Monday, October 19, 2009

Last Friday morning, the Bizzell library held its annual book sale. It's something I look forward to every fall semester because they usually have good books (if you get there early) and the prices are great - $1 for soft covers, $2 for hardbacks, and 50 cents for magazines and journals. The sale begins in the morning at ten for OU people and sometime in the afternoon for the general public. Because of my 9:30 rhetoric class I couldn't make it to the sale until 20 minutes after it began but I managed to pick up a few good finds even after the first rush of people came through the book stalls.

Used bookstores and book sales like these are usually the best places to pick up classic works. There's no sense in buying a book for retail price that's been in continuous publication. So, I picked up a 1962 copy of the Merchant of Venice, an old copy of The Waste Land and Other Poems by Eliot, and two Penguin Classics copies of Sir Gawain and the Green Knight and The Canterbury Tales. I also bought a good hardback Modern Library copy of the writings of Thucydides. I think these were good purchases, and even if I don't get to them for a while, these are good books for a library.

I picked up an old anthology of Middle English poetry that includes a lot of anonymous lyric poetry as well as some romances and allegories. In a similar category, I got an old Penguin Classics book of nineteenth century French verse that includes English prose translations beneath the French. I need all the encouragement I can get to want to study French these days and this might help.

One of the more interesting things I grabbed was the letters of Flannery O'Connor in a book called The Habit of Being. I've read most of her stories and last winter I read a collection of her essays in Mystery and Manners. I'm not really sure what it would be like to read her personal letters unless I was intentionally doing research. Even so, there are some real gems here that shed light on her mysterious stories. For example:

I write the way I do because (not though) I am a Catholic. This is a fact and nothing covers it like the bald statement. However, I am a Catholic peculiarly possessed of the modern consciousness, that thing Jung describes as unhistorical, solitary, and guilty. To possess this within the Church is to bear a burden, the necessary burden for the conscious Catholic. It's to feel the contemporary situation at the ultimate level. I think that the Church is the only thing that is going to make the terrible world we are coming to endurable; the only thing that makes the Church endurable is that it is somehow the body of Christ and that on this we are fed. It seems to be a fact that you have to suffer as much from the Church as for it but if you believe in the divinity of Christ, you have to cherish the world at the same time that you struggle to endure it. This may explain the lack of bitterness in the stories.

One of the awful things about writing when you are a Christian is that for you the ultimate reality is the Incarnation, the present reality is the Incarnation, and nobody believes in the Incarnation; that is, nobody in your audience. My audience are the people who think God is dead. At least these are the people I am conscious of writing for.
Another book I picked up was Creative Intuition in Art and Poetry by Jacques Maritain, the Catholic philosopher who O'Connor herself actually read a lot. In addition, I got Northrop Frye's Anatomy of Criticism, which looks like it might be interesting. The book is a standard text in literary criticism and I keep seeing his name pop up in other books that I read, so I'm glad I found it.

Lastly, I picked up a pocket dictionary that I thought was English-Ancient Greek when I bought it, but when I was looking through it later in the day, I realized it was an English-Modern Greek dictionary. And I don't really have much interest in that right now, so I gave it to Thomas who likes all things Modern Greek.

All in all, a good day at the book sale. I bought 11 books and spent $13.


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