Saturday, September 24, 2011

Regent book sale haul

I went to the famous 24 Hour Regent Book Sale this year with the intention of not buying anything. What a joke. The books pictured above are not even all the books I purchased, but perhaps those I am most proud of (no one needs to know about my trashy penchant for collecting copious travel guides*).

* In fact, those thin, pastel-coloured books in the pile above, but not featured in this post, are all 1967 National Geographic Country Guides and I will be doing an entire post on them next. Because really, everyone needs to know about them.

Philip Roth is one of my all-time favourite authors, so I was very excited to find this hardcover for only $3. This was in the expensive part of the book sale, because, at the Regent, $3 is a pretty astronomical price for a book.

The first sentence is: "I hadn't been in New York in eleven years."

Some people consider Philip Roth a misogynist. Some people are wrong idiots who don't understand complexity. Well, too bad for them. Lucky for me, I'm the kind of raving feminist who likes a bit of Roth with my de Beauvoir (certain feminists would call me a 'Roth apologist'; there's a term, truly). Here's what the Guardian has to say about The Mandarins: "The characters, especially the women, are uninhibited and sometimes predatory. The dialogues are salty, frank and realistic. The characters' amorous adventures are set down with microscopic exactitude."

1. I want to have 'salty' conversations. 2. I love lurid sex scenes in books, for example right now I am reading "Fear of Flying" by Erica Jong - a famous feminist book where the (lady) protagonist goes in search of the mythical 'zipless fuck.' 3. I love writers who are brave enough to write predatory women, for example the geniuses behind Battlestar Galactica. Swoon.

Speaking of predatory women, just look at that portrait of Ethel Mannin, taken in approx 1930. It's pretty much the whole reason I bought her autobiography, and was also my first acquaintance with Ethel. Actually, it wasn't the whole reason, because also this:

"I did not want to born, and like that unhappy heroine Susan Lennox, even when born had to be galvanised into some sign of life. My mother wanted me called "Stella," which I should have much preferred to their final choice, but my father objected to it because of Stella Maris - who was an incubator baby, I understand - and he found the association of ideas unpleasant."

Also, if you want some early 20th century gossip, read her wikipedia entry for goodness sake. It made my jaw drop.

"Death in Midsummer: and other stories" by Yukio Mishima already seemed fairly irresistible, largely due to it's cover (contrary to popular knowledge, you often can judge books by them).

Then I read the back: "Violence, homosexuality and the spiritual emptiness of post-war Japan: these were Mishima's key themes." It also says he has wry and ironic humour. And finally "Here is Mishima. Here is Japan."

Hey book, consider my expectations: raised ! ... (it'll be fine, it's a Penguin).

I love travel. I love reading. I hate most travel writing. Most of it is so, so shit. It's like reading about your aunty taking her bored (and boring) husband to southern France to buy a vineyard, at which point they will spend months complaining about how the French don't know how to make tea and talking about how 'rustic' everything is. Ok, it isn't like that. It is literally just that.

But then, like in any genre, there are some gems. I am cautiously optimistic about "The Fruit Palace" - it's recommended by respectable institutions, it's set in Colombia (so I'll probably love it even just for nostalgia's sake) and it grew from the author being given an assignment to write an 'exposé' of the cocaine trade, at which point he got way too involved in the lives of the urban poor of Colombia and the project instead turned into this massive book. Cool. Promising, anyway.

Oh Nancy, Nancy Nancy Nancy. I'm always in the mood for Nancy Mitford, even if I am slightly dubious about taking on this novel - the first of her non-fiction books I am attempting to read. I just love her fiction so much anything would seem a step down, especially a biography about some famous royal of the day ?!

In any case, here is a glorious quote from her fiction as a fittingly non sequitur end to this post:

“The worst of being a Communist is the parties you may go to are - well - awfully funny and touching but not very gay...I don't see the point of sad parties, do you? And Left-wing people are always sad because they mind dreadfully about their causes, and the causes are always going so badly.”
- The Pursuit of Love (I think).



Rhylie Dominique said...

I haven't seen this before. My life just improved.

Claire said...

Lei the setting is amazing that you took the photos in!

Joey said...

Nice haul! All I could find was 3 copies of The Insider's Guide to Jackie Chan

Unknown said...
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Unknown said...

Thank you for this! I am more determined than ever to be at next years sale. But now I feel like I had a real taste of the atmosphere and the thrill of the find! xx