This morning, I went over to Pam & Arthur's to help them move furniture and books; they're rearranging a bunch of stuff, and moving big bookcases to new locations, and getting rid of a bunch of books and some furniture. Good company, and not much work to do; in between moving furniture and unpacking books, I read Ray a book on volcanoes, much of which he already knew by heart.
Considered heading up to SF for Ellen K's reading, but wasn't up to it. Came home, ran my weekly backup. Have all of you backed up your important data lately? If not, please go do so right this very minute. This journal entry will still be here when you get back. See earlier entry about backups for further discussion.
Tried to do a more comprehensive backup, but after several hours of it churning away, it filled up my external hard drive. Must clear out unnecessary data from that drive and try again.
While it was running, I read a couple subs, read some more of Jane Austen Book Club, had dinner.
And decided that it was time I started unpacking my father's books.
It's been almost a year since I went up to Tacoma and packed up the books that I'd rescued from his house, and mailed them to myself. They've been sitting untouched in my garage all that time.
I got through a couple boxes tonight. About half of the books went into my "maybe" pile; maybe a third of them into the "definite keep" pile; and the remaining sixth or so (not that many) into the "give away or sell" pile. At this rate, I don't know where I'm going to put them all. But I suppose it's also time I got a lot of non-book material off my bookcases, and possibly even time I did a triage pass on my books. Though I don't seem to be very good at getting rid of books lately. And I brought home maybe a dozen that Arthur & Pam were getting rid of, despite the fact that I've acquired at least a dozen other books that I haven't read yet in the past month.
Maybe some day I'll take a year off work to do nothing but read.
Anyway. Dealing with the boxes so far hasn't been as rough as I'd feared. But I do have to decide whether or not to keep a bunch of books that I know were important to Peter but that really aren't to me--The Tao of Physics, a bunch of Wilhelm Reich books, that sort of thing.
Especially given that I don't know if any used bookstore will take any of these books, given the smoke damage--not severe on most of 'em, but enough to possibly reduce resale value significantly.
There were some books I took from his house simply because they were so old I couldn't stand to let them get thrown out. For example, in today's boxes there were two nice hardcover descriptive geometry textbooks, one dated 1933 and the other 1946. I was tempted to keep them at first, both because they're old and because they have nice drawings of orthographic projections and such. And the preface in one of them starts out bemoaning the fact that even professional engineers in these benighted latter days don't know how to properly use these techniques, so this book is designed to make it easy for them, and so on. But eventually I realized that I have no actual use for these books, and, honestly, not much interest in the topic. (It doesn't take much to convince me that I'm interested in pretty much any given topic; I have to remind myself regularly that I don't have time to do everything that I really really want to do, much less explore subject areas that I don't really have any interest in.) So I'll be getting rid of those.
So far, the nicest find is a 1996 trade paperback copy of Fowler's Modern English Usage, third edition, only lightly smoke-damaged. I've been wanting, and meaning to obtain, a copy of Fowler for years, but never quite got around to it. This will have a place of honor on my reference shelf, right next to Chicago and MW11 and Brewer's--though if I use it as much as I use those, it'll probably spend most of its time on my floor instead on the bookshelf. (However, it may turn out that the 3rd edition isn't adequate to my needs. The 3rd-edition editor, R. W. Burchfield, although fairly sensible in what I've seen of his choices so far, appears to have intentionally excised much of the idiosyncratic quirkiness that so many people love about the original Fowler edition; I imagine the modernness of this edition will make it more actually useful to me than the 1926 edition would've been, but then again the 3rd edition is now ten years old, and I suspect a fair bit has changed since then in some of the usage areas I'm most concerned about.)
(And speaking of phrases, as I was when I mentioned Brewer's in passing above: I could've sworn the phrase "place of pride" referred to a (figurative or literal) honored placement of something or someone, but none of my reference works nor TSOR on the web seem to turn up anything. Is that the right phrase? Am I just confusing it with "place of honor"? I'm not sure that latter phrase is right, either, but at least there are relevant-sounding uses of that one online.)
