A local used bookstore recently closed after 25 years. They had a fantastic going-out-of-business sale. While part of me feels “guilty” for taking advantage of their sad circumstances, the rest (and logical) part of me knows that they needed to sell as many books as possible. Through these books, a bit of their entrepreneurial and intellectual spirit will live on. With that idea in mind, I’m doing a limited-run series where I’ll spotlight each of the volumes I “adopted” from this sweet little shop. Shine on, you bookish gems!
Today’s selection? A Literary Chronicle: 1920-1950 by Edmund Wilson.
A Literary Chronicle: 1920-1950 by Edmund Wilson
TITLE: THE LITERARY CHRONICLE: 1920-1950
AUTHOR: EDMUND WILSON
YEAR PUBLISHED: 1956
DOUBLEDAY ANCHOR BOOKS
COVER AND TYPOGRAPHY: EDWARD GOREY
SHOUT-OUT TO “CHARLES D. KLAPP,” WHO OWNED THIS COPY IN 1957. THANKS FOR WRITING YOUR NAME IN THE BOOK!
WHY I BOUGHT IT:
I like Edmund Wilson, sue me. I don’t always agree with his pronouncements (far from it), but I appreciate his style. The elegant cover (by my beloved Edward Gorey!) makes this book a beautiful visual addition to my collection.
Thanks for reading! I hope you like the new series. Let me know your thoughts in the comments.
About: Dillard’s impressionistic memoirs of growing up in Pittsburgh between the years 1950-1962.
Motivation: This is one of the definitive books of my girlhood. I nicked it from my Mom’s shelf in late autumn or early winter of 1987; I never gave it back. Why I honed in on this particular volume on that long-ago day is somewhat foggy, although I’ll venture to say that it was due to a combination of the title and boredom. I was in the midst of my own, although very different, American Childhood. What remains in my mind, as brilliant and clear as ice, is curling up on the floor next to my bed and reading it straight through in a couple of hours. Already a budding writer, with scores of stories, poems and plays to my name, I desperately wanted to be able to write like that: simply, divinely, forcefully. It’s twenty-five years later and my writing voice, developed long ago yet still tightening, transitioning, is nothing like Dillard’s; it contains no trace of my pubescent infatuation with her wordplay. What remains is a sense of gratefulness to one of my many literary heroines, one that I needed at an age when so many dreams scatter and fade away. Her book is a fine thread in the narrative of my formative years.
Times Read: 3 or 4 (all back in 1987/1988)
Random Excerpt/Page 51: “By the time I knew him, our grandfather was a vice-president of Pittsburgh’s Fidelity Trust Bank. He looked very like a cartoonist’s version of “vested interests.” In fact, he almost always wore a vest, and a gold watch on a chain; he was short and heavy; he had a small white mustache; he smoked cigars. At home, his thin legs crossed under his belly, he read the financial section of the paper, tolerant of children who might have been driven, in the long course of waiting for dinner, to beating their fingertips on his scalp.”
Happiness Scale: In importance and satisfaction to my young self, is incalculable.