Rummage Sale SWAG December 8 2016
Yesterday, I bipped briefly into a local neighborhood rummage sale and scored some swag. Mostly books, but a few other items as well. More on the other items later. Here’s my annotated list of books. Nothing great or even very good, as you’ll see, but they were all in very good condition and almost free–about 10 to 25 cents a piece! Not too shabby! I call this a major score. My book providence, guardian deva, was lookin out for me, for sure.
Anderson, Susan. The Journey from Abandonment to Healing: Surviving through—and recovering from—the five stages that accompany the loss of love. 2000.
Arnold, Sir Edwin, trans. The Bhagavad Gita: The Song Celestial. 2005 (reprint).
Brallier, Max. Bathroom Trivia. 2009.
Clemént, Frédéric. The Merchant of Marvels and the Peddler of Dreams. 1997.
Diehn, Gwen. The Decorated Page: Journals, Scrapbooks & Albums Made Simply Beautiful. 2002.
Doyle, Sir Arthur Conan. His Last Bow: A Reminiscence of Sherlock Holmes. 1917 (1994 reprint).
Emerson, Ralph Waldo. Emerson: Selections. 1969.
Hafiz. Wine for a Breaking Heart: Odes by Hafiz. Richard Le Gallienne, trans. 1976 (reprint).
Jefferson, Thomas. Thomas Jefferson: Selections from His Life and Works.
Jin, Ha (b.1956). Waiting: A Novel. 1999.
Jones, William. Yosemite: The Story Behind The Scenery. 1971.
Ludlum, Robert. The Bourne Supremacy. 1986. (novel)
McCammon, Robert. The Providence Rider. 2012. (novel)
Phillips, Charles. The Illustrated Encyclopedia of The Kings and Queens of Britain. 2006.
Rubenstein, Richard. Aristotle’s Children: How Christians, Muslims, and Jews Rediscovered Ancient Wisdom and Illuminated the Dark Ages. 2003.
Thompson, Jason. Making Journals by Hand: 20 Creative Projects For Keeping Your Thoughts. 2000.
Wharton, William. Houseboat on the Seine: A Memoir. 1996.
- Anderson, Susan. The Journey from Abandonment to Healing: Surviving through—and recovering from—the five stages that accompany the loss of love. 2000.
I’ve never been able to finish reading a self-help book. Have you? When my wife died, I bought two or three such books, second-hand, of a better, more deeply spiritual, mostly Buddhist(-derived) sort, but never read them. Just couldn’t get past the first couple of pages—just so trite, and presumptuous — or in any case certainly just so conventionally-minded. Of course! — they are written with the “typical, ordinary, average, every-day reader” in mind. I’d guess 90-98% of self-help type books are written either strictly from the ordinary “waking state-only” deeply dualistic mindset and/or the extremely fuzzy-minded “new-agey” sort of well-intended “generic spirituality” mode, typically seemingly without any very profoundly transformative-insight / direct experience of a sustained sort on the part of the author(s), ie still written from a waking state-only consciousness, even if one committed, ideologically, so to speak, to higher ideas and ideals. Or, equally difficult, are written from a conventional churchy Christian (or possibly Jewish) pop theological sort of angle—which of course pretty much guarantees that it comes from a waking state-only dualistic mentality.
When I bought those books and attempted to read them, I wasn’t looking for direct “help,” per se, especially not in “trying to figure out” anything about death or gain “insight” into my own quite natural feelings in response to my wife’s death. Nor was I expecting to experience any lessening of the unspeakable grief of such loss—certainly not from reading books! Certainly not books by authors who are unlikely to be fully enlightened (ie living saints and Self-realized sages). But when I saw this book, it occurred to me that I should bring it home and see what yet another presumably thoughtful person who may (?) work in the grief-counseling field has to say. Four years on (next month) from my wife’s departure, I thought at the rummage sale yesterday that I’d see if this particular volume has any, shall we say, retrospectively useful insight or two to offer me. I don’t much believe in things like “five stages” of loss! The whole idea that what most people experience can be quantified and such abstracted and perhaps arbitrary patterns then mapped onto their experience like that seems too silly to me. Of course there are innumerable patterns in life, but I’m dubious about the validity or usefulness of mapping these particular kinds of set-idea patterns onto personal experience. I’ll comb through this book, being open to any usefulness it may offer me, and then probably pass it on to the communal free bin. It may be just what someone is in search of to help solve their most pressing dilemma or salve their broken heart! Wisdom and helpfulness may come to any of us, at any time, from any quarter!
