Saturday, March 05, 2011

Inked-paper reading devices

Some of my inked-paper reading devices are on the move again. At an earlier time, these would have been called books --- but one wants to be trendy and since I don’t own a wireless reading device (aka Kindle, etc.) finding a new name for what I do have is all I can do.

The immediate problem involves three tall cases upstairs. A couple of hundred inked-paper reading devices took up residence on the lowest shelves there, concealed by doors that do not open well because the weight of oversized, oh heck!, books shelved immediately above them causes sags and blockage.

So I’ve now removed the oversized books, opened the doors, taken out the blocked books, replaced them with stuff I don’t care if I never see again, closed the doors and replaced the big books. Many of the more conventionally sized books now are in a heap on the floor while I consider their next move.

That decision might already have been made if I hadn’t started reading --- the greatest inconvenience involved in owning books.

“Writers’ Houses” by Francesca Premoli-Droulers with Erica Lennard’s photographs (Vendome Press: 1995 --- French version, 1994) has me hooked now and I suppose I’ll fritter away the weekend with it.

This is my kind of book --- lots of pictures to break up all that crabbed type. Because it’s written in segments not intended to flow logically from one to the other I can indulge in the guilty pleasure of starting at the end and reading forward.

Premoli-Droulers and Lennard actually traveled to the 21 houses involved, scattered across Europe and the Americas, visiting in some instances with descendants or companions of the writers who once occupied them (with the exception of Marguerite Duras, who wrote the prologue about her house at Neauphle-le-Chateau, all the writers are dead).

The subjects range from Karen Blixen (Isak Dinesen) in Denmark to Marguerite Yourcenar on Mt. Desert Island with stops at the homes of among others Jean Cocteau, Lawrence Durrell, William Faulkner, Hemingway, W.B. Yeats and others between. Vita Sackville-West’s Sissinghurst is here as is Virginia Woolf’s Monk’s House.

The photographs are lovely; the essays, engaging, informative and often moving.

Another good thing about “Writers’ Houses” is that it’s large enough to serve as a lap tray if you decide to have lunch in your chair while perusing other writing on your wireless reading device, if you’ve got one. Mind the dust jacket, though.

Quite frankly I’m not sure where you’d find a copy of the book if you’ve not already got one. It’s out of print and the three “new” copies offered by Amazon are priced in excess of $250. Used copies seem to be going for in excess of $60, which seems a little steep. So keep your eyes open at used book shops and the next Planned Parenthood book sale.

1 comment:

Ed said...

Do you mind if I borrow that phrase, 'inked paper reading device'? That is a classic.