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May. 11th, 2017

It is a morning like wearing an upturned iron pot that drips condensation directly into your mind. The Beautiful Shed refuses to be warmed or comforted. There's nothing for it but to make a book-buying post with minor material culture notes.

The local newspaper's book sale happened last weekend. You will be delighted to know that the sale is usually held in the curling rink. Cheap rent, big space, authentic cultural aura.

The sale is one of the iconic events on the city calendar, with the Moss Street Paint-In (local artists line the titular way with booths and demonstrations) and the Symphony Splash (the symphony plays on a barge in the harbour, culminating in the 1812 Overture with real cannon fire from the nearby naval base).

I have to be careful, faced with the rows and rows of heaped books, with more stacked in boxes beneath the tables, or I get trapped in discovery anxiety -- you know: must look at everything so as to miss nothing. Instead, I try to surrender to serendipity. I try.

There are themes in every sale, and one can't help but speculate -- who moved? Cleaned house? Split up? Got together? Who died (peacefully, after a brief illness)? Who grew suddenly tired of old preferences and began anew? -- all to create this momentary pattern. This year there seemed to be a lot of A.S. Byatt, which is admittedly not a very dramatic finding.

I spent more money (and concomitant time) than I intended, for they had two levels of paperback pricing: pocketbook and large-format. However, the prices are still fantastically cheap, so I escaped at the cost of a pricey brunch. My only quibble was finding out afterwards that I'd paid $2.00 for a Dover Thrift Edition of Bartleby that cost only $1.50 new. (It's all in a good cause.)

The 2017 Haul

  • Annharte. Being on the Moon. (1990) Annharte, an Anishinabe poet, is one of the poets in the anthology I used in teaching Indigenous Literatures and Oratures. I don't know her work well, so this presented an opportunity to deepen my knowledge. Signed by the author!

  • Byatt, A.S. The Game and The Shadow of the Sun. (1967, 1983) (1964, 1991) -- honor the pattern. Also, they were about British academics. (Goodreads is not so sure about my choices.) Sun is one of those nice solid Vintage editions that came out I think with/because of Possession. Game is orange-spine-era Penguin.

  • Clarke, Lindsay. The Chymical Wedding. (1989) I had no prior knowledge of this book's existence, but John Fowles claims to have liked it, and Michael Wood said "the very craziness or the Hermetic Quest is turned into a sane metaphor, representing a glimpse of how symbolic the world actually is, how much it is made in our image, littered with fragments of our dreams," and I thought "Yeah, all right." (Goodreads is fairly positive.)

  • Eliot, T.S. The Sacred Wood. (1960). As booksales are for the cheap acquisition of classics, and as it is fun to read old criticism. A dramatic University Paperback with vermilion woodcut trees on age-stained ecru air.

  • Erdrich, Louise. Love Medicine. (1984, 2001). To remedy my lack of having read Erdrich. When opened at random, full of beauty.

  • Lathers, Marie. The Aesthetics of Artifice: Villiers's L'eve future. I'm actually not that interested in artifice-for-its-own-sake -- more in self-creation and inhabitation -- but I picked this up and read from the Foreword (by John Anzalone, a person of whom I know nothing): "Defiantly unconventional, despite his deep-seated traditionalism, Auguste de Villiers de l'Isle-Adam produced a body of writing so uncomfortable for canonically determined hierarchies that for a time it seemed in danger of disappearing altogether." This is a convergence of an author, a forewordist, and a subject I have no knowledge of whatever, but sometimes these convergences produce beautiful inkblooms in the mind, where mystery must be filled in by supposition.

  • Le Sueur, Meridel. The Girl. (1982) Seems to have been damaged in a fire: a river of smoke runs up the gutter of the dedication page. (Goodreads cautiously approves.)

  • McEwan, Ian. The Cement Garden. (1978, 1980) I'm not a particular fan of McEwan, and I don't know his oeuvre that well -- I found Sweet Tooth a little disappointing -- but I liked the film of this book a lot when I saw it in my hazily distant past. A nice old weird-looking Picador edition.

