Private Library Note:
From Crawford Doyle


“Under duress” would be overstating the terms of my visit to Crawford Doyle this afternoon, but I certainly had no intention of shopping for books. My tale of woe begins at Best Buy, at the corner of Lex and 86th. What possessed me to wander into those premises two days before Christmas can only be called ignorance. The place was a zoo. I hastened for the exit — and I saw that an earpiece had lost contact with my reading glasses.

I hadn’t lost contact with the earpiece, of course, because it was still attached to the lovely chain that Kathleen made for me last year. All the same, my favorite pair of reading glasses was now considerably less useful than my lorgnette. What to do? I thought about calling to ask if Kathleen had one of those eyeglass repair kits, but nixed that option at once. It was easier to walk the two blocks over to Madison Avenue, where I’d bought the glasses, at what was then Meyerowitz and is now Purdy.

Amazingly — it is only two days before Christmas — my repair needs were not rebuffed. I was asked to come back in half an hour.

What else to do, on Madison Avenue in the middle of the day, but kill some time looking at books? I used up about seven minutes and thirty-nine seconds at Venture Stationery, picking up the usual paper porn — notebooks, Uniballs, Altoids, and my Letts’ diary for 2009. I was not in a mood to daydream about quadrilled paper, though, so I had to push on.

Here are the books, then, that I walked out of Crawford Doyle with:

Selected Poems, by Frank O’Hara (Knopf, 978-0-307-26815-0). I’ve been meaning to buy this collection for ages, because it has a fantastic verse that’s omitted in Donald Allen’s collection:

Lana Turner has collapsed!
I was trotting along and suddenly
it started raining and snowing
and you said it was hailing
but hailing hits you on the head
hard so it was really snowing and
raining and I was in such a hurry
to meet you but the traffic!

My library felt underfurnished without those utterly NYC lines.

The Triumph of Music: The Rise of Composers, Musicians and Their Art, by Tim Blanning (Belknap [suck on that one, Alfred], 978-0-674-03104-3). Notwithstanding his breezy nomenclature, Mr Blanning is one of our most magisterial historians. What’s he doing writing about music? I can’t wait to find out.

Footnote: in correspondence with Nom de Plume today, I hit upon the name for a literary category that has long vexed me. Every now and then, I happen upon bookshelves that are full of books that I’ve never read and never will read. The titles look so earnest, so — what was that word? Magisterial? But I know that I’ll be bored to sobs if I try to read Norman Mailer, or Thomas Pynchon, or Kurt Vonnegut, or John Barth, or any of the other writers who seem so engaged with the wacky problems of being a guy in this mixed-up world of ours.

Dorm lit.

2 Responses to “Private Library Note:
From Crawford Doyle”

  1. Nom de Plume says:

    Thanks for the attribution as your “dorm lit” muse. Question: where does Carl Hiaasen fit in? Hardly intellectual, he is nonetheless repellent to the tender gender (although I’m sure exceptions exist).

  2. tom says:

    There’s a fantastic setting of that O’Hara poem by the composer Christopher Berg. It used to be a regular encore for me, pre-Zipperfly.