Thursday, June 14, 2012

Bedside Books

Bronwyn calls it the dipping shelf. It's the one where you keep books you think might continue to be entertaining even though you've already read them - perhaps more than once. It's also the place for encyclopedias, compendiums of recondite information, your favourite poets ...

As you'll see from the picture above, mine does seem to have got a bit out of hand.

It's rather a funny story, actually. It was during one of our periodic inorganic collections. I was cruising down Hastings Rd, keeping one eye open for bookshelves (you never know when you mightn't see the perfect set of shelves, all wood, being thrown out by some retiree or itinerant yuppie - you don't want to wait till after the first rainstorm, though). And there it was!

Not wood, admittedly. Or even really a bookcase. It's actually some kind of corner unit from a kitchen, I suspect - but it did have shelves, and it looked as if it might just squeeze into one corner of the bedroom. "It's not coming with us when we move," said Bronwyn, but - with that proviso - she did allow me to install this ugly piece of tat next to my side of the bed.

Just as well, really. It was a devil to squeeze the thing into the car, and I wasn't exactly relishing having to drive back and dump it where it came from in the first place.

This is the 300th post on my blog. I put up my first entry on June 14, 2006, and now, six years later, I've finally reached 300. That's only an average of 50 a year, admittedly, but some of them are quite sizeable. There are certainly hundred of thousands of words here, indexed as best I can in the sidebar opposite.

So what to write about? I certainly don't intend to confine myself to posts about - or vaguely linked to - my book collection (indexed at A Gentle Madness) for the rest of time, but it has been quite a nice way of acknowledging debts to my favourite authors and books.

It did seem to make sense, then, to talk about the books most immediately to hand: the dipping shelf, your last refuge when you've done with the latest crop of library books and all the other books-in-progress have been finished or abandoned ...

  1. Ritsema, Rudolf, & Stephen Karcher, trans. I-Ching: The Classic Chinese Oracle of Change. The First Complete Translation with Concordance. 1994. Shaftesbury, Dorset: Element Books Ltd., 1995.

  2. The Holy Qur-ān: English Translation of the Meanings and Commentary. Ed. Mushaf Al-Madinah An-Nabawiyah. Trans. Abdullah Yusuf Ali et al. Saudi Arabia: King Fahd Holy Qur-ān Printing Complex, A.H. 1411 [= 1991].

  3. Ash, Russell, & Brian Lake. Bizarre Books. London: Macmillan, 1985.

  4. Cavafy, C. P. Collected Poems. Trans. Daniel Mendelsohn. 2009. A Borzoi Book. New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 2010.

  5. Cavafy, C. P. The Unfinished Poems: The First English Translation. Based on the Greek Edition of Renata Lavagnini. Trans. Daniel Mendelsohn. A Borzoi Book. New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 2009.

  6. de la Mare, Walter, ed. Come Hither: A Family Treasury of Best-Loved Rhymes and Poems for Children. 1923. Decorations by Warren Chappell. New York: Avenel Books, 1990.

  7. Plato. The Collected Dialogues of Plato, Including the Letters. Ed. Edith Hamilton & Huntington Cairns. Bollingen Series LXXI. 1961. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1971.

  8. Greenblatt, Stephen, & Walter Cohen, Jean E. Howard & Katharine Eisaman Maus, ed. The Norton Shakespeare: Based on the Oxford Edition. Ed. Stanley Wells, Gary Taylor, John Jowett & William Montgomery. 1986 & 1988. With an Essay on the Shakespearean Stage by Andrew Gurr. New York & London: W. W. Norton & Company, Inc., 1997.

  9. Thomas, Edward. The Annotated Collected Poems. Ed. Edna Longley. 2008. Highgreen, Tarset, Northumberland: Bloodaxe Books Ltd., 2011.

  10. Lovecraft, H. P. Tales. Ed. Peter Straub. The Library of America, 155. New York: Literary Classics of the United States, Inc., 2005.

  11. Carey, John, ed. The Faber Book of Reportage. 1987. London: Faber, 1990.

  12. Yeats, W. B., ed. Fairy & Folk Tales of Ireland [Fairy and Folk Tales of the Irish Peasantry & Irish Fairy Tales]. 1888 & 1892. Foreword by Kathleen Raine. 1973. List of Sources by Mary Helen Thuente. 1977. Picador. London: Pan Books Ltd., 1979.

