The Planned Parenthood Book Sale, Spring 2018

The cat and my husband have a bookish moment.

Tonight we went to the Planned Parenthood Book Sale, which takes place twice a year in Des Moines at the 4-H Building on the Iowa State Fairgrounds. (This one runs from April 19-23).

We are efficient sale-goers:  we no longer need a map of the building (45,000 sq. ft of space!).

I quickly ascertained that they had no new Cathy Guisewite cartoons. Do I have the complete set of Cathy comics? Why doesn’t Guisewite write a new comic strip?

We browsed in the classics and fiction sections.

“Look for A Gentleman in Moscow,” I said.  (This is highly recommended by Karen and Cynthia.)

“Look for German books,” he said.

Astonishingly, I did find a copy of A Gentleman in Moscow, by Amor Towles ($9, the most expensive book I’ve bought at the sale, but it is still cheaper than a new paperback).  My husband found a Heinrich Boll and some other German novels.

We found a copy of News of a Kidnapping, by Garcia Marquez.

The cats go mad.

The two elder-cats love the unpacking of the books.  The tortoiseshell expresses interest in the Oxford paperback of The Female Quixote, while the white cat checks out Joyce Carol Oates.

I found two by Joyce Carol Oates, The Gravedigger’s Daughter and Blonde.

I am happy to have a hardcover edition of Nancy Mitford’s The Pursuit of Love & Love in a Cold Climate.

Arrayed here are:  David Lodge’s The British Museum is Falling Down, Jane Gardam’s A Long Way from Verona, Kawabata’s The Master of Go, Mama Day by Gloria Naylor (who died in 2016), Mary Renault’s The Mask of Apollo, and Betty MacDonald’s The Onions in the Stew.

I also found:

Mary Cholmondeley’s Red Pottage (Virago)

The Whisper in the Gloom by Nicholas Blake (C. Day-Lewis’s pen name for the Nigel Strangeways mystery series)

Anatole France’s Thais & Sylvestre Bonnard

The cheapest books were Onions in the Stew and The Mask of Apollo–each 80 cents.

A very good sale!

Literary References in “Blade Runner 2049” & Another Trip to the Planned Parenthood Book Sale, Fall 2017

A dead tree is emblematic in Blade Runner 2049.

Although it meant getting up at dawn, i.e., 10 o’clock, for the early show, because we didn’t want to sit with a bunch of unruly fans, we loved Blade Runner 2049, a brilliant sequel to Blade Runner.

Dekker (Harrison Ford) and K (Ryan Gosling) in “Blade Runner” 2049

It is absolutely stunning, and not just for SF fans. The cinematography is gorgeous, the bleak, dusty environment is tragically realistic  (a dead tree proves emblematic of the lost natural world), and the characters are sharply-drawn, almost human, though most are replicants, bio-engineered beings who work as servants and slaves.  As in the first Blade Runner, some replicants are villains but others are very decent, especially K (Ryan Gosling), a “blade runner” whose  job is to hunt down earlier models of replicants, who got out of control and went rogue.

K is not a fan of killing, by the way.

K is a fan of Nabokov’s Pale Fire, a book which he claims his girlfriend, Joi, an Alexa-style robot who can shimmeringly half-materialize, hates.  After she agrees, smiling, that it would be pleasant to be read to, he says mockingly, “You hate that book.”  Coincidentally, a computer who examines K for post-traumatic stress recites line of verse from Pale Fire, and K must repeat them.

Cells interlinked within cells interlinked
Within one stem. And dreadfully distinct
Against the dark, a tall white fountain played.

Anthony Lane in The New Yorker identified these lines, which otherwise (and still?) sound like nonsense.

Later in the movie, K is sometimes called  Joe. My husband points out that this is a reference to Joseph K of Kafka’s The Trial.   The reference didn’t seem entirely apt, so we’ll see the movie a second time.

We were very glad to see Dekker/Harrison Ford, who is 100% human in his acting, a relief after so many replicants.  Somebody should get an Oscar, maybe Ryan Gosling, whom I first encountered in La La Land, or Harrison Ford, who is always brilliant.

