Sunday, June 20, 2010

Aimless Reading: The H's, Part 28.1 (Gerard Manley Hopkins)

Hopkins, Gerard Manley
A Selection of his Finest Poems

Purchased at Talking Leaves..Books. Possibly not by me. I have a sensation that this was a gift, though it is not inscribed, so I can't be sure who it might have been from. If you gave it to me, I apologize for not remembering, but you really should inscribe your gift-books.

Last night at Geoffrey Gatza's, we had a long discussion about why one shouldn't buy books as gifts for writers.

Here are my reasons for and qualifications of this theory.

1. Writers are readers, and most have a written or unwritten--and likely prioritized--list of books they want to read or intend to read in the near future, either because they are following a particular train of thought or because they feel they need some essential information from these books. Sometimes they just read for fun, but even their fun books have usually been chosen well in advance of their reading. This list is updated daily and often moves in unexplained directions influenced by everything from the weather to the footnotes of the book they are reading at the moment.

2. This writer, anyway, needs to start, stop, diverge and digress at will. Gift books often come bearing the expectation of the giver that they will be read and liked. This expectation causes consternation on the part of the receiver. It's sort of like a homework assignment whose grade depends upon the degree with which the student agrees with the opinions and tastes of the professor.


1. If the writer in question is obsessive about particular subjects, then buying him or her a book related to the subject will likely make the recipient very happy because it will add to an ongoing list that he or she is likely to take up sooner rather than later. He or she is also able to appreciate the informative nature of the book without feeling the pressure to reflect the giver's tastes back to them.

2. Books that do not require reading (picture books, art books, rare books, etc.) or aesthetic judgments (cookbooks, how-to books) cause much less consternation than those that do (works of literature, especially those read and loved by the giver of the book), and therefore make perfectly fine gifts.

And then there's always the trusty bottle of Old Spice cologne.

Anyhow, this all came up because Geoff received several books that qualify under the good gift category because they fed into to two ongoing obsessions, Sherlock Homes & P.D. Wodehouse, respectively.

The Windhover

To Christ our Lord

I CAUGHT this morning morning’s minion, king-
      dom of daylight’s dauphin, dapple-dawn-drawn Falcon, in his riding
      Of the rolling level underneath him steady air, and striding
High there, how he rung upon the rein of a wimpling wing
In his ecstasy! then off, off forth on swing,
      As a skate’s heel sweeps smooth on a bow-bend: the hurl and gliding
      Rebuffed the big wind. My heart in hiding
Stirred for a bird,—the achieve of; the mastery of the thing!

Brute beauty and valour and act, oh, air, pride, plume, here
      Buckle! AND the fire that breaks from thee then, a billion
Times told lovelier, more dangerous, O my chevalier!

      No wonder of it: shéer plód makes plough down sillion
Shine, and blue-bleak embers, ah my dear,
      Fall, gall themselves, and gash gold-vermillion.

No comments: