Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Playing Hooky, Buying Bookies!

Giving my World Civ I students a work day left me footloose and fancy free this afternoon. Idle time and a crisp $20 bill in my wallet will invariably find me in the stacks at Jackson Street Books. I always intend "just to look," but who am I kidding? After 40 minutes of browsing the paperbacks on the back wall I left thirteen bucks poorer and four books richer:

(1) The Adventures of Augie March by Saul Bellow. I love Bellow--Mr. Sammler's Planet my favorite thus far--and I buy up any I find that I haven't read (which are many). This is early Bellow from 1953. I found for three bucks a 1965 Crest Book printing that appears to have been unread. Cover blurbs are from  forgotten and fast-fading names like Clifton Fadiman, Robert Penn Warren, and Alfred Kazin. Augie March is now published as a Penguin Classic and is free from such crass commercialism (though I admit I prefer literary classic paperbacks from before they were anointed Literature, such as the 1960's Bantam paperbacks of Steinbeck's works).

(2) The Hot Gates and Other Occasional Pieces by William Golding. Golding, "author of 'Lord of the Flies,'" as the cover reminds readers, is a genre of book I've come to love: the essay and article collection. I've sought out all of John Updike's collections (still need Higher Gossip, however), and from a flip-through Golding looks like a good addition to my groaning shelves. I have Golding's Lord of the Flies and Pincher Martin, but--like so many of my books--I haven't read 'em... yet.

(3) The Temple of Gold by William Goldman. A new author find of 2012! This is one of those serendipitous stumblings upon that only happen when one is idly looking over the shelves. My eye caught a paperback of Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid, and I thought that might make a good read. I was disappointed to see it was just a screenplay of the film by William Goldman. William Golding I know, Oscar Goldman I know, but not William Goldman. I found this, his first novel from 1957, in a nice condition black-spined 35-cent Bantam paperback (A1834 4) dating to 1958 and for only $4.00.

(4)  The Thing of It Is... by William Goldman. This is Goldman's 1967 novel and I must confess that what provoked me to pull it off the shelf was its provocative cover boasting a rather risque painting by James Bama, whose covers for Bantam's Doc Savage paperbacks I've long adored. The inside cover description sold me on it, especially this line: "The Thing of It Is... Amos McCracken's very precious, very precocious daughter just happens to look like Edward G. Robinson." Yeah, this sounds like a book I'll enjoy. This copy is a little shelf-worn but nonetheless a still nice Bantam paperback (S3706 6) dating to July 1968 when it cost its original reader a mere six bits. I got it for $3.00 and am delighted.

I started reading The Temple of Gold on my hourlong bus ride home and was immediately drawn into it. I'm up to where young Raymond Euripedes Trevitt and his pal Zock run away to Chicago. There they sit and weep through three back-to-back screenings of Gunga Din. Raymond recounts Gunga Din's heroic climb to the top of the temple of gold from where he warns the British soldiers of an impending ambush. And that scene provides the book its title.

Before 3 o'clock today I wasn't aware of this author, so I feel as if I've met a fascinating new friend. Here's hoping this will be the beginning of a beautiful friendship, to quote another old movie.

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