high rafters of the bedroom and thought of Calcutta…”

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  3. You had me laughing at "underlying patterns of..." so the "thought of Calcutta" ...Calcutta??? was a special bonus.
    Give a pinch on the cheek to Nellie Belle for me. She is my kind of laptop girl.

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  4. I sense a theme.

    Picking up his wooden legs, MacKendrick said, "I'm in Calcutta and have a hole in my heart the size of a volley ball. Oy, and I still have 300 pages to write."

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  5. Is that the same as "close your eyes and think of England"?

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  6. It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the spring of hope when MacKendrick, staring up at the high rafters of the bedroom and thought of Calcutta, in the winter of despair.

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  7. Very funny, KB!

    I think MacKendrick was the subject of many a San Miguel Beer radio spot...

    "Now whenever I drink San Miguel I think of Calcutta, the tiger, and the neighbor boy, Radhakanta."

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  8. They serve poets and appletinis at the Rancho bar?

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  9. Old book BO sells fetches a high price on EBay.

    GG

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  10. I enjoyed this very serious post today for a change. Unfortunately, I often don't get to a books end.

    And after tomorrow, I'll bee 2 books further behind.

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  11. When I run across an "endangered species" at the library, I check it out so that it won't be permanently yanked from the shelves. I also adopt stray animals.

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  12. Do you think MacKendrick complains even more once the rains start? He probably then says he likes the dry heat better... and whatever could he find magical in Calcutta?

    Dog books, like stray dogs, need good homes. Always.

    Is your home full of discarded or nearly discarded books? I think they take umbrage to their status, ya know?

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  13. Yet another time I can't bring anything of substance to this table. All I can add is that when I went to the Ralph Draughan Library at Auburn University ( I was a pledge and they made us go to STUDY!) I just remember everytime someone opened the door we all stopped studying ( quelle surprise!) and looked!

    Tell Nellie Belle, Virg said, 'Hi ya'll"

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  14. You're all brilliant in your post-structuralist way, but Banjo may get a trophy for that one...

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  15. Delightful post. I feel bad for all those lonely books at the library though. Wouldn't it be great if libraries were so fully-funded and staffed that there was a resident matchmaker. Fill out a detailed questionnaire and they'd come up with all sorts of old and obscure books that you'd love.

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  16. Six Days in Marpore sounds like five and 7/8 days too many. I'm glad you rescued the Fireside Book of Dog Stories.

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  17. I love books, esp. old books. I like the way they smell. I like their vibes (except for one that we had to put out into the sun).

    Jim buys many, many books. And he reads them. I like to look at them. He wanted to put boxes and boxes of books into the garage, but I put up a fight. I thouht they would smother, or suffocate. So we compromised. They will be in open sided crates.

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  18. EB White and Kipling? That's why I like you, KB -- you're old school!

    Besides neglected books, I've experienced books where I was the only one to check them out. In my youth, "Tarzan Alive" by Philip Jose Farmer and "The Dice Man" by Luke Rhinehart were at the local library -- and I was the first person to check them out. Five times in a row or so. I'd come back months later, no one else had checked 'em out, so I'd do it again. Both life-changing in a way -- and my autographed copy of Tarzan Alive remains one of my most cherished possessions.

    Then there was the time I was chief speechwriter for a government agency -- I checked out a book on "great stories for speeches" from our internal library, printed c. 1944 or so, last checked out decades before. A larger collection of racist/misogynist humor you have never seen. Since a favorite sport of government bureaucrats is making themselves look good by punishing their subordinates for various infractions real and imagined, I alerted the librarian that it wouldn't be good for her if this book remained in the library, so we disappeared it.

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  19. My mother is a librarian, so old books were my playmates as a child.

    I once brought a hard-back, 1950's published copy of Dostoevsky short stories to my husband as a present. I thought it was thoughtful. He said "It smells and it's crusty" like it was a bad thing.

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  20. I once found all 20 volumes of Greatest Works in English Literature, copyright 1905, left for trash pick up. I took them home, but it was too late. But that is how I discovered Novalis.

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  21. White, Lawrence, Kipling, Stevenson, Thurber. Quite the cast and all waxing poetic about dogs. Who knew? Glad you decided on an intervention. You'll have to let us know how it ends.

    Also happy you gave Nellie B a cupcake. I usually give my behemoth a bag of single-serve potato chips, but I'm rethinking that in favor of appletinis.

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  22. My laptop's always edging toward the glass of red wine on the table, so I have to make sure I get to it first, else she'd drunkenly post some very stupid comments.

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  23. 2. Fireside Book of Dog Stories, Copyright 1943. Can I buy this offa you when you're done?

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  24. I love your style.

    P.S. You definitely got me with YOUR first line....

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  25. Like I said, I'm only here for the pictures. All children reading material produced by the Mormon church circa 1950's will always find room on my shelf.

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  26. If Banjo were a gentleman, he'd slide that trophy over to Bellis.

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  27. Hiker...you just explained the stacks and stacks of old books we found in my grandma's garage after she passed away...she was a librarian for 52 years...even got a certificate from the state assembly when she finally retired...I was pretty young then, so I'm not sure, but I'll bet the certificate was in recognition for rescuing all those old books...

    Shanna...be aware that bugs also like old books...especially silver fish...

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  28. Another great post, Karin. The signature expected humor, coming at us from unexpected angles (which is what makes it funny, I suppose). But also a wonderful piece on the beauty of libraries. I've always enjoyed seeing when some of my more arcane selections were last checked out. Sadly, computerization has done away with that geeky little pleasure.

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  29. I like my trophy, and I'm not sharing it. The right wing won't share its trophies, so why should I?

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  30. Karin,
    at my place in the morning, there's a little something for you. No work involved! It's for your photos and great stories.

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  31. Linda, Dez is waiting for you. Terry, I'm that geek too!

    Pat, no work involved? You're a man after my own heart.

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