Wednesday, January 27, 2016

Thrift Stores And Norton Anthologies

Today at the Salvation Army thrift store I got a copy of vol 3, The Beginnings of Critical Realism in America, 1860-1920 of Vernon Louis Parrington's Main Currents in American Thought, for 21 cents including tax. I wish I had examined the volume a little more closely before purchasing it: whatever intrinsic interest Parrington's ideas might have had for me is impaired by the low quality of the paper of the books acidic pages, yellowing and fragile and unpleasant to the touch. I don't know when this volume was printed: a Harbinger Book H023 $2.45.

Still working on this vol 3 at the time of his death in 1929, Parrington writes "Marxian" instead of "Marxist." For some reason I like that much more than I can justify or explain.

What a great contrast is presented by the various Norton anthologies familiar to several decades' worth of American English majors! Do English majors still read Norton anthologies? The paper is great, thin and strong like the paper in some well-made Bibles -- some Norton volumes are over 2500 pages long without becoming at all unwieldy -- a delight to the fingertip's touch and barely yellowed even when several decades old (Do English majors still read books printed onto paper?) -- but the content is frustrating, because the longer works are usually abridged and leave you wanting more. Put that same paper into all of those volumes Norton abridged, and then sell those to me at the thrift store for 21 cents a volume!

Okay, actually, the Norton anthologies are actually pretty good -- or perhaps I'm doting and nostalgic at the moment, looking at the ones I still have from my undergrad time. Actually, I think I have more from thrift stores than from my student days. I know I got this 10th edition Norton Reader, copyright 2000, over 1200 pages, at a thrift store very recently. I just opened it at random and saw pieces by Amitav Ghosh and Susan Sontag. I'm pretty sure I've never read an entire piece of writing by Sontag. So I was thinking just now: maybe it's time to remedy that. So I read the first 2 sentences of Sontag's Century of Cinema, closed the volume again and said: no, it's time to put more trust into my own taste, even may taste from rather long ago. No Sontag for me just now, thank you very much.

I like Ghosh, though.

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