  13. Quiller-Couch, Sir Arthur, ed. The Oxford Book of English Verse. 1900. New Edition 1250-1918. 1939. Oxford: The Clarendon Press, 1948.

  14. Bridges, Robert, ed. Poems of Gerard Manley Hopkins. 1918. Second Edition With an Appendix of Additional Notes, and a Critical Introduction by Charles Williams. 1930. The Oxford Bookshelf. 1937. London: Oxford University Press, 1941.

  15. James, M. R. The Collected Ghost Stories of M. R. James. 1931. Pocket Edition. 1942. London: Edward Arnold (Publishers) Ltd., 1964.

You don't have to tell me that this looks like a pretty odd amalgam of classics and eccentrics. Having Plato and Shakespeare beside you makes sense, I guess - just in case you need a bit of enlightenment - even the Koran and the I-Ching. But H. P. Lovecraft? M. R. James? I make no apology for the ghost stories, I'm afraid. Nor do I think that I have to over-explain the poetry anthologies (Come Hither and the Oxford Book of English Verse: great for browsing, both of them).

I love Edward Thomas's poetry. My relations with Gerard Manley Hopkins are a bit more vexed, but it's a very nice old copy - with annotations by Maurice Duggan, strangely enough. Cavafy is also a perennial favourite. This may not be the most elegant translation of his poems (I have several), but it's definitely the most complete and well-annotated.

What else? I've always enjoyed reading folktales, and this omnibus edition of Irish stories by W. B. Yeats is particularly good. As for the Faber Book of Reportage, the idea of collecting the best eye-witness account of the great events of history (from the destruction of Pompeii to the London blitz) makes for a book too concentrated to be read straight through, but perfect for picking up on a rainy evening.

As for Bizarre Books, "we did it for the money and a good laugh," as the authors bashfully explain. It's not a lofty book, certainly, but it does have its uses (as Messrs Ash and Lake remark of Octogenarian Teetotallers: "Not so much a book as a dreadful warning ...")

Storage space for books just isn't easy to come by anymore. Bronwyn's been reduced to keeping most of her art catalogues in boxes behind the sofa, and I find myself shoving more and more of my own new accessions in on top of the existing ones. Hence the convention in these listings of a small "", denoting "on top of" ...

  1. Bashō, Matsuo. Narrow Road to the Interior and Other Writings. Trans. Sam Hamill. Boston: Shambhala, 2000.

  2. Bashō, Matsuo. The Complete Haiku. Trans. Jane Reichhold. Illustrated by Shiro Tsujimura. Tokyo: Kodansha International, 2008.

  3. Heller-Roazen, Daniel, ed. The Arabian Nights. The Husain Haddaway Translation Based on the Text Edited by Muhsin Mahdi: Contexts, Criticism. 1990 & 1995. A Norton Critical Edition. New York & London: W. W. Norton & Company, 2010.

  4. Briggs, Katharine M., ed. A Dictionary of British Folk-Tales in the English Language, Incorporating the F. J. Norton Collection. Part A: Folk Narratives. 1970. London & New York: Routledge, 2003.

  5. Briggs, Katharine M., ed. A Dictionary of British Folk-Tales in the English Language, Incorporating the F. J. Norton Collection. Part B: Folk Legends. 1970. London & New York: Routledge, 2001.

  6. Burton, Robert. The Anatomy of Melancholy. 1621. Ed. Holbrook Jackson. Everyman’s Library. 1932. London & Toronto: J. M. Dent & Sons, Ltd., 1977.

  7. Carver, Raymond. All of Us: The Collected Poems. Ed. William L. Stull. Introduction by Tess Gallagher. 1996. London: The Harvill Press, 1997.

  8. Carver, Raymond. Collected Stories. Ed. William L. Stull & Maureen P. Carroll. The Library of America, 195. New York: Literary Classics of the United States, Inc., 2009.

  9. D’Israeli, Isaac. Curiosities of Literature. 1791-3, 1823. London: George Routledge & Co., n.d.

  10. D'Israeli, Isaac. Amenities of Literature: Consisting of Sketches and Characters of English Literature. A New Edition. 1841. Ed. by His Son, The Right Hon B. Disraeli, Chancellor of Her Majesty's Exchequer. 2 vols. London: Routledge, Warnes & Routledge, 1859.

