Monday, August 31, 2015

The Archaeology of Reading

I can not imagine ever not being a reader. Some people might invest their identity into a career, or a specific sport fandom. For me, it's always been books. Books aren't just a way of adding to one's identity the same way someone might build an addition onto a house. They're a way of uncovering aspects of one's character, or verbalizing unconscious thoughts, that already existed. Reading is a sort of excavation of identity.  

Monday, August 17, 2015

Reviewing Twain's "A Tramp Abroad"

It is both a part of Mark Twain’s charm and a part of his unreliability as a narrator that one is never quite sure whether he is telling the truth. I first came across this conundrum whilst reading Life on the Mississippi, which is supposedly a partial autobiography, partial history, partial travelogue based on Twain’s experiences as a Mississippi riverboat pilot and traveler.

I came across it again more recently—and more palpably—in A Tramp Abroad. This book, which I later found out is an unofficial sequel to The Innocents Abroad (which I haven’t read yet), is about how Twain and a friend named Harris set out to travel Europe—a bit of France and Italy, but mostly Germany and the Alps—on foot. Basically their goal was to do what young adults and college students do when they “backpack” across Europe. Which I suppose makes Twain a purposeful hobo or an accidental hipster.

Monday, August 10, 2015

The Five Stages of Grief Caused By An Awful, Anachronistic Book Cover

My sister saw them first. We were at the used library book sale that we always go to, every year. We even have our own place where we gloat over sort out our finds before we go to the checkout table.  

I didn't see them because I not only have read all the Anne of Green Gables series by L.M. Montgomery, I used to have the complete set. Later in the sad time of weeding my collection, I got rid of all but the first volume. Because, let's face it, charming as all Montgomery's books are, the Anne books get increasingly fillerific as one progresses through the series, in a case of "Author Is Sick of Characters But Needs Money From Popular Franchise."

So I didn't see these monstrosities of covers because I didn't even see the spines. I wasn't looking to buy any Montgomery novels, and was far too distracted by the five matching volumes of Ogden Nash poetry I found at the same table. 

It was the Vintage table, the very table I always make a beeline for when I'm fresh-out-the-gate at a booksale. And while these covers are "vintage"...well, I feel like someone's definition of "vintage" is vastly different from mine.

Witness, if you will, Anne of Green Gables: The Sixties Update of the Beloved Novels, Set in Edwardian-World War I Canada:

Monday, August 3, 2015

Three Steps to Impressing People with Your Reading Prowess

Alas and alack, reading seems to have become a lost art, drowned out by more Informative things like the internet, and by more Entertaining things like television.  People assume that if a person likes to read, said person is academically-minded. So, since they’re going to be impressed by the fact that you are reading anyway, let’s take it a step further:

First, choose a book that is a classic. Yes, everyone knows of Frankenstein or Winnie the Pooh. But few have actually read the books that share the characters’ names. What’s the use of reading The Black Tulip by Alexandre Dumas if nobody knows you’re reading an awesome espionage book by the author of The Three Musketeers? Not very effective in astounding passersby with your magnificent literacy, is it? No, better not to discover forgotten treasures, or at least read them in private. When reading in public, find something more hum-drum or popular.