Friday, August 21, 2009

The Loot At The Top Of The Stairs

I'm making good progress on my Support Your Local Library challenge, but there's always that question in the back of my mind: Should I be visiting my library so often and checking out so many books and at such a rapid clip? There are several possible and reasonable answers to this question:

1. Try and stop me!
2. Excuse me? I am Bybee and this is my Bybee-ary!
3. I climbed 118 steps to get here. Screw fitness! I deserve a book or two. Or five.
4. No, I probably shouldn't. I am behind on some of my challenges and I have a massive chunky monkey of a book borrowed from Talya that I must finish soon.
5. I'm broke till payday. Library-ing satisfies my shopping jones.
6. I went without a proper library for more than 4 years. If I checked out a book every day, it still couldn't make up for all those years of deprivation.
7. It's raining like hell. I need shelter, so why not the place with all the books?
8. This library has a raggedy charm that I can't resist. This collection, with its mixture of new and old donated foreign books is like a crazy quilt. A treasure hunt with no end in sight. I could rhapsodize for hours, but you want to see the loot. I don't blame you.

The Just And The Unjust - James Gould Cozzens. This 1942 novel seems to be about a murder trial. One of the previous readers of this copy also read All The King's Men because there are margin notations here and there that mention Willie Stark. Cozzens was both literary and popular back in the 1940s and 1950s, but something caused him to fall out of favor. Did some influential critic have it in for him? I had always heard that his prose was a bit user-unfriendly, but this novel looks quite readable. Over at the Neglected Books blog critics and writers are recommending a later novel, Guard Of Honor, which is the 1949 Pulitzer fiction winner.

The Dead Of The House - Hannah Green. Speaking of Neglected Books, if this 1996 title hadn't popped up over and over at that site, I wouldn't have given it a second look. It was published by a small indie press and the tasteful cover illustration and colors all seem to reek of self-conscious literary-ness. Another major irritant is that instead of a brief summary of the book on the back cover, that space is filled with several rave blurbs from highly respected authors and publications. It all feels a bit airless -- like there's no space for the reader and author and the book to all get acquainted. I kind of hate the title, too. I'll give it a shot, but I'm going in mindful of Nancy Pearl's 50-page rule.

A Moveable Feast - Ernest Hemingway. Late in his life, Hemingway looked back 40 years to the years (1921-1926) he lived as an expatriate in Paris. Since I'm an expat as well, I'm pretty sure I'll enjoy this book. I'm especially looking forward to reading the chapter about Sylvia Beach and her bookstore Shakespeare & Company.

Native Son - Richard Wright. Back in university or maybe even high school, I read some excerpts from this 1940 novel and from Wright's 1945 autobiography Black Boy and I've never forgotten the searing intensity of his prose. His intelligence and rage seem to burn through the pages. He never lost his sense of horror about the mistreatment of blacks in the United States, and it was this feeling that ultimately drove him into self-exile. Shortly after WWII, he established permanent residence in France, living there until his death at 52 in 1960. I anticipate that reading Native Son will be a powerful literary experience.

Have I mentioned that my library has a self-checkout machine? I like how it talks to you in both Korean and English and that cool whirring sound it makes while processing books, but it feels strange to bypass the circulation clerk altogether. It makes me feel like I'm repeatedly getting away with book capers.


Carrie K said...

All but #4 are valid.

You reminded me, I've got to read All the King's Men. The Just and the Unjust sounds intriguing, looking forward to your review.

Jeane said...

I love all your reasons for visiting the library.

Anonymous said...

Native Son is one of my favorite books. A friend then told me about Black Boy, and I loved that too. Native Son and Ellison's Invisible Man are both two of my favorite African-American novels. As a white boy who grew up in almost all-white northern Pennsylvania, both were, and are, real eye-openers.

Charles said...

All the King's Men:

May or may not be an important novel, may or may not be a great novel, but one thing's for sure (my opinion) it's mostly booooooring! We're talking major snooze time here.

Bybee said...

Carrie K,
Yes, what was I thinking, throwing in #4? I haven't read All The King's Men yet, either. Saw the 1949 movie.

Fish gotta swim, birds gotta fly...I can't help loving that library of mine.

Native Son is shattering. I'm surprised I haven't read it till now. Stunning naturalism.

I had a previous outing with Robert Penn Warren -- a novel of his based on The Kentucky Tragedy called World Enough And Time and I found his prose very hard going. The topic was interesting and he worked hard to make it deadly boring. So I'm not exactly rushing to read All The King's Men even if it is on the Pulitzer shelf.

Susan said...

I love your reasons for visiting the library. However, I think you forgot one: who needs a reason to visit the library? Not Bybee! Hmm, that almost rhymes....

I can't say I've heard of ANY of the books you took out. At the very least, you will be reading books and blogging about them that will make us look them up! lol here's hoping some new(-er, -ish) books come into your library soon! Something in this decade, or last decade, say! Enjoy, Bybee. I hope you have some treasures there! If I didn't dislike Hemingway so much I might pick up that biography myself, since I am interested in the ex-pats in Paris, since it gave them all impetus to write/keep writing.

Unruly Reader said...

Your reasons for visiting the library are delightful. And I am wildly amused that using the self-check makes you feel like you're participating in a caper -- it takes book check-out to a whole new level!

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Marg said...

One of my old libraries used to have the self check out machine, but I never got the hang of using it. I like to have a chat with the librarians anyway.

Framed said...

I haven't heard of any of these books. I hope they are all good. Maybe if I visited the library more often, I would quit buying so many books. . . .Probably not.

Anonymous said...

Bybee-ary! I laughed out loud at that one today.

joemmama said...

I miss librarians...those wonderful people who were always old and oh so helpful to a little girl with thick glases, lugging home big bags of books...sigh