Tuesday, October 8, 2013

October is for Wilkie Collins

I love this time of year.  The temperature drops, so I get to pull out leggings, boots, and cardigans, and get excited all over again about my winter wardrobe.  The leaves start changing and falling (though not nearly so spectacularly as in New Hampshire, where I grew up).  Starting this summer, I became a bike commuter, and my daily rides to and from school are crisp and clear, full of exciting smells, and no longer so humid!  On rainy days like yesterday, I can enjoy staying inside with a pot of tea.  I adore fall.  Fall is full of potential: the semester is under way and Advent is approaching.

Like any kid, I used to dress up and trick or treat in my neighborhood for Halloween.  One year I went as C3PO, a fact which greatly amused my science-fiction-loving husband.  After I bought a set of Renaissance garb from the Ren Faire, I wore that dress every Halloween (it fed my geekiness and, as an added bonus, was nice and warm).  Now that I'm an adult, my Halloween traditions have changed.  Halloween has transformed into All-Hallow's Eve, one of Duke Chapel's best services of the year.  The church is completely dark, and as the congregation processes in with candles, my Vespers choir sings the Requiem chant from the rafters.  Haunting and transformative!  I can't wait for this year's service (even though it doesn't get out until around midnight, an hour past my usual bedtime).

Halloween has also come to be associated with one of my few seasonal bookish traditions.  Just as winter break means a Bronte novel, October means Wilkie Collins!  Last year, I read The Woman in White, bundled up in my covers and flying eagerly through the novel to figure out all of the secrets.  Luckily, I also have a copy of The Moonstone.  Rather delightfully, both are old orange Penguins, which feels just perfect for the season.  I'm trying to be more productive at school so that I can guiltlessly take some reading time for myself in the evenings, and I'm really looking forward to starting Collins's other famous mystery.

What does fall conjure for you?  What are you reading lately, and does it fit in with the changing season?

Sunday, October 6, 2013

Winnie the Pooh in Latin, a stack of Viragos, and other great finds!

In case anyone has any doubt at all, the place to be in Durham on these particularly fine weekends in October or April is the Durham public library book sale.  Not only do you support the fabulous local library, which offers a number of excellent public services including book readings for very small children, but you get to spend an hour happily browsing the covered outdoor shelves.  There is always, always a beautiful breeze, and I've never walked away without finding something wonderful.  For some reason, for two years now I've found multiple Viragos in the fall, and none in the spring.  Curious.

Today, I convinced my friend to go with me, so with her son (my godson) cheerfully reaching for books, we browsed the children's picture books and found a few really interesting and fun books that he can grow into.  Sadly, someone had bought the entire collection - four boxes' worth! - of board books on the first day of the sale.  Don't you get irritated when people are clearly going for profit instead of purchasing books they're eager to read?  Despite this disappointment, we still found some really great books for him.   Our favorite was a wonderfully colorful and quirky explanation of how snowflakes are made!

For my own part, I happily snatched up any green or black Viragos I could find, then carefully sorted through them.  My husband is relieved that I don't automatically buy any Viragos I find, but only the ones I'm really interested in reading.  So I bought half of the ones offered and set the rest back in an green-and-black eye-catching group so that some other reader might discover this wonderful publishing house.  I also found some Penguins, including an excellent old orange copy of Elizabeth Gaskell's North and South.  The nice thing about going on the last day of the sale is that you buy books by the bag.  That always frees me to try a book I might not normally try - for example, I've never heard of Ellen Glasgow's Virginia before, but with such great explanatory buzzwords on the back cover as "coming-of-age novel," "sexual and racial politics," and "criticism of the Church, patriarchal society, and even feminism itself," I stuck it in my bag and am willing to give it a shot.

Rebecca West, Elizabeth von Arnim, George Eliot, Ellen Glasgow,
Margaret Kennedy, Henry Handel Richardson, Mrs Humphrey Ward, Willa Cather,
Winnie the Pooh in Latin!, Gustave Flaubert, and Elizabeth Gaskell
On the not-literature side, I'm most excited by finding this copy of Winnie the Pooh in Latin!  I spent all summer learning Latin and now I meet with my advisor once a week to practice translating.  Latin already is, and will remain hugely important to my research, since I'm a sacred music scholar.  It'll be fun to practice with such a delightful text - which is even illustrated!  And how awesome is that cover - Pooh bear as a gladiator!  Not pictured are Strunk's Source Readings (every musicologist should own a copy) and the famous The Madwoman in the Attic, which apparently kicked off feminist scholarship in Victorian literature.  It won't exactly be light reading, but should help deepen my enjoyment and understanding of these books I love.

Finally, I couldn't pass up old hardcover copies of I Capture the Castle and Parnassus on Wheels.  Yes, I already own them, but since I was already buying a bag of books anyway and had room, I figured that I could give them away.  And I was right!  The friend who came to the sale with me is interested, and I'm utterly delighted to share the joys of some of my favorite books of the past few years.

After spending the rest of the weekend at a theology conference, my brain was pretty thoroughly spent, and I can't think of a nicer way to have spent this lovely warm afternoon.  How have you spent your weekend?  Read anything great lately?