The last thing in the world I needed to do yesterday was to go check out the library sale going on in the town just south of mine. But I wanted to do it, and so I did it and came back with six books. It was a day for classics, with a few other things thrown in. Here’s what I found:
- Henry James’s The Awkward Age. Henry James is a controversial figure in my house, but I’m the one who’s most likely to defend him, so I like to have an unread James novel on hand, just in case I get in the mood.
- Willa Cather’s The Professor’s House. I really enjoyed A Lost Lady and My Antonia, so I thought I might like to read more of her work. After reading Elaine Showalter’s glowing appraisal of her work, I’m even more interested, and Dawn Powell put me in the mood to read more about midwestern America.
- The Modern Library collection of novels by William Dean Howells, including A Foregone Conclusion, A Modern Instance, Indian Summer, and The Rise of Silas Lapham. All for a dollar! I have never read Howells before and will probably begin with the last novel in the volume.
- Helene Hanff’s 84, Charing Cross Road. She Knits by the Seashore recommended this one to me, and it sounds delightfully bookish.
- Anne Fadiman’s Ex Libris. I’ve already read this book, but I read a library copy and I wanted to own it. It’s such a great collection of essays about bookish subjects that I’d like to read it again at some point.
- And finally, Dubravka Ugresic’s collection of essays Nobody’s Home. I do love good essay collections, and Stefanie wrote a great review of this one, so I thought I’d give it a try.
Not a bad haul, right? And in other news, my mystery book group had a great discussion of The Moonstone last night. All but one of us loved it, and we spent much of the meeting raving about how great a book it is (the one dissenter must have felt a bit left out …). We came to the conclusion that, oddly enough, The Moonstone is really an anti-detective novel since ***Spoiler Alert!*** the detective fails to solve the case (it’s solved, but by other people) and order is not restored at the novel’s end, since the moonstone ends up back in India and not hanging on Rachel’s neck. You could say that the return of the moonstone to India IS restoring order, but that’s not the kind of order one usually finds, since it signals a failure of British power. And there’s no one person in the novel who is in control of everything and who knows what’s going on; instead, there are multiple narrators each of whom only knows a little piece. Or, if you want to say that Franklin Blake is the one who is in control since he is organizing the writing of all the novel’s sections, he’s an odd form of order since he spends most of the novel in ignorance of his own role in the story. Again, what a great book!