  11. Fort, Charles. The Books of Charles Fort: The Book of the Damned; New Lands; Lo!; Wild Talents. 1919, 1923, 1931 & 1932. Introduction by Tiffany Thayer. 1941. New York: Henry Holt and Company, 1959

  12. Fitzgerald, Edward, trans. Rubáiyát of Omar Khayyám. Ed. Reynold Alleyne Nicholson. 1909. London: A. & C. Black., 1973.

  13. Hass, Robert, ed. & trans. The Essential Haiku: Versions of Bashō, Buson, and Issa. Ecco. New York: HarperCollins Publishers, 1994.

These are the books I keep roughly at eye-height. They're arranged (more or less) alphabetically, but they are, otherwise, madly eclectic. The books of Bashō's haiku and travel journals shouldn't require too much justification - nor should that little volume of Fitzgerald's translation of the Rubáiyát of Omar Khayyám. As for the four-volumes-in-two of Kathleen Briggs's Dictionary of British Folk-Tales, all I can say is that if you've never encountered this work, you've missed a treat.

It can't really be read, but it can be consulted and pored over. The same is true of Isaac D'Israeli's collections of "curiosities" from the literary annals. Raymond Carver might seem rather out of place, but his Collected Poems (in particular) is one of my all-time favourite bedside books: unpretentious, elegant, perfect.

The Arabian Nights? Well, if you've looked at this blog at all, you'll have gathered that that's one of my principal obsessions (to the extent that I had to siphon off the materials into another whole site, Scheherazade's Web). This is a nice little collection for everyday purposes. The Anatomy of Melancholy? The only book that could get Dr Samuel Johnson out of bed before midday (according to him): a real friend in times of trial, and a mine of recondite detail on virtually anything antiquarian you can think of. Charles Fort? Almost unreadable in bulk, despite the fascination of its contents, but not a bad book for reading a few pages of before nodding off ... If you like "weird phenomena" as much as I do, that is.

I guess it's a bit wicked of me to tuck the Greek Dramatists in around the corner, so they can't be extricated without pulling out other books. Whatever. Sue me. I like the idea of reading them very much, but in practise I find plays rather uphill work. I don't have the sort of imagination which can envisage the action going on in front of me. It's a beautiful set of books, though.

As for Nabokov, I guess I regard him as a kind of literary Stanley Kubrick. I don't really enjoy Kubrick's films all that much: so self-conscious and studied. But the more you examine and think about every scene and effect, the more you can learn from them. The great thing about Kubrick is that nothing is there by chance. After watching a Kubrick movie - even such comparatively slight ones as The Shining or Full Metal Jacket - it can be quite dislocating to look at the work of virtually any other director: so many lazy scenes, cars pulling up to curbs, people walking vaguely down corridors ... you miss the almost insane precision of his eye.

That's Nabokov for me. My favourite of his books is Pale Fire, but all of them have that same quality of having been completely thought through. He's a genius, yes. Not a great moralist, as Brian Boyd appears to believe, and as prone to error as any other artist - especially that unfortunate last novel Look at the Harlequins - but a writer's writer nonetheless. Every page and every sentence is a kind of masterclass for other scribblers, when that's what you know you need.

  1. The Complete Greek Tragedies. Volume 1: Aeschylus. Ed. David Grene & Richmond Lattimore. Trans. Richmond Lattimore, Seth G. Bernadete & David Grene. 1942, 1953 & 1956. Chicago: The University of Chicago Press, 1959.

  2. The Complete Greek Tragedies. Volume 2: Sophocles. Ed. David Grene & Richmond Lattimore. Trans. David Grene, Robert Fitzgerald, Elizabeth Wyckoff, John Moore & Michael Jameson. 1941, 1942, 1954, 1957 & 1959. Chicago: The University of Chicago Press, 1960.

  3. The Complete Greek Tragedies. Volume 3: Euripides. Ed. David Grene & Richmond Lattimore. Trans. Richmond Lattimore, Rex Warner, Ralph Gladstone, David Grene, William Arrowsmith, Witter Bynner & John Frederick Nims. 1942, 1944, 1955, 1956 & 1959. Chicago: The University of Chicago Press, 1960.