MORE ON THE PLANNED PARENTHOOD BOOK SALE.  We went back to the Planned Parenthood Book Sale on Half-Price Day.  And we did very well, in that we restricted ourselves to filling one shopping bag with books.  Usually we huff and puff as we heave boxes of books into the car.

Once home, the books were inspected by various cats.  Yup, that’s a  cat considering John Updike’s The Witches of Eastwick.  I love Updike, but a quick look at a chapter in the middle has convinced me this is not his best.  I can always donate it back.

We found a copy of John Cheever’s Falconer. I love his short stories about suburban life, and am ready to try his novels.

I’d never heard off Searoad:  Chronicles of Klatsand, a collection of short stories  by Ursula K. Le Guin. According to Goodreads:  “Le Guin explores the dreams and sorrows of the inhabitants of Klatsand, Oregon, a beach town where ordinary people bring their dreams and sorrows for a weekend or the rest of their lives…”   I can’t tell much from that!

Doesn’t this 1971 Penguin, The Keep, by Jillian Becker, a South African writer, look like something on the vintage Penguin shelves at Skoob?

This never-read hardback edition of award-winning Annie Proulx’s latest novel, Barkskins,  was a great find at $4.50.

I’ve been a fan of novelist and biographer A. N. Wilson since I read his five-book Lampitt Chronicles,  so I couldn’t resist The Vicar of Sorrows for 50 cents.

I never got around to reading Leonard Wibberley’s The Mouse That Roared, but I  loved the Peter Sellers movie.

And last but not least, a cat glances at Sue Miller’s Lost in the Forest (she is an excellent writer of literary fiction) and the great mystery writer Sue Grafton’s Q Is for Quarry.

And now I need to add a Planned Parenthood Book Sale Challenge button (ha ha) to my Goodreads page.

Bibliobits: Evelyn Waugh’s “Put Out More Flags” & the Planned Parenthood Book Sale

I have long been a fan of Evelyn Waugh.  I  giggled over Vile Bodies, his satire on bright young things.  Later I became a devoted fan of his more serious work.  I especially love Brideshead Revisited (I know, some think it very bad and sentimental, but I love it), and the satiric Sword of Honour trilogy, set during World War II, which I wrote about here.

And now I have reread his brilliant novel, Put Out More Flags.  Lo and behold! I think it’s his masterpiece.  In this compelling mix of satire and realism, published in 1942, Waugh writes perceptively about the early years of the war, focusing on the various survival skills, or lack thereof, of a comical cast of upper-class characters.  Waugh resurrected some of the characters from early novels, but this book is a great introduction to them., because Waugh is firing all cylinders and has developed the characters convincingly here.

The novel begins,

In the week which preceded the outbreak of World War II–days of surmise and apprehension, which cannot, without irony, be called the last days of peace–and on the Sunday morning when all doubts were finally resolved and misconceptions corrected, three rich women thought first and mainly of Basil Seal. They were his sister, his mother and his mistress.

The conniving Basil is a charming ne’er-do-well of whom his aristocratic mother has despaired, because he ruins every opportunity and loses every job she wheedles for him from important friends.  But his loyal sister Barbara insists to her patriotic husband Freddy that  Basil will do well in the war, and her prediction is true:  it’s not that she doesn’t know he’s no good, but she perhaps has a better idea of the brutal nature of war than does Freddy.

Barbara is in charge of billeting evacuees in their village, and a thankless job it is.  She cannot persuade anyone to keep the three Connellys,  the Children from Hell, the oldest a grotesque teenager who routinely falls in love with the man of the house,  and a mischievous younger brother and sister who can wreck a house in 30 seconds.   But Basil finds a way to profit from the very awfulness of the Connolllys:  he collects a fee to take them away from the traumatized homeowners.

Basil’s mother, meanwhile, tries to persuade her friend Sir Joseph to find a place for Basil in the military.   But never mind,  Basil eventually finds a snug little niche for himself in a government agency as a spy.  He simply exaggerates conversations he hears at parties and, if there’s nothing going, makes things up.  He doesn’t think he can do any damage, but he does hurt a friend.  To give him credit, he tries to undo the damage.  Whatever you think of Basil, he is less shallow than he was in his previous incarnation  in Waugh’s Black Mischief.

