I look forward to it all year: the Centenary Book Bazaar is by far the best book sale in Shreveport. If you’ve only been to the library’s, you’re missing out! My general rule is $20 and one ginormous bag, but rules are made to be broken, right? I was still too sick to enjoy last year’s book sale, so I sat it out. This year, I gave myself permission to make up for the lost book deals, so I took TWO bags and my usual $20 bill, but I also took my checkbook. Always be prepared. Winter is coming. And so on.
People line up for hours to be first to get into this thing, and that’s dedication considering it’s usually 100 degrees outside at this time of the year. In fact, I followed an ambulance, lights and sirens blaring, into the parking lot. I assume someone had fainted. They offer bottles of water for $1, and I heard rumors of ice cream. It started at 4pm, and I showed up at 3:45 because while I love this book sale, I’m not willing to bake before it (and there’s the little matter of insulin in my pocket). I was dripping sweat by the time I got in, anyway.
The line didn’t seem as long this year as it had been in the past. Maybe it was exceptionally hot? What’s funny is that there are two line options: one out in the sun and one in the shade. And the sunny one is always longer! Ridiculous. I, of course, chose the shaded route. Two roads diverged in a wood, and so on.
As usual, it was packed. Rows and rows of tables lined with people wheeling around suitcases and other fun things to trip over. I just poked at people with my bag.
I was mildly disappointed this time: they have multiple tables of paperback fiction, and one is something like “Paperback Treasures” and is usually covered in nice trade paperbacks of books I like to read. Somehow, that table was covered with mass markets this year.
I spent about half an hour nosing around and filling up one big bag plus a couple. I only go for the tables of decent contemporary fiction, “literature,” and school book lists because if it’s true, I’ll never get around to reading it. And this year, I found some gems! And a much larger pile of books that have been on my radar for a while.
What did I get, you ask? Here’s the list! (I usually link books and authors to Goodreads, but I’m far too lazy to do that with all of these, so I’m only linking within this blog. Just so you know.)
- A Russian Journal by Steinbeck. I’d never heard of this one, but I love its author.
- Adam Bede by George Eliot. It’s been on my radar for a while, and I really liked Silas Marner.
- Dead Souls by Nikolai Gogol. I’ve been meaning to read it.
- Officers and Gentlemen by Evelyn Waugh. Waugh is highlarious.
- The Time Traveler’s Wife by Audrey Niffenegger. I tried reading a few years ago and failed, but I think I’ll try again soon.
- Labrynths by Jorge Luis Borges. I love Borges. I’ve read Labyrinths, but it was a borrowed copy, and I wanted to own it.
- Snow Country by Yasunari Kawabata. Goodreads keeps telling me I’ll like it.
- Fathers and Sons by Ivan Turgenev. I haven’t read Turgenev, but I’ve been meaning to.
- Diary of a Madman and Other Stories by Nikolai Gogol. It was the Book Sale of Russians. There was a pile.
- A two-volume set of The Brothers Karamazov by Dostoyevsky. I love Crime and Punishment, and I bet I’ll love this one, too.
- The Complete Stories of Flannery O’Connor. I think she’s my favorite short story writer. This was a FIND.
- The Name of the Rose by Umberto Eco. Another one I’ve been meaning to read.
- Anna Karenina by Tolstoy. Another Russian and another reading list fulfillment.
- Lonesome Dove by Larry McMurtry. Everyone tells me it’s good! And Cormac McCarthy has won me over to westerns.
- A two-volume set of Sherlock Holmes: The Complete Novels and Stories by Arthur Conan Doyle. I’ve never read it because I hate mysteries, but I know I should.
- The Children of Men by P.D. James. Another attempt and failure. I’m not sure why. It’s different than the movie, and I think I liked it as far as I got into it. That was several years ago.
- 1Q84 by Haruki Murakami. I read it last year and reviewed it on this blog. I own it on Kindle, and I bought a nice hardback version for all of $3.
- The Complete Short Stories of Ernest Hemingway. If you ever read this blog, you know how much I love Hemingway. I haven’t read many of his short stories. This is also another one I own on Kindle but wanted the actual book.
And I could have sworn there was one more! I’m going by the recent history list in my cataloging software, Delicious Library. Maybe I miscounted yesterday. All told, I spent $23.50. I think I got a pretty awesome deal. The winners, of course, are the Flannery O’Connor and Hemingway collections. A nice page with a list of all of my fiction and a few other things is here. I even updated it today!
As I said: best book sale. If I ever say I’m bored, point me toward my bookshelves. Speaking of which, all of these books created quite a pile, and I had to do some pretty serious rearranging of my already limited space. I need more shelves!
Finally, a round of applause for my Very Helpful Helper, Shakespeare, who walked back and forth over my keyboard countless times just while I was writing this blog post.
I arrived at The Loved One because I was looking for a very short novel (I had two days to read it!), and I read a random article about how prolific Evelyn Waugh was. I was first introduced to him earlier this year with Brideshead Revisited, which is now one of my favorite novels. Then I read A Handful of Dust and liked it, too. I’m really surprised at how much he wrote and how much I like him. When I picked up Brideshead Revisited, I expected something serious and stuffy, but it’s really funny – and fun.
