Some times, when I look at the books that get donated to our charity used-book store here on the north shore of Long Island, I wonder why such a thing was ever published in the first place:
Well, color me stupid.
This is a first edition copy of a book that was re-issued in 2014 by NYRB Classics (that is, the hoity-toity New York Review Books). This book got a review on NPR (the same people who did a review of my first book in 2009 and saved my career) and here’s the last paragraph:
In many ways, On Being Blue is less a book to read than an experience to be had. It’s essentially a rant, a riff, poetry, music, art, all of that. But it isn’t apologetics. There’s no scientific argument, no clear-cut hypothesis to be found. It’s not a treatise on the nature of man and his place in the universe. Gass is more interested in getting across a passion for language, and the way the words look and sound on the page. Blue is life and love, it becomes quite easy to believe. But wait for it, because in the end, “everything is gray.”
Oh, sure, this is a book beloved by the intelligentsia, but lordy, if there’s one thing I can’t stand it’s a rant, a riff, poetry, music, art, all of that in book form. This book sounds tedious, and I have enough problems of my own, thank you, to have time for deep thoughts about the color blue.
We also got this:
It’s a big, coffee table-sized book and inside were pages and pages of wonderful illustrations:
In my favorite book about being a used-book seller, The Diary of a Bookseller by Shaun Bythell, Bythell noted that books about trains — even vintage train schedules — sell very well in his store. Well, sure, I thought to myself, But Shaun’s in Scotland where transpotting is a national sport, but will this sell here on the north shore of Long Island?
I priced it at $2.00 and it sold in an hour.
This looked like a dreary children’s book with a message about life, and I loathe “message” books . . .
. . . but it was redeemed by this on the inside free end paper:
I wish I knew who this nephew was, so I could call him and tell him to treasure this note from his aunt.
Moving on: The only thing worse than actually being IN the Peace Corps. . .
. . . would be reading a book ABOUT the Peace Corps.
I flipped through this book and a chapter describing the application process caught my eye. I remember my application process, back in 1980, and my hour-long interview, and how ernest I was about doing my part to bring about world peace. I cringe to think that I was ever that naive.
In the 1960s, an applicant needed EIGHT references to attest to their worthiness to being Peace Corps Volunteers. “Generally,” the author notes, “they [the references] tend to be candid and reliable evaluations.”
Here’s a sample of what people had to say about possible future Peace Corps Volunteers:
“About emotion, he can take it or leave it.”
“If dropped into an alien culture, he [the applicant] would be accepted by the culture rather than eaten.”
“I have seen her react favorably when her hand was mashed in a car door.”
“Even patrolmen that have arrested him in the past years stated they liked him.”
Note to RPCV Steve: Did you know that Morocco was in the region that the Peace Corps called NANSEA? It’s the most diverse PC region, covering Morocco, Tunisia, Libya, Turkey, Iran, Afghanistan, Nepal, India, and Ceylon. What say you and me go back in time and volunteer for Afghanistan? Or Iran. Cool, huh?
Moving on. . .
I got complete bound copies of Gourmet Magazine for all of 1972, 1973, and 1974.
I thought they might have some interesting travel journalism in there along with icky recipes but they don’t, and there’s hardly any color photography (food magazines have come a loooong way since the ’70s). I don’t have any hopes that we have a customer for these, but I’ll give them a chance on our Odds and Ends shelf.
For the past two years, one of our most loyal customers buys coffee table art and photography books from us for his collage art, a hobby of his in retirement. Last Sunday he had an exhibit of his works at a library far up on the north shore of Long Island and I went to see it.
Each piece is a 12-inch x 12-inch square, the same size as an LP cover. That’s a shape that we Baby Boomers are very conversant with, and I think it’s a smart choice.
I was pleasantly surprised that his work (he had about 30 on view) were so formally composed because that’s not what I expect from collage but then, he has always struck me as a linear-thinking kind of guy. I think he might have been a math teacher, or an engineer.
I do like his work, but I think they would benefit from better titles. Something a little enigmatic, or hintingly narrative, or in juxtaposition, if you know what I mean.
Take this one, above. I like it a lot. the use of that copper-colored sky is very effective, and I like the coyote looking over his shoulder, and I even don’t mind the old people (altho, for the record, I’d rather not look at old people in art).
But wouldn’t it be a better piece if it had a different title? Like, for a random example, “A Slow Walk in the Forever Fields”?
Discuss amongst yourselves.
I happened to see the artist again at the bookstore today when he came in to look at the books I’ve been putting aside form all Summer. He sold two pieces on opening day of the exhibit, and he’s gotten calls about several others. (He bought 4 of the 5 books I’d set aside for him.)
I didn’t buy one of his work because they are outside my collecting parameters. I collect thrift shop art, and I’ve got some beauts.
This hangs above our fireplace in the living room. I got it 15 years ago. It’s large, 32 inches x 44 inches, and I think it’s the most wonderful painting in the world:
This was the first piece of thrift shop art that I ever bought, about 20 years ago, before I got married:
My heart pounded with joy when I came across these two, together, waiting for ME to give them a good home:
I love it that the person who did these paint-by-numbers pictures signed them.
Last week I was in our local Salvation Army thrift shop and I came across a canvas (16 x 20 inches) that I tried not to buy, because, well, look at it, but in the end I couldn’t leave the store without it:
And now I love it, and spend about fifteen minutes a day looking at it, happy that its weird exuberance and hauntingly inept draftsmanship are MINE. I have half a mind to call this one, On Being Blue.
And that brings us full circle, Dear Readers, for this week.
Have a splendid weekend, everyone. October is the Coyote Month, and this year the trickster has impeachment on his mind!
A college professor put this sign up on his office door as a warning to his students:
It made me think of this guy:
But let’s not let that be the last word, not when there’s this: