Wednesday, August 11, 2010

A Strange Beckoning

Day 184 of the "What are you reading, and why?" project, and Steve is reading Hearts in Atlantis, a set of linked stories by Stephen King, because he needed something to read on the train. I had to admit to Steve that I had not read any Stephen King except On Writing, and he said he had just ordered it. Didn't have the heart to tell him we usually have a couple copies of that at Babbitt's, hardback and paperback.

On second thought, he might have ordered a first edition from somewhere, as I think this Hearts in Atlantis was a first edition. Plus, I realize I have seen the movie, with Anthony Hopkins.

It's been one of those days of multiple, frequently interrupted tasks. Lately I walk into rooms and forget what I've come in for, reminding me of the sleep-deprived days when my babies were...babies. One is about to go back to high school, the other, to college. Driving back from high school registration on a newly repaved road--that is, floating along on a fine black macadam--I forgot to turn left onto the street I needed to be on, had to curve and cross the tracks, turn left at a busier street, and there was a fire truck, parked but flashing, an ambulance in the park parking lot near the pool, a police car. One wonders, one worries.

The radio had just told me about yesterday's derailment of a freight train, no one hurt, but it does delay the passenger trains. One hopes they have books to read.

And a fellow who regularly brings books to Babbitt's gave me Strange Beckoning, poems by Helen Carson Janssen, 1951, signed and inscribed, with a card inside about her book signing at Coe's Book Store on October 15, "the day set aside by Governor Adlai Stevenson as Illinois Poetry Day."

This year, in the annual cemetery walk in our town, I am to play Helen Davis Stevenson, Adlai's mother. They are both buried here.

"It's a vanity press," said the boss, not buying it, and clearly hurting the man's feelings.

"You can call it vanity, but she was a fine woman and a good poet," he said.

And I can't see much difference between Helen Carson Janssen having her book published by Exposition Press of New York and Walt Whitman having his Leaves of Grass published, again and again, revisions of it, by a local printer, and at first at his own expense. Nor much difference between that and a number of small publishers of poetry these days, who leave most of the editing, promotion, and distribution to the poets themselves.

Helen Carson Janssen was born in Upper Sandusky, Ohio, famous now in popular culture for the Leather Goddesses of Phobos, a computer game, and before that because Doris Day's character in That Touch of Mink came from there, and, to bring us back to Stephen King, some scenes from The Shawshank Redemption were filmed there.

But I want to turn to page 24 of Strange Beckoning, to the poem "Old Mr. Kirk," a man thought "queer" by the farmers but loved by the kids because he gave them peppermints. My great grandfather, of Akron, Ohio, sucked peppermints and shared them with us kids.

I don't know what to make of it all.

Have a heart. Especially this one, by Robert Fornal. Or a fine Italian alabaster paperweight, from Barnes & Noble.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

If you find a first edition of Edgar Allan Poe's "Tamerlane and Other Poems" being offered to you, pick it up. Even if it was self-published, it's worth it.

But I know the feeling - he'd already picked out (and up) a bunch of other books, and even with the interesting ephemera in the volume, the spirit just didn't move him to buy it.

It'll be a few days later that he'll have that itch -"maybe I should've bought that after all." I know the feeling all too well. I'm remembering the books at the Allegheny College bookstore that I didn't buy last week. Three bags seemed like enough, but now . . .