Tuesday, July 10, 2012


Portland was wonderful.  For the first time at a barbershop singing convention, I was able to spend some time seeing the city, and I’ve completely fallen in love with Portland.  I could definitely see myself living there someday.  The bicycle culture was fantastic, as was the public transportation.  It was so easy to get around via the downtown train, and most of my trips were free!  I got to try many fantastic restaurants, including my first experience of a sushi “go-around,” a place where you take whatever looks yummy off a conveyor belt, and pay according to the number and color of the plates you choose.  We ate there three times, it was that good!  I also had the opportunity to tour the art museum and the zoo, both of which were really fun, and of course, spend a lovely morning at Powell’s Books.

Ah, the bookstore!  For one thing, it was completely enormous.  I’d been warned, but I still wasn’t prepared for just how overwhelmingly large the place was.  I was such a tourist, wandering around with map in hand, carefully figuring out where I was and how to get to where I wanted to go.  The first stop was, of course, the music section.  While it had some decent books and scores, and large sections on popular music and opera, nothing would have been a useful addition to my academic library.  That’s not to say that I didn’t walk away from Powell’s with a bag of books and a delighted smile on my face!  As I mentioned earlier, this trip represented an exception to my book-buying ban.  I was able to buy up to five books; I ended up purchasing four.  Sadly, I ran out of time and didn’t make it to the young adult or children’s sections.  (If I had, perhaps I would’ve bought that extra book!)  The sections I did spend some time in were music, Christian religious history, Christian liturgy and worship, literature, science fiction and fantasy, as well as a quick detour to the café for a splendid Earl Grey tea.

Books I purchased at Powell’s:
The Stripping of the Altars, Eamon Duffy – According to the head of the Anglican House of Studies at Duke Divinity School (where my husband will be starting graduate school this fall, and I will be taking a few classes myself), the world is divided into two groups of people: those who have read The Stripping of the Altars and those who haven’t.  Nearly every great musicological text on English Renaissance sacred music that I’ve ever read has referenced this book.  I’ve been looking for it for about a year now, and was delighted to find the second edition, which is A) paperback and B) has a great new preface responding to some of the criticisms that have been leveled at it.  Duffy’s groundbreaking historical text discusses the experience of the masses, the layperson’s experience of late-medieval Catholicism in England, before going on to argue that the English Reformation “represented a violent rupture from a popular and theologically respectable religious system.”  I’m already 90 pages into it, from just my reading time in airports and on planes yesterday.  It is engaging and brilliant and totally reframing my understanding of religious practice and politics in 15th- and 16th-century England.

Jane Eyre, Charlotte Brontë – I’ve mentioned before that this novel single-handedly got me interested in classics and literary fiction after I read it over winter break this past year.  I loved the library’s Penguin Classics hardcover edition for its great introduction and endnotes, and was really happy to find a reasonably-priced paperback copy with the same notes.

Lady Chatterley’s Lover, D.H. Lawrence – Another of the classics read this year that has really stuck with me and which I wanted to add to my personal collection.  The copy I picked up is a Barnes and Noble hardcover.  Now, I HATED the Barnes and Noble edition of Peter Pan, and had half-resolved never to buy another of their editions again.  But, this one was so aesthetically pleasing (and cheap) that I couldn’t pass it up.  Unlike the other used copies I’ve looked at, this one has neither a terribly dated cover illustration nor one with a naked woman on the front – not that I have anything against nudity as art, but it could make me uncomfortable to read it on a bus or in another public setting.  This Barnes and Noble edition has a decent font size and margins, and none of the REALLY AWFUL footnotes found in the Peter Pan edition.  Lady Chatterley’s Lover, like Jane Eyre, was one of the books that inspired the formation of this blog, so I’m glad I finally found an edition I’m happy with.

Marriage, Susan Ferrier – One thing I love about Virago editions is how easy they are to spot on a bookstore shelf.  Another thing I love is how they encourage the consideration of novels by women alongside the more traditional classics by men.  I have yet to read a Virago novel that I didn’t like, so when I find a used one with a reasonable price and an interesting-sounding plot, I buy it.  For $3.50, I purchased this pre-Victorian social satire by a Scottish author, which from what I can tell examines the consequences that result when a young woman declines to marry the wealthy older man her father chose, and instead runs off with the penniless young man she loves.  Have any of you ever come across this one before?  Is it any good?

Books I’ve finished (posts coming soon):
Elizabeth and Her German Garden, Elizabeth von Arnim
Wicked, Gregory Maguire

Books I’m currently reading:
Wives and Daughters, Elizabeth Gaskell
The Rest is Noise, Alex Ross
The Stripping of the Altars, Eamon Duffy


  1. Ha! I've noticed the atrocious footnotes in B&N editions too. I avoid them whenever I can, although I agree with you that the font size and white space are often nice. Everyman's editions are my favorites when I can get them.

    I'm glad you enjoyed Portland. It's on my list of cities to visit someday--and sushi-go-round is on my list of food experiences to try too!

    1. I love my Everyman Gaskell edition - but the spine cracked and I'm concerned about its durability. I've only rarely seen other Everyman books in stores - is the press still around?

      You must try Portland - it's as wonderful as Seattle! Plus, both are Pacific Northwest, so they have great regional foods like marionberries and halibut.

    2. We drove through Portland a few years ago...if I'd known about Powell's Books then, you can be sure we would have stopped! :-)

      I would love it if you'd write a whole post about good editions/bad editions! I'm scared to spend money on a classic, only to hear it was a poor edition.

    3. That's a great idea - I've just put some thoughts together on editions. It was nice to think this through. I'm by no means an expert, but maybe my experience at used bookstores in the last few months can be helpful to you!

    4. Everyman's is still around. It's now an imprint of Random House. I don't often see them in bookstores either, but one of my local indies carries them. I think they don't often turn up in used bookstores because people tend to buy them as keepers. I haven't had problems with durability, but I don't think I've yet read any of mine more than once.

  2. nice posting.. thanks for sharing.