An Embarrassment (Of riches? Maybe?)

The library downstairs is nearing completion! All that remains is painting the ceiling and the wall under the shelves, and then putting in the floor (I know, that last part could take forever, but hey).

Last month, I got the idea to inaugurate the new library with some special/new books. I’ve noted before that I’m on a bit of an austerity plan this year. I’ve cut back most of my discretionary purchases, let some expenses go, and basically done some evaluating of what makes me happy and what just distracts me.

I decided our new library could use a nice set of A Dance To The Music of Time paperbacks. I was saddened to discover that the U of Chicago press edition of the four-volume set with slipcover isn’t available (I mean, you can find that set on ABEbooks for like $250, but eh), so I settled for the four paperbacks themselves. I ordered them through my local-ish indie bookstore, Well Read, since they offer a decent online special-order discount and I always try to toss some business their way.

I even had them delivered to the store, rather than my home, so I could stop in and look around the store. And look! Here they are! For only $81.01, with shipping and tax!


(Yes, my wife bought me a pair of greyhound bookends. No, it wasn’t her idea. I actually looked around online trying to find a nice set for the library, but she’s better at that than I am.)

Well, mission accomplished! I found the books I want to celebrate the new library! I can go back to austerity mode!

Or can I . . .?

A day after I picked up these Powell books, I got an e-mail from, a book remainder site. I noticed they had some Arden Third Series editions of Shakespeare in stock, so I checked out my books downstairs and realized that there were a dozen of them that I could order to (nearly) give me a full set of Shakespeare’s plays! And with the remainder discount, it would only cost me $93.72 (shipping, no tax).


(No, I don’t want everything in a single volume; these need to be portable.)

There’s a reason I didn’t already have most of those histories, since they’re supposed to be lesser plays, but now I have ’em! The book-buying can end!

Well, there is that Roman “mini-curriculum” that Tom May sent me last weekend. But I can pick those up in drips and drabs. In fact, I took a half-day today to celebrate (there’s a lot of that) finishing my big Top Companies issue of my magazine, and stopped at the Barnes & Noble on Rt. 17 to see if any of Mr. May’s suggestions were in the used books section in the back of the store. I found a copy of Horace’s Odes for $2.50 (score!) and then I noticed . . . the first twelve volumes of the original Love & Rockets collections, for a little under $5 each!

Since I promised David Townsend back in June that I’d initiate him into the world of Los Bros. Hernandez (as part of my plot to get comic books on the curriculum at St. John’s College), I decided to grab the whole lot of them, write him a little guide for what’s worth reading and what he can skip, and start him on the roads to Hoppers and Palomar!


(Yeah, they even had the 3×3 gridded square edition, Love & Rockets X.)

Which is to say, stop me before I book-buy again!

Let’s Go A-Roman

Since I got back from that Piraeus seminar in Annapolis in early June (part 1 and part 2), I’ve found myself recharged. Now that I’ve wrapped up the Top Companies issue of my magazine, which occupies my June-into-July every year, I feel like I’m ready to get at a lot of reading and writing. While still juggling the podcast, of course.

I thanked both of the tutors who ran the seminar and also asked Tom May for some suggestions for a “mini-curriculum” on the Romans. I’ve always neglected them, and I think it was largely due to my uninformed notion that they were a pastiche or a degradation of classic Greek culture. By extension, I must have assumed that every last member of that world was as decadent as the empire was in its fallen days. I’m not sure how I stumbled across that idea, and why I left it untested for so long. I’m a yutz. Perhaps my enjoyment of Homer made me reticent to even give Virgil a shot.

In fact, when I was out with an old college pal of mine in San Francisco a few months ago, I was actually irked when she mentioned that she’d never been able to get into Homer, but that the Aeneid rocked her world. Keep in mind

  1. I have never read Virgil and have no basis for comparison, and
  2. I’m a 41-year-old man.

WTF, right?

So I began reading the Aeneid on Sunday, and am enjoying the heck out of it. It’s not Homer, but it’s not Homer. It’s Virgil.

Meanwhile, I thought I’d share with you the list that Mr. May e-mailed me, along with his disclaimer:

“I’ll stop here, making no claim that all of the most important works are here, but all of these are seminal and reverberate through the tradition. I led a Graduate Institute preceptorial on Cicero several years ago that was really a delight, thanks to both Cicero and the class; I’d really like to offer one on Ovid, whose Metamorphoses are indispensable for all art and poetry ever after, it seems.”

The only thing I’ve read in that whole list is a bit of Plutarch (I’m still considering doing a Plutarch feature a la my Monday Morning Montaigne series). So I’m gonna get rolling on that Virgil. Aeneas is just bugging out of Troy at the beginning of book 3.