2. Arnold, Sir Edwin, trans. The Bhagavad Gita: The Song Celestial. 1885 (2005 reprint).
Nicely done little hardbound edition of this classic Victorian translation. Not your typical stuffy jingoistic British Victorian orientalist, Sir Edwin (1832-1904) was a co-founder of the (Buddhist) Mahabodhi Society in India (still operative!), among much else. After his first two wives (both English) died, he married a third time, to a Japanese woman, and lived with her in Japan. I love finding Sanskrit classics and other legit Asian spiritual texts at rummage sales! Last month it was a copy of an obscure version of The Ramayana. Arnold’s translation is quaint, but earnest. As a child growing up in San Francisco, it was the first version of the Gita I saw and read, a copy owned by my great grandparents.
3. Brallier, Max. Bathroom Trivia. 2009.
Funny collection of all sorts of oddball trivia. A little Chanukkah gift for a friend with whom I play public team trivia every week.
4. Clemént, Frédéric. The Merchant of Marvels and the Peddler of Dreams. 1997.
A little bit of campy fluff. Charming fluff, though.
5. Diehn, Gwen. The Decorated Page: Journals, Scrapbooks & Albums Made Simply Beautiful. 2002.
I’d long since developed my own steamer trunk full of bricolage journaling/scrapbooking “styles” when the first of this genre of books started appearing. Most of these books are pretty sleekly trashy, but there’s usually one or two images worth cutting up and adding to one’s own pages. Sorry, I’m mostly dead-set against breaking up books, but these are usually more like way-over-priced magazines, though the magazines I read are rarely so square and formulaic.
6. Doyle, Sir Arthur Conan. His Last Bow: A Reminiscence of Sherlock Holmes. 1917 (1994 reprint).
I don’t know that I’ve ever read this one before. When I was a ten years old child I acquired a copy of The Sherlock Holmes Omnibus and devoured and savoured it over and over all summer long. I’d already been nourished on the Basil Rathbone & Nigel Bruce classic film series on TV. Since then, I’ve watched those over and over every few years. The stories I’ve read straight through only once since that tenth summer. I had a painter-&-model girlfriend when I was in my late twenties who had never read them but was eager to do so; we went through the omnibus together as our initial bedtime reading adventure. A decade later, my wife and I read a few of the stories together in a scatter-shot way, and enjoyed systematically marathoning through the Rathbone/Bruce film oeuvre multiple times over the years. Mr Sherlock Holmes and Doctor Watson hold such wonderful life-long memories for me! I look forward to reading this Conan Doyle piece—perhaps I’ve read it before, perhaps not; doesn’t matter, it’s time once again to enjoy a little Sherlockian adventuring.
7. Emerson, Ralph Waldo. Emerson: Selections. 1969.
Another charming “giftware” slice of classic lit. Always nice to have a thin little copy of things by Emerson. A life long favourite author and someone my wife and I loved to read together at bedtime.
8. Hafiz. Wine for a Breaking Heart: Odes by Hafiz. Richard Le Gallienne, trans. 1976 (reprint).
Following the emergence during the 1960s-90s of fresh translations into contemporary English of first Kabir and then especially Rumi—who became a bestselling poet in English in the 1990s!—a few contemporary versions of Hafiz have followed. Perhaps because the Sufi mysticism of Hafiz is somewhat less transparent (?) than that of Rumi, his works are still far less well-known in this recent approach to “translation.” I don’t really know who was more well known in English during the Victorian-Edwardian rush to make the “classics of the East” available in English.
If I’d once previously ever known Le Gallienne (1866-1947) had produced a volume of Hafiz versions, I’d long since forgotten it. I would suspect that contemporary “translators” have leaned heavily on Le Gallienne’s efforts as a “pony” for their own versions.