And then there is Angela, his mistress, hopelessly in love with Basil, and drinking herself to death.  Will anyone be able to help her?  It seems unlikely…and yet, Basil is a different person now.

The characters are so much fun.   Anthony Silk, a gay writer, is very witty;  Alistair and Sonia Trumpington change house frequently and live in cramped quarters, mainly to keep Basil from moving in; and there are countless others.  So many others.  YOU MUST READ THIS BOOK!

The comical thing is that I know someone who was a bit like Basil.  He went to Oxford, too,  and was a bit of a charmer, but also very conniving.  Everything in America was a breeze for him, and he learned to spin straw into gold–that’s all I can say!

THE PLANNED PARENTHOOD BOOK SALE.  Yes, it’s time again.  This year there is a  strong classics section, with Penguins and Oxfords to delight the soul, but we have all those! This year I bought very cheap books–I mean under a dollar!

I found  Niccolo Tucci’s Before My Time, with an introduction by Doris Lessing ($3); Francoise Sagan’s Bonjour Tristesse (80 cents, a bizarre price!); and John Nichols’ The Sterile Cuckoo (60 cents, another strange price).  Did you  see the film of The Sterile Cuckoo, with Liza Minelli?  I’d love to see it again.

I am such a fan of Bess Streeter Aldrich that I visited her house in Elmwood, Nebraska.  This “reader”edition includes A Lantern in her Hand, Aldrich’s most famous novel, the sequel, A White Bird Flying, and some short stories.  It was 50 cents.

  There’s always one Virago!  I’ve never read Kate O’Brien.

Here are some old books no one wants!  Edna Ferber is the author of So Big (the Pulitzer winner) and Showboat, made into a musical; I’ve never seen Come and Get It.  Then two by Sinclair Lewis, Bethel Merriday and Man Trap; again, I’ve never heard of them.  And then The White Gate, by Mary Ellen Chase, a Maine writer who was popular in the mid-twenetieth century.

Short stories by Trollope:  how can I go wrong?

Peter De Vries really is the kind of novelist I consider a “cult” writer.  His humor is very silly and goofy, and I know people who love his work; I know others who hate it.  Let’s just say I have to be in the mood.

A good haul.  Perhaps I’ll post about the rest later!

Foraging at the Planned Parenthood Book Sale

planned parenthood book sale 635787938090989435-dmrdc5-5c0tm3808qq457a6n6a-originalShopping at the Planned Parenthood Book Sale in Des Moines is a family tradition.  My grandmother went to the sale in the ’60s, and I envied her 19th-century editions of Thackeray’s Henry Esmond and George Meredith’s Diana of the Crossways. My husband and I have faithfully attended the sale since moving back to the Midwest.

Founded in 1961, the Planned Parenthood Book Sale is held twice a year in the 4-H Building on the Iowa State Fairgrounds.  I have found Viragos, an almost complete set of Trollope, and out-of-print books by Lawrence Durrell, Angela Thirkell, Dorothy Canfield Fisher, Alice Adams, Robert Graves, Margery Sharp, Violet Trfusis, Edna Ferber, and on and on.

Last night was Opening Night.  The scouts had already picked over the books.  Truly, there were gaps in the classics section and the books were already leaning.

If you don’t find something right away, you keep going.   We found a few classics, some literary novels, vintage mysteries, SF, family sagas, and so on.  Honestly?  This collection looked very like last spring’s, which makes me wonder what happens to all the books we donated over the summer.  It needs an infusion of new old books.

Here’s what I found, after hours of going through what felt like every book in the fiction section.  (Of course I didn’t mind.)

augustus-john-williams-22086279Many of you know John Williams’ Stoner, a Willa Catherish novel about a modest English professor with an unhappy marriage and a career stymied by departmental politics.  What you may not know is that his historical novel Augustus, told in the form of documents, letters, and memoirs, is even better. It won the National Book Award in 1973.  I read this long ago but didn’t have a copy, so this was an exciting find.

raymond-chandler-omnibus-planned-parenthoodOddly, I’ve never read Raymond Chandler.  This Raymond Chandler omnibus includes The Big Sleep, Farewell, My Lovely, The High Window, and The Lady in the Lake.


