We’ve had a flurry of favorites lately. People have been dropping off whole shelves of authors they particularly liked. I hope these are coming in from some storage locker that was being cleaned out. In general, the only time we get this focused a collection is in an estate. (You know how it is: you have your favorite authors just at eye level in your bookcase, with the very best ones within easiest reach. Your favorite is that brown one with the tear in the dustjacket that obscures the hero’s name, or that paperback with the three rubber bands around it. You can’t imagine life without that book…or remember how many decades ago you added the rubber band.)
Kind of a literary crowd this time, too. They may have all come from one donor, or several intellectual donors decided to redo their bookshelves at the same time. But we have just received scads of
Vladimir Nabokov: everything from battered hardcovers of the fifties through that award-winning biography of his wife Vera by Stacey Schiff. Butterfly collector, chess expert, author of two novels ranked among the very best of the last century, he will always be remembered, I expect, as the author of Lolita, banned in several countries and made into a movie that was banned in several as well. Crossword puzzle addicts may remember him as the author of Ada (or Pnin).
J.I.M. Stewart: That really was his name: James Innes MacIntosh Stewart. He was a noted scholar and wrote a goodly lot of well-regarded works of literary criticism and studies of individual authors. And for a great number of years, he successfully hid the fact that while he was writing all of THAT, he was also writing scores of mysteries and mystery stories as Michael Innes. These are considered too literary and too inclined to be funny by some nitpickers. One of them was made into a movie with David Niven, Helen Hayes, and Jodie Foster: a trio I never would have thought to bring together. But this is why my private jet is not in a hangar near Los Angeles but in a ream of typing paper next to my desk.
Kenneth Patchen: A poet and novelist who made a big impression on the Beat Generation and might have done more (or less) but for a series of bad breaks. Suffering a spinal injury in 1937, he was left with reduced mobility and constant pain until successful surgery in 1956. However, the pain and immobility returned mysteriously after another surgery in 1959. (He tried to prove in court that the nurses dropped him while he was unconscious, but how do you prove that?) We’ve had his Memoirs of a Shy Pornographer several times, but now someone has given us several of his prose works, including an early edition of his Journal of Albion Moonlight, which he had to publish himself by subscription when another poet convinced his publisher it was too politically incorrect (it opposed American participation in World War II. Henry Miller loved it; Anais Nin hated it.) As far as I can tell, none of his books were made into movies, but he DID produce some songs with Charlie Mingus.
A. Conan Doyle: Yes, I KNOW we always have plenty of Sherlock Holmes )never quite enough, though, to judge by what the shelves look like at the end of the Book Fair.) But this time someone has given us two LARGE boxes of Sherlock Holmes stories on cassette. I think I may just have to list this for sale online, simply for the joy of seeing how many different actors have played the role on tape. (I don’t THINK I’ll find David Niven, Helen Hayes, and Jodie Foster, but who knows?)