Le Gallienne, a flowery poet in his own right, was the absent/estranged father of the actress and theatre maven Eva Le Gallienne (1899-1991). Eva was quite the interesting personage throughout her entire nearly-century-long career. I met her once during the 60s when she made frequent appearances on TV. In those days before instant internet info-gathering access, I’d assumed she was the widow, not the daughter, of the poet/translator! A terrible faux pas! I suspect Richard Le Gallienne’s life could not match that of his daughter. A formidable if also demure bohemian lesbian pioneer, she is well worth reading about. She once considered a marriage of understanding with Basil Rathbone as a “cover.”
9. Jefferson, Thomas. Thomas Jefferson: Selections from His Life and Works.
Got this thin little “giftware” volume—very 60s-70s-style—with a friend in mind, someone who reads about US presidents and founding fathers as something of a deep hobby. Just hours later, I already had occasion to pass it along to my friend as an early Chanukkah gift.
As a child I loved reading about Jefferson, without knowing at the time that he is a distant in-law/cousin to myself.
That was also before I’d fully assimilated just how horrific it is that Jefferson, just like most other wealthy white Early American “patriots.” owned (and abused!) slaves, and depended on their unpaid forced labor for the entirety of his own extensive wealth and life of leisure.
Recently it came to light (again) that in his early maturity, Jefferson had reversed his previous well-known publically-proclaimed view favoring (eventual!) future abolition. This moral/political reversal came after he calculated that his personal fortune was increasing annually by about 14% just by owning slaves — regardless of how much or how little profit-generating labor Master Jefferson extracted from them. After going through his balance books carefully, he realized that his slaves were ever-increasingly valuable collateral, especially as “breeders” of more slaves. He couldn’t bear the idea of ever missing out on this “effortless” and “automatic” additional financial worth which his estate accrued each year just by his “owning” hundreds of slaves, and ever more and more slaves, without having to newly buy or sell but a few more such “human articles of property” each year.
This part of TJ’s story had been (re-)discovered by a major Jefferson biographer in the 1930s, when he found TJ’s very frank letters to Washington on the subject archived deep in the Smithsonian’s files. Recognizing that this information went against the traditionally happy myth the author was attempting to further and capitalize upon, he mis-filed away the documents in a manner to purposefully obscure them for decades or possibly centuries from future scholars, authors, and readers. He also obscured first-hand accounts of Jefferson having had a sleepy, undernourished ten year old slave beaten nearly to death for not working hard and fast enough every day from sunrise to sunset in the Jefferson nail-making plantation factory. Jefferson took pride in giving most of his slaves every Sunday off from labouring on his plantation’s thousands of acres of cash crops and in his numerous commercial manufacturing warehouses so they could spend time tending their own food gardens. He had dozens of slave children under ten working all day in his factories. They were regularly whipped to be more efficiently productive.
This biographer also found but hid the numerous detailed records regarding TJ’s highly vigilant practice of sending armed trackers with dogs in pursuit of runaway slaves, with orders to bring the hapless persons back in chains for proper beatings and a return to onerous forced labour, or to kill them if their capture and chained transport proved too difficult.
Though some of this sad and ugly info has only very recently newly been restored to our knowledge of Jefferson, my own earlier partial awareness of these sorts of things had long ago taken away any (conditional) admiration I once had for him in my childhood.
Yes TJ was brilliant and intellectual, and somewhat colorful. It may be true, as I used to hear, that he was probably the last person of whom it could be said that he knew virtually everything available to be known within Western culture during his own lifetime. Something which was to become impossible for equally or surpassingly brilliant & well-read polymaths of subsequent, more info-saturated generations. But for all his knowledge and talents, and even perhaps(?) some real positive contribution to the quality of life for others during his time and into the future (?), Jefferson also was in many ways a despicable person.
I haven’t been able to enjoy reading much of anything about him since I was still a child and had already grown disgusted with his slave-owning and barbarous treatment of his slaves. He, of all people of his time and place, knew the horrible evil realities of slavery. But he kept at into anyway.
