Monday, June 13, 2005

Schoenhofs, Compulsive Book Buying, and Coincidences

Well, I showed some restraint today.

We had to go in to Harvard Square to get Lisa some new glasses. She has to stay away from contacts for a few weeks to let a corneal abrasion heal, which was caused by her falling asleep in her contacts and waking up in the middle of the night and peeling them out, half-asleep, without saline or anything. Ugh.

While she was getting her prescription updated, I popped across the street to Schoenhofs Foreign Bookstore. Schoenhofs doesn't have very convenient hours, so I'm rarely in Harvard Square when it's open. But I'm on vacation all this week, so we can attend concerts at this year's Boston Early Music Festival, starting with Boris Gudenouw, and therefore Schoenhofs was beckoning to me.

It's always dangerous when I am there during Schoenhof's hours. Especially since they don't discount anything. And foreign language books and textbooks and so forth, can be extremely expensive. Especially reprints of old editions of Classical Greek and Latin books. Those get more expensive every year (and unfortunately used bookstore owners who sell over the internet know perfectly well how expensive the new ones are, so you won't get a better deal on Bookfinder, either). But I digress.

The reason why I mention Coincidences in the title of this posting is that what should be the first thing that I see when I walk up to the front door of Schoenhofs but a book entitled Вальпургиева Ночь (Val'purgieva Noch' for those of you who don't read Cyrillic). I had never seen the Russian rendering of Walpurgis Night before but there was no question that this is what it meant. (Since coming home I've discovered that it's a play by a Венедикт Ерофеев (Venedikt Yerofeyev), of the Soviet era, whom I had never heard of.

Of course this sort of thing happens in life all the time: coincidences like this. You learn a new word, and suddenly you're always hearing it (not that I only just learned about Walpurgisnacht; I've known about it since I read Faust in College, and Roger Zelazny touched on it in the first sequel to his original Amber novels, but I'm just giving that as an example: it doesn't have to be a word you just learned but it could be something you just re-developed an interest in). They say that it is only just that your mind is "keyed" to this new word or concept or whatever and that's why you're only just now noticing it everywhere. But still. It was a remarkable moment of synchronicity.

I only bought four books on this particular outing. I actually was planning on going to Schoenhofs once I remembered that Lisa's appointment was today, since a new book had been brought to my attention on the TextKit Greek and Latin forum I discovered a couple of days ago in the process of uploading all my Classics bookmarks to Del.icio.us (while looking at some of my bookmarked pages, I followed some of their links). More about TextKit later, but for now, I'll just list the books I bought at Schoenhofs starting with the one I went there for:

Cover image for Indo-European Language and Culture: An Introduction (Blackwell Textbooks in Linguistics)Indo-European Language and Culture: An Introduction (Blackwell Textbooks in Linguistics)
Benjamin W., IV Fortson and BENJAMIN W. FORTSON
$44.95 (No discount)
Cover image for Inventing Homer : The Early Reception of Epic (Cambridge Classical Studies)Inventing Homer : The Early Reception of Epic (Cambridge Classical Studies)
Barbara Graziosi, R. L. Hunter, R. G. Osborne, M. D. Reeve, P. D. Garnsey, M. Millett, D. N. Sedley, and G. C. Horrocks
$70.00 (No discount)
Cover image for The Cambridge Companion to Homer (Cambridge Companions to Literature)The Cambridge Companion to Homer (Cambridge Companions to Literature)
Robert Fowler
$29.99 (No discount)
Cover image for Le roman d'Alexandre (Lettres gothiques)Le roman d'Alexandre (Lettres gothiques)
Alexandre
(Not for sale at Amazon)

In a future posting I'll also have to talk about my discovery of Bookcrossing, which has forums of its own. A particularly pertinent topic I found there is Are you a compulsive book buyer? with the question "Why would we continue to buy books if we haven't read the ones we've already bought? " How about, "why would you continue to buy books if you outstripped your ability to read all the ones you own without retiring early about 10-15 years ago and it's only gotten worse since?" Maybe we won't go there.

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