07. April 2008 · Comments Off on The Joy of Lex · Categories: Ain't That America?, Domestic, General, History, Memoir

Odds on, the first thing that anyone walking into any of the various places that I have lived- starting with the enlisted barracks in Japan in those dear distant days when female troops lived in a female-only dormitory was something along the lines of “Gosh – have you read all of those books?” To which the answer was some kind of polite rephrase of “Of course I bloody have! Did you think I had put them up as decorating elements?!!”

Yes, I have books. Lots of books; books in the bedroom, books in the den, books in the hallway, books in the living room and even a shelf of them in the kitchen – what better place for the cookbooks, pray tell? There aren’t any in the bathroom; first of all, the light isn’t that good and secondly there isn’t any place for shelves.

I used to buy books that I liked, just so that I could have copies of my own, which I could read any time I felt like it. Then I wound up overseas, where English-language bookstores were few and far between, and the Stars and Stripes Bookstore was pretty limited; if you saw it there and thought you might want to read it – better buy it quick, because it wouldn’t be there next time, and even though the base library did their best – well, there were other seriously committed readers out there. (When I moved from Spain, the packing crew had a pool going, on how many boxes of books there would eventually be; 63 and no, I don’t know what the winner got. Probably had many cervezas bought for him, after they finished nailing up the packing crates.) And then I came home, and discovered second-hand stores and services like Alibris, and the online behemoth which must not be named because they are behaving like total d**ks in regard to POD publishers… oh, off-topic. Never mind. Books, the topic was books, the love for (or addiction to!) and constant acquisition of such.

Now, I review books, for Blogger News Network, and for iUniverse Reviews, with the result that I get a constant trickle of books from other writers asking for reviews through the Daily Brief or the IAG. But writing books myself is another splendid excuse for buying more; for the research, you see. The shelves of my writing desk (built by Dad for Blondie’s use, but too big for her room) are now crowded with Texiana and various books on aspects of the Old West. I had a fair number of them already – it’s as if I knew there would be an eventual use for that Time Life series about the Old West. It’s not so much the text in that case, but the pictures.

Blondie and I went to the library book sale on Saturday, at the Semmes branch on Judson road. There’s always a crowd for this, the room where the sale is set up almost instantly achieves a ‘black hole of Calcutta’ degree of heat and overcrowding. Fortunately, most of the people lined up for admittance –many of them armed with large plastic tubs and canvas shopping bags – are intent on the novels or the children’s books. I am on the lookout for more Texiana and western stuff – especially with illustrations, especially with contemporary – that is contemporary 19th century artists. I need pictures of all sorts of things; horses and wagons, of old forts and plains river valleys covered with buffalo herds, of buildings and animals and people, something for my imagination to fix upon, so that I can build all the other living elements around it.

I scooped up a couple of prizes almost at once – Don Troiani’s American Battles and a thick coffee-table treasure-trove called “The Art of the Old West: From the Collection of the Gilcrease Institute” which has color plates of practically everything, and a collection of Frederic Remington’s black and white magazine illustrations – all for considerably under 20$.

There’s enough pictorial stuff in those books alone to start me off with ideas for another book of my own. My only problem is that I am running out of shelf-space for all of my necessary research materials – but it’s a happy problem.

(Cross posted at the IAG Blog)

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