For a generation or two at least there were already thousands of colonial Americans, Quakers and many others, who had renounced and denounced slavery, and who had freed any slaves they had inherited, long before Jefferson inherited and bought slaves of his own. So the excused simply can’t be used that he was just following a cultural norm, rather than actually failing at a most basic value of human moral character. Jefferson knew enough from his earliest life as a public intellectual to bravely and strongly denounce slavery (without however indeed ever renouncing it or freeing any of the 150+ slaves he had inherited!). Then he reversed himself and denounced any suggestion of abolition even in the distant future. It seems clear to me that this was out of greed for maximized profit, out of unbridled sexual lust and easily-expedited predation upon his female slaves (ie rape), and out of a never-deeply examined cultural mindset of racial supremacism, and indeed, out of a general personal indifference to, and even obvious contempt for slaves with whom he shared a common fellow humanity. Though he had been able early in his life to see and admit to and to denounce the depraved injustice of slavery, the actual suffering of actual slaves mattered nothing to him. And by his own private account to his friend and fellow slave-owner/trafficker Washington, Jefferson’s change of mind and renunciation of the call for abolition came precisely as a result of realizing just how much ever-increasing money he was personally acquiring just from owning and breeding slaves.
And then there is also the matter of disrespect for his wife Martha who was the paternal half-sister of TJ’s long-time personal sex slave, Sally Hemings. Sally and TJ’s wife Martha shared a (white) father who had kept Sally’s slave mother as his own personal sex-slave while married to Martha’s (white) mother. Sally Hemings seems to have been just one of several slaves by whom TJ openly had numerous off-spring, children of his own who were raised and exploited as slaves, not of course as members of their father’s (TJ’s) family.
But I knew my presidential-hobbyist friend would like having the tiny volume of, deeply whitewashed material by and about Jefferson, so….
10. Jin, Ha (b.1956). Waiting: A Novel. 1999.
This novel, set in modern (?) China won several awards after it was published. I almost never read conventional novels, especially contemporary works set in contemporary times. I’m not sure what made me add this one to my swag bag. Maybe a hope of having an interesting (?) story to read on a particularly dark and stormy night. The Chinese-born author, it turns out, is a long-time professor in the US. I know he’s become very famous for his fiction, and I’ve seen this novel around here and there for many years, just never bothered to look at it.
11. Jones, William. Yosemite: The Story Behind The Scenery. 1971.
This is a very thin, magazine format booklet with big half or full page color photos on every spread, capturing the typical beauty features of the Valley, along with an informed if brief text about the Valley and its history.
My family camped in Yosemite every summer for the first six few years of my life, and a few summers thereafter. I taught myself to read at 3½ years by staring at trail signs in Yosemite. In those days I felt it to be one of the most magical and sacred places I could imagine, despite being, even then, incredibly crowded, sometimes with some mildly obnoxious and crass campers. Mostly the other campers were really cool, however, and out on the trails it didn’t feel too crowded most of the time. Something about the atmosphere of the natural landscape just seemed to absorb and dissipate all negativity from the human visitors. The spirit, magic, and beauty of nature had the upper spiritual hand atmospherically and humans fell into mostly silent reverent awe and humility in its presence. It was truly awesome.
I’m not so sure nowadays. Still, I’d love to go back at any time. It’s been quite a while now. I count the spiritual vibe I always felt there to be all the more astonishing, given that white infesters drove off the original Miwok Indian inhabitants and probably murdered most of them in the process. Just unspeakably horrific. Yet, later the Valley was “blessed” by John Muir and Emerson, whatever that is worth, and much later again and more than once each, also blessed by His Holiness Maharishi Mahesh Yogi, and His Holiness the Dalai Lama, and that is worth a very great deal, indeed. There have been many other enlightened saints and spiritual teachers who have visited and offered their blessings there as well. Yet again, wonderful and deeply spiritual poets and artists have exchanged blessings with the Valley — folks like Chiura Obata (with whom I studied a bit as a child and young man), poet Gary Snyder (who also studied some with Obata), Gary’s friend artist Tom Killion, photographer Ansel Adams, and many others.
