Sunday, May 13, 2007

No sale

So I went to another library sale, but this time I didn't buy anything. That's because by the time I got there they were giving the books away for free (they were just going to trash anything left over). So I took some things off their hands, as requested.

Starting off, we have a tasty item:

F. Brobeck – Cooking With Curry (1952)

This one comes from the library of my local alma mater. I'm not sure why they took so long to get rid of it (actually, maybe they didn't). Most of the recipes call for "curry powder" rather than, you know, Indian spices; and the section on vegetable dishes is called "Poor Man's Dinners – Vegetable Curries: Eight Menus for Lent" (because, you know, one only eats vegetables if one is giving up meat – for Lent, no less). Check out this epigraph, by Aleister Crowley (!): "Curries [...] sting like serpents, stimulate like strychnine; they are subtle, sensual like Chinese courtesans, sublime and sacred, inscrutably inspiring and intelligently illuminating, like Cambodian carvings." Yes, but I don't want to eat Cambodian carvings. And you might want to have that alliteration looked at, just to be on the safe side.

As at the other library sales, the religion section was particularly fruitful:

Jaroslav Pelikan, ed. – The World Treasury of Modern Religious Thought (1990)

This Book of the Month Club release, a collection of snippets from everyone under the sun, is remarkably ecumenical: it even begins with a section called "The Unbeliever".

R. Greeley, ed. – Ingersoll: Immortal Infidel (1977)

For example, this guy. The back cover has him with hands on hips, looking stubborn. Nothing's getting past this doughty defender of the non-faith!

James Hitchcock – What is Secular Humanism? (1982)

The subtitle of this Servant Books release is "Why Humanism Became Secular, and How It Is Changing Our World." The cover illustration shows a shirtless guy, eyes blunked out like silent scream star Lulu Arfin' Nanny, either reaching futilely for the sun with his left hand, or playing volleyball with a grapefruit.

Catechism of the Catholic Church

This one is lauded on the front cover as "The International Bestseller" (I imagine it would be) and "A sure norm for teaching the Faith – Pope John Paul II" (and he would know!). 825 pages, plus a 15-page table of contents.

Nyanatiloka – Buddhist Dictionary

Another country heard from. For those of us who can't tell our Vibhajja-Vada ("Analytical or Discriminating Doctrine") from our Vibhava-Tanha ("Craving for Non-existence"). The preface to the first edition ends, as many prefaces do, with the place and date of writing, which is here: "Central Internment Camp," Dehra-Dun, India, 28-8-1946. Not sure I like the sound of that.

F. Smith, ed. – Pure-Land Zen Zen Pure-Land: Letters from Patriarch Yin Kuang

I've never heard of Pure Land, but the preface asserts that it is "by far the most widespread form of Buddhism in East Asia." It also explains that "[i]f you are suffering and if you realistically discover that you have only average motivation, then Pure Land is for you. Pure Land is about suffering and the liberation from suffering." Well, that part sure sounds like Buddhism anyway. Yin Kuang: (1861-1940).

The next three are also vaguely religion-related:

Stanley Fish – Surprised By Sin (2nd ed., 1997)

I was sinfully surprised to see this at the book sale. Most, or at least some, people who know Fish as a pomo lit-crit enfant terrible (and it's not clear that he's even that) don't know that a) he's a Milton scholar who b) made a big splash in that little pond with this book. One blurb says that the preface to this edition is "not only an apologia but also a brilliant critical manifesto in its own right." I did try to read Paradise Lost a couple of years ago, but I only got up to the middle of book 2 (it's longer than I thought). I liked it though, so maybe I'll give it another go.

Wolfram von Eschenbach – Parzival (Penguin edition 1980, first written, um, A.D. 1200 or so).

As a Wagner fan, I couldn't pass up a book about one Wagner character written by another Wagner character (a real person, obviously). It's billed as "a re-creation – and completion – of the story of the Holy Grail which [the story, I think they mean] was left unfinished by its initiator, Chrétien de Troyes." I wonder if there's anything about Grail-shaped beacons.

Emmanuel Carrère – The Adversary: A True Story of Monstrous Deception (2000)

I mentioned this a while back, in the context of Laurent Cantet's free adaptation (Time Out; more faithful treatment here). "The Adversary" is a traditional name for Satan, and there is much rumination here on evil and redemption. So not a book about religion, exactly, but there it is.

I usually don't get fiction at these things (that's what libraries are for, so you can take the book back when you're done), but I did spare these few from the dumpster:

The Pelican Shakespeare – The Sonnets

I have a complete Shakespeare, but I'm not lugging that one around just for the Sonnets. An inscription reads: "Dear H____, Sometimes reading this book may be hard. Just read it over & over & let your emotions tell you the meaning. Don't Worry, I only have read and understood only few of them myself. Love J___." Isn't that sweet?

E. Mitchell/R. Schulte – Continental Short Stories: The Modern Tradition

This collection has stories by Sartre, Kafka, Borges, Camus, Pirandello, Lagerkvist, Böll, Babel, and a few others.

Earl Miner – An Introduction to Japanese Court Poetry (1968)

The back cover says that the poetry in question dates from A.D. 550 – 1350, but then goes on to say that this book is "at once a condensation, a re-organization, and an extension (to A.D. 1500), of Japanese Court Poetry (1961) by the author and Robert H. Brower, the standard treatment of the subject in English." So, a 150-year bonus.

Edith Wharton – Ethan Frome (first pub. 1911)

This is a slim paperback, very portable. From the back cover [Alfred Kazin]: "In its spare, chilling creation of rural isolation, hardscrabble poverty and wintry landscape, Ethan Frome overwhelms the reader as a drama of irresistible necessity."

Kurt Vonnegut, Jr. – Welcome to the Monkey House (1970)

I couldn't resist this given his recent death. Plus I haven't read this one. It's a collection of shorter things going back to 1950.

Now if you'll excuse me, I have some reading to do....


Brandon said...

I enjoyed Surprised by Sin quite a bit.

Pure Land Buddhism is an interesting form of Buddhism (there are actual several kinds of PL, but they share the same basic characteristics); it's idea, very crudely expressed, is that it's very difficult to attain Nirvan, particularly if you're an ordinary person with ordinary concerns, so through devotion to Amitabha Buddha you can guarantee that in the next life you'll go to Pure Land, where it's very easy to attain Nirvana (or, if you prefer, become a bodhisattva and help others to attain it). So that's why it is so overwhelmingly popular.

Duck said...

So, sort of a stepping-stone approach, rather than going for the full monty all at once. Thanks Brandon, that's very interesting.

Of course now I have that Steely Dan song running through my head ("Bodhisattva, won't you take me by the hand ...").