"A commonplace book is what a provident poet cannot subsist without, for this proverbial reason, that “great wits have short memories:” and whereas, on the other hand, poets, being liars by profession, ought to have good memories; to reconcile these, a book of this sort, is in the nature of a supplemental memory, or a record of what occurs remarkable in every day’s reading or conversation." - Jonathan Swift, "A Letter of Advice to a Young Poet"
Saturday, December 7, 2013
Presents for myself: holiday book haul
Since graduating from my MA in September, I've applied for quite a few jobs and landed one. It's part-time and not highly lucrative. But it also happens to be one of my dream jobs, and the one thing it does subsidize is my serious book-buying habit. You guessed it: I'm working in a bookstore! And at the staff holiday shopping night last week, in addition to getting gifts for some bookish friends and family, I made myself an early present and bought these four beauties.
The Marriage Plot, by Jeffrey Eugenides, is obviously a good bet because it's author's name is unpronounceable. Just kidding. (Although have you noticed how many highly regarded authors cause people embarrassments at dinner parties when they try to pronounce them out loud? J.M. Coetzee is my personal favorite in this category. Oh, and let's not forget the publishing house that's joined the trend: Knopf. I had to say their name out loud at work this week and had a split second of sheer panic after it came out of my mouth, wondering whether I'd said it wrong.)
Actually, this is a book that's been recommended to me by all my just-out-of-college friends - apparently it's very relatable for us new grads. I also really appreciated Eugenides' writing in his more famous novel, The Virgin Suicides, although I don't love that book the way thousands of young women on the internet seem to...
But I have higher hopes for this one, and the first few sentences seem to confirm what my friends promised: a book about people reading books. Which is definitely right up my alley.
Now, though, I'm ready to sink into The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland in a Ship of her Own Making, by Catherynne M. Valente. A year before this book appeared next to me, tantalizingly out of reach, I was writing my undergraduate thesis on film adaptations of fairy tales, and I've been really interested in reading more written adaptations ever since. This book, as far as I know, isn't a direct reworking of any specific tale, but an entirely new tale written in a fable-like style. I can't wait.
And it just looks so luscious, with these gorgeous chapter head illustrations. It reminds me a bit of the illustrations in Harry Potter, but more outrageous and fanciful.
The best part is, this is a series, so I have at least two more books to look forward to. I haven't really researched yet whether there are more to come. Another thing I've noticed during my first month at work is that children's books are usually less expensive than adult books - but they can be as or more beautiful as objects.
I absolutely cannot wait to find a quiet moment and sit down with this book. It's just so damn gorgeous.
In any case, it's always a pleasure to read Woolf. I forget how brilliant she was until I sink back into her writing and find myself wowed and humbled and inspired all over again. I guess to call myself a real devotee I should have already read all her work, but I'm a person who likes savoring things, and it's lovely to think I have many more of her books to discover for the first time.
I will in all likelihood be posting reviews of these books here as I read them. Meanwhile, I'm working my way (very slowly but with great pleasure) through The Luminaries, by Eleanor Catton. Seriously, it's an amazing read, but I feel like it deserves and demands my full attention, so I've been trying to find nice quiet hours to read it, and that's quite difficult now that I actually have a job! I truly realize now how blessed I was this past year to have my full-time job be to read, study, discuss, and write about books.