Thursday, August 23, 2012

Putting Coating on Paper

You have to be impressed with a publisher that takes the time to respond to a curmudgeonly gripe.  And so, according to the response to yesterday’s blog post, the Library of America has not changed the paper of their dust jackets—just the coating on the paper.

Which raises the interesting existential crisis for the day.  The Library of America notes that the changed cover is a technological improvement.  It’s progress.  And, so here I find myself (yet again) standing athwart history, yelling “Stop!”  I like the old glossy paper.  LOA says I will grow to like the new scuff-free matte finish.  Suddenly I wonder if my wife secretly works for the Library of America.

I habitually dislike change.  Janet (my long-suffering wife) is always merrily relating story after story (after story) of changes in my life which I instinctively disliked, but grew to love over time.  So, when LOA insisted that given time, I will like the new covers better than the old, my blood froze.

Also worth noting—the reply by Library of America says they made the change in coating years ago.  So, I checked my books.  My three volume Philip Dick set has the old coating, and it is recently published.  Then I noticed my Vonnegut volume (the 1963-1973 one) has the new matte finish—I hadn’t noticed (I haven’t read it yet).  Which then caused me to wonder why the change was immediately apparent when I got my Bierce volume but not when I got my Vonnegut volume.

All of this has reminded me of something I have occasionally lamented.  As noted many times here in the past—I own a lot of LOA volumes.  Every now and then, I end up with one without a dust jacket.  The volumes look good without the dust jacket, just not as good.  I’ve occasionally toyed with the idea of buying a new copy to get the dust jacket—but that seems a bit pathetic, and quite honestly, it isn’t worth that much.  The dust jacket market is the sort of market that would collapse under the weight of the overhead to even offer the product.  Sigh.

In the end, I will begrudgingly forgive the Library of America for changing the gloss.  (I am sure there are enormous sighs of relief and great rejoicing at LOA headquarters right now.)  I’m still not happy with the change, but far be it from me to resist progress.

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

The importance of paper

I have long touted the Library of America volumes as marvelous examples of craftsmanship.  The look and feel of the books enhances the enjoyment of the content of the volumes.  They had a great product.  I buy lots of LOA volumes.

So it is with great sadness, great, vast, overwhelming sadness, that I report that my most recent purchase of a Library of America volume (Bierce) has crushed my spirit.  They (the mysterious, omnipresent they) changed the paper being used for the dust jackets.  The old paper was a glossy, sturdy affair; it was nice to just hold the volume.  The new paper is rough, not glossy and just feels like…well, paper.  So suddenly instead of experiencing joy at the mere holding of the volume, I feel…well, it feels like an ordinary book and not like an Entryway into the Divine.

Yeah, I know times are tough and paper is expensive.  But, really now.  Would you put Our Lady of the Rocks in a frame from Wal-Mart just to save a few dollars? 

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Best Served Cold

Five years ago I was supervising a really interesting senior thesis in which the student made extensive use of Karl Popper.  She also made extensive use of Homer, Dante, Joyce, Plato, and Marx—I had read all of those 5 authors.  I’d never read Popper.  The student kept trying to convince me to read The Open Society and Its Enemies.  I knew enough about the book to have a discussion about it, but she insisted (and rightfully so) that I really should read it.  She said it was a fast read, that I could read it in an evening.  I eventually bought a copy—well, the singular there is a bit deceiving, the book is actually two volumes long.  Smallish print.  It didn’t look like a one night read. 

So, here I am five years later and I read it.  It took a lot longer than one evening.  Now I wonder if my dear student, who shall remain nameless a) lest this look like I am casting aspersion on someone who ended up in Stanford Law School (perish the thought!) and b) so that this post will be unGoogleable for reasons delineated below…anyway, said student, unless being the type who goes to Stanford Law School is also the type who can read 750 pages of dense prose in an evening, was deliberately deceiving me in order to convince me to read the book.

Evaluating the book is a bit of a challenge as a result.  I spent most of the time reading it thinking, “This book sure is tediously long.”

Volume 1 was relatively fun.  In it, Popper skewers Plato. One gets the joy of watching an icon get destroyed.  (Yes, I am an iconoclast at heart.  Shocking, to be sure.)  In volume 2, Popper takes apart Marx. Yawn.  Get in line, Karl, get in line.

My advice: if you are going to read this, set aside more than a night.  And stop at the end of volume 1.  And if you ever meet a really amazing lawyer whose name has been carefully avoided throughout this post (initials: MH) but who was an MHC undergrad and a Stanford Law School grad, tell her that she really should have picked someone other than Popper for her thesis and don’t tell her how you know about the thesis.  That will be my revenge.

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Monday, August 20, 2012

Blog 2.0

As is obvious to anyone who has checked this space in the last month and a half, activity hereon has been something less than prolific.  Rest assured, Your Humble Narrator has not died.  But, it has become obvious that a change in format is needed. 

In Olden Times, when Your Humble Narrator served as a professor, this blog made for an effective and efficient diversion in the midst of a long block of time when there was nothing pressing.  It served in other words as an effective mental break, allowing a profusion of overwrought prose to serve as a mental release from long periods of concentration.  Brain refreshed, work would resume. 

But, on July 1, your Humble Narrator accepted an interim job in Administration.  First lesson of administration:  there are many meetings.  Many meetings.  The meetings themselves are not necessarily dull—free tip: it helps when you get to set the agenda for a meeting.  But, gone are the days of long blocks of uninterrupted time.  I now have many short blocks of time, but apparently in the last month, I have not had many days in which I thought, This would be a good time to ramble on about a book I read.

Hence it has become apparent that with a new job there necessarily needs to be a new blog format.  So, Blog 2.0 is going to be the remarkably brief post.  We’ll see how it works out.  (The “we” in that sentence being, of course, “I” and some imaginary reader.)