Bloggers have praised Cynthia Harrod-Eagles and I hope the Morland Dynasty books are historical novels a la Poldark rather than romances.  (I actually bought a huge pile of them, but I can’t fit them in one picture.)  It was a pity buy, so let’s hope they’re fun. Even if they’re fodder for Little Free Libraries, that’s okay.

planned-parenthood-ford-and-jhabvalaI have never seen this novel by Ford Madox Ford.  I idolize Ruth Prawer Jhabvala, a novelist best known for  her screenplays for the Merchant-Ivory films, so was pleased to find this early novel. I cherish the thought of spending time with Jhabvala again.


Katrina Kittle’s graceful novels are good reads, even though issue-oriented. And, on a different note, Alice Adams’ stunning literary novels (also praised by Tony’s Book World) are out-of-print so I was thrilled to find this book for only $1.  (It has never been read!)


I’m behind on my Ian McEwan reading, and Aimee Bender’s The Particular Sadness of Lemon Cake was well-reviewed a few years ago.  (She is the sister of the brilliant Karen E. Bender, whom I interviewed here a few years ago.)

planned-parenthood-teyHow can you go wrong with an omnibus of Josephine Tey?


I’ve been planning to read Atwood’s SF trilogy and here’s the first book.

planned-atwood-the-year-of-the-floodAnd here’s the second book.

Yup, Cathy Guisewite is my favorite cartoonist.  I have so much in common with Cathy.  The eating, the shopping, well, maybe not the shopping, but feeling the social pressure of being a woman in the twentieth century….  Well, I know it’s the twenty-first cnetury, but Cathy got canceled!

the-other-by-thomas-tryon-9780449226841-uk-300This horror novel by Thomas Tryon, an actor turned writer in the ’60s, has been reissued by NYRB.  An eerie novel about twins.

Book club editions of Clifford D. Simak.

Book club editions of Clifford D. Simak.

Clifford D. Simak, an American science fiction who won three Hugos, a Nebula Award, and was name SFWA Grand Master, is neglected these days, but his work is very good.  He is best-known for City, a poignant novel about robots and talking dogs.  He has a thing about robots, and, as so often in literature, they are more human than humans.  My favorite of his books is They Walked Like Men, a very witty, very original novel about a journalist who discovers, with the help of a talking dog, that Earth’s real estate is being taken over by aliens.  (I wrote about it here.)  I know nothing about these “new” books, except they are some of his later books, and I have heard those are uneven.  Each book was only $1, so if it’s fodder for Little Free Libraries, that’s okay.

And there were a few I didn’t get around to taking picutres of.

Another box of books to add to the other boxes of books…

More Books from the Planned Parenthood Book Sale

planned parenthood book sale 635787938090989435-dmrdc5-5c0tm3808qq457a6n6a-original

The Planned Parenthood Book Sale in Des Moines.

It was one of those lovely Sundays when there is nothing to do, when you take a walk or work in the garden,  and then remember it’s 50%-off day at the Planned Parenthood Book Sale in Des Moines.

It was much more crowded than on Thursday, the first day of the sale, and we were glad to see the crowd.  By Sunday the sale is picked over, and some of the tables are actually bare, but the books are easier to see on the thinned tables.  Today I looked through several categories I hadn’t managed to get to the first night.

And, thank God, it was a different selection from Thursday’s “Cozy Fest,” when I brought home mainly middlebrow books by Margaret Kennedy, Cornelia Otis Skinner, Margery Sharp, and the like.  It’s not that I won’t enjoy them, but I need variety.


It has been years since I read Donald Barthelme, one of the best American postmodern writers of the 20th century. I love his short stories (Sixty Stories), and this will be my second try at his meta-fairy tale, Snow White, which struck me as very sexist in my radical feminist days.  This time I am reading only for style:  there are some good things about maturing.  The Dead Father, about which I know nothing, looks fascinating, too.


My aunt was a great fan of Robert van Gulik’s Chinese mysteries, though somehow they never appealed to me until I found this two-in-one Dover edition, with  The Haunted Monastery and The Chinese Maze Murders, and illustrations by the author.


