In Libris

Innocent me, wandering into Chapters to get this week’s Economist. You’d think I’d have learned by now — I left with a rather full bag and a much lighter wallet. Wankel mentioned on IRC that he does that all the time, going in for one thing and then spying the bargain tables. I wish I found the bargain tables! At least this time everything I decided I wanted was in paperback. I’ve been putting off Jack Welch’s autobiography for almost a year now because I’ve only seen it in hardcover.

So I left without this week’s Economist — I believe they sold out — but I grabbed Reason magazine instead. I’ve heard of this before, but I couldn’t quite place it beyond “Hey, I’ve heard of this before”. It’s subtitled “Free Minds and Free Markets”, and it’s essentially a light free-market policy review. This particular issue has an article, “Finance on the Fringe: How check cashers serve the poor”, which is essentially a rebuttal to the position that Money-Mart sort of places are exploitative. There’s a Money Mart down the road from me, and right after I mis-timed the down payment on my car I thought I’d have to use it for a payday loan, and since then I’ve been playing with various theories on the economics behind fringe financial institutions. I’d like to ground the article in context — if you’re familiar with Reason and would like to leave a comment regarding their ideological stance, history, or any other juicy gossip, I’d appreciate it.

I bought Beat Down To Your Soul, an anthology of essays, reviews, poems, and so forth about the Beat Generation, edited by Ann Charters. I love the Beats, and the list of authors included is a veritable who’s-who of Beat authors and Beat scholars. I’m looking forward to reading it, but as I peruse the table of contents, I realize I wish it was organized thematically for a read-through rather than alphabetically by author.

It’s National Poetry Month in some nation or another, so I grabbed Edward Hirsch’s How to Read a Poem and Fall In Love With Poetry. Flipping through it in the store, it came across as the sort of tone of someone who’s found something great and wants everyone to discover it — and despite being generally well-read, I’ve never really found myself getting into poetry, despite enjoying contemporary poetry whenever I encounter it.

Trying to remember the last time that I went out of my way to read poetry got me thinking of high school English class, and that took me to the next book, The Great Code: The Bible And Literature by Canadian literary critic Northrop Frye, which is just as its subtitle suggests — an analysis of the influence of the Bible on the imaginative tradition of Western art and literature. It’s considered one of Frye’s magnum opera and is as impenetrable as it might sound.

For my OAC English ISU (for the non-Ontarians, OAC is the optional, final, university-prep year of high school, and ISU is an Independent Study Unit, an independent project intended to give students a taste of what university scholastics will be like), the generally-despised Mr Scrutton chose a few advanced students and assigned topics (which was usually a no-no for ISUs) to ensure we’d challenge ourselves. He was right in that we probably wouldn’t challenge ourselves otherwise, but the topics were probably a little beyond final-year high school. Mine was to be on Biblical allusion in Paradise Lost. I did okay, but at one point I encountered The Great Code but only understood it enough to realize that it was very important in the paper I was writing, but not enough to actually use it. So, I’ve got a degree under my belt now, I figure I’ll give it another try.

While over at the literary-criticism shelf, I found Christine Clegg’s compilation of critical essays on Nabokov’s Lolita. Lolita blew me away the first time I read it — I picked it up when the 1997 movie came out, expecting little, and found myself unable to put it down. It’s one of very few fictional works that I revisit regularly, but for the most part I’ve avoided reading critical analyses of it. I figured I might as well change that.

One frustrating bit about Lolita is that I’d love to see Kubrick’s 1962 interpretation of it — I’ve really no interest in seeing the 1997 version — but I’m always afraid that seeing the movie of the book, even though it’s Kubrick, will spoil my own interpretation of it. Someday I’ll get around to seeing it, I imagine. The other frustrating thing about it is that back when I was in Montreal, a handful of my friends and I were essentially each other’s lending library, or perhaps an ad-hoc book club, with books being returned over coffee and discussion, but while Lolita was a popular lend (especially right after the movie), I found that people had a hard time appreciating the tragic element, getting too caught up in the taboo to allow themselves to emphazise with Humbert. Understandable, I suppose, but unfortunate.

I need a reading chair. I need more bookshelves.

7 responses to “In Libris”

  1. In the last 3 weeks I have purchased, at some bookstore or another, mostly without intent:

    • Ender’s Shadow
    • Ender’s Game (needed for comparison, I borrowed it the first time through)
    • Shadow of the Hegemon
    • The Universe In A Nutshell (more on this some other time)
    • Neverwhere
    • Good Omens

    Current size of my to-read bin: approximately 1/6 m^3.

    Yeah, you’re not alone here.

  2. Personally, I’m currently trying to figure out where to put the books that are blocking the use of the sofabed, as I have visitors impending…

    Lolita is quite excellent. An interesting read is The Annotated Lolita – although I’m glad I convinced myself to read it without the annotations the first time through.

    As to the Kubrick film: Nabokov didn’t feel that it close enough to the book. Supposedly, the recent version is much more faithful. Not sure if that would incline you to see it more or less, based on how it would affect your own interpretation.

  3. I typed in a nice long comment to this, but LJ complained it was TOO LONG! Feh to see what I wrote

    Au plaisir,


  4. You do realize that CDs at pawn shops (vs reliable used CD stores) are the #1 stolen item around? Ditto stereos.

    I shop at used and consignment stores, but the places I go have big WE CHECK ALL MERCHANDISE WITH THE POLICE stickers around.

  5. I had my entire CD collection stolen in the past. After this event, I talked to many owners of used record stores and places that sell used records in my city, in the hopes of recovering the few easily identifyable items in my collection. I failed to recover any CDs, but I came away with the impression that they all were very aware of the problem of ass-holes stealling CDs and unloading them through their store. Some of them had very nasty words to say about such people.

    Another data-point : I was in one of the scruffier pawn shops many years ago and was supprised to see a policeman taking down serial numbers of several pieces of gear. I remarked about this to the person behind the counter afterwards. Person looked at me as if I was from another plannet and a mutter I don’t recall these many years latter. I got the impression that they wouldn’t be in business if they didn’t. Wheither this is based on the mutter I don’t know.