Friday, June 26, 2009

Imagine, a Car-Free Sunday in Hillsdale!

I'm investigating what it would take to close a block of SW Capitol Highway in Hillsdale to vehicular traffic on Sunday, July 25, 2010.

Note: that's 13 months from now, the date of next year's Hillsdale Pancake Breakfast and Hillsdale Community Foundation Book Sale. I envision moving the Hillsdale Farmers' Market to the middle of the road.

Imagine that!

We'd divert westbound traffic up Sunset to Dosch and on its merry way to Raleigh Hills on Beaverton-Hillsdale Highway or on up 30th to Multnomah Village. Reverse it coming east.

I've written about the idea in the current issue of the Hillsdale News in the commentary section.

Now my friend Daniel Ronan has alerted me to the Portland Bureau of Transportation's support for street closures (actually closures of streets in entire neighborhoods). Go here to find out more.

This could be easier than I thought. I'm already getting support from people who've done this elsewhere.

Your thoughts?

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Thursday, June 25, 2009

Orwell off-limits

Yesterday I wrote of duplicates and triplicates in my library that I have culled for the July 26 Hillsdale Used Book Sale.

I confess there is some redundancy in my library that I overlook and did not mention. When it comes to pruning, I leave be the literary branches of George Orwell.

I have five anthologies of Orwell’s essays. One brick of a book includes 240 essays. It’s depth and scope might lead me to justifiably get rid of the other four relatively slim anthologies. Then again, each smaller edition, in addition to being transportable, has its own introduction and insight into George Orwell, whose real name was Eric Blair.

No, Orwell, whose birthday happens to be today, is spared my pruning. His work anchors my library, his insights inspire my thinking, and his prose is as clear and direct as any I know.

Blair was born 106 years ago today and died in 1950, the year following the publication of “1984.” I have three copies of the dystopian classic. One is the American Book-of-the Month Club edition published in that first year of publication, 1949. The flyleaf reads, “The new novel by George Orwell is the major work towards which all his previous writing has pointed.”

I’m not certain I agree, but the anonymous notion invites consideration and discussion.

The other two “1984”s are editions of “1984 — Text, Sources and Criticism” edited by the great critic Irving Howe. The first appeared in 1963; second in 1982.

(A personal note: Howe edited the first edition while at Stanford as a “scholar in residence.” At the time I was an undergraduate at Stanford. I remember attending a free-form lecture/discussion by Howe, who astonished me by speaking off-the-cuff in flawless, rounded, publishable prose. On the fly, he fine-edited his words to a finished draft in the moment between mind and mouth.)

I have 37 books by or about Eric Blair. During pruning for future book sales, I’m certain my “Orwellian” volumes will remain. If anything, I expect their numbers to grow.

A curiosity on the Web is “Orwell’s Blog,” which posts 70-year-old entries from Blair’s journals. Here is his entry for his 36th birthday, which, oddly, he doesn’t mention. But the posted comments to the blog most certainly do. One writer notes that at the time, Hitler’s shadow was falling over Europe, yet in his journal, Orwell seems oblivious (which he certainly wasn’t). The June 25, 1939 entry, like so many others, is fixated on nearby flora and his hens’ egg production.

It’s all quite strange, suggesting yet another dimension and meaning to the term “Orwellian.”

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Wednesday, June 24, 2009

How to prune a literary garden

When I sorted through my books last week to prune those to donate to the annual Hillsdale Used Book Sale (July 26), I discovered several duplicates.

What was I thinking when I bought these “seconds”?

Was I even aware that I already owned one copy?

Consciously or subconsciously, I must have felt that they were worthy of duplication. Or maybe I was simply covering my bets. (Interior monologue: “Did I lend that to someone? Better buy it. I can always give it away if I discover I still have a copy.”)

Well, I’ve vowed that the days of duplication are over and then some. I’m getting this collection down to a size I can manageably read before I’m pruned by the Great Pruner.

One year I went through my books resolved to remove volumes I had no intention of reading — ever. Then I discovered I just liked having them available, in case.

Then I've tried culling books I have actually read. Confession: they are a distinct minority. I'm a painfully slow reader. Of course the mere fact that I’ve read a book doesn’t give me a reason to get rid of it. Who, after reading “1984” or “Walden,” is going to get rid of it?

So this year I considered a new approach to pruning my collection. I considered setting a number, 250, which I planned to keep. Identify those and get rid of everything else, I told myself. In my case, the donation cull would be about 750 books.

It sounds easy until you see the gems buried away in the 750.

So I took a “hybrid” approach. I met nearly half my goal. About 300 books. I filled eight boxes which have been turned over to the sale organizers. The trick now is to vow not buy any of them back at the sale. I know from experience the vow won't be easy to keep.

OK, so what are those duplicates? If I list them, you may understand how I ended up with two of these:

Will Durant: “The Story of Philosophy”

John K. Galbraith’s “The Affluent Society.”

Huston Smith’s “The Great Religions.”

E.F. Schumacher’s “Small is Beautiful.”

Kahlil Gibran’s “The Prophet.:

Strunk & White’s “The Elements of Style” (I had three copies!)

For next year, I'm considering dropping books by a single author. Like Graham Greene or Ray Bradbury or Lewis Thomas or Neil Postman. Described that way, the task sounds more like an up-against-the-wall execution. I have to remember that I'm getting rid of books, not people. Strange how the distinction isn't always clear — as in "Have you read any Bradbury lately" or "I love Hemingway."

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Tuesday, June 23, 2009

At tip of a writer's hat to typewriters

Garrison Keillor's Writer's Almanac today touched on the history of typewriters and on how three writers — Ernest Hemingway, Hunter Thompson (shown here in a crazed state) and Jack Kerouac — bonded with them in strange ways.

Keillor might have mentioned that two contemporary authors, Paul Auster and Larry McMurtry still use typewriters, an Olympia and a Hermes respectively.

About four years ago I began collecting these beautiful, fascinating machines. Now I like to think of myself as a "typewriter archivist." If one comes my way worth salvaging, I'll "archive" it, often simply to save it from scavengers who cut keys from old machines and make jewelry out of them.


Fifty typewriters line shelves along a wall of my basement. I'd like to sell a few and keep only those I can identify as being models used by the likes of Hemingway, Kerouac and Thompson. (The photo of the great Gonzo journalist shows him drawing a bead on his IBM Selectric.)

You might want to visit my "Backspace Typewriters" blog to get a feel for my "archive."

Much to my joy, I've discovered on the Internet a lively, devoted "typewriter community." Here in Portland, our Mecca is Ace Typewriter over on North Lombard.

Perhaps the Writer's Almanac entry will add to our typewriter community's ranks. We can hope.

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