Books, books, and more books

The last thing in the world I needed to do yesterday was to go check out the library sale going on in the town just south of mine. But I wanted to do it, and so I did it and came back with six books. It was a day for classics, with a few other things thrown in. Here’s what I found:

  • Henry James’s The Awkward Age. Henry James is a controversial figure in my house, but I’m the one who’s most likely to defend him, so I like to have an unread James novel on hand, just in case I get in the mood.
  • Willa Cather’s The Professor’s House. I really enjoyed A Lost Lady and My Antonia, so I thought I might like to read more of her work. After reading Elaine Showalter’s glowing appraisal of her work, I’m even more interested, and Dawn Powell  put me in the mood to read more about midwestern America.
  • The Modern Library collection of novels by William Dean Howells, including A Foregone Conclusion, A Modern Instance, Indian Summer, and The Rise of Silas Lapham. All for a dollar! I have never read Howells before and will probably begin with the last novel in the volume.
  • Helene Hanff’s 84, Charing Cross Road. She Knits by the Seashore recommended this one to me, and it sounds delightfully bookish.
  • Anne Fadiman’s Ex Libris. I’ve already read this book, but I read a library copy and I wanted to own it. It’s such a great collection of essays about bookish subjects that I’d like to read it again at some point.
  • And finally, Dubravka Ugresic’s collection of essays Nobody’s Home. I do love good essay collections, and Stefanie wrote a great review of this one, so I thought I’d give it a try.

Not a bad haul, right? And in other news, my mystery book group had a great discussion of The Moonstone last night. All but one of us loved it, and we spent much of the meeting raving about how great a book it is (the one dissenter must have felt a bit left out …). We came to the conclusion that, oddly enough, The Moonstone is really an anti-detective novel since ***Spoiler Alert!*** the detective fails to solve the case (it’s solved, but by other people) and order is not restored at the novel’s end, since the moonstone ends up back in India and not hanging on Rachel’s neck. You could say that the return of the moonstone to India IS restoring order, but that’s not the kind of order one usually finds, since it signals a failure of British power. And there’s no one person in the novel who is in control of everything and who knows what’s going on; instead, there are multiple narrators each of whom only knows a little piece. Or, if you want to say that Franklin Blake is the one who is in control since he is organizing the writing of all the novel’s sections, he’s an odd form of order since he spends most of the novel in ignorance of his own role in the story. Again, what a great book!


Filed under Books, Reading

19 responses to “Books, books, and more books

  1. I haven’t read “The Moonstone” but it sounds like there are some similarities between it and “Law and the Lady.” I assign an article in my Law and Literature class that analyzes “Law and the Lady” and “Chronicle of a Death Foretold” side-by-side in order to track shifting perceptions of the law in detective fiction and, in the course of doing so, upends some assumptions readers might make about each. If you’re interested, here’s a link to it:

    Once again, I wish that I was a member of your mystery book group. It sounds like you had a great discussion!


  2. The Professor’s House is actually my favorite Cather that I’ve read – which isn’t saying a huge amount, but I did quite enjoy it. Nice haul! And it sounds like a delightfully stimulating discussion, as well.


  3. I was that close to starting William Dean Howell’s Indian Summer a couple of days ago, and I’m determined to get to it soon – it looks delightful. And I’m also going to read Cather’s A Lost Lady this autumn for sure. That’s a wonderful book haul, Dorothy, and I do wish we had more library sales over here – they do seem to produce such good bargains!


  4. What great luck especially on the Howells. The Rise of Silas Lapham is a great place to start I think. I too have been meaning to read Indian Summer for quite a while — the only Howells I haven’t read. Maybe when I see you reading it I will jump in so as to have someone to chat with about it. Happy reading!


  5. Kate — how about you be a member of my book group and I take your class! It sounds very interesting. Thanks for the link, and perhaps I’ll have to read the two works it discusses.

    Emily — I’m glad to hear that about The Professor’s House. I’ve read only two Cather books, but both have been good experiences, and there are so many others to choose from. I like the title as well, which is partly why I picked that one up. They had quite a few others available at the sale.

    Litlove — oh, good, I’ll look forward to hearing what you think of Howells, especially since I know absolutely nothing about him. Perhaps I should start with Indian Summer … enjoy A Lost Lady!

    Frances — I know, four novels for a dollar! Interesting that you have read so much Howells. I take it you like him a lot, which is good news for me!


