Second Copy

Pretend you didn't see this:  books on the bedroom floor.

Pretend you didn’t see this.

I am a bookworm-housewife who looks up once or twice a week from a book to dash around the house swiping everything with a dust rag and Murphy’s soap.

Occasionally my housewife friends, appalled by my Bean-cum-Target wardrobe and laissez faire attitude toward housework, have a chat with me.  If I would just color my hair, then blow-dry it, then never wear jeans again, then wear that cream… what do I mean I’m allergic to it?…then buy that special Swerf, or is it Smurf, duster, and vacuum every day, I would feel much better.

And what do I mean I can’t apply eyeliner?

And don’t I want to get rid of a few books?

You can see by the picture above that there is an overflow of books from the shelves on to the floor.

You don’t have to own every book you read, people say.

When we moved here I gave away 250 books to the library and sold 300 to Half Price Books.  We’ve filled our shelves again, and one thing  I’ve learned is that you end up buying new copies of everything you give away.

I had to buy a second copy of Ford Madox Ford’s Parade’s End, because I adore the hero Tietjens and  realized I wanted to spend more time with him.

Did I know that I’d want to reread The Collected Stories of Jean Stafford?  Hell, no.  I don’t much like her stories, but I wanted to reread “The Echo and the Nemesis” last summer after I read Lionel Shriver’s Big Brother, so I bought a second copy.

I can hardly tell you how I feel about losing my autographed copy of Ken Kesey’s One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest. It must have been put in the giveaway box by mistake.  NOTHING CAN REPLACE THIS.

Today I read an essay by Michael Dirda in the TLS that reflects how we feel about our bookish house.

He writes,

My wife would claim that we actually do live in a second-hand bookshop, except that there isn’t a sign on the door and nobody ever comes to buy anything.

My husband and I laughed very hard about this.  (You have to subscribe to the TLS to read this essay, but who knows?  Maybe they’ll post it at their website someday.)


Taming of the shrewI’m not a termagant, am I? Or do I mean a harridan?  I’m not a harridan, am I?   I’m NOT.

Am I a termaharr?  A gantidan?

I am actually very, very nice.

My parents were very outspoken and sometimes funny.  And a nun once told me I was too honest.

Humor plus too much honesty means termagant-harridan misunderstandings?

Anyway, we’ll all throw up if  I’m too nice, right?    We’re not online to network, are we?  Or are we?  Did we know how to network when we were in a network?   Or didn’t we?  (I’m fooling around.  I am certainly not networking here.)

I love the classics and read mostly books by dead people.

This year I am trying to read more 21st-century books.

But, you know, most of the new books are mediocre.  I now reject anything not of obvious classic status (in its genre, I mean) that doesn’t grab me after 25 pages, because I am not a book reviewer, I don’t have to hang on to the end, and there are so many other good books.

I’ve only read seven new books so far this year, and none of them is bad.

In the excellent range are:  D. J. Taylor’s Derby Day (great!) and Kept (great!) and Elizabeth Spencer’s collection of short stories, Starting Over (great; haven’t written about it yet).

In the good to very good range are:  William Gibson’s Zero History (very good, but haven’t written about it), Jo-Ann Mapson’s Bad Girl Creek (very good, and I’ll write about it soon), and Carol Anshaw’s Lucky in the Corner (good). 

In the okay range is: Jason Porter’s Why Are You So Sad? (I tried to convey in my “review” that some will like this more than I did; the humor just wasn’t for me.)

I can’t count the wonderful new book I’m reading as new,  Frederick Busch’s Collected Stories, because of course Busch is dead.  I wrote a fan letter to him in the ’80s, and he sent me a very nice letter in return.  Unfortunately I lost the letter in one of our moves.

And I have read about 100 pages of D. J. Taylor’s Ask Alice, a brilliant, fast-paced novel which ranges from the plains of Kansas to England, and pays (so far)  quick homages to The Wizard of Oz and J. B. Priestley.  It’s a fast and clever read.

Any recommendations of good new books?  I’m sure I have some  in that pile on the floor somewhere (though most of them look old, don’t they?).

9 thoughts on “Second Copy

  1. I’ve never worn foundation. I get sooo pissed when I buy something I had and gave away but it happens. I also buy other copies of books that I own because they’re in better shape or I love the cover. Off the top of my head I can’t think of anything new that I loved. I just read two NYRB books that I loved but they’re old. In fact a few that were very highly rated ended up unfinished and back at the library. I thought there was something wrong with me.
    You dust??!! Oh and I just bought the Jean Stafford because I thought I should read more short stories but now you made me feel bad. Only kidding.


  2. Cynthia, I now wear some makeup to protect sun-ruined skin but am allergic to most of it! And how do you buy it unless you first try it out and see if it matches? It’s beyond me.

    We have an old Dickens set of hardcover two-volume editions, but I also have paperbacks of most of them. So much easier to read than hardbacks… But I keep the others for the illustrations.

    Yes, I give books away to the book sale and then buy them back. I’m thinking about taking back my Dover copy of Edith Wharton’s short stories from the Little Free Library down the street because it’s been sitting there for months. Nobody wants my books unless they’re brand-new!


  3. I’m no help with new books at all – I tend to read old ones! Though I have reviewed a couple of new ones lately (mainly crime….) and have enjoyed them! As for the wonderful quote about living in a bookshop – that’s me! I have to be very careful about getting rid of books – I always regret it….!


  4. I know we’re all living in “used bookshops”! I hope yours is doing better than mine, Karen. (I’ve got to do something about that floor space. Perhaps a couple of plastic bins? Or something on wheels?)


  5. Kat, having lived in several flats and houses over the years, all of which were ‘secondhand bookshop ‘ (no opening hours) , I totally recognise your description of your house we have a sizeable cottage with. 30 foot lounge with floor to the 10 foot ceilings bookshelves. However, hallways and every nook houses a bookcase, yet under the bed , the barn and in piles on the floor there are books. My experience of selling or giving away books is similar. Taylor’s book was recently added to my TBR pile so your endorsement of his books was helpful. I mainly read classics for fun, but run a readers’ group where the members choose the books, so most months I read one modem book. I find the overhype for many mediocre modern novels disturbing and so Scott, Austen, Trollope and Dickens remain my standbys.



  6. Clare, there are so many of us with the “second-hand bookshop” mentality. Perhaps that’s why we don’t read many modern books. Under the bed is a good place to house books! Perhaps if we get rid of our TV, our steero, and our buffet, we’ll have more room.

    Taylor is excellent! He also has written a lot, so fortunately I can read his books and call them 21st-century (which many of them are)>


    • Isn’t it comforting to know we are not alone in our mania. I look forward to reading more Taylor. As for bed storage, ours is a tall brass bed with beechwood stretchers under the mattress, so there’s plenty of room, the only problem is dusting them. But hey, it’s only dust, and a quick go with the Hoover keeps it at bay. Life is too short to worry about a little dust.



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