  4. Nabokov, Vladimir. Novels and Memoirs 1941-1951: The Real Life of Sebastian Knight / Bend Sinister / Speak, Memory: An Autobiography Revisited. 1941, 1947, 1951. Ed. Brian Boyd. The Library of America, 87. New York: Literary Classics of the United States, Inc., 1996.

  5. Nabokov, Vladimir. Novels 1955-1962: Lolita / Pnin / Pale Fire / Lolita: A Screenplay. 1955, 1957, 1962, 1974. Ed. Brian Boyd. The Library of America, 88. New York: Literary Classics of the United States, Inc., 1996.

  6. Nabokov, Vladimir. Novels 1969-1974: Ada, or Ardor: a Family Chronicle / Transparent Things / Look at the Harlequins!. 1969, 1972, 1974. Ed. Brian Boyd. The Library of America, 89. New York: Literary Classics of the United States, Inc., 1996.

  7. Neruda, Pablo. The Poetry of Pablo Neruda. Ed. Ilan Stavans. New York: Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2003.

  8. Neruda, Pablo. Passions and Impressions. [‘Para nacer he nacido’, 1978]. Ed. Matilde Neruda & Miguel Otero Silva. Trans. Margaret Sayers Peden. New York: Farrar, Straus & Giroux, Inc., 1983.

  9. Neruda, Pablo. Canto General: Fiftieth Anniversary Edition. [‘Canto General’, 1950]. Trans. Jack Schmitt. Introduction by Roberto González Echevarría. Latin American Literature and culture, 7. 1991. A Centennial Book. Berkeley & Los Angeles: University of California Press, 2000.

  10. Neruda, Pablo. 100 Love Sonnets. [‘Cien sonetos de amor’, 1960]. Trans. Stephen Tapscott. Texas Pan American Series. 1986. Austin: University of Texas Press, 1995.

  11. Neruda, Pablo. Extravagaria: A Bilingual Edition. 1958. Trans. Alastair Reid. Cape Poetry Paperbacks. London: Jonathan Cape, 1972.

  12. Neruda, Pablo. Fully Empowered: A Bilingual Edition. [‘Plenos poderes’, 1962]. Trans. Alastair Reid. A Condor Book. London: Souvenir Press, 1976.

  13. Neruda, Pablo. Isla Negra: A Notebook. A Bilingual Edition. [‘Memorial de Isla Negra’, 1964]. Afterword by Enrico Mario Santí. Trans. Alastair Reid. 1981. A Condor Book. London: Souvenir Press, 1982.

  14. Neruda, Pablo. Residence on Earth. [‘Residencia en la tierra’: I, 1933; II, 1935; III, 1947]. Trans. Donald D. Walsh. New York: New Directions Press, 1973.

  15. Neruda, Pablo. Memoirs. [‘Confieso que he vivido: Memorias’, 1974]. Trans. Hardie St. Martin. 1977. Harmondsworth: Penguin, 1981.

  16. Neruda, Pablo. Selected Poems: A Bi-lingual Edition. Ed. Nathaniel Tarn. Trans. Anthony Kerrigan, W. S. Merwin, Alastair Reid, & Nathaniel Tarn. 1970. Introduction by Jean Franco. Penguin Poets. Harmondsworth: Penguin, 1975.

  17. Neruda, Pablo. Twenty Love Poems and a Song of Despair. [‘20 Poemas de amor y una Canción desesperada’, 1924]. Trans. W. S. Merwin. 1969. Cape Editions. London: Jonathan Cape, 1971.

  18. Neruda, Pablo. The Book of Questions. [‘El libro de las preguntas’, 1974]. Trans. William O'Daly. 1991. A Kage-An Book. Port Townsend, Washington: Copper Canyon Press, 2001.

  19. Neruda, Pablo. Splendor and Death of Joaquín Murieta. [‘Fulgor y Muerte de Joaquín Murieta’, 1966]. Trans. Ben Belitt. 1972. Noonday Press. New York: Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 1973.

  20. Yeats, W. B. Yeats’s Poems. Ed. A. Norman Jeffares. Appendix by Warwick Gould. London: Papermac, 1989.

  21. Yeats, W. B. A Vision and Related Writings. Ed. A. Norman Jeffares. London: Arena, 1990.

  22. Yeats, W. B. Autobiographies: Reveries over Childhood and Youth; The Trembling of the Veil; Dramatis Personae; Estrangement; The Death of Synge; The Bounty of Sweden. 1916, 1922, 1935, 1926, 1928, 1938, 1955. Papermac. London: The Macmillan Press Ltd., 1980.

