Sunday, June 05, 2005

Noblesse Oblige

I thought I was done with book blogging after the last time, but when Revere writes me a prescription, I'm obliged to swallow it.

Number of books I own

Who's counting? My guess is roughly 6000 - 8000, but I'm constantly buying and selling 'em. One thing I can say for certain is that there's not enough room in my house for them. They're piled absolutely everywhere. It's obsessive behavior, and no good can come of it.

Last book I bought

If I could buy one book at a time, I'd be a better person. Here's the last batch I picked up:

Salt Dreams by William DeBuys and Joan Myers. This is a handsome book on the Salton Sea/Imperial Valley region, which is one of California's many lovely disaster areas. I've read about half of it, and it's pretty great.

Cold War Hothouses. This is a collection of essays on cold war culture and technology, which I bought mainly for its article on the Mission 66 national parks project. Some of the other essays look interesting, too.

Geographies of Exclusion by David Sibley. I read the chapter on "the exclusion of knowledge" and was fascinated by its brief discussion of "map-flapping," an 1885 method of transmitting mapped data by telegraph which was essentially a very, very slow form of fax machine. I had to buy it just for that; not sure how the rest of it'll be.

Civil Society and Fanaticism by Dominique Colas. The title pretty much gives this one away. It seemed timely, so into the pile it went.

Lichtenburg's The Waste Books. This is one of those books I've picked up many times over the years, but something in it always puts me off (I generally don't go in for Gnomic Utterance even when it's not trite). But I had money left on the credit slip and there's a nice new edition out, so what the heck. What sold me was line 98, which says nothing more than "A means of blowing out teeth with gunpowder."

I suspect I'll end up throwing it across the room at least once, all the same. Fuck aphorism, and (almost) all who sail with her!

Last book I read

It was either Giorgio Agamben's State of Exception or Gershom Scholem's Walter Benjamin: The Story of a Friendship.

Five books that mean a lot to me

This'll be utterly redundant, but just about anything by Marilynne Robinson, Barbara Comyns, Tove Jansson, Herman Melville, or Simone Weil.

There you have it.

Now, I have to pass this on to five other bloggers...let's see...

Joseph at PublicOrgTheory
Wayne at Niches
Eli at Multi Medium
Hedwig at Living the Scientific Life
Monkeygrinder at Peak Energy


Eli said...


Okay, okay, will see what I can do after softball...

Speechless said...

Fascinating to see what different sphere's we live in, and the places they intersect. Other than Melville, and Simone Weil, I've never read, or even happened upon any of those other books.

Myself I find it a comfort to know that while I'll probably never read anything by - say- David Sibley, someone I read reads him.

Wayne said...

Oh dear, I feel like Charlie Brown when, in response to Linus's descriptions of the fluffy clouds above him as St. Thomas Aquineas, and look! there's Beethoven writing a great symphony, said: I see a duckie and horsie. I shall do my best to make my literary downfall entertaining, at least!

roger said...

thank gutenberg that smearing printer's ink on the door jamb made the angel of the book thing bypass my house.

i will try to remember salt dreams as i have been fascinated by the salton sea since i saw it as a youngster.

Phila said...


Looking forward!


"Salt Dreams" was way overpriced where I got it (ten goddamn bucks over list price, in fact). I didn't care so much, since I used credit. But to my chagrin, Amazon has it for about twelve bucks. My loss is your gain!

Nice pictures, too.

Speechless said...

I don't know anything about Salt dreams, but if I could have any books I wanted, I'd probably get the full set of those Andy Goldsworthy books. But then really, it's a better thing to take a walk outside and do your own Andy Goldsworthy type scultpures.

Phila said...


I have mixed emotions about Goldsworthy. I watched his movie and was impressed with a couple of his things - I loved the icicle threaded through the rock, and the odd urn that was submerged by the ocean, and the leaf arrangements on water - but the things he said raised my hackles a all seemed very self-conscious, contrived, market-oriented, and maybe a bit faux-spiritual. Maybe I was in a particularly dour mood that night, but to me he was like a guy who writes verse on Hallmark cards trying to pass himself off as Gerard Manley Hopkins.

I agree with you. It's better to do one's own ephermeral scupltures. I used to build odd things on the beach out of driftwood, just to startle people when they come over a dune (lots of people do that around here, actually). And perhaps that's what irks me about Goldsworthy...the idea that he's somehow "branded" this perfectly natural impulse.

Just my opinion, though. And I should add that one of my best friends diasgrees with me very strongly, and that I have a tendency towards crankiness...

monkeygrinder said...

wayne, at the very least, there is something very personal about revealing books which mean alot to ourselves -- there is some fear simply in that.

Speechless said...'re prob right about Goldsworthy. I was amazed to discover what used to be two big books of his has become about six, and then th emovie which I never did see.

It seems the capitalist instinct "SELL! SELL! SELL!" can have the midas touch when it touches any sweet unstudied effort.

I guess that's what makes blogging still so appealing, it's mostly all just done as a gift to the world, and the world unwraps your efforts and sometimes says, "ooh, thank you!"

GrrlScientist said...

Ah, shall I read my "subway book" while commuting, or shall I write (using paper and pen) about the books I've read and love, instead? Some days, I wish I had a longer commute!


Phila said...

I know what you mean about the commute. When I commuted for 2.5 hours a day, I read about fifteen books a month. Now that commuting is a matter of stumbling from bed to the couch, I'm lucky if I read one or two a month...