Also in one of the boxes was a three-volume set of Mencken's The American Language--the hefty original volume (in its nth revised edition) plus two further followup volumes of addenda, each at least as thick as the original. And there were some other language books, and some anthologies (both sf and non-), and a stack of sf magazines, and a couple of art books, and a couple of books on the history of sex, and a stack of issues of Parabola magazine, which I had no idea was still being published 'til just now. And some Ferlinghetti, and some Watts, and some Gary Snyder.
Oh, and a 1970 copy of a "paperback magazine" called Countdown, which I was about to put in the discard pile until I saw that it contains an extensive transcript of Allen Ginsberg's testimony at the trial of the Chicago Seven. The introduction to that piece starts out:
The Chicago Conspiracy Trial will be spoken about for decades to come as the great revealing light for millions of Americans who had not wanted to believe that their America is managed by a corrupt government and rules by unjust laws.
The transcript is basically the same as the transcript available online, except that it adds some commentary by Abe Peck, of Rat. The testimony has some rather odd moments, like when Judge Hoffman accuses Ginsberg of speaking in a foreign language when Ginsberg chants "Hare Krishna."
There's an extra segment at the end of the version in the magazine, which I liked enough to type it in, below. Since Peck's commentary appeared in brackets, I'll put my slight edits in [[double brackets]].
[Allen is asked by [[defense lawyer]] Weinglass on redirect to recite "Howl." He does so with all the emotion of an Old Testament prophet threatening sinners and standing with the oppressed. The jury is transfixed by the words, the energy, the waving arms and bobbing head of the wonderful madman before them. When he recites the lines]
Moloch. Moloch. Nightmare of Moloch.
Moloch the loveless.
Moloch the heavy judger of man
[and points an accusing finger at [[Judge]] Hoffman. The judge shrinks from the eternal judgment like Sauron the evil wizard in Lord of the Ring. [[sic]] The scene is one of Old Testament fervor. The judge manages to resume his composure, but not before everyone in the stilled courtroom hears the lines]
Moloch the cross-boned soulless jailhouse
And congress of sorrows,
Moloch whose buildings are judgment.
Moloch the vast stone of war.
Moloch the stunned government.
[Allen continues, climbing higher with each incantation. He reels [[off]] 1,000 words, and suddenly drops off]
"That is fragmentary."
[[There's some further dialogue, which I'm leaving out.]]
[Abbie Hoffman cries and joins the defendants and half the court when they rise in tribute as Ginsberg leaves. Lee Weiner leaves the courtroom to thank Allen for appearing. John Froines tells everyone how he has been "profoundly moved." And [[prosecutor]] Thomas Foran whispers to his assistant as Allen heads for the elevator, bowing and chanting his way through a crowded hallway. Foran is overheard as he mutters, "That goddamned fag."]
(Btw, the testimony of Arlo Guthrie (available online, not mentioned in the printed article from Countdown) is fabulous, especially the part where the defense lawyers offer to represent the judge for free if he gets sued by a movie theater for letting Guthrie sing "Alice's Restaurant" in court.)
. . . Hey! I had no idea 'til looking at that Chicago Seven Wikipedia article just now that the defense lawyers in that trial were supplied by the Center for Constitutional Rights; I hadn't realized the CCR had been around that long. The CCR, for those unfamiliar with them, are better known these days as one of the legal groups that's been working to end the abuses at Guantánamo Bay. I've been sending them money for a year or two now, and plan to do so again in my upcoming end-of-year donations this year. For more info on the work they've done, see the Wikipedia article on the CCR.
Whew. All that in just two of the boxes of books. Only about eighteen more to go. I'll probably go through a couple more tomorrow, and then hold off on the rest for a while longer.
I haven't even attempted to remove the soot from the books. I probably should; some of it comes off on my hands, so I imagine that careful wiping with a damp cloth would remove more of it. But I also suspect that doing that would triple the amount of time and effort that this task would take, and would probably put up enough of a barrier that I'd put off doing it for even longer.
. . . I feel a little odd about completely failing to mention that today was Veterans Day (and I just learned that this past week was National Veterans Awareness Week), especially given the current war and the relation of the Chicago Seven to Vietnam protests. But I don't think I can come up with anything coherent to say about Veterans Day at the moment, so I'm going to leave it at that.