This weekend, while out at my parents, my father gave me an old copy of Ulysses. It’s from the 1934 first American printing, published after much controversy surrounding the book for its supposed obscenity. The foreward opens with: “The new deal in the law of letters is here. Judge Woolsey has exonerated Ulysses of the charge of obscenity, handing down an opinion that bids fair to become a major event in the history of the struggle for free expression.” How’s that for an opener?
And here’s the inscription on the inside cover that my grandfather signed in 1935. The date at the top right reads February 14, 1934. And the bottom says “May 1935 For 1 Buck.” Is that expensive or cheap for a hardcover back then? I don’t know.
Also, while rummaging through the garage, I found a copy of The Dorling Kindersley Handbook of Trees. Some of you may know about my fifty or so houseplants breeding freely in my apartment. I know the names of the most common indoor plants quite well, but I’m horrible when it comes to identifying trees. (I called my brother-in-law’s common cherry tree a beech before he corrected me). But now with my little handbook I’ve discovered a bunch of really cool things about trees. For example, the tree I wrote about in Sybil’s Garage, whose black and red berries provide food for countless birds, is actually a black mulberry, and its true origins are unknown because it’s been so heavily cultivated throughout the world.
Finally, I found another book in the garage (there are many) from 1900 called Wit and Wisdom of the Talmud, which reduces the many religious texts into simple aphorisms. It contains such treasured truths as “Friendship or death,” the pragmatic “We ought not to live in a town where no physician resides,” and the stoical “Laughter and levity habituate a man to lewdness.” But I like this one the best so far: “There is a compensation for everything except our first love.” Amen.