  6. It sounds like you had a good discussion even though nearly everyone agreed about the book! I really do need to reread it! Nice book haul, too. You and the Hobgoblin must have some great book discussions. And I ditto She Knits by the Seashore–the Hanff book is wonderful. You’ll have to find Q’s Legacy as well!


  7. 19th c Americanist in grad school so some of it was not of my choice. 🙂 But when I settled on American Literary Realism topic for thesis… Well, how could I not strike up a friendship with Howells? I will keep an eye out for when you read Indian Summer and try to pick it up at the same time so as to have to good company.


  8. I’m so glad you found a copy of Hanff! I need to read Q’s Legacy (the prequel) and also Duchess of Bloomsbury Street next. I think you’ll find that the narrator/letter writer of the book loves literature as much as we do, and has a terrific sense of humor.

    I’m sorry we’re taking so long with your At Large and At Small. I do promise to read and return it.


  9. Dorothy, I was thinking that you had read “Chronicle of a Death Foretold” because I remembered that it was the focus of a Slaves of Golconda discussion. It may have been the very first though, so perhaps before your time. I hope that you do read it some time, as I’d love to hear your thoughts on it! Definitely not a conventional detective story.


  10. Cam

    I just finished reading Ex Libris this evening. A wonderful collection of essays.


  11. I’ve been meaning to read 84 Charing Cross ever since seeing the movie, which I loved. I highly recommend it, once you’ve read the book. I wish I’d been at the book discussion. I would have loved to have heard the dissenter’s point of view.


  12. verbivore

    You make me want to read some Henry James, mostly because I’m not sure how I feel about him. I’ve only read Portrait of a Lady, but this was so long ago it seems to have merged with my memories of other novels of the same time period. I have Washington Square and a few other novels on the shelf, however…


  13. Oh, such nice book finds! You will love 84 Charing Cross Road. The movie isn’t bad either but don’t watch it until after you have read the book. And I hope you like Nobody’s Home!


  14. SFP

    You’re the first person who’s made me want to The Moonstone. I like the idea of an anti-detective detective novel!


  15. That is definitely a great haul Dorothy.
    You are reminding me, reminding me… to phone in “sick” on Nov.6th when our own Used Book Sale of the Year happens!
    And you are also reminding me of The Moonstone.
    On my shelf, unread…. for years, now!


  16. Danielle — I’m glad to hear you liked the Hanff too. We did have a good time agreeing on the book — it was fun to talk about what we liked, and we also spent a lot of time analyzing what the does with the mystery genre. The truth is, though, except for book group books, Hobgoblin and I generally read very different things!

    Frances — excellent. Maybe I’ll make Indian Summer a higher priority then 🙂

    Debby — take your time with the Fadiman book! It will only sit on my bookshelves, so you might as well hang on to it as long as you like. I’m glad to hear about Hanff’s other books that I can check out once I’ve read this first one.

    Kate — yeah, I did miss that discussion. Perhaps Chronicle would be a good choice for my book group at some point?

    Cam — yes, it definitely is! I’m glad you enjoyed it.

    Emily — the dissenter was the husband of a blogger we both know and love 🙂 I’m glad to hear the movie version of the Hanff book is good!

    Verbivore — oh, yes, read Henry James! I’d love to read what you make of his style. I really enjoy his psychological focus and his slow, thoughtful style.

    Stefanie — okay, book first and then movie — got it! And thanks again for the review of Nobody’s Home.

    SFP — what Collins does with the genre is very interesting — although the genre didn’t really exist when he wrote, so I should say his contribution to the formation of the genre is really interesting!

    Cipriano — calling in sick definitely sounds like a good idea! And The Moonstone is definitely worth moving up in the reading queue.


  17. Ann

    I wish I was about to read ’84 Charing Cross Road’ for the first time. It is the book I turn to whenever I am too ill to read anything else and I just want to spend time in the company of a very very dear friend. I envy you the joy of discovering it.


  18. I’m all for books, books and more books… Glad you’ve found something you like. A reader of my blog recommended the movie 84 Charing Cross Road. I borrowed it from the library and found it enjoyable… bursting with acting talents: Anne Bancroft as Helene Hanff, with Anthony Hopkins, and Judi Dench. Also, I’ve recently read the article “The Decline of the English Department”, sure like to have your view.


  19. I just love library sales. I do miss the ones I used to go to when I lived in Dallas as I always found such great stuff.

    Anyway I hope you love 84 Charring Cross Road. It’s a book perfect for bookworms I think 🙂


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