In the unimportant-and-not-that-interesting-except-to-me department, I paid ten dollars yesterday for a vintage two-volume first edition set of The Life and Letters of Lafcadio Hearn, written by the author’s friend, Elizabeth Bisland. The books were published by Houghton, Mifflin in 1906. Having bought just about every old book in town, I found them not in a local bookstore, but online. Or, rather, I should say they found me, because I wasn’t looking for them. Well, I was looking for them, just not actively. In fact, I had seen that very set before, but the price at that time was much higher, so I didn’t get them. After all, how many people on God’s green earth, as they say, are looking for The Life and Letters of Lafcadio Hearn? They should be, of course, but they’re not. And this is only one reason life is the puzzling thing it is.
In other news, while the bluebells in the neighborhood have passed their peak and are beginning to fade, the two dozen we planted last fall, being first-timers, are in full bloom. The plants are smaller than their counterparts, but they’re healthy, and so we expect a more timely, vigorous performance next year, after the bulbs have established themselves. Next year. I laugh every time I say those words.
One street over, there lives