Lent is almost upon us, and this year I’m going to go without acquiring any books for 40 days. No laughter from the peanut gallery: I’ve done this before, so I know it’s possible. One consequence, though, is that I go on one final book-buying splurge before the restraint, sort of a bibliophile’s Mardi Gras without the beads and regret. Here’s what I hauled in this weekend:
The Fiction, by H.P. Lovecraft. Barnes & Noble (New York, 2008). I collect Lovecraft, and this doorstop of a volume is a helpful all-in-one-place collection of his stories. I got it for half off the already cheap cover price at an indie book shop near the university.
A Dictionary of American Proverbs, David Kin, ed. Philosophical Library (New York, 1955). Indie book shop in the nearby college town. Features a preface by Mark Van Doren, distinguished poet and academic and father of disgraced quiz show contestant Charles Van Doren. Charles, somewhat incredibly, is still alive. Opening the book at random, we find this proverb: “God protects drunks, fools, and infants.”
A Handbook of American Folklore, Richard Dorson, ed. Indiana University Press (Bloomington, 1983). Indie book shop in the nearby college town.
Red April, by Santiago Roncagliolo (translated by Edith Grossman). Vintage International (New York, 2009). Indie book shop near the park where I walk. When the cashier asked what it was about and I said, “It’s a novel about the Shining Path,” he said, “Oh! Are you a fan?” in the way that made me think he believes Sendero Luminoso is a band or something, rather than the most viciously murderous Maoist insurgent group in the world. I am not a fan, by the way.
1989: Bob Dylan Didn’t Have This to Sing About, by Joshua Clover. University of California Press (Berkeley, 2009). Indie book shop near the park where I walk. I’m grateful that someone is offering a counterpoint to all the stifling Boomer nostalgia that exists in pop culture, but I’m not sure why Kurt Cobain is on the cover of a book about the year 1989. His moment was still some years down the road.
Vampires Are, by Stephen Kaplan, Vampirologist (as told to Carole Kane). ETC Publications (Palm Springs, 1984). The indie book shop near the university. I’m very excited about this, which is by someone who founded something called the Center for Vampire Research and spends the book trying to convince the reader that vampires are real. If Stephen Kaplan is still alive, I hope he made some scratch from the “Twilight” phenomenon. He earned it, if only for this dedicated research: “Our next stab at understanding the vampire-like person was to try to find out how it feels to sleep in a coffin, (but) getting a coffin in the first place was not easy.” It never is for the pioneers, Stephen.
The Complete Book of Magic and Witchcraft, by Leonard R.N. Ashley. Barricade Books (New York, 1986). Indie book shop near the university. Ashley has written many of these, purporting to be encyclopedic accounts of demonology, ghosts, werewolves, etc. I hate them. They are riddled with errors and the writing style is appalling, and I am trying to collect them all. Such are the manias we endure.
The Fiery Cross: The Ku Klux Klan in America, by Wyn Craig Wade. Oxford University Press (Oxford, 1987). A different indie book shop near the university. I’ve been looking for a good one-volume history of the entire Klan (1860s, 1920s, Civil Rights Era and beyond), and this appears to be it.
The Lawless Decade, by Paul Sann. Dover Publications (Mineola, New York, 2010, originally published 1957). The indie book shop near the park where I walk. This is a treasure. Paul Sann was an editor at the old New York Post, when it was a crusading liberal paper. But he was no crusading liberal: he was a magnificent tale-teller and observer of big city life. His book about the gangster Dutch Schultz is a masterpiece of mob literature, and his “Fads, Follies and Delusions of the American People” is an unjustly neglected classic. This one is about the 1920s.
OK, that’s it. See you at Easter.