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Tearing Out the Pages

October 6, 2014

If you were at the library book sale Saturday, you already know what’s “old” at the library. We had many good books, including those we’d weeded from the annex, and we had a typically fun sale.

But what’s new? Well, Loudon Wainwright III has a new album, “Haven’t Got the Blues (Yet),” with marvelous songs including one called “Harmless,” by Scottish songwriter Michael Marra (the only song not written by Wainwright). The chorus goes:

“Harmless … harmless / There’s never no bother from me / I go to the library, take out a book / and then I go home for my tea.” Dear to my heart.

On the New Book shelf is “Letters of Note,” which collects exactly that—noteworthy letters across time that have survived the vicissitudes of unconscious existence and are now preserved.

The first one is from Queen Elizabeth to President Eisenhower communicating the recipe for drop scones, which he’d enjoyed at Balmoral Castle. It turns out that drop scones in Scotland are more like pancakes, so don’t get too excited about a secret scone recipe.

But I loved the directions, specifying four “teacups” of flour.

The third letter is from E.B. White in 1973 responding to someone seeking his opinion about the bleak future for mankind. Perhaps everyone should read this today. “As long as there is one upright man …”

It’s also a beautiful book, with reproductions of the letters as well as transcriptions. Also, I suggest reading the book from front to back. When I first brought it home, I skimmed it lukewarmly. Of course the letters are interesting, but I think the collection is carefully constructed and rewards reading in order.

Among recent donations to the library was a truckload of mostly unopened cookbooks. We had many, many fine cookbooks in the book sale, but we also kept many of these donations.

We removed all the cookbooks that hadn’t been used recently and replaced them with the new ones, even if they weren’t brand new publications, because it was an easy way to put a brand new face on the cookbook section. Come browse the shelves.

The book sale had many cookbooks but, oddly, fewer paperbacks than usual. Maybe it’s a trend, maybe a statistical fluctuation. Perhaps more people are reading former paperback fare on their tablets and phones.

It seems to be true that genre fiction (mystery, science fiction, romance) dominates the ebook market (I say “seems” because sellers of ebooks are close-mouthed about sales figures; curious people have to be clever).

It also seems to be true that self-published genre fiction now outsells the output of the big publishers.

There is one pleasure of the cheap used paperback: tearing out the pages. I suggested this to L, which I think initially appalled her, but she had one of those tightly bound paperbacks wherein the words disappear into the binding.

It was a worn and yellowed copy of “Jude the Obscure.” She proceeded to read it, tearing out each page as she went. One problem, she reported, was that she couldn’t go back to re-read something. However, it was a refreshing way to read.

Since she was recovering from shoulder surgery, I think it was a safer way to read—she didn’t have to strain the book open page after page. It was a step toward reading an ebook.

(A reminder: This Saturday, Oct. 11, at 1:00 p.m., at the Salida Community Center is the climate/energy forum about creating a resilient community. See the posters.)

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