Manlio Argueta is a Salvadoran author, and the jacket copy of One Day of Life says it describes “a typical day in the life of a peasant family caught up in the terror and corruption of civil war in El Salvador.”  We are huge fans of Thomas McGuane and read aloud parts of The Bushwacked Piano years ago on a bicycle trip, but didn’t get through much since I fell asleep in the tent around 6 p.m.  I recommend McGuane’s 2015 collection of short stories, Crow Fair, if you want a place to start.

imageThere is a certain kind of detective story I find irresistible.   I have always enjoyed Patricia Moyes’s mysteries.  Have I read all of these?  Maybe.  I’ll know when I read them.

imageIn the contemporary fiction section, I found two books I have  long meant to read.  Nicole Krauss was nominated for the National Book Award for Great House, and that is an literary award I take seriously, possibly because the prize is judged by writers instead of journalists.  (A few years ago the journalist judges of the Pulitzer Prize had a hissy fit and decided not to award the prize for fiction.)   Kathryn Davis is a lyrical, original writer, and her novel The Walking Tour is one of my favorites. I am ridiculously behind in reading contemporary literature, and cannot believe I missed The Thin Place.


Similar covers on the two below, no?  Both Tigers in Red Weather and The Other Typist got positive reviews,  in 2012 and 2015 respectively.   Summer reading?


And below are two more exciting finds.  According to the jacket copy of Jane: “Meet Jane…34, single, an American journalist living in a colorful London loft with a cat…” I’m in!  And Angela Lambert is the author of the wonderful novel, Love Among the Single Classes.  Like so many literary novels by women, Kiss and Kin has a “pop fiction” cover, but I expect good things.


The Planned Parenthood Book Sale continues through 6 p.m. tomorrow.

The Planned Parenthood Book Sale & A Giveaway of John Thorndike’s Anna Delaney’s Child

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The Planned Parenthood Book Sale is a perk of Midwestern living.   I have found Viragos, an almost complete set of Oxford paperback Trollopes, and books by obscure Midwestern writers.   It is held every six months in the 4-H Building on the Iowa State Fairgrounds in Des Moines.  If you’re in the area this weekend, it is worth a trip.  The sale started today and goes through Monday the 11th.

As usual, we came home with a couple of boxes of books.

Thorndike Anna Delaney's childJohn Thorndike’s out-of-print classic, Anna Delaney’s Child, is one of my favorite books. It’s hard to find, so I’m giving away this hardcover (which I bought for $1).   This stunning 1986 novel delineates the despair and gradual healing of a group of characters in Fell River, Ohio, who have suffered enormous losses. Anna Delaney, a farmer, has lost her eight-year-old son, Kevin, in a car accident; her father’s beloved wife, Anna’s mother, has died of cancer; Susan, now a paraplegic after a recent climbing accident, longs for the sports that kept her centered; and Anna’s ex-husband, Paul, has moved to Fell River with his unresolved drug problems.  But of course it is Thorndike’s lyrical writing that makes this novel a small masterpiece.  If you would like the book, leave a comment.  The giveaway is open only to Americans and Canadians (because I can’t afford postage to the UK and Europe!).  I highly recommend this.  Everybody loves this book and gasps and wonders why it’s not in print.

imageI was thrilled to find a paperback omnibus edition of three of Shirley Jackson’s novels, The Road Through the Wall, Hangsman, and The Bird’s Nest.  And even better is this book club edition  of Margaret Kennedy’s The Feast (75 cents), which was the main Literary Guild selection in April 1950. The book club’s illustrated review brochure, Wings, is glued on the endpage.  It devotes eight pages to The Feast and features a short interview with Kennedy.  Wouldn’t you love to have a job writing a fun book club magazine?  They weren’t like that in my day!

