Miss Read

For a few years now I have been reducing my book collection.  It has been a very slow process, but every now and then I have a frenzy of clearance, usually associated with the need to make room for more yarn.  What I have not even considered touching:

I love my collection of Miss Read books.  I discovered her during a month-long break I took from residency, when my brain was literally falling apart.  I moved into the spare bedroom, and basically slept, ate, and read in bed for four weeks.  I read all the Miss Read books I could find in our library, then went online and discovered the world of ABE, and started collecting first editions — as though a first printing of a first edition was somehow different from everything subsequent.  Miss Read was quiet and comforting, and offered a world that somehow always ended up where it needed to be.  And when I was done with my month, the headache to end all headaches was also gone.  RIP, Miss Read.

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The Inner Bibliophile

It started because I wanted to expand my territory — isn’t that the aspiration of all despots?  From my desk (in the former dining room) to the now beautifully plantation-shuttered front windows (of the former living room), the space is all mine, defined by the eight bookcases that line the walls.  It is the “sitting room” extension of my office, the borders neatly delineated by the change from hickory to oak floors.

Despite my best efforts, DH and The Kid tend to ignore border signs.  Perhaps they are not obvious enough.  So there I was, contemplating the construction of a fortress of books, Michael Ball playing in the background — because Michael Ball, hitting all his high notes, can be amazingly inspirational.  I found Michael Ball ten years ago and bought — actually bought! — several of his CDs.  He does pop, he does Broadway, he does a bit of blues . . . .  but a constant of his recordings is his signature song  “Love Changes Everything,” from the musical Aspects of Love. And until a week or so ago, I did not know that Aspects of Love was based on the book of same title by David Garnett.  I did, however, know who David Garnett was — all courtesy of my current interest in Virginia Woolf and the Bloomsbury Group.

What can one say about a man nicknamed “Bunny”?  That he was the son of Constance Garnett, that he was a conscientious objector during WWI, that he lived with Vanessa Bell and her ex-lover Duncan Grant, that he was also Duncan Grant’s lover, that he was present when Vanessa Bell gave birth to Angelica Bell (her daughter by Duncan Grant) and that he thought it would be interesting to marry Angelica when she grew up — and that he did in fact marry Angelica when she grew up . . . .

It was a pretty incestuous crowd; modern soap writers could learn a thing or two from their collective history.

I chose not to read Aspects of Love, but did find The Old Dovecote. Imagine my surprise when DH brought the book home from the library — a skinny little board book with just 27 pages:

It is a hand-made book, published as part of the 18 volume limited-edition Woburn Books (other writers include D.H. Lawrence, E. F. Benson, Algernon Blackwood, G.K. Chesterton, Sylvia Townsend Warner, and Robert Graves), published by Elkin Mathews & Marrot in 1928-1929.  Another surprise: that David Garnett was a decent writer!  Now I am ashamed that I could recall only the salacious details of his life.

Midlife Crisis, Part I

Mine, that is.

Menopause and midlife crisis — it’s enough to make me want to stay in bed until it’s all over.  Except I’m either too cold, or too hot, to stay put: bed is just not the refuge it used to be.  The most destructive thing about my midlife crisis is the looking back — I become mired in pasts that never were, much like when I tried to hang on to friendships long gone (high school GF), or when I tried to redress friendships long wrecked (college GF).

In the middle of the night, I woke DH up to tell him that my books were like the friendships that no longer were.  I have books that were, books that are, books that may be.  Some books are emphatically closed and never will be again (F. Scott Fitzgerald springs to mind) — it’s time to give them up.  I kept these books because I was essentially “decorating” with them — although in my defense, I really did come by them honestly and not “by the yard,” and I never arranged by color or shape or size.  Nevertheless, they had, over the years, become a statement of not my current learning or interests, but rather of my past intellectual endeavors.

Today I began listing some of my unloved books on Amazon;  I have sold four of them so far.  Perhaps someone out there will discover an enduring interest in one of the subjects and the books will find a comfortable space to be again.