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I bought this Penguin edition in the mid-1980s at Louie's Bookstore Cafe on Charles Street in Baltimore. The paperback combined Paul Auster's three surreal detective stories about New York. I have not read all of his subsequent novels, but these spoke to me. For some reason, ever since I was a child, I have enjoyed stories about mysterious disappearances. I also enjoy literary twists on genre fiction (mysteries, science fiction, fantasies). I remember the jacket copy for "Ghosts" was particularly intriguing: "Blue, a student of Brown, has been hired by White to spy on Black. From a window of a rented room on Orange Street, Blue keeps watch on his subject, who is across the street, staring out of his window." But a passage in the third book, "The Locked Room," probably sums up how I feel about Auster's work. The narrator finds a notebook belonging to a writer who has vanished:

If I say nothing about what I found there, it is because I understood very little. All the words were familiar to me, and yet they seemed to have been put together strangely, as their their final purpose was to cancel each other out. I can think of no other way to express it. Each sentence erased the sentence before it, each paragraph made the next paragraph impossible. It is odd, then, that the feeling that survives from this notebook is one of great lucidity. It is as if Fanshawe knew his final work had to subvert every expectation I had for it.

    This Old Book is a series of posts about books that have survived many purges from my shelves over decades.

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AuthorPatrick LaForge
CategoriesThis Old Book
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My parents bought this 1980 collection for me as a present, probably for birthday or Christmas. It is amazingly comprehensive, and I recall reading it many times. The list of authors ould be familiar to any fan of science fiction: Arthur C. Clarke, Ursula K. Le Guin, James Blish, Philip Jose Farmer, John Varley, Theodore Sturgeon, Ray Bradbury, Robert Heinlein, Kurt Vonnegut Jr. , Larry Niven, Philip K. Dick, Harlan Ellison, Isaac Asimov , and many more. Most were originally published in pulp magazines or other cheap editions in the 1950s, 1960s and 1970s. With 754 pages of tiny type, it supplied hours of entertainment. I recall reading it in the cool of the basement on hot summers (we had no air conditioning), in an old raised ranch in a subdivision on the edge of a field in a town that was on the verge of economic collapse. A lawn mower buzzed somewhere. A cat was probably curled at my feet. That house is sold. My parents are long gone. I had not opened this book in decades, until I decided to write this post, but some memory of those days has kept me repacking it into boxes, smoothing his tattered dust cover, from upstate New York to college in Ithaca, to Baltimore, to Pennsylvania to various New York apartments. And here it is, like a time capsule I stashed away for myself in the last days of adolescence.

    This Old Book is a series of posts about books that have survived many purges from my shelves over decades.

Posted
AuthorPatrick LaForge
CategoriesThis Old Book
Transient

I fondly remember the National Public Radio's of the 1980s, especially "All Things Considered," because it kept me awake on so many long automobile trips in the wilds of Maryland, Pennsylvania and upstate New York. I must have bought this book after hearing a commentary on the show from Ian Shoales, a member of Duck's Breath Mystery Theater. I'm not entirely sure that it was clear to me at first that he was the fictional creation of Merle Kessler. After a blast of cynical commentary, his trademark sign-off was "I gotta go."  In later years, Kessler has written articles, performed on KQED radio, local theater on the West Coast, kept a blog, and even done some recent podcasting. I can't say that this Reagan-Cold War-era book has aged all that well. So much in our culture, world and society was about to change. A lot of the references seem stale or frozen in time. What might have seemed edgy then has been rendered mild in this age of "The Daily Show," Sean Hannity and The Onion. It is a window on a forgotten era.

This Old Book started as a Tumblr, which is also archived on Palafo.com. These are books that have survived many purges from my shelves over decades, with a few comments about why I have held onto them.

Posted
AuthorPatrick LaForge
CategoriesThis Old Book