IMG_3589 Don’t the Wing illustrations remind you of the Dick and Jane books?

imageConrad Richter won the National Book Award in 1961 for his brilliant novel,  The Waters of Kronos, which I wrote about  here).  I look forward to  reading The Sea of Grass (1935).  It was probably my best find.  Cornelia Otis Skinner’s The Ape  in Me. is a collection of humor essays.  Skinner is very witty and is  best known for Our Hearts Were Young and Gay, a hilarious book co-written with Emily Landau about their trip to Europe after college.

imageI know many of you swear by Margery Sharp.  Her books are very light, but I enjoyed Martha in Paris and In Pious Memory (I wrote about them here).  My favorite of her books is the Rescuers series. I love Miss Bianca.

imageH. E. Bates is one of my favorite English writers.  In fact, I just reread Love for Lydia,  and will post about it soon.

imageWe couldn’t resist this boxed set of Penguin Originals, Arnold Bennett’s Anna of the Five Towns, Stella Gibbons’ Cold Comfort Farm, and Graham Greene’s Brighton Rock.

imagel couldn’t pass up a book with the title Can Jane Eyre Be Happy?  (I’ll have to see what the author John Sutherland says, but I do not think she could be happy.)  I plan to reread Marge Piercy’s excellent SF novel, Woman on the Edge of Time.

imageAnother by Vasily Grossman.  I keep finding cheap copies of his books.

imageMax Shulman seemed very funny when I was young, but it may be dated humor. The Daphne du Maurier collection includes two of her most famous stories, “Don’t Look Now” and “The Birds.”

imageSomebody in an online book group recommended Kathleen Norris, a middlebrow American writer.  I tried one of her office romances some years ago and gave up.  Maybe the “best of” Norris is what I need.  I can’t wait to read John Galsworthy’s short stories, though the cover of this battered paperback will probably fall off halfway through the book, and I’ll have to find an e-book edition (surely free).

imageThis is one of my husband’s.  I have no idea what this is.  (Nor does he!)

imageThis is a Heritage edition of Thackeray’s The History of Henry Osmond, with illustrations by Edward Ardizzone.  I’ve read Henry Osmond, but I couldn’t resist it for $2.50.  I may donate it back to the sale, because I discovered we already have two paperback copies, and let’s face it, paperbacks re easier to read than the oversized books.

You never find exactly what you’re looking for at a sale, but there’s always something!  Overall, I would say this was a “cozy” year.  Some years are a little more “edgy.”

Reading in Bed: In Which I Donate a Big Book to Charity

Bye, bye, Book!

Bye, bye, Book!

I sat in bed reading the new Folio Society  edition of Trollope’s The Duke’s Children.

It is as big as a dictionary.  Maybe a Complete Shakespeare.

It is a beautiful book.  It duplicates the design of Ye Olde Book, with a leather binding and gilded edges.

The Folio Society’s new complete four-volume edition of The Duke’s Children (it was originally published as a three-volume book and the missing volume has  been restored) has gotten good press:  John McCourt at The Irish Times loved it.  He wrote:

Standard editions of The Duke’s Children still read well and hold their ground against other works in the Palliser series, but the reborn text is of a much richer fabric. Shorn of its short cuts, and with all its details of plot, character, setting and narrative tone restored, it functions far more effectively both as a stand-alone novel and as the last of a long series full of familiar names, characters, settings and themes.

Alas,  it is too unwieldy to read in the supine position.

I know, I know.  I should sit up.

I am going back to my Oxford paperback.  I can’t read oversized books at my age.

What to do with my Folio Society edition?  Sponsor a contest at Mirabile Dictu?  Make everybody write an essay about why they deserve the book?

That would be crazy, wouldn’t it?

And so I donated it to the Planned Parenthood Book Sale.  I stuck it in a bag and put it in my bike pannier. Then I had to find the Planned Parenthood book drop.

The Jacqueline Blank drop for Planned Parenthood

The Jacqueline Blank drop for Planned Parenthood

I got lost in the inner city on my bike.  I was sure the map had said to head north.  Sure, it was north–north  of a street a few blocks south!

I  finally found it and dropped off the book.  After a decade of shopping at the Planned Parenthood Book Sale, I am happy to give them a valuable book.  I hope they make a huge profit.

I love the Folio Society’s clothbound books, and own one of the Thomas Hardy books.  They are normal-sized books:  a little tall, but readable in bed.

But I regard The Duke’s Children as a mirabile dictu folly!    What was I thinking?

Thomas Hardy set, Folio Society

Thomas Hardy set, Folio Society