January 7, 2011

A Little Story About A Little Book

When I sorted through my book collection recently, I found I still owned a lot of books from college English classes that I hadn't necessarily read at the time and definitely hadn't thought about since. Certain of these books demonstrated a tendency among the creative writing instructors to assign books by writers connected to the creative writing program. I was unable to recollect any sentimental attachment to most of these books, so I put them in the giveaway pile.

I took one back out of the pile when I noticed the extensive underlining it contained. I don't remember reading this book, but either I did, or in an intense fit of boredom, I simply went through the pages madly underlining. In some sections there are more words underlined than not.

Circumspections From An Equestrian Statue

I couldn't figure out much of a pattern with a cursory study, but since the book is just a tiny little thing, a novella from a small press, I decided to hold onto it and give it another look later. I put it into the pile of papers and magazines on my desk.

The other day, when I was supposed to be thinking about my novel, which meant I was thinking about every random thing but, for no particular reason I thought about the fact that Jaimy Gordon, formerly unknown author and recent winner of the National Book Award for LORD OF MISRULE, was on one of the Bookworm interviews I'd downloaded. To be more accurate, I was perhaps just repeating the words "lord of misrule" in my head because I'd seen them on my computer screen a little earlier and that's the sort of thing my brain does. And then my brain did something more useful, and I went through the pile on my desk to find the little book.

Circumspections From An Equestrian Statue

Circumspections From An Equestrian Statue

The book that I so eagerly and mysteriously underlined sometime in the mid-90s is CIRCUMSPECTIONS FROM AN EQUESTRIAN STATUE, a novella published in 1979 by Burning Deck Press of Providence and written by the now-suddenly-rather-more-famous author Jaimy Gordon. The colophon tells me that there were 1000 copies, but hey, how many of those do you think survive? Maybe this book is worth a lot of money now -- or would be, if it wasn't so full of pencil marks. But hey, imagine how much it's going to be worth when I win the National Book Award, too! (Optimism, remember?)

I'll give the book a read soon and find out what it's about, and what on earth I might have been thinking with all that underlining.

Update 1/25/11: I read it.

Good Stuff Out There:

→ Lapham's Quarterly has a beautiful graphic depicting the working methods of writers and other artists. (Thanks, Lit Drift!)

→ Ed Park writes in the New York Times about really, really long sentences in literature. (Thanks, The Second Pass!)


mamagotcha said...

I think that's one of the reasons I'm a packrat... it's such a lovely surprise to find a little treasure, a gift to the current me from the long-past me (of course, long-past me also left a metric shit-tonne of crap that surrounds each little jewel, but I try not to be too cross with her for it).

Lisa Eckstein said...

Oh, man, I hadn't even thought of this story as a good excuse for packratting. Now I'm in trouble! :) But you're right -- if we never hold onto anything, these cool kinds of things can't happen.

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