Saturday, May 25, 2013

penguins going extinct

You know what is im-fucking-possible to find anywhere? The PENGUIN 20TH CENTURY CLASSICS EDITION OF JACOB'S ROOM, that's fucking what. Everyone - Elliott Bay and Ignoble Barn included - has the shitty new Harcourt "annotated" version, which I read, which has woefully incomplete notes that most of the time, reference the 1992 Penguin edition. I can't find it even in used bookstores around here (the ones that are still left). Yeah I can get it used off Amazon but that's always a crapshoot, especially with the steady rise in sellers who pronounce a book "Fine" and then it arrives and the glue in the spine is so flaking and cracked the cover falls off (happened to me this past month). I don't even want to think what might show up if I requested "the version edited by Sue Roe". Look, my needs are simple: £500 a year pre-war value,* a room of my own and THIS BOOK. Preferably without its cover falling off. (And I hate ordering books new from De Nile, picturing some poor fucker scrambling around in a freezing or dangerously overheated warehouse cherry-picking merchandise with no union, no breaks....)

It's always frustrating to study an annotated version and realize you've read the wrong one - happened to me with Shirley too. (Margaret Smith, usually My Girl, OMG how she let me down with that one. I later got the Penguin Classics ed. with the intro by Lucasta Miller -- which is smashing -- but to go through the notes I'd have to read Shirley all over again, Jesus no. MORAL: pick your cheap non-scholarly annotated paperbacks carefully.) (Or in this case, Bo Diddley aside, maybe you can judge a book by its cover: the Harcourt Room has an amazingly ugly Mondrian, the Penguin 20th uses a beautiful Vanessa Bell painting.)

*Does anyone else associate that (rather exorbitant) sum with Socrates's deadpan suggestion that his punishment should be living in the Parthenon (or wherever it was) rent-free for life, like the retired Olympic athletes? Especially since Woolf knew her Greek -- No? Just me then? OK.