Saturday, June 3, 2023

Problematic Newts

READ a Signet for Summer
99 cents each

My new display--Signet Classics-- didn’t include the Signet Shakespeares with covers by Milton Glaser, below, but a shopper looking at Four Shakespeare Comedies said, “I want ‘Midsummer Night’s Dream’ but two of the others are problematic…”

“Taming of the Shrew” & “Merchant of Venice”—okay––but also, I pointed out, “Twelfth Night”. I think this shopper was trans… Anyway, I liked her for liking MSND—the girlettes’ favorite (though also problematic--the wedding that frames it)—so I offered to go get the Glasers from the back, and she bought that one. (Great cover illustration, why hadn’t I bought it myself?) She didn't know MG--I told her he designed "I [heart] NY", and she did know that.

That sort of encounter makes up for all the stupid staff meetings. (Yesterday's was as stupid as they come.)

I am saving the rest of the Glasers till I have enough for a whole display of them. They trickle in.

The Signets aren’t what’s marketed as summer reading, but summer is a good time for heavy lifting––everything is so light otherwise. Not that I want to read any of these I haven't already, below, but I did get a Dover book of Great Sonnets...

I'd never heard of Parade's End, by Ford Maddox Ford ^.  I looked it up, and I don't want to read it but I recommend Julian Barnes's fun review of it in the Guardian.
" To be a Fordite[enthusiast] is rather like being a member of one of those volunteer groups who help restore Britain's canal system. You run into them, muddy and sweaty, spending their Sunday afternoons digging out some long-disused arm which once brought important goods to and from, say, Wendover.
You are fairly sure that they are doing a good thing, but unless you jump down and get muddy yourself, the virtue of the task, indeed of the whole canal system, might well escape you."

I reread Island of the Blue Dolphins, and it’s very good—I can see why at eight I loved this for the fantasy of living alone with a wild dog and an otter for friends. It's touched with grief, fear, and loneliness, but only lightly. 

It's mostly a simple survival story about making waterproof baskets and the like, but here's a nice bit of complexity:
The girl needs to make weapons to fend off the wild dogs that killed her little brother, but she’s afraid—she’s been taught that weapons made by females will fail. Nevertheless she successfully makes a bow and arrows—not in defiance, but of necessity.
Nothing more is said of it, she just shoots the dogs.

The simple complexity catches something hard to catch:
how we (and so, our fictional characters too) don't think to question the deepest beliefs of our culture—we don't even think of them as beliefs, they're something more like air.
I don't mean things like religious belief, which we moderns know are up for debate, but—one of my Classics professor made this comparison—rather, say, statistics

Thick with Newts

I started to read Matrix by Lauren Groff, and quickly it was clear that the main character is a modern girl dropped into the year 1158. She questions "the religion she was raised in"--the very phrase is modern.

"Why should babies be born into sin," she wonders.
Number one, would she?
Number two, has she ever met a baby?

(Now we say problematic, "sinful" being out of style.)

Modern thoughts in medieval heads isn't necessarily the death knell for a novel, but in the second paragraph the author describes a landscape as "thick with sheep and chaffinches and newts...."

Thick with newts? Now that's medieval!

BELOW: Detail from
Hieronymus Bosch, "The Garden of Earthly Delights"--man riding a salamander, not a newt, but close.
And I love the two littles on the bottom soooo much!

I put Matrix down after a few more pages with things that made me say, excuse me?
Example: A servant says that nuns kneel and stand, "up and down, up and down all day, like marmots".

Marmots? Do marmots kneel? I guess she means the way marmots pop up from their burrows.
Do they live in England, where the story is set? I can't find that they do. "
A species unknown in the UK, marmots are essentially large ground dwelling squirrels...".

One Shoe On

I've been collecting paperbacks with covers by Edward Gorey (some here), when they get donated. This week, weirdly, 2 copies of A Hero for Our Time came in, separately. 
Also, the new doll with one shoe arrived. Penny Cooper (left) says they're twins. I don't think she's had a twin before. 
Shockingly, One Shoe smokes cigarettes--she arrived smelling of smoke. Penny Cooper cannot approve, being a very health-minded girl.
Otherwise, doesn't she look happy in this morning's sun?

I don't need to read A Hero...
"That is just like human beings! They are all alike; though fully aware in advance of all the evil aspects of a deed, they aid and abet and even give their approbation to it when they see there is no other way out—and then they wash their hands of it and turn away with disapproval from him who dared assume the full burden of responsibility."
Reminds me of staff meetings.

Overheard: A woman walking by my open window just now, saying, "I've made 26 charcuterie boards."


Linda Sue said...

the orphans are now keen to make char cute eerie boards. They must invent them soon because the days are wasting and the flowers are growing and soon it will be orphan birthday !
MSND on the calendar- inspiring us all to frolic!

The covers are fabulous art! - without San Francisco in the house the shop would be so much less appealing. You are doing such good work!

Welcome Oneshoe, smoky girl!

Fresca said...

LINDA SUE: my girlettes are keen to invite some newts and marmots here—“they are good for dolls”.
I say first Oneshoe must be allowed to acclimate and also to recover from nicotine withdrawal before introducing new animals into the mix.
Yes—almost solstice!!! ☀️

Fresca said...

PS Thanks—it’s true that BOOK’s is a special spot in the store—(and even in the city).

Anonymous said...

the perfect size of books for summer reading! not too thick and not too thin.

the covers are fantastic! my used/new bookstore puts the new books in the window but somehow the newer covers don't draw me in.

need to find "a hero of our time." parade's end sounds intersting.

hopefully One Shoe will lose the urge by spending some time with penny cooper outside.


Fresca said...

Hi, Kirsten! I can send you the second copy of A Hero—I’m keeping one for its beautiful cover.
I agree—pocket paperbacks are a great size for summer—they travel well.
I too love the old cover art.

Fresca said...

PS I think you’re right about Oneshoe—she’s laughing so much with PennyCooper that she’s not even missing smoking 🙄😊

Ms. Moon said...

We call them "char-cootchie" boards around here. Lauren makes the best ones. But who would think to keep track of the number they've made?
I read The Matrix and it was okay.
When I look at your book display I can only sigh and think of all the books I've never read.

Anonymous said...

MS MOON: Me too, I sigh at all the books I’ll never read… I didn’t think “Matrix” was dreadful just that I’d rather read something else with the (relatively) short time I still have.
From the tone of the woman’s voice, I got the idea that she had made the actual boards—the woodwork. But it’s unclear when you hear just a snippet.
I bet I’d enjoy Lauren’s charcootchie array!

Anonymous said...

PS That’s me, Fresca—my phone says I’m anon.