December 29, 2006
Old Books

Several weeks ago I was walking down Mission Street in South Pasadena when I spotted a table of old books outside an antique store. The sign said "$1 each" so I took a look. I picked up four books that looked interesting and was on my way.

When I showed them to Michele, she rolled her eyes. "What are you going to do with those?" she asked.

Well, I read them.

The four books are:

Life of Johnson by Lord Macaulay, published 1895

Lord Macaulay wrote this long essay about the famous English author Samuel Johnson. The most likely line of Johnson's you may have heard is "Patriotism is the last refuge of the scoundrel. " HunterThompson used the line "He who makes a beast of himself gets rid of the pain of being a man." in several of his books as well.

The essay basciallly talks about Johnson's life and struggles. Evidently, while Johnson was quite witty, he was also quite repulsive in appearance and behavior. I tried to follow along with the full essay, but Macaulay's oft references to timely British people that I have no clue about got old quick.

Basically Johnson was a good and witty writer, but not a guy you wanted to have a beer with in person.

An Outline of the English Reformation by Bishop Frank Wilson, published 1950

Bishop Wilson of Eau Claire goes to great length to clear up the misconception that the Anglican/Episcopal church split off from the Catholic Church simply to allow Henry VIII to get divorced. He goes on into great detail on the subject. As neither an Anglican nor a Catholic, it seems like they had quite long history of being mad at each other. According to Bishop Wilson, the Pope, the Spanish, and the French have done a lot of bad things to the British people, including the fact that James II hung out quite a bit trying to be king. Also, he points out that the troublesome Puritain's getting the boot was key to the Anglican's Reformation. Of course, the Puritains and the Pilgrims (another Anglican rival group) ended up in America with their harsh religious beliefs leading to the American culture of today where a naked breast on TV during the Superbowl is is cause for a complete freakout.

To summarize the book, the Anglicans put up with a load of crap from everyone (mainly the Pope's friends) and are quite happy with the Archbishop of Canterbury, so why don't you all stop talking about Henry VIII's divorce already.

The Odyssey by Homer, translated by Butcher & Lang, published 1900

This is the first time I really read the Odyssey from front to back. The story of Odysseus's encounters with the Cyclops, Poseidon, Circe, and the rest of the more famous adventures were well known to me. But what surprised me was that about half the book was spent after all that as Odysseus returns to Ithaca and plans to deal with the suitors, called in this translation 'the wooers'. I like the terms 'wooers' better.

Homer goes to great length to show how bad the suitors are and gives them lots of chances to prove that they are not bad guys, but they don't. Odysseus reminds the wooers they are bad men in a long speech and then kills them all, and the handmaids that consorted with the wooers, and anyone else being nice to the wooers. When the wooers get to the Underworld, Achilles and the other dead veterans of the Trojan War ask the wooers what happened and the wooers explain that they acted poorly and Odyssues killed them all. Then the kinsmen of the wooers are bit peeved that Odysseus killed all the wooers and confront Odysseus. Odysseus starts killing the kinsmen of the wooers (surprise!) and doesn't stop until Pallas Athena stops by and tells Odysseus to stop.

Not a bad tale, but due to the poetical nature of the story, many lines are repeated like "Odysseus of many counsels" instead of just Odysseus. Also, there is much mention of people's fathers and mothers, like "Eurycleia, daughter of Ops son of Peisenor" that is all bit a confusing to a non-Greek Scholar

The Poetical Works of Robert Burns, published 1856

Robert Burns is viewed as Scotland's greatest poet, equivalent to Shakespeare in stature. His most famous poem, Auld Lang Syne, is sung ever New Year's Eve at the stoke of Midnight. You know it. It starts with "Should old acquaintance be forgot, and never brought to mind?"

I didn't read every line of the book. Burns was a prolific writer. I read various poems here and there.

The amzing thing about this book was that it was printed in 1856.

Yep, it's 150 years old and I bought it for a dollar. Good deal if you ask me.

I do like his poetry. He wrote about everything, big and small. From the future of Scotland to a good pub he liked. With such poems as Address to the Toothache and To A Louse, On Seeing One On A Lady's Bonnet, At Church it's hard not to like the guy.

In summary, my $4 was well spent.

Posted by michael at December 29, 2006 05:34 PM


Mr. Pusateri, when you get tired of running the Disney Corporation, you should be a teacher. Well done, sir!

Posted by: phil [] on January 1, 2007 9:49 AM
Post a comment