Asaf Bartov (ijon) wrote,
Asaf Bartov

  • Mood:
  • Music:

Et libri mors mea erunt...

Predictably, I failed to resist the lure of the nearby bookstore, a Borders store, and quite surprised the teenaged clerk when I piled my selections on the counter. I'd like to point out that due to the tragic shortage of shelf-space in my room, I have resolved to and succeeded in exercising supreme moderation.

This was last Wednesday. Then, today, I rendezvoused with the charming ryba_kit (actually, you're better off reading her non-LJ site, full of surprises) in Berkeley, and she took me to see two wonderful bookstores featuring mostly used books, both near the beautiful campus of UC Berkeley.

Used books, unlike the ones I bought at Borders, are sometimes treasures that you may never encounter again. Furthermore, especially with very old books (i.e. books printed before 1920, say), you really need to thumb through a book to know what you're getting, so shopping for those on the Internet is a lot less attractive.

To make a long story longer, I list the purchases, and may make a few apologetic or defiant comments and thoughts along the way.

Copenhagen, Michael Frayn, 1998.
gaal recommended that I watch this play quite a long while ago. However, due to the fact that I suck, I haven't done so yet. I'm not sure whether it's still playing in Israel, but it just might be. In case it doesn't, I bought the text of the play.
Darkness Visible: A Memoir of Madness, William Styron, 1990.
I don't remember where I saw mention of and praise for this book, but when I did, I decided I want to buy it. I really like Styron, having discovered him accidentally when I picked up his The Long March. That little book hit me like a sledgehammer. Everyone who's ever served in the military should read it. Actually, all the rest should read it, too.

So anyhow, Darkness Visible is about Styron's experience with severe depression, recounting his descent into the depths of melancholia and his eventual recovery. Incidentally, Styron observes how 'melancholia' is a much more appropriate term for the terrible disease than the bland 'depression', "used indifferently to describe an economic decline or a rut in the ground, a true wimp of a word for such a major illness". It so happens that I have on more than one occasion thought about 'depression' vs. 'melancholia', and I seem feel about them the same as Styron does.

By one of life's little mischievous synchronicities, I was struck by a sudden, paralyzing depression exactly one day after I bought this book. Perhaps unwisely, I then started to read it. I feel a lot better now. Time doth heal, and conversations with my wondrous friends do help as well.

DV being such a short book, I've actually finished it by now. It is a quick read and offers a very honest, somewhat detached account of one man's struggle with melancholia. It offered me only a moderate amount of insight, but gave some mute emotions words and names, and that is not to be taken lightly. Language begets consciousness and all that. It is a memoir, not a comprehensive study or artful prose. It manages to be lucid -- to the degree that it is possible to be lucid when dealing with the elusive phenomenon that so entangles our psyche -- and to offer some sound advice and shared misery, evoking the memory of notable artists who suffered mightily from depression, and who eventually resorted to that ultimate solution: suicide.
Tom Stoppard: Plays 4, Tom Stoppard, 1999.
I was missing that volume. Stoppard is a superb playwright. When I grow up, I want to be as good as Stoppard.
A Companion to The Cantos of Ezra Pound, Carroll F. Terrell, 1993.
Having bought The Cantos on my previous US book spree, I might as well understand the ridiculous number of references and allusions, some of them very obscure, in the damn thing.
The Cambridge Companion to Tom Stoppard, Katherine E. Kelly (ed.), 2001.
Speaking of companions, have I mentioned how I admire Stoppard? Have I revealed that I am keenly interested in mixing literature and theater? So, this is an anthology of critical articles on Stoppard's works, and I hope it will offer a lot of insight on this.
Cyrano de Bergerac, Edmond Rostand, Brian Hooker (tr.), 1950, 1981.
Ever since belvane enlightened my benighted mind by introducing me to Cyrano, I have been completely enchanted by this wonderful play. I have read a very masterful translation (in verse, of course) into Hebrew, by Israeli poet and translator T. Carmi, and will read another Hebrew translationg (also in verse) by Israeli poet and translator Yonatan Ratosh, whose Hebrew is special and whose political views sometimes flavor his literary works.

