Sunday, April 4, 2010

Aimless Reading: The G's, Part 3 (Johann Wolfgang Von Goethe)

Von Goethe, Johann Wolfgang
Elective Affinities


Purchased at the Niagara Falls Outlet Mall Discount Bookstore for $2.50.

This is the kind of book I was once in the habit of filling bags with at the store because they were so cheap. I'd drive to the outlet mall of a Sunday afternoon and walk out with ten or fifteen books, having spent maybe fifty dollars. Sadly, those days are over. I miss that bookstore, mostly because of the way it was organized to appeal to my purchasing affinities. They had contemporary literature in one section -- all bestsellers and genre fiction, etc. Then they had a whole section devoted to Penguin Classics and the Modern American Library. The Penguin Classics were divided into sections by the color of the tabs on the sides of the books. There were yellow ones, like this, which I think signified literature in translation. There were red ones, which I think signified literature in English -- I don't think they distinguished between British or American literature in this regard. There were purple ones, which I think signified classical texts. There were green ones, which I think signified ancient or religious texts. Then there were the 20th Century Classics, which had the same basic design, but with no tab and a cover that was light green on white. Anyhow, they had them all, and they rarely cost more than $7.

Library of America Hardcovers, which had a small section to themselves, only cost $9. I've seen all of these books in other stores, on little spinning caddies together, or separately on the shelves, but I have never seen all of them take up so much space in a single store. They were quite beautiful to behold.

They also contained such a multitude of titles that I often found myself imagining, though rarely taking, random undiscovered paths in my reading. I remember thinking I needed to get around to reading Wilkie Collins one day. Occasionally, I did take these paths. I once bought a copy of the two-volume LOA anthology of American crime novels. I read both of them cover to cover and then went on to buy the Raymond Chandler and Dashiell Hammett anthologies and to read all of those. I wouldn't even have started had I not seen those books on those shelves at those prices.

I wonder where all those books went. They're probably sitting in some warehouse somewhere, in piles, gathering dust. Or they've been separated and distributed among many bookstores, where they sit hidden on the shelves among all the other books, waiting for someone like me who never comes along.

from Elective Affinities

Every man must be his own counselor, and do what he can not let alone. If all go well, let him be happy, let him enjoy his wisdom and his fortune; if it go ill, I am at hand to do what I can for him. The man who desires to be rid of an evil knows what he wants ; but the man who desires something better than he has got is stone blind.

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