So perhaps all these blessings and love-offerings have offset to a certain degree at least some of the tragically negative vibes and terribly bad karma resulting from the destruction lives and culture of the Miwok Native Dwellers and Protectors. I’m certain that’s true in the case of great saints like Maharishi and the Dalai Lama and the other enlightened and saintly visitors. While they can’t undo what’s been done, the continued existence in each generation of such holy men and women of any/all cultures is what holds the entire planet together at all times, I sincerely believe. This is a teaching of most Native American groups, of ancient Vedic Hindu, Tibetan, Chinese, and other spiritual traditions, and of mystical Jewish and Sufi understandings.
12. Ludlum, Robert. The Bourne Supremacy. 1986. (novel)
Ordinarily, I never read things anywhere close to this genre. But when the first volume of this now hugely famous series first came out, I pick it up at random to pass a rainy afternoon, without having heard anything about it. I really enjoyed it, and then read the others as they emerged. But that was a million years ago, and I remember nothing about any of them, except being surprised at how much I enjoyed them at the time. Obviously a gazillion other readers liked them far more than I did, and liked the subsequent films perhaps even more. Just as I pay no attention to books of this sort, I had no awareness of the films, until the first one eventually showed up on video.
Just recently I noticed that someone had (briefly) posted all these movies on youtube. So I had a little Bourne marathon viewing. Usually, Matt Damon’s acting is something I like (and I like his activism even more!). I don’t know that you can call his turns in the Bourne films acting. But the series is engaging enough (haven’t seen the latest, in which Damon apparently speaks only a half dozen or so lines). Of course the car chases and other graphic violence and slaughter are ridiculous, but the idea of the clandestine government assassination program seems prescient and real enough, especially these many years on. Now I’m wondering how much the movie treatment of Supremacy, still fairly fresh in my mind from my recent youtube viewing, tracks with this volume of the book series (of which I remember not a single detail from when I first read them so long ago).
As with most pop novels, I may end up tossing this brick across the room after the first chapter or two, but I hope not.
13. McCammon, Robert. The Providence Rider. 2012. (novel)
Another hefty brick of a tome, a “stand-alone” volume in an ongoing series of historical (fantasy?) crime thrillers, this one set in 1703, in New York City. From the cover and title, I’d assumed it was about colonial New England pirates. We’ll see! I’m mildly hopeful. Though I’m hoping it’s mostly straight historical fiction with as little of the “fantasy” genre element as possible.
14. Phillips, Charles. The Illustrated Encyclopedia of The Kings and Queens of Britain. 2006.
I’m directly descended from so many early Kings and Queens of what came to be known as England (“Angle Land”, from the Germanic tribal people called Angles, pirate invaders who, together with their Saxon and Jute neighbors, displaced much of the earlier Celtic and Romano-Celtic Britons). My earliest genealogical family lines of British royal descent precede the Anglo-Saxon rulers, going back to many Celtic royals, and move forward through the corridors of time to include Saxons, Danes, Norman French, Yorks, and Tudors. Direct ancestors of mine also include most of the Stuart rulers of Scotland (and their Celtic predecessors), but by the time the later Stuarts united the crowns of Scotland and England (into the United Kingdom), my direct ancestors were already no longer the rulers, only cousins. Just as well!
There are few if any of the British rulers since the last of the Saxon kings and queens who seem to me to have been the least bit consistently worthy persons as holistically admirable human beings, and few if any were or are regarded as actual saints. It which case they hold interest for me as personal ancestors only at a very steeply lower, lesser level of value. Simply conventional, spiritually ordinary (non-saintly) individuals who happen to be rulers merely by ordinary venal conventions of usurpation, conquest, and accidents of birth are of no particular likelihood to be particularly decent human beings and in fact seldom are, it would seem. Quite the opposite is more likely to be the case. And my interest lessens accordingly.