  23. Chatterton, Thomas. The Poetical Works. Ed. John Richmond. The Canterbury Poets. London: Walter Scott, 1885.

  24. Reps, Paul, & Nyogen Senzaki, trans. Zen Flesh, Zen Bones: A Collection of Zen and Pre-Zen Writings. A Pelican Book. Harmondsworth: Penguin, 1971.

I can't be without a good edition of Yeats's Poems by my side, and this is a very useful one. A Vision is not to everyone's taste (anyone's taste?), but it's still interesting to pore over from time to time. The Autobiographies are also indispensable, I feel.

As for all the Neruda, what can I say? This isn't my complete collection, but he's not someone who can be read just in dribs and drabs. The Ilan Stavans selection is probably the closest thing to a satisfactory one-volume Neruda, but it's hard not to add a complete Canto General, after which the memoirs demand representation, as do these beautiful bi-lingual editions of books such as Extravagaria (probably my favourite), Isla Negra and a bunch of others. He's not my favourite poet, but there's still a Whitman-like breadth of sympathy about his writing that makes it hard to exhaust.

And now we enter the zone of the reference books. It may seem harder and harder to justify these in the age of google, but - somewhat paradoxically - this means that they don't get updated quite so often, which means that some dictionaries or encyclopedias can be seen more clearly as classic works in their own right. That's particularly true of the Science Fiction and Fantasy encyclopedias below.

They're both quite vast. They also do far more than simply listing the major authors and books from each genre. The entries on major themes or points of technique are - in most cases - brilliantly reasoned and quite original. Even the most die-hard fan (such as myself) has a lot to learn from John Clute and his team of collaborators. I quite understand why future editions of these two books will be "published" (and continuously updated) online, but that also means these last two print editions will remain indispensable to scholars and students and casual readers.

  1. Westwood, Jennifer. Albion: A Guide to Legendary Britain. London: Granada Publishing Ltd., 1985.

  2. Ashe, Geoffrey. Mythology of the British Isles. 1990. London: Methuen London, 1992.

  3. Bunyan, John. The Complete Works. Introduction by John P. Gulliver. Illustrated Edition. Philadelphia; Brantford, Ont.: Bradley, Garretson & Co. / Chicago, Ills.; Columbus, Ohio; Nashville, Tenn.; St. Louis, Mo.; San Francisco, Cal.: Wm. Garretson & Co., 1881.

  4. Clute, John, & Peter Nicholls, ed. The Encyclopedia of Science Fiction. 1979. 2nd ed. Contributing Editor Brian Stableford. Technical Editor John Grant. Orbit. 1993. London: Little, Brown and Company (UK), 1999.

  5. Clute, John, & John Grant, ed. The Encyclopedia of Fantasy. Orbit. London: Little, Brown and Company (UK), 1997.

  6. de la Mare, Walter. The Complete Poems of Walter de la Mare. Ed. Richard de la Mare. 1969. London: Faber, 1975.

  7. Zipes, Jack, trans. The Complete Fairy Tales of the Brothers Grimm. Illustrations by Johnny B. Gruelle. 1987. New York: Bantam Books, 2003.

  8. Jackson, Holbrook. The Anatomy of Bibliomania. 1930. London: Faber, 1950.

  9. Jacobs, Joseph, ed. English Fairy Tales: Being the Two Collections English Fairy Tales and More English Fairy Tales. 1890 & 1894. Illustrated by Margery Gill. London: The Bodley Head, 1968.

  10. Cox, Michael, ed. The Ghost Stories of M. R. James. Illustrated by Rosalind Caldecott. 1986. London: Tiger Books International, 1991.

  11. Cavendish, Richard, ed. Encyclopedia of the Unexplained: Magic, Occultism and Parapsychology. Special consultant on Parapsychology; J. B. Rhine. 1974. Arkana. Harmondsworth: Penguin, 1989.

There's a lot more in the way of folklore and folk legends here (and before you start giving me a hard time about the lack of local New Zealand material, there is another whole bookcase out in the lounge which is specifically reserved for such books). Besides that, John Bunyan and Walter de la Mare might seem an odd pairing, but they both write such beautiful English: there's always something to be gleaned from them.

