Saturday, June 20, 2009

10 Books A Day: #58

The Portable Charles Lamb: Letters and Essays...Charles Lamb, ed. John Mason Brown...Viking Portable Library

Oliver Twist...Charles Dickens...Penguin

The Old Curiosity Shop...Charles Dickens...Penguin

The Pickwick Papers...Charles Dickens...Oxford World's Classics

A Collection of Essays...George Orwell...Doubleday Anchor Book

Rural Rides...William Cobbett...Penguin

I, Claudius...Robert Graves...Vintage

Claudius the God...Robert Graves...Vintage

Camelot and The Idylls of the King...Alan Jay Lerner, Alfred Lord Tennyson...Dell

The Basic Kafka...Franz Kafka...Pocket Books

The Waste Land and Other Poems...T. S. Eliot...Harvest Books

Four Quartets...T. S. Eliot...Harvest Books

Seven Pillars of Wisdom...T. E. Lawrence...Dell

"There was a time when reformers thought that if education were available to the masses, the masses would love it, and every humble cottage would be bursting at the seams with cheap reprints of the world's classics. In this supposition, as in many another, the reformers were somewhat optimistic. A real dictatorship of the proletariat--if such a thing existed--would quickly result in a bookless world." --Robertson Davies.

That is what these volumes--many dating from the '60's and '70's-- remind me of. A brief period when texts were escaping from hard-to-find and expensive editions and were more available in "cheap reprints," so that beatniks, poseur intelligentsia, and even humble seekers after wisdom could find them more readily at hand. Some of these editions are so sturdily made (particularly the Penguins) that they are still fine reading editions: I just whiled away time in my doctor's waiting room browsing through The Portable Charles Lamb (which is a Viking). I fear we are getting ever closer to Davies' "bookless world" and though I appreciate the availability of much on the internet, I don't particularly trust the slippery shiftiness of the media.

Book Count: 748.

1 comment:

AlanDP said...

I began reading "The Old Curiosity Shop" recently but it seems too soap opera-ish, and I'm not sure I can stick with it.