Awhile back I made the mistake of signing up to work during the first shift of my library’s book sale. I discovered today why it was a mistake — I had to keep busy straightening books and answering questions (or trying to) while other people snatched up the good stuff. It wouldn’t have been so bad if the woman organizing things hadn’t assigned me to the travel, science, computers, reference, and children’s book sections; if I’d been over in fiction, I probably could have set books aside to buy later. Next time I’ll remember — sign up to work at the library sale by all means, but not during the first shift!
But I did come home with some good things (as did Hobgoblin):
- John Galsworthy’s Forsyte Saga. I found an old hardcover edition, which will make pleasant reading when I get there, I think. I’ve been hearing about Galsworthy a lot lately because of the Outmoded Authors challenge. I suspect I won’t be reading this as part of the challenge, however.
- Jamaica Kincaid’s Annie John. As much as I felt ambivalently about Jane Smiley’s book about the novel (13 Ways), she does have a good reading list. I learned about this one there.
- Arthur Phillips, Prague. I should get in the habit of noting why I put things on my list of books I’d like to read; some things are on there and I have no idea why. I’m not sure why this book has stuck in my mind, but it has, and now I own it. Has anybody else read it?
- Pat Conroy’s Beach Music. Courtney has written so eloquently about this book, how could I resist?
- Ivy Compton-Burnett, Manservant and Maidservant. Oh, shoot, I just learned that NYRB Classics has published this book — if I’d known that I might have waited to get that edition. Perhaps it’s silly to care about editions like that, but I do like to hold a nicely-made book in my hands … this is another Outmoded Authors author.
- Andrew O’Hagan, Personality. I read a good review of O’Hagan’s latest novel and so thought I might like an earlier one.
- Elizabeth Gaskell, Mary Barton. I’ve decided it’s impossible to own too much Gaskell!
The worrying thing is that there’s another local library sale next weekend, and I really don’t need more books, but I’m sure I’ll go …
My idea of a walk, influenced by Kazin and honed over these last nine years that I’ve lived in New York, involves a freewheeling thoughtfulness powered by the legs but fed by observation, a physical and mental stream of consciousness nudged this way and that by an infinite number of human variables: an old man doing his esoteric exercises, a lone glove dropped in the middle of a snowy sidewalk, an Orthodox Jew in a shtreimel.
A detail — Chinese lantern flowers in the window of a brownstone — leads to an association, and then another; a thought forms, expands, breaks apart into subsidiary thoughts, which in turn briskly scatter with the sudden appearance of a balloon floating down Seventh Avenue. All the while, on another level of the mind, decisions are being made about direction: a right here, now a left, straight until the river.
There is no destination. Ideally, the afternoon is wide open. Time is limitless. The streets taken on the way out are never the ones taken on the way back. The walk unfurls according to mood, physical endurance and visual appetite.