The Richard Cavendish book is only one of many I have on kindred subjects, but it's an awfully sensible book, I think. He's certainly a cut above most other writers in the field of occultism and ghostliness. Geoffrey Ashe is quite a different story, but I have to say that I'm meditating a whole future post on him.

Some language dictionaries, for use with Neruda or naughty old Pierre Louÿs, or one of the Italian books (Dante, Calvino, Montale) I have out in the lounge - as well as that, there's a small selection of some of the more essential Opie books: the Classic Fairy Tales and Dictionary of Nursery Rhymes. There are some rather odder choices here, though.

Why Herman Melville? Because I'm fascinated by his poetry, that's why. Of course it's inferior to his prose: not just the endlessly hyped (though, alas, little read) Moby Dick, but also the great stories: "Benito Cereno," "Bartleby" and so on. That doesn't mean it's no good, though. There's no really satisfactory edition of the unpublshed as well as the published poems available yet, so for the moment I'm making do with this elegant reprint of his three self-published volumes of verse.

A Book of the Book is a weird anthology of classic reprints and contemporary essays on all aspects of the book in the age of postmodernism. Bronwyn found it in a library sale, and it just seemed too fascinating to relegate to the office. Ditto Manguel's History of Reading - not as critically sophisticated, but beautifully illustrated and designed.

Verlaine's "secret" poems go quite well with Pierre Louÿs. César Vallejo is, of course, a rather fiercer customer - read better a piece at a time than in bulk, I feel: a process facilitated by this very full new translation (or revision of a revision of a translation).

And the Faerie Queene? I have actually read it, you know: years ago, when I was an undergraduate. This is a particularly handsome edition, extensively annotated, and - as with so many of the other doorstop tomes here - you just never know when it might come in handy. I know that Spenser was a pretty brutal landlord and (possibly) lost a good deal of his lifework when the Irish peasantry burnt down his castle as a protest against his tyranny, but that doesn't mean that his poem can be easily ignored.

The beautiful copy of the Tao te Ching is for rather different moods. The photographs may be a bit hippyish, but such things are beginning to take on a nostalgiac lustre of their own as the years go by.

  1. Collins Diccionario Español-Inglés, Inglés- Español / Collins Spanish-English, English-Spanish Dictionary. Ed. Colin Smith with Manuel Bermejo Marcos & Eugenio Chang-Rodriguez. 1971. London & Glasgow: Collins, 1985.

  2. Harraps’ Shorter Italian and English Dictionary / Il Nuovo Ragazzini Dizionario Inglese Italiano Italiano Inglese. Ed. Giuseppe Ragazzini. 1984. Bologna: Nicola Zanichelli Editore, 1989.

  3. Robert-Collins Dictionnaire Français-Anglais, Anglais-Français / Collins-Robert French-English, English-French Dictionary. Ed. Beryl T. Atkins, Alain Duval, Rosemary C. Milne et al. Paris: Société du Nouveau Littré / London & Glasgow: Collins, 1984.

  4. Louÿs, Pierre. L’Oeuvre Érotique. Édition établie et présentée par Jean-Paul Goujon. Paris: Sortilèges, 1994.

  5. Manguel, Alberto. A History of Reading. London: HarperCollins Publishers, 1996.

  6. Melville, Herman. The Poems of Herman Melville. 1976. Ed. Douglas Robillard. Kent, Ohio & London: Kent State University Press, 2000.

  7. Opie, Iona & Peter, ed. The Oxford Dictionary of Nursery Rhymes. 1951. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1984.

  8. Opie, Iona & Peter, ed. The Classic Fairy Tales. London: Oxford University Press, 1974.

  9. Opie, Iona & Moira Tatem, ed. A Dictionary of Superstitions. 1989. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1990.

  10. Rothenberg, Jerome, & Steven Clay, ed. A Book of the Book: Some Works & Projections about the Book & Writing. New York: Granary Books, 2000.

  11. Verlaine, Paul. Women Men: The Secret Poems of Paul Verlaine. [‘Femmes’, 1890; ‘Hombres’, 1892 / 1904]. Trans. Alastair Elliot. New York: The Sheep Meadow Press, 1979.

  12. Vallejo, César. The Complete Poetry. Trans. Clayton Eshleman. Foreword by Mario Vargas Llosa. Introduction by Efrain Kristal. Chronology by Stephen M. Hart. Berkeley: University of California Press, 2008.

