Sunday, January 07, 2007

What to do on a rainy Sunday afternoon when you can't go to the gym with the guys (pulled muscle, left calf)? A trip to the used bookstore always works wonders for me.

Usually I go and just wander, but this time I went prepared with a list of authors from my amazon wish list, a totally useless list as none of the authors except Cather--and I'd've remembered Cather without the list--had any representation on the shelves.

I spotted a half price Against the Day--there she blows!-- but couldn't justify it since I've yet to read any of the Pynchon already on my shelves.

I came home with:

Patrick O'Brian's The Hundred Days :
At the top of this barren rise, while the Turks made a fire for their
coffee, Stephen watched a brown-necked African raven fly right across the vast
pure expanse of sky, talking in its harsh deep voice all the way, addressing his
mate a least a mile ahead. 'That is a bird I have always wished to see,' he said
to the guide, 'a bird that does not exist in Spain.' This pleased the guide more
than Stephen had expected, and he led his charges fifty yards or so along the
track to a point where the rock fell precipitously and the path wound down and
down to a dry valley with one green spot in it--an oasis with a solitary spring
that never spread beyond those limits. Beyond the dry valley the ground rose
again, yet beyond it and to the left there shone a fine great sheet of water,
the Shatt el Khadna, fed by a stream that could just be made out on the right,
before the mountain hid it.

Kay Boyle's Year Before Last:
After lunch she walked them up the Champs Elysees in the little pieces of sun
that had begun to appear. It was then she began to see in the eyes of other
people that her short fur coat went up in wings on her shoulders and came in too
tight at the waist. She took the dogs to their Arc de Triomphe, and they cowered
under it as if she had beaten them sore. The city was no success whatever for
them, and they were grateful to get into the train at night and lie as quiet as
badgers under the seat.

Willa Cather's Death Comes for the Archbishop:
The two companions sat, each thinking his own thoughts as night closed in about
them; a blue night set with stars, the bulk of the solitary mesas cutting into
the firmament. The Bishop seldom questioned Jacinto about his thoughts or
beliefs. He didn't think it polite, and he believed it to be useless. There was
no way in which he could transfer his own memories of European civilization into
the Indian mind, and he was quite willing to believe that behind Jacinto there
was a long tradition, a story of experience, which no language could translate
to him. A chill came with the darkness. Father Latour put on his old fur-lined
cloak, and Jacinto, loosening the blanket tied about his loins, drew it up over
his head and shoulders.

John Steinbeck's East of Eden:
There was a wall against learning. A man wanted his children to read, to figure,
and that was enough. More might make them dissatisfied and flighty. And there
were plenty of examples to prove that learning made a boy leave the farm to live
in the city--to consider himself better than his father. Enough arithmetic to
measure land and lumber and to keep accounts, enough writing to order goods and
write to relatives, enough reading for newspapers, almanacs, and farm journals,
enough music for religious and patriotic display--that was enough to help a boy
and not to lead him astray. Learning was for doctors, lawyers, and teachers, a
class set off and not considered related to other people. There were some
sports, of course, like Samuel Hamilton, adn he was tolerated and liked, but if
he had not been able to dig a well, shoe a horse, or run a threshing machine,
God knows what would have been thought of the family.

C.S. Forester's Mr. Midshipman Hornblower:
Without any skilled advice he was having to learn the business of managing
livestock at sea; each moment brought its lessons. A naval officer of active
service indeed found himself engaged on strange duties. It was well after dark
before Hornblower called a halt to the labours of his men, and it was before
dawn that he roused them up to work again. It was still early in the morning
that the last of the grain sacks was stowed away and Hornblower had to face the
operation of swaying up the cattle from the lighter. After their night
down there, with little water and less food, they were in no mood to be
trifled with, but it was easier at first while they were crowded together. A
bellyband was slipped round the nearest, the tackle hooked on, and the
animal was swayed up, lowered to the deck through an opening in the gangways,
and herded into one of the stalls with ease. The seamen, shouting and waving
their shirts, thought it was great fun, but they were not sure when the next
one, released from its bellyband, went on the rampage and chased them about the
deck, threatening death with its horns, until it wandered into its stall
where the bar could be promptly dropped to shut it in.
Hornblower, looking at the sun rising rapidly in the east, did not think it
fun at all.

And on Friday I found Naguib Mahfouz's Palace Walk on the Free Books table at the library:
She sighed audibly and that broke the spell. She began to amuse herself by
looking at the roofs and streets. The yearnings would not leave her. She turned
her back on the wall. Looking at the unknown had overwhelmed her; both what is
unknown to most people, the invisible spirit world, and the unknown with respect
to her in particular, Cairo, even the adjacent neighborhood, from which voices
reached her. What could this world of which she saw nothing but the minarets and
roofs be like? A quarter of a century had passed while she was confined to this
house, leaving it only on infrequent occasions to visit her mother in
al-Khurunfush. Her husband escorted her on each visit in a carriage, because he
could not bear for anyone to see his wife, either alone or accompanied by him.
For now, though, it's Dostoyevsky and Pollan.


  1. I love Kay Boyle though it's been years since I read her. I look forward to hearing what you have to say about her work. Lots of other treasures there too--much more productive than I trip to the gym I think, and a bit of weight-lifting involved in any event!

  2. Isn't it great that a pulled muscle doesn't slow you down when it comes to book shopping? I love it! Nice set of books you came home with. Another thing that made me chuckle from your post: "I'd've" Sounds like you grew up in Utah. (That's where I grew up!)

  3. Yay Kay Boyle and yay Mahfouz and yay Steinbeck. You scored.

  4. Anonymous10:00 PM

    Yay for trips to used bookstores! Death Comes for the Archbishop is wonderful.


A bang, not a whimper

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