14 June 2010

“They sounded vaguely fantastical”

I got a kick out of the essay on the back page of yesterday’s New York Times Book Review, in which John Feffer expresses gratitude for his teen-age hobby of buying paperbacks in bulk:

It all took place at a book sale that happened one weekend a year, just before Halloween, in a church around the corner from my house in suburban New Jersey. After Saturday soccer practice I’d hurry over to the church, still dressed in my sports gear, cleats skittering among the fallen leaves. . . .

Wandering through the tables piled high with unsorted books, I vacuumed up all the Heinlein, Asimov and Bradbury I could find at 10 cents a pop. I stocked up on authors — George Orwell, Anthony Burgess, Kurt Vonnegut — I mistakenly thought wrote nothing but science fiction. Then there were the titles that caught my eye because they sounded vaguely fantastical, like “Ten Days That Shook the World” (about an asteroid strike?) and “Invisible Man” (clearly the inspiration for Claude Rains). . . .

Drawn in by “The Metamorphosis,” I became a fan of Kafka. I read everything by Aldous Huxley, eventually reconciled to the fact that “Brave New World” and “Island” were not representative of his work. . . .

Right now, as I toy with the idea of writing a screenplay, I find a battered copy of “The Disenchanted,” Budd Schulberg’s roman à clef about F. Scott Fitzgerald in Hollywood, to be utterly enchanting.
Even if young Feffer might have bought that novel because he thought it was about…some sort of enchantment.

This gives me an opening to recommend the Good Show, Sir blog, featuring the most baffling, ugly, and embarrassing-for-the-species covers for science-fiction paperbacks; and Pop Sensation, an exploration of one person’s paperback library.

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