Some time ago, I found alexpgp's entry about Cyrano, which he (Alex) can read in the original French, much to my envy. Since Alex is a professional translator, I asked him about an English translation he recommends. He wrote that he never read it in English translation, but that he found the Hooker translation to be widely acclaimed. So now I get to see for myself. Hooker, an American poet and translator, stayed true to the charming verse form as well. I look forward to reciting it (reading poetry and drama aloud is a basic commandment) with my girl.
Aspects of the Novel, E. M. Forster, 1927.
It seems to be a classic introduction to the novel. I very much want to understand how novels work. The price was a bargain.
Teach Yourself Russian, Daphne M. West, 1991.
Another book in the Teach Yourself language tutorial series of NTC. I'm happy with their Sanskrit and Finnish books, and own a few others for languages I intend to study and haven't yet had time. I wanted to buy the Russian one for quite some time now, but it was unavailable when I searched for it online (probably temporarily). So this was an opportunity. As ryba_kit pointed out today, avva's journal alone makes it worthwhile to pick up Russian ASAP. [sigh] I really need to win the Grand Prize in the Time Lottery.
Kant and the Platypus: Essays on Language and Cognition, Umberto Eco, Alastair McEwen (tr.), 1999.
Umberto Eco's latest essay book. And it has a platypus in its title... (hello, kakapo!) Enough said. Interestingly, though, this one is not translated by Eco's usual translator, William Weaver.
Lectures on Russian Literature, Vladimir Nabokov, 1981.
This will befriend and accompany Nabokov's Lectures on English Literature, which I bought on my previous US book spree. I'm sure they'll get along together, sharing the misery of their forlorn status until I get around to reading them.
Collected Poems of Theodore Roethke, 1975.
gaal likes this poet, and I know next to nothing about him, having read only perhaps two of his poems. It's time for that to change.
100 Love Sonnets, Pablo Neruda, 1986.
I'm not sure I like Neruda's poetry, but I'm sure I don't know enough of it, and sonnets are always fun, and studying translated sonnets is always interesting, especially as this edition offers the original and translated sonnet side-by-side.
Pale Fire, Vladimir Nabokov, 1962.
When a good friend of yours is translating a masterpiece of 20th century literature, you really have no excuse not to be ready for reading his translation as soon as it's complete, i.e. to have read the original by then.
The Practice of Writing, David Lodge, 1996.
Having loved Lodge's hilarious novels Changing Places and Small World, and gaal having recommended Lodge's The Art of Fiction, I purchased the latter and am about halfway into it. It is a collection of short (2-3 pages) articles on aspects and techniques of prose writing, particularly in novels. Lodge demonstrates each device or subject with a paragraph or two from a well-known novel, and it's a light yet rewarding read. While that book was meant for readers who want to better understand how prose is created, in The Practice of Writing Lodge examines and discusses artistic and technical aspects of writing, as distinct from analyzing ready, finished prose.
The History of Freemasonry: Its Legendary Origins, Albert Mackey, 1996.
One of my favorite subjects in role-playing and in creating role-playing stories is the occult: occult points of view, practicing occultists , creative mythology, occult 'secrets', occult conspiracies, etc. To that end, I have a small collection of crackpot texts and occult works. Seriously, I think it's all hogwash, but playing with these colorful themes excites my imagination, and I find it interesting to tell stories with occult motives in them. This book scratches that itch. Mackey lived in the 19th century, and this is a reprint of his classic work on the origins of freemasonry -- prime material for my work...
Collected Poems, Stéphane Mallarmé, Henry Weinfield (tr. & ann.) 1994.
I've long been curious about the poetry of Mallarmé. The works of his mentor, Charles Baudelaire, have been translated into many languages, and I've savored them in Hebrew, in Dori Manor's translation. But Mallarmé was hard to find in English, and I think was never translated into Hebrew.
Oscar Wilde, object of my enduring fascination, spent some years in Paris, with Mallarmé and others, and later with Gide. Richard Ellmann, in his biography of Wilde, concludes from some correspondence between Wilde and his French friends that Wilde's works, as well as his thoughts about art, were somewhat influenced by Mallarmé. This edition offers the original and the translation side-by-side, much to my delight.
That's it!

Not too indulgent, you'll agree.

But then I met Renee (ryba_kit), and she took me to those two lovely Berkeley bookstores, and... and... [sigh] I really tried. Honest! I really didn't buy all that many books. I know full well that I simply don't have enough room for them on my shelves. But... just a few particular books... and hey, a couple of books are actually her fault! Aww, wait, no, that wasn't a nice thing to say. But wait, we're talking about books! So it is nice. Um. Oh, and they're all second-hand, so they were much cheaper than the previous items.

