A book called Remarkable Reads came in last week. Published in 2004, it was one of those booklovers’ games: a passel of writers wrote about the books they’d read which met certain superlatives. One person wrote on the Most Disappointing Book, another on the Most Luminous Book, while a third wrote on the Most Familiar Book, and so on. It’s great fun, and I put it out on the cart at the A.C. (Amazing Collection) McClurg Bookstore at the Newberry.
And it made me realize that I have not delved into the past and dragged up any superlatives lately. I thought I’d give it a try among those same lines (kind of).
The Most Luminous Book at the Book Fair: We have two copies of a book that folds out into a glow-in-the-dark alien about four feet tall.
The Most Illuminating Book at the Book Fair: From the same donor, we have several pop-up books which end with a little light which lights when the last page is opened.
The Most Disappointing Book at the Book Fair: I’m torn between that Charles Dickens first edition with all the pictures torn out and those boxes of autograph albums we were given about fifteen years ago. They were the albums in which the late owner kept his Signers Collection: the autographs of every man who had signed the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution. Yep. They sold the autographs at auction and gave me the empty albums, with the pages still labeled “George Washington”, “Thomas Jefferson”, and so on.
The Most Specific Title at the Book Fair: Four Western Prostitutes Named Kate. And people say a scholar’s life is dull.
The Most Nostalgic Title at the Book Fair: Jane Brody’s Good Food Book: Living the High Carbohydrate Way. Was that only 25 years ago?
The Most Alarming Magazine at the Book Fair: I remember Good Old Days magazine when it first came out: a conglomeration of old photos, old comic strips, and people reminiscing about growing up in the 1890s. The magazine has lowered its standards since I first saw it 45 years ago: why, they’re letting mere children in to write about what it was like to grow up in the 1950s.
The Most Surprising Book at the Book Fair: Continuing to reminisce, I can recall that if a book made sounds it squeaked, or rattled. Some books included a bell. We have some children’s books this year that by pressing the right spot, you can produce 24 bars of Liebestraum, or Mary Had a Little Lamb in four-part harmony, played on a pipe organ. Aren’t computer chips wonderful?
The Most Considerate Books at the Book Fair: Some of these books have hidden off switches so the children cannot play them without parental consent. Even Liebestraum will get on your nerves the fortieth time through.
The Most Trying Book at the Book Fair: We have several sets, some of them incomplete, of the proceedings in the impeachment of Warren Hastings. This was one of the longest trials in British history: Edmund Burke’s opening remarks covered about four days by themselves. A four year-old with a computer chip of Liebestraum might be preferable.
The Worst Timed Book at the Book Fair: I set aside a couple of copies of Whittier’s classic Snow-Bound to put on the cart at the A.C. (Avalanche Center) McClurg Bookstore. The way this winter’s going, I’ll have just as much luck selling it in July.
The Best Timed Book at the Book Fair: You knew I was going to mention The Newberry 125 at some point in this column. I was just waiting for my Q.
The Most Anticipated Book at the Book Fair: The Best of Uncle Blogsy, of course. I’ve been told that as soon as I have 150 columns worthy of preservation, this will be published. At the rate I’m turning them out, I figure we should be ready by the Book Fair of 2050 (coincidentally, the Bicentennial of Liszt’s Liebestraum; there will be a music chip involved.)