Books. And More Books.
February 20, 2011

I  am embarrassed to admit that it took me until a few days ago to take down my Christmas tree. Admittedly it’s a gorgeous one, fake but thick, rich, lush, and very realistic. It’s also eight feet tall and wide enough to take over a good-sized corner of the combination dining / living room.

The reason it was up so long is that I cannot put it up or take it down by myself. It’s simply too large and too heavy. Two people can make short work of it so last Tuesday we finally did. It’s a relief too, as I had almost forgotten how beautiful that wall of windows is.

I had also forgotten how many books I had moved to closets to make room for the tree. Now they are all out again—and I  am finding, as many booklovers have, that they seem to have expanded and no longer fit in their former spaces. I don’t know if I am amused or annoyed. Some of both, probably. For example, what had been a lovely and book-free tablescape on a side table has instead and by necessity become a couple of piles of books that don’t fit anywhere else.

Where do all these books come from?

Yes, yes, I know. The Borders I visited yesterday, the Powell’s I ordered from last week, the publisher whose sale I recently took advantage of, the nonprofit’s book sale that tempts me each time it rolls around.

I am not a hoarder. There’s nothing but books that I buy in the quantities I do, and I don’t buy books just to have them. I have to want those particular books because I believe I will read them.

It’s beyond ridiculous. Although I don’t have duplicates (that I know of) nor do I put myself into debt for them, my fondness for books borders on addiction. Even when I was in my reading slump I bought them. Not many, but I did. Now that I’m out of it, I’m buying more. As I said, ridiculous.

While I am not (yet) at the same point at which my best friend Lynn bought herself her first Kindle—that physical point at which one knows that not one more bookshelf can fit in the house, not anywhere—I suspect I’m not that far away. I refuse to have piles, other than (very) temporary ones. I have no interest in covering kitchen counters, dining tables, beds, or chairs with them. I will not clutter the floor space with them. I cannot abide them not having a permanent shelf upon which to sit and be admired by guests. That is their due, after all.  so what I will likely do is seek out some more bookshelves on CraigsList. There’s a painting on one bedroom wall that can be gotten rid of given away to make room for more shelves. I like this idea. And I may even have room for  the post-Christmas tree books in 2011.

Upcoming Book Festivals:
Four book festivals are coming up this next weekend. For those in New York, there are two opportunities, and Mississippi is also playing host to a fine readers’ event.

From February 24 through February 26, the Festival of New French Writing will be showcasing the finest of modern French writing in New York City. Seven major French writers—Stéphane Audeguy, Pascal Bruckner, Philippe Claudel, Geneviéve Briasc, Laurence Cossé,  Atiq Rahimi, David B.—all translated into English, and representing a wide variety of literary styles and forms, will be featured in seven 1-hour conversations each with a leading American writer and moderated by a cultural critics familiar with the literatures of both countries. It begins Thursday at 7:00 pm, continues on Friday afternoon and Friday evening, and finishes up Saturday afternoon. Simultaneous interpretations will enable all participants to express themselves in their own language. All this takes place at New York University in Hemmerdinger Hall.

Mississippi will host the Natchez Literary and Cinema Celebration from February 24-27. This year’s theme is “Fields of Dreams: Sports in the South.” Every talk, event, panel, and presentation will be geared to sports in some way, and the line-up is quite extraordinary. Most of the events are free; however the Luncheon, Gala Benefit Party, and Band Concert all require tickets, which can still be purchased.

Also in New York this next weekend, February 25-27, is the  Greenwich Village Antiquarian Book Fair. Nearly sixty dealers in antiquarian books, prints, maps, ephemera, and autographs will be there. Hours of the fair on Friday are from 6:00-9:00 pm, on Saturday from noon to 6:0 pm, and on Sunday from noon to 5:00 pm. What’s especially interesting about their website is that some of the attending dealers are featuring the treasures they will have.

The Pub House:
Edinborough Press is a small niche press that focuses on books on American history with a special focus on the Civil War era and American religious history, though they also issue books  on historic architecture and local history from the Midwest and New England. Entrepôt is a history of Civil War blockade running, a great book for fans of that particular war since it offers comprehensive month-by-month, cargo-by-cargo descriptions of goods received thus highlighting the effectiveness of the Confederate supply system. A Long Year of Silence is a novel set in Minnesota during 1917. When the United States enters World War I, anti-German hysteria sweeps through the state,sixteen-year-old Emma Altenberg, a minister’s daughter in the town of New Ulm, must confront the challenges of her relationships with parents and peers. Railroad history fans are in for a treat with Daily Except Sundays: The Diaries of a Nineteenth Century Locomotive Engineer. Based on  forty-three diaries kept by Philip T. Adams, an engineer on the Essex branch of the Eastern Railroad (later the Boston & Maine), the book records the “intimacies of the day-to-day operation of the railroad, glimpses of life in the town of Essex, and a personal look into the life and affairs of Philip Adams and his family.”

Imaging Books & Reading:
Claude Monet’s A Woman Reading is the epitome of an exquisite reading experience—a sun-dappled grove, a comfortable summer day, peaceful surroundings, a good book. Perhaps, as spring begins to poke its head out, we should forsake the winter sofa for such a place ourselves.

Of Interest:
Serendipity is the faculty of finding valuable or agreeable things not sought for, which is particularly apt this week. I discovered this blog to which I immediately subscribed: Writing Kurt Vonnegut. Behind the title is Charles J. Shields, the New York Times best-selling author of Mockingbird: A Portrait of Harper Lee and the upcoming And So It Goes: Kurt Vonnegut, A Life (due in November) among others. What I found was this: “A biographer is a literary detective, a Columbo who’s always saying, ‘Now let me get this straight’ or starting a lot of sentences in his mind with ‘In other words….’ Hence, you’ll find a lot of thinking aloud, ruminating, in this blog.” It’s a delightful description, and an accurate one.

All you need is read the few entries (to date; it’s a new blog) to get a strong sense of a serious, bona fide biographer who understands and respects the difficult art of biography, and finds the trend toward "ME-moirs” painful. “Related to this fascination with self,” he wrote about attending panels at the recent Association of Writers and Writing Programs conference, “was agreement by panelists in two other sessions that they don’t know the difference between fiction and nonfiction. Nor does it matter.” Ouch. If that and more matters to you, bookmark this blog—and read it.

Until next week, read well, read often and read on!




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