The Golden Bough, James Frazer, 1922.
Frazer's anthropological masterpiece. Both genuinely interesting and prime material for my sinister role-playing activities... A classic.
The Greek Myths, Robert Graves, 1960.
A classic work on Greek Mythology, with plenty of Amazing Gravesian Erudition thrown in. This book has actually directly inspired a role-playing adventure I wrote for and ran in BIGOR 2001: I called it "Pain et Vin". Now that I have my own copy, I can return avva his.
The Annotated Lolita, Vladimir Nabokov, Alfred Appel Jr. (ed. & ann.), 1970.
This requires no explanation, surely. I am about to lose a real ace for future games of Humiliation...
Speak, Memory, Vladimir Nabokov, 1960.
Nabokov's partial, problematic autobiography.
The Perfect Heresy, Stephen O'Shea, 2000.
When you are friends with ygurvitz, you learn a lot. You also risk developing unexpected fields of interest, such as Christian heresies in medieval Europe. This book is about the Cathars, a favorite heresy of Yossi's, and one of which I've learned quite a bit, just by listening to him on various occasions.

Yes, you can borrow it, Yossi. [grin]
No Exit and three other plays, Jean-Paul Sartre, 1955.
I wouldn't have bought this one, if it weren't for a basic curiosity about Sartre's literary efforts, and the opportunity to find out for very little money.
That's it!

A rather remarkable feat of self-control, you'll grant.

But then, like I said, there are those books that Renee made me buy:

The Collected Stories of Isaac Babel, Isaac Babel, 1955.
This is simply because I am a very bad liar. Renee noticed this book and asked if I've read any Babel. Without deliberation, I told the shameful truth. This is my just reward.
Possession: A Romance, A. S. Byatt
I know absolutely nothing about this one, but Renee recommended it unreservedly, and I'm willing to give it a chance.
Old English Grammar, Joseph Wright, Elizabeth Mary Wright, 1914.
Not sure I'd ever gain any real proficiency in Old English, I am curious enough to try, and I had the one-time opportunity of having an expert near me when choosing the books to guide me, so I bought this grammar, recommended by Renee.
Sweet's Anglo-Saxon Reader, C. T. Onions, 1958.
A 19th century Anglo-Saxon reader, revised and edited by Mr. Onions. Renee assured me that, alongside Wright's grammar, I'll be reading Old English in no time at all. That's good, because that's the amount of time I can hope to be investing in this endeavor in the coming year...
Njal's Saga, Magnus Magnusson (tr.), Hermann Palsson (tr.), 1960.
Another saga to read and ponder, to join the unread sagas I have at home: Das Nibelungenlied, Tristan und Isolt, and of course Roland.
The Mabinogi and other medieval Welsh tales, Patrick K. Ford (tr. & ed.), 1977.
"An absolute must," quoth Renee.
That's it!

No, really: these are ALL the books I bought, except for a gift or two.

Many thanks to Renee, for a lovely afternoon.

If you've read this long entry all the way through, you owe it to me to waste still more of your time by commenting.

  • Shah of Shahs / Ryszard Kapuściński

    Exactly 38 years ago, Khomeini returned to Iran from his exile in France, and set in motion the Islamic Revolution of Iran. A little over a year…

  • On Immigrants

    Speaking of immigrants, Sir Ian McKellen would like to offer this passage, from the Elizabethan play Sir Thomas More: GEORGE. Marry, the removing…

  • Goodreads is fun; Dickens; Mortimer

    I've been pretty indifferent to most of the recent social-network sites, but I'm really enjoying I'm a pretty busy reader, with a…

  • Post a new comment


    default userpic

    Your reply will be screened

    Your IP address will be recorded 

    When you submit the form an invisible reCAPTCHA check will be performed.
    You must follow the Privacy Policy and Google Terms of use.

  • Shah of Shahs / Ryszard Kapuściński

    Exactly 38 years ago, Khomeini returned to Iran from his exile in France, and set in motion the Islamic Revolution of Iran. A little over a year…

  • On Immigrants

    Speaking of immigrants, Sir Ian McKellen would like to offer this passage, from the Elizabethan play Sir Thomas More: GEORGE. Marry, the removing…

  • Goodreads is fun; Dickens; Mortimer

    I've been pretty indifferent to most of the recent social-network sites, but I'm really enjoying I'm a pretty busy reader, with a…