Saturday, May 18, 2013

Carpe Librum is Over

Carpe Librum wrapped up Friday evening, after operating for more than a month. During the last couple of weeks, no book cost more than $2. Today I noticed a young woman filling a box, and then saw a sign: bags $11, boxes $20. The box looked to weigh at least 40 pounds, but she lifted it smoothly.

In all, I bought 11 books between the first day and the last. A co-worker, a young woman of quick decision, bought as many over one lunch hour. She likely has more shelf space and more time. I directed another co-worker there for books for her grandson and her foreign born daughter in-law. And I directed other friends there Friday afternoon, but they couldn't make it.

The fattest book was The Diaries of Evelyn Waugh. A casual look recalled Paul Fussell's dictum that the letters were far better, for Waugh wrote the diaries at night after drinking but the letters in the morning sober. It is easy to open the book at random to pages of dull trivia; the matter of the letters is not so different, but their manner makes all the difference. On the other hand, the account in this book of the Battle of Crete, written up shortly after the battle ended, is fascinating.

About he slimmest  book was Walter Benjamin at the Dairy Queen, by Larry McMurtry. It has its moments, as all of McMurtry's books do. Still, I prefer the more focused memoirs Books and Literary Life.

The surprise was two volumes of Edmund Wilson's essays and reviews in the Library of America edition. I bought one because I wanted to read the essay "Who Cares Who Killed Roger Ackroyd", and the second because why not. I think only so well of Wilson as literary critic, but at $4 I won't complain.  "Who Cares" is worth the price, and many other essays repay reading, notably the one on John Jay Chapman.

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