Thursday, December 18, 2014
The Library of America--and a Coincidence
Joyce and I have been subscribers to the Library of America since it first began. (Link to LOA's website.) Actually, we joined a little bit after its inception, and, later on, discovering that some of the first volumes we'd bought from them were not first printings, I searched the Internet for used-book sites that offered 1st of those early volumes--and gradually acquired them all (about a dozen or so?). As the pix at the bottom of the page show, we now have quite a few (i.e., hundreds) of volumes. Joyce has quite a few upstairs, too, where she's working furiously on her book about Abolitionist John Brown.
We use the books a lot. A few years ago, for example, on a Henry James kick--a "kick" I could not have imagined back in college, when I could not read James, try as I might (okay, I didn't try all that hard!)--I decided to read all his novels in the order he published them. I didn't have to buy an extra damned thing: All were in the LOA.
And now, as I'm now trying to read the Philip Roth books I've never gotten around to, I have to go no farther than the LOA to find the volumes I don't own (just a few--I was pretty good at buying, if not reading, Roth over the decades).
Although the LOA volumes are edited by scholars, they are not flawless. In the Jack London volume, for example, the editor (who shall remain nameless) in an endnote declares this about London's spelling of the Alaskan coastal town of Skagway (its current spelling). London had spelled it Skaguay: "Since I have not found any record of a variant spelling of Skagway as Skaguay, and since London spells the town Skagway elsewhere in his Klondike fiction, I have assumed Skaguay a typographical error which slipped by in both publications [the novel, its serialization in The Saturday Evening Post] and have emended it to Skagway."
Well, "Skaguay" was indeed a common spelling during the Gold Rush of 1897-99 and earlier. Oops.
Anyway, a new LOA volume continues to arrive every month (and we also subscribe to the LOA's poetry series--and we also buy their occasional topical volumes; these are visible in the 3rd photo at the bottom--the volumes on the shelf below the "regular" ones). Just the other day--here came another new one, a collection of late writings by Louisa May Alcott.
But included with the shipment was another volume and a little note: "Dear Library of America Subscriber: We are pleased to enclose a copy of a special commemorative volume, Philip Roth at 80: A Celebration (Remarks delivered on the occasion of Philip Roth's 80th birthday), for you to enjoy free of charge."
Oh, yes! Happy coincidence!
The letter also says you can buy copies from the site for $5.
I read my gift book yesterday--a kind of a book for which the Germans have a word--die Festschrift (commemorative publication), a word that we've adopted into English--the OED lists 1898 as its earliest published use in our language.
But I'll postpone for a day or so my account of what's in that volume ... this has reached its reader-tolerance length, I fear.
To be continued ...