  13. Spenser, Edmund. The Faerie Queene. Ed. A. C. Hamilton. 1977. Revised Second Edition. 2001. Text edited by Hiroshi Yamashita & Toshiyuki Suzuki. Longman Annotated English Poets. Edinburgh Gate, Harlow: Pearson Education Limited, 2007.

  14. Westwood, Jennifer & Jacqueline Simpson. The Lore of the Land: A Guide to England’s Legends, from Spring-Heeled Jack to the Witches of Warboys. London: Penguin Books, 2005.

  15. Lao Tsu. Tao Te Ching. Trans. Gia-Fu Feng & Jane English. 1972. London: Wildwood House Ltd., 1975.

I fear that I've missed out a number of authors. Why Chatterton, for instance? Well, why not? It's an elegant little book, and it doesn't take up much room, and he is a fascinating character, for all that his poetry seems so lustreless now.

Holbrook Jackson's The Anatomy of Bibliomania? Rather a silly book, unfortunately - but still a nice idea, and it does go well with Jackson's own Everyman edition of The Anatomy of Melancholy in the shelf above.

Joseph Jacobs? His English Fairy Tales is a worthy companion to the Brothers Grimm (represented here in the very full, if not always particularly elegant, Jack Zipes translation). It is, to be sure, far less scholarly, but just as beautifully written.

Well, I could probably go on and on forever, but I have to stop somewhere. You'd think with all those books sitting right there, I'd never be at a loss for something to read.

Alas, there seems to be a rule of inverse returns: no matter how many fascinating treasures you have in the bookcase by your bed, it's always that one inaccessible volume on the far side of the house that you find yourself hankering after as twilight falls.


Anonymous said...

that's all very well, but what about all those funny looking monkeys on top of the bookshelf? how do they fit in? some sort of dream guides?

Richard said...

I have (as you know ) numerous books near my bed as I spend a lot of time there - but there is only me in it I swear!)...I have had since I asked my mother to buy it for my birthday once an Encyclopaedic Oxford dictionary which is invaluable (I found words in there which I made into poems so I could recall them when I kind of "started (again)" writing about about 1990 or so, thus enlarging my vocab, I also even read dictionaries...) and I also have a Websters (it has small illustrations which I love), and a Maori, French (was my mothers when she was at school), Spanish, (and two small German and an Italian) dictionaries right withing reach! (No going to Google for me when I'm settled in to read!) And there is a small Greek book with Greek - English vocab), also an etymological dictionary and a dictionary of Classical Myths etc dictionaries. I also have book called Bon Mot - has all (or many of) those phrases or "sayings" in Latin and other languages. Perhaps most used is my Chambers Biographical Dictionary. Also I have a Cambridge Dict of English Lit (of course I use the internet but it's not on all the time, and there are many things just not online).

Ted was here and he found a copy of Pataxanadu (by Christopher Middleton)(prose poetry really - brilliant) which I'm reading (I'd forgotten I had it!)..but I also have all those books I feel I should be reading. I started Spencer's books once...but I'm also reading interviews with Eagleton...which have a lot of interesting connections.

I enjoy reading plays, I always have.

But I'm diving back into Life a User's Manual, by Perec (that is an extraordinary tour de force... and of course I find reference to a Pirandello story (In the Abyss) so I then read the story inside Perec's books that one of his characters is about to read!!)

I have one poetry book and the occasional anthology but the book is Ian Wedde's first book that I dip into..not sure why ..why not!

I life your arrangement though, the books in that L-shape. I read Manguel's 'The Library at Night'...I used quotes from his part about Aby Warburg..I found it once and put it down in an Op Shop somehow thinking I had purchased it but also left it there and couldn't find it again... so I don't own a copy.

I could never read Neruda. He just always seemed over the top for me. But I might get his poems again (I sold them once to book dealer)...I've read part of 'Autobiographies' is great reading

I approve totally of your or obsessive cataloging - I want to do that also but...! But I can't keep up with your fine madness!

Dr Jack Ross said...

Yes, I wondered if anyone would mention the monkeys. I don't have a copy of it on display there, but Arthur Waley's translation of Monkey is certainly an old favourite. "Great Sage equal of Heaven" is a title we should all aspire to ...