Since the Sunday tag sale will be books with blue tags, I left those on the shelf, but I found three other books that I wanted, one enormous, one large, and one quite good-sized. The enormous book is a paperback of Spiro Kostof's 1985 publication A History of Architecture, subtitled Settings and Rituals. I remember seeing this book when it was first out and coveting it, but being unable to afford it. After I moved away from Los Angeles I just never got to o to book stores that would have it, but now I've found a copy, thirty-five years later.
The large book I bought was a hardback of H. L. Mencken's magnum opus, The American language, revised edition, which was published in 1936 (the original edition dated to 1919.) You don't read much about American literature without running across mentions of this book, and I'm glad I've finally got a copy. The store also had the two supplements to the book, published in 1945 and 1948, but I didn't buy those. For one thing, the books I'd already picked out weight a ton, and I had to get beer, and really didn't want my arm wrenched from its socket carrying too much weight. For another, it's unlikely I'll live long enough to read this volume, let alone two equally large supplements. Maybe if they are still there at the next store-wide half price sale (a week from Monday) I'll break down and pick them up. I'm sure that whoever donated them would be livid that I'd broken up the set.
The third book is a nice paperback edition of The Complete Short Stories of Ambrose Bierce. "Bitter Bierce" really is one of the masters of the form, and I had several of his stories in anthologies, though never the complete collection before. This copy does have one bit of damage, part of an early blank page having been torn out, removing a corner of the drawing of the author on its other side. I suspect that a previous owner had inscribed their name on that leaf, and either they or a later owner had then torn it out. But I like a book with a bit of mysterious history.
Because my schedules of all sorts have gone so catawampus over the last year, it seems I rarely post the Sunday Verse until Monday mornings, which just doesn't seem right. Tonight I'm going to post it in this entry, in time to actually appear on Sunday. And since I just bought a book of Ambrose Bierce's short stories, I'm going to post one of his poems. He was not a great poet, by any means, but he had his moments. Usually pretty grim moments, but moments still.
by Ambrose Bierce
I lay in silence, dead. A woman came
And laid a rose upon my breast, and said,
“May God be merciful.” She spoke my name,
And added, “It is strange to think him dead.
“He loved me well enough, but ‘t was his way
To speak it lightly.” Then, beneath her breath:
“Besides”—I knew what further she would say,
But then a footfall broke my dream of death.
To-day the words are mine. I lay the rose
Upon her breast, and speak her name, and deem
It strange indeed that she is dead. God knows
I had more pleasure in the other dream.