Wednesday, May 24, 2023

Reading Matter

Over the past few weeks we've been in the midst of major preparations for an upcoming relocation, but a few days ago I realized that I had gotten a bit ahead of things and packed up almost our entire library, leaving only a handful of books, all of which I'd read before, with two weeks still to go. Fortunately, our local library just had a book sale (partially with our donations), and at this point they're giving away what's left. I stopped by, took a look around, and saw more than I expected. Any other time I might have loaded up, but I had to focus on immediate needs only. I passed, therefore, on two volumes of Chekhov stories, Charlotte Brontë's The Professor, a Mary Braddon novel I knew nothing about, Iris Murdoch's The Sea, The Sea, a Dickens novel I don't own, and several other tempting volumes, and settled on three. The first two were obligatory; Seamus Heaney and Mark Strand have long been two of my favorite poets, and the books I found were slender, which is definitely a plus right now. I've read parts of Sweeney Astray in other Heaney collections, but was only vaguely aware that Strand had written a brief prose work on Edward Hopper.
The real find for me, though, was an apparently unread copy of the Bantam edition (c. 1970) of Herman Hesse's last novel, which has been on and off my "to read" list for years. I've actually never read much Hesse, but I'm old enough to remember the time in the 1960s when no sensitive young person's backpack would be complete without a couple of Noonday Press editions of his work. Why this one in particular? Because the premise ("a chronicle of the future about Castalia, an élitist group formed after the chaos of the 20th-century wars") seemed promising, because Gide, Mann, and T. S. Eliot all admired it, and maybe most of all because how can one resist a title as sonorous as Magister Ludi (The Glass Bead Game) (or in German, Das Glasperlenspiel)?
I left a couple of bucks for a donation to the library. It's a no-lose proposition. If Magister Ludi turns out to be a snooze, at least it will help me fall asleep at night.


Tororo said...

I can totally relate to your book-deprivation predicament!
I was one of these sensitive young persons from the 6Os, and I wonder why from all the books by Hesse I avidly read back then, Journey to the East is the only one I have re-read? I remember Le jeu des perles de verre as one I had some difficulties reading; I wonder what you will think of this book? There were probably many things in it my younger self did not get; perhaps the wise old pilgrim I have become should give it another try!

Chris said...

So far it's interesting, though there is a grumpy tirade against what the narrator calls "the Feuilletonistic Age."

Michael Leddy said...

I remember eleventh-grade English, 1973: I chose The Glass Bead Game for independent reading. Mrs. Jones, who had us reading Ionesco, among others, tried to discourage me. I don’t think I got very far before switching to (I think) Kafka.

I had the Hesse from the library in this Yellow Submarine-ish edition.

Chris said...

Apparently the cover art on that Holt edition is by Patricia (Richardson) de Groot. According to her obituary she was the designer for Truman Capote's famous Black and White Ball.