Thursday, June 3, 2010

Soup and Salad: Book Break-Up, A Library Under the Gavel, Teeny-Tiny Library, Henry Roth's Final Chapter, Paris Review Blog, Feel-Good 'Shining'

On today's menu:

1.  At The Millions, Sonya Chung provides a taxonomy of the many ways she's given up on books: It's Not You, It's Me: Breaking Up With Books.  While I take exception to some of the books she quits mid-read (how could she not like Denis Johnson's Tree of Smoke?  And James Joyce's Portrait of an Artist as a Young Man--painful?  Really?), I can relate to the turbulent swirl of guilt and shame she feels while struggling through books she should like, but can't.  What I can't connect with, however, is how she's able to stop mid-page and quit the book forever.  I haven't abandoned ship on a novel since....well, I can't remember the last time I waved the white flag.  There have been a few books I've flung across the room, crying, "I'm through!  I'm through!"  But moments later, there I'll be, walking over to pick it up, murmuring, "I'm sorry...Didn't really mean it...Are you hurt?.....Here, let me bandage that rip in your dust jacket").  Unlike the 27-year marriage to my wife (approaching three decades of unadulterated comfort and joy), I will stick it out with a book long after the happiness erodes and is replaced by mediocrity.  This, along with surreptitious nose-picking and a love of Captain and Tennile, is one of my greatest character flaws. 

2.  Later this year, Sotheby's will auction off "one of the finest collections of first-edition books assembled in recent times."  Valued in the ballpark of £8m-£15m (that's $12-22 million for us Yanks), this collection from a single individual includes the first collected edition of Shakespeare poems (dating from 1640), a copy of Wilkie Collins' The Moonstone "in its original cloth," and an inscribed edition of A Christmas Carol which Charles Dickens gave to his friend and confidant, the actor William Macready.  The mind reels, the mouth salivates.

3.  And now this from our British friends across the pond: Looking to re-purpose an obsolete telephone booth?  Convert it into the world's tiniest library!

4.  Henry Roth is an author I should have added to my list of Unread Classics I've Been Meaning to Get Around to One of These Lazy (Ha!) Afternoons.  And now I find that W.W. Norton is about to publish another of his posthumous novels?!  Stop the bus, please--I haven't even cracked open Call It Sleep.  What's really beautiful about the story behind the book is the fact that it was brought to life by a 32-year-old fiction editor at The New Yorker named Willing Davidson, "who in background and bearing couldn’t be less like the prickly, self-doubting Roth, but nevertheless felt a deep connection to his life and work."  I like the fact that his first name is Willing and that he took the time to sort through mountains of manuscript pages and cryptic notes on behalf of a dead writer who has been largely forgotten.

5.  Ladies and gentlemen, The Paris Review has entered the blogiverse:  "We have been looking for a way to keep in touch with our readers between issues."

6.  I leave you today with The Shining: The Feel-Good Movie of the Year.  The only thing that could make this funnier would be the late, great Mason Adams doing the voice-over.

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