Tuesday, March 4, 2008

From Clifford To Kafka

My local library recently held a book sale. I love these events. I've managed to break the habit to some extent, but I used to always come home from any library book sale with at least one box full of books. I'd automatically take anything in the fields of religion, humour, psychology, economics, technology, or horror fiction, plus anything else that caught my interest in the slightest, in a wide range of subject matter. I'm a big fan of intellectual curiosity, although I agree with Reagan that there's no reason for the government to subsidize it. Basically, I'd grab up anything at a book sale except the bodice-ripper romances.

As you may well expect, I never had time to actually read all those books, so my house to this day has boxes of books stashed away in several places, besides (quick count) 8 large and very full bookshelves. After a while, I realized that I wasn't doing any good by hoarding these books up, when I had no realistic chance of getting them all read in the foreseeable future. So, I reluctantly stopped buying in bulk.

These days I still pore over every inch of any library book sale I encounter, as well as yard sales, etc., but now I don't buy anything unless I realistically intend to read it in the near future. Of course, I leave "realistically" and "near" undefined, to keep my options open. If I think a book will just be added to one of the boxes (or piles, or dedicated "to read sometime" shelves) and remain there indefinitely, neglected and increasingly dusty, I leave it for someone else. Not without regret. I like to think that the books I leave behind all get taken to good homes.

Nevertheless, I found a few things at this latest sale. First, a stack of magazines, which I mentioned in an earlier entry. I often burn through magazines at a rate of one or two a day, because I read while doing tasks which require no mental engagement, like eating, brushing my teeth, watching almost anything on TV, or writing blog entries. This means I can afford to be less discerning about magazine purchases, since they will be read in very short order. I also selected a remarkably few - for me - three books.

The first book was The Trial by Franz Kafka. I've worked in more than one nightmarishly bureaucratic environment, where even the staff seemed to think that paperwork and red tape were ends as opposed to means (or, more accurately, debatably necessary evils), so I expect to be able to relate to this one. Plus I haven't yet read any Kafka, so I might as well get a better feel for the exact meaning of "Kafkaesque".

Second was We The Living by Ayn Rand. I've read a lot about Rand, and like some of her philosophy (I strongly believe that personal responsibility and personal freedom - in that order - are cornerstones of civilization), but again, I've read little of her actual writing. I would have preferred to start with Atlas Shrugged or The Fountainhead, but I took what was available.

Third was Clifford Saves The Whales by Norman Bridwell. I skimmed it to make sure it wasn't tree-hugging Greenpeace / PETA propaganda before purchasing.

I took them to the counter, and as I paid for them, said to the librarian, "I'll be giving one of these books to my four-year-old. I haven't decided which one yet." (Maybe this post should have been under the "Another Reason Why People Don't Talk To Me" heading.)

She knows my son, as do all the library staff. He's been reading since well before his third birthday, and is a frequent library visitor. She smiled and replied, "He could probably handle any of them."

Overall, it was a good trip. Any day where I can score both Kafka and Clifford The Big Red Dog goes in the win column.

Enough rambling. Here's a picture of what I got at the sale. Sorry about the flash glare on that middle Maximum PC.

1 comment:

Janis said...

You're my hero! I can so relate :)