By contrast, a surprising number of early Celtic and Saxon rulers and some of their immediate family members were regarded during and after their lifetimes as being living saints and/or holy martyrs. But I’m pretty sure that after those early eras very few if any British rulers, whether English, Scottish, or Welsh, have been hailed and remembered as saints. King St David I of Scotland is an exception, though his half-Saxon mother, Queen St Margaret of Wessex and Scotland and her mother, St Agatha (Hungarian? Russian?), are also canonized saints. St David’s sister, Queen Matilda (aka Maud) who married King Henry I of England was known as during her lifetime as Blessed Matilda. A process of canonization was initiated after her death but was never followed up on.
Though I’m unaware of any later (post-Conquest) rulers being counted as saints, a few later royal family members are revered as such. I’m thinking here in particular of Princess St Adela, a daughter of King William the Conqueror and the mother of King Stephen of England. As I say, after the Conquest of 1066 and all that, and the associated death of Saxon English King St Edward the Confessor, I’m pretty sure there have been no actual rulers of England who were revered as saints, and probably none of Scotland after King St David I. A shame, really.
If ruling dynastic families cannot produce at least one saintly (spiritually enlightened) king or queen per generation, generation after generation, of what particular good is their dynasty’s claim to Divine Right by which to guide a nation’s people? This is the ancient Vedic (and Chinese, and other) ideal principle: a family/dynasty’s consistent enlightened holiness is what gives it the “mandate of Heaven” to be loved, respected, and followed by a people as their guides and leaders, their protectors, the “fathers” and “mothers” of their nation. Let’s not draw any odious comparisons to our own American cult of “democratically” selected presidential rulers and their family dynasties.
I’ve always thought that those who make a kind of celebrity cult out of the British (or any other) royals do so out of an unconsciously displaced desire to know, or at least know about, real heroes—saints and holy sages and spiritual teachers and guides certainly, but also other cultural heroes as well—great humanitarian activists, positive life-supporting artists, doctors, scientists, and thinkers, self-sacrificing agents of various positive, progressive, communally life-enhancing changes of various kinds, etc.
Personally, I have virtually no interest in the personal or public lives, the celebrity and scandals of the present-day royals and their various spouses and paramours. But I have a mild historical interest in several of the previous British royals, mostly out of a genealogical and scholarly interest. After all, I teach history, so trying to keep the names and relationships of some of these historical royals straight in one’s mind is important.
15. Rubenstein, Richard. Aristotle’s Children: How Christians, Muslims, and Jews Rediscovered Ancient Wisdom and Illuminated the Dark Ages. 2003.
The historical actuality of this phenomenon is of crucial importance. But this treatment sounds just a bit cooked to me. No doubt his research will have been accurate, but his approach seems a bit agenda-driven. The author has degrees from Harvard, Oxford (Rhodes scholar), and Harvard Law. Can’t get much more square and establishment-invested than that! We’ll see. It’s familiar ground, of course, but there’s always more to learn. And as a reader it’s sometimes helpful to have (another) author to argue against (in one’s mind).
16. Thompson, Jason. Making Journals by Hand: 20 Creative Projects For Keeping Your Thoughts.
Another one of the countless sleekly inspirational/how-to volumes on making illustrated journals.
17. Wharton, William. Houseboat on the Seine: A Memoir. 1996.
I read this oddly charming memoir when it was first published. My wife and I were living in Marin at the time, and actively investigating other possible living situations, including houseboats in Marin, Seattle, BC, Europe. We’d recently visited friends on their houseboat in Amsterdam. Wharton (real name Albert William Du Aime, 1925-2008) was a painter as well as author of several books, the most popular of which, Birdy, was made into a film.
I had previously read one of his slightly fictionalized autobiographical novels and enjoyed aspects of the story, especially those related to life as a painter. As a an artist and writer myself, I enjoyed glimpses of Wharton’s eccentric lifestyle and his somewhat eccentric writing style. So finding Houseboat was a great fit at the time. I’ve thought about re-reading it a couple of times since then, wondering if I’d still like it, but never looked for a copy. Then, Voilà!
At some point before his writing career took off, Wharton learned Transcendental Meditation and practiced it regularly. For how long and with what depth of resulting personal unfoldment of experience, understanding and appreciation, I do not know. But as a TM teacher and life-long TM practitioner myself, knowing this enhanced my interest in him and made me feel a little bit closer and more tender toward him.