  • Melville, Herman. Bartleby and Benito Cereno. I really just wanted to have actually read "Bartleby," rather than nodding and chuckling knowingly whenever someone says "I would prefer not to."

  • Meredith, Richard C. We All Died at Breakaway Station. (1969). One of two purchases from the SF table. Here's a sample from the back cover copy: "these brutally injured officers had been restored to temporary, artificial life ... because no intact man or woman could be spared from the main conflict" (to take a hospital ship back to Earth). Um, yes please.

  • Merril, Judith (ed). Judith Merril's England Swings SF. (1968) -- for this, I broke my rule about no dilapidated/stained/smelly books. It was dusty, and someone had spilled an alarming substance on its first few pages at some point in the 1970s, but it is an intoxicatingly self-delighted artifact of New Wave SF. (Only 12 ratings and one review on Goodreads! A true Find.)

  • Tonks, Rosemary. Bedouin of the London Evening. (2014) Bloodaxe Books. Poems and an interview with Tonks in the back. I believe I first read of Tonks' poetry and this collection only a few months ago in the TLS, so this was fortuity manifest and was obeyed. (Her name always makes me think benignly of the Harry Potter character.)

  • White, T.H. The Book of Merlyn: The Unpublished Conclusion to The Once and Future King. (1988) There were actually two copies of this -- one in a random fiction pile, and one with SFF. This scholarly edition (U of Texas P) is an unbeautiful but intriguing artifact in a bright vermilion cover. (Vermilion again!) Prologue by Sylvia Townsend Warner (!!)

  • Yeats, W.B. The Poems of W.B. Yeats. (1966) A nice little hardcover, just a hand high, green, smelling of horse-glue. Probably the best artifact here for material culture. The owner's signature on the flyleaf in black ink has imprinted its mirror image in yellow on the inside front cover: M (E? G?) Y (F? J?) Williamson, in an upright but emphatic hand. A Macmillan (Canadian) edition. I wanted a proper Yeats -- my last one is a Dover all marked up from class.

There are more important things to be said, but they cannot be copied from the copyright page of an aged book, so they will have to wait.

Our provincial election took place on Tuesday. Well, I say it took place, but the absentee and special votes won't actually be counted for two weeks. There are something like 175,000 of these votes (of about 3.2 million), and some of the races came down to tiny margins -- in one riding on this fine Island, the candidate won by 9 votes (or did she?).

So the election is still in fact taking place, and it's impossible to know the outcome, which is a strange state of affairs.

There are three parties of note in this election: the Liberals, who used to be considered centrist, but are now on the right; the NDP, who are left; and the Greens.

The Liberals came to power sixteen years ago, and that was a moment of revelation for my young radical self. "The parties are all basically the same capitalist powermongers," my rhetoric went, "and it doesn't really matter which one is in power." The advent of the Liberals was the way I found out what you already know, that it matters a hell of a lot, materially, on the ground, in real people's lives, who is in power.

If it isn't obvious, I vote as far left as I feel I can do and still have some chance of bringing a left party to power.

On Tuesday night, at my suggestion, LB, S, and I convened to watch the numbers. (Superstition might have told us not to, given the results of the American election and the number of leftover tacos.)

At first, it looked grimly like a clear Liberal win. Yet as the counts increased, weird things began to happen. Ridings flipped and then flipped again. The Greens began to take more seats. The NDP pulled ahead in ridings they had to win in order to shift power.

LB was on the phone to her mom for part of the time, teasing her about the Green win in that riding.

Conventional wisdom has it that the Greens split left votes away from the NDP. However, S. took a different position throughout. Like C.J. when she said Bartlet's approval rating would go up, he held the position that vote loss from the Liberals to the Greens would reduce the Liberal lead. That seems to have been at least partly true.

Right up until the "end" (really a cliffhanger before a hiatus), ridings kept flipping, and for two brief beautiful moments the screens showed an NDP lead.

"So this is a tie. This election is a tie." I said at one point. This ended up being not quite true.

There are 87 seats in the legislature, and right now the count looks like this:

Liberals 43
NDP      41
Greens    3

-- a hung parliament, technically, though it's being called a Liberal minority government.

And now we wait.


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