Wednesday, July 05, 2006

Alice's Restaurant


A description I often apply - without the whine - to the small town where I now live.
It's as good a way as any to describe the trash and treasures produced during yard sale season: everything from a Swedish bayonet marked with crown to a chintz cheezekeep to a first edition of Conrads' Youth.
My most avaricious efforts, naturally, have been directed towards books.
"Books!" I would shriek in effulgent tones and scrabble forward with all the tongue-hanging fervor of a dog at a groundhog hole.
Have been accused of the most crude social solecisms while diving through sets of knees to get at the boxes of books under the sale tables.
Got so I recognized neighbors by their feet.
Have been known to lump-and-bargain with crass and devious impunity to acquire the contents of those boxes.
I love books - did I mention that?
And old books fascinate me.
One type that entertains and tickles me pink is the collections of quotations, anas, mots, aphorisms and kindly advice produced in bulk during the latter part of the nineteenth century.
Maybe it's the grave, improving, instructional, paternalistic melody; maybe it's the quaintness of the frontis description and the expressed and earnest desire to uplift their fellow man; or maybe it is just plus ca change...
In any event, flipping through one of these minatures - title page above - found a section on "authors." Here are some " to engage the human mind."

Choose an author as you would choose a friend. - Earl of Roscommon.

The motives and purposes of authors are not always so pure and high, as, in the enthusiasm of youth, we sometimes imagine. - Longfellow.

Twenty to one offend more in writing too much than too little. - Roger Ascham.

He who proposes to be an author should first be a student. - Dryden.

No fathers or mothers think their own children ugly; and this self-deceit is yet stronger with respect to the offspring of the mind. - Cervantes.

There are three difgficulties in authorship - to write anything worth the publishing, to find honest men to publish it, and to get sensible men to read it. - Colton.

Never write on a subject without having first read yourself full on it; and never read on a subject till you have thought yourself hungry on it. - Richter.

The two most engaging powers of an author are to make new things familiar, and familiar things new. - Thackeray.

To write well is to think well, to feel well, and to render well; it is to possess at once intellect, soul and taste. - Buffon.

Young authors give their brains much exercise and little food. - Joubert.

Plus ca change, indeed.

31 comments:

Carla said...

Who was Colton? (Forgive my ignorance). He sounds as if he'd been around.

I like Dorothy Parker's waspish view: "Authors and actors and artists and such/ Never know nothing and never know much"

Scott said...

I love digging through old books at a yard sale. Sometimes I find titles that I meant to buy at Barnes and Noble, but barely avoided thanks to my training and Bookaholics Anonymous sponsor.

Flood said...

Originally published c. 1880 "Don't: A Manual of Mistakes & Improprieties more or less prevalent in Conduct and Speech" includes such wisdom as Don't speak ungrammatically. Study books of grammar, and the writings of the best authors.

Like you said, the more things change...

(Carla I think I love everything Dorothy Parker ever said.)

Bernita said...

Have no idea, Carla.
Not familiar to me either.
Obviously someone considered a "standard author of recognized ability" before 1896.

Pre-internet, Scott, it was often a good place to find the other books of a discovered author, plus there's the "treasure hunt" angle.

Bernita said...

"Improprieties..."
Such a nice word, Flood.

Ric said...

scrabble forward with all the tongue-hanging fervor of a dog at a groundhog hole.
Have been accused of the most crude social solecisms while diving through sets of knees to get at the boxes of books under the sale tables.
Got so I recognized neighbors by their feet.

What an amazing picture this presents!! I've seen folks like this - hell, I'm one of them and you described it so perfectly.
Wonderful stuff, Bernita. The topic is good, too.

Bernita said...

Thank you, Ric!
I was the one with the silly hat with the sunflowers on it.
Ashamed to say I almost bit someone once.

Jaye Wells said...

The treasure hunt aspect is right on, Bernita. I am bad about buying random reference books because I think I might need them one day. It makes me happy to have them around though.

Bernita said...

Of exactly the same mind, Jaye.

Who knows when I might need my "History of Torture,"
"History of Orgies," my "Vest Pocket Japanese,"
"Famous Curses," "Myths and Symbols of Indian Art and Civilization," or "50 Greatest Conspiracies of All Time"?
I salivate at the potential in reference books.

Carla said...

Flood, I think I agree with you :-)

S. W. Vaughn said...

Bernita, why are you rocking back and forth like that? :-)

Lend me your copy of Vest Pocket Japanese sometime?

I've been banned from garage sales. Apparently, three towering bookshelves overstuffed with tomes is too many. I mean, really, there are only six shelves on each of them, and they are merely filled three rows deep...

My favorite odd reference book I own is the American Psychiatric Association's Quick Reference to the Diagnostic Criteria from DSM-IV. It's kind of scary how often I use it.

Bernita said...

I have a full out, Sonya, using the Red Queen defense.

Match you with the Encyclopedia of Forensice Science.

kmfrontain said...

"Got so I recognized neighbors by their feet."

Still sniggering.

You're all so lucky. Its a rare thing for me to find even one English book in a yard sale in my part of Canada. Last yard sale book I bought: Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance.

Bernita said...

Quel horreur, KM!

Think I had that, think one of the kids made off with it.

Dennie McDonald said...

I love old books. I have a late 1800's copy of Pilgrims Progess that belonged to my great-uncle.

There was a place in downtown Dallas that had all sorts of old books (no not the library) and I was just walk through it and wish I had enough money in my pocket to but the lot - there is something about the smell and feel of old books - heck even new books make me giddy - I have over 1000 books - I have catelogued them - ya I'm weird, but several times I bought the same book twice 'cause I didn't realize I had it

Bernita said...

I know that bookstore feeling, Dennie - pure lust.

M.E Ellis said...

The two most engaging powers of an author are to make new things familiar, and familiar things new. - Thackeray.


I'll agree with that one!

:o)

jason evans said...

I LOVE that quote from Thackeray. Thanks for that, Bernita! :)

jason evans said...
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Bernita said...

That one rather entranced me as well.
Glad you two liked it.

December Quinn said...

Oh, don't even get me started on old books. Old reference books, old how-toe, old etiquette and beauty guides, old cookbooks...my shelves overflow with them.

I also adore 60's gothics. The ones that always have a woman on the cover in a flowy blue dress, running away from an imposing house on a hill, with her hair streaming behind her.

Savannah Jordan said...

I think I like Richter's best. :)

And, I love old books; the one's that smell like someone's Grandma's attic, the pages yellow with age, the edges soft from turning. Those are true treasures!

Bonnie Calhoun said...

"Match you with the Encyclopedia of Forensice Science."

Hah, gotcha! I got Forensics for Dummies, Howdunit (How crimes are commited and solved), and The Criminal Mind...Bwahh hah hah!

I'm surprise that nobody picked up on the title of the post..

"You can get anything you want, at Alice's Restaurant..ceptin' Alice!"

Bernita said...

Emily Post, December!
The American Woman's Cookbook. Food in England.
All those comprise a kind of social history.

You might like my collection of E. Phillips Oppenheim and Haggard, Savannah.

Neat forensics, Bonnie.
And there's The Illustrated Encyclopedia of Active New Religions, Sects, and Cults.

Bhaswati said...

The two most engaging powers of an author are to make new things familiar, and familiar things new. - Thackeray.

How very well said.

Yellowed, frayed books and book bazaars smelling of antiquity--which bibliophile doesn't love these? Thanks for another lovely post, Bernita.

Bernita said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Bernita said...

Thank you, Bhaswati.
And thank you again for your lovely post on "paths."

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