The same goes for The Loved One. I went to Starbucks yesterday and read all but the first fifteen pages in one sitting. It’s a really entertaining read.
Dennis Barlow is a really bad British poet transplanted to Hollywood to write a film script about Shelley. The other expatriates are unhappy with him because they think he’s tarnishing their reputations because once the film doesn’t pan out, he gets a job at a funeral home for pets called the Happier Hunting Ground. Barlow lives with another Brit named Sir Francis Hinsley, who promptly dies. Barlow has the task of dealing with the human funeral home, Whispering Glades, which is entirely excessive on every level. While he’s there, he meets the cosmetician (Hinsley hanged himself, so he has an interesting facial expression that must be dealt with), Aimée Thanatogenos, and begins dating her, regaling her with his terrible poetry. He soon discovers that he gets better results when he uses poems by Shakespeare or Tennyson or Poe because she’s too dumb to realize where they come from. He asks her to marry him just after she’s offered a promotion so she can support him: he says it’s perfectly acceptable in England. But! He has a rival in Whispering Glades, Mr. Joyboy, who also has his eye on Aimée. Ridiculous mischief ensues.
The Loved One is a very English novel, and it reads like one of the old shows that come on LPB on Saturday nights. It especially reminded me of Are You Being Served. It’s about English snootiness and American excess, and it’s hilarious. And a very quick, light read.
A Handful of Dust is a strange novel. It’s also really good, though not nearly as good as Waugh‘s earlier novel, Brideshead Revisited. It’s strange because of the ending. The penultimate chapter of the novel was originally a short story called “The Man Who Liked Dickens,” which had been published in a magazine. Another American magazine wanted to serialize the whole novel sans that short story, so Waugh wrote an alternative ending, which is wildly different. The short story part isn’t anything like the rest of the novel.
A Handful of Dust is a satire about English society. Brenda Last, Tony Last’s wife, has an affair with Mr. Beaver, a young London man who is basically a player and who has no money. Brenda falls in love with him and convinces her husband to rent a flat in London because she is supposedly studying economics at the university and can’t be bothered to go back to their family home in the country even though she has a son who is constantly asking about her. The kid is my favorite character in this novel and (whoa, spoiler!) Waugh kills him off before the halfway point. Brenda doesn’t really care and uses her son’s death as an excuse to divorce Tony. Then the story splits: Brenda continues her life in London, and Beaver eventually breaks up with her after the party season is over, and Tony goes to Brazil. Here’s where the endings split. In the actual novel, Tony goes with an anthropologist-of-sorts looking for a certain tribe around Brazil, ends up with a fever and hallucinates, and he and the anthropologist get lost. The anthropologist goes down a river in a canoe and gets killed in a waterfall. Tony, hallucinating, starts walking until he comes upon another tribe that’s run by an insane Englishman who keeps him captive and makes him read Dickens aloud every day. The End. Then there’s the alternate ending, in which Tony just went on a tour around the Americas, and when he returns to England, Brenda is there, and they (sort of) reconcile, except when Brenda asks Tony to get rid of the flat in London, he secretly keeps it for himself. The End.
The more I think about A Handful of Dust, the more I like it. It’s a good summerish sort of read, and it’s really interesting. The alternate ending situation is cool if for no other reason than its novelty. Waugh says it’s “included as a curiosity.” If I were one to sit on a beach and read, this would be the novel to take with me. It’s really light reading, but Waugh does a lot of interesting things that veer away from what you might expect of an English novel from the 1930s.
I enjoyed Brideshead Revisited sooooo much more than I thought I would. In fact, I think it’s one of my favorite books ever. Evelyn Waugh has a lot in common with Fitzgerald and Hemingway, though it was published twenty years after The Great Gatsby and The Sun Also Rises. Brideshead Revisited is about wealthy English families between the World Wars. In college, Charles Ryder befriends Sebastian Flyte, and they run around together. Then Charles becomes involved in Sebastian’s family, and due to a flaw, of sorts, in Sebastian’s character, bad things begin to happen, and they part ways. But Charles can’t shake the Flyte family, and we hear about what happens to them through the rest of the novel while Sebastian remains on the periphery. It’s really depressing, though not in the family-loses-its-money-etc-etc way that you might expect. The characters are empty and remain so. No one is happy for long.
Though, again, it’s up there with my favorite novels. I spent a long time reading this one because I didn’t want to leave it. I liked the atmosphere. At the end, I found myself in a daze like I did with For Whom the Bell Tolls, when I felt like I was in the mountains of Spain during their Civil War for a few hours after.
Before this novel, I didn’t know much about Waugh, and I guess I still don’t. I most clearly associate him with my chronic confusion over his gender: I’ve embarrassed myself several times calling him “she”. In my defense, though, Evelyn is a pretty girly name. I also don’t understand why he’s not taught in universities. I have an English degree, and I feel like I should have at least heard of him while I was in college. At least for GRE purposes.
I’ll certainly be reading more Waugh in the near future. A Handful of Dust is probably next. It’s funny: sometimes I use a site called The Book Explorer for recommendations, and the list for Brideshead Revisited includes several of my favorite novels. One Hundred Years of Solitude, my Very Favorite Book, is at the top. I wish I’d been introduced to Waugh much earlier.