The other day I posted about a mini-spree at a used bookstore and mentioned the memoirs I had picked up. Today, I'll fill you in on the books about writing that wound up in my bag.
Bookworms: Great Writers and Readers Celebrate Reading, edited by Laura Furnam & Elinore Standard (Carroll & Graf, 1997). Sixty short essays by a wide-ranging and somewhat eclectic collection of noteworthy writers and readers, including: Tobias Wolff, W. H. Auden, Sven Birkets, Charles Lamb, Miep Gies, Jane Kenyon, Alan Cheuse, Wallace Stevens, and Anne Lamott. I opened to a page at random and found this: "Reading while watching baseball on television is especially fine, and given light reading, is easily brought off with the help of the instant replay. Why do one thing at a time when you can do two? And between the two done simultaneously, light reading and watching television, the former almost always wins out." – Joseph Epstein
The Elements of Style, by William Strunk Jr. and E.B. White (Fourth edition, 2000). Yes I already have two copies. So what? This one is in a larger format, in pristine condition; mine are tattered, yellowed and often out on loan. Plus there's a foreword by writer (and White's stepson) Roger Angell, who says, "Writing is hard, even for authors who do it all the time." My favorite Strunk & White admonition? Two: "Don't explain too much," and "Be clear."
The Writer on Her Work, edited by Janet Steinburg (Norton, 1980). Another essay collection, bringing the total of essay collections on my shelf to…oh, you don't want to know! Essays by 17 notable women writers, including so many favorites – Joan Didion, Toni Cade Bambara, Mary Gordon, Honor Moore, Maxine Hong Kingston. Opened at random, I read this: "A writers needs certain conditions in which to work and create art. She needs a piece of time; a peace of mind; a quiet place; and a private life." – Margaret Walker.
Roget A to Z, edited by Robert L. Chapman (Harper Perennial, 1994). Yes, I use an online thesaurus; yes I have a battered old copy of Roget's from college. But, you should see this one. Nearly three inches thick. So beautifully laid out, graphically and visually pleasing. And organized alphabetically. 300,000 words! I especially love the slightly tongue-in-cheek quotes, for example, under the synonyms and other information for the word conservative, you'll read: "the leftover progressive of an earlier generation - Edmund Fuller."
So that's my haul. What did you emerge with the last time you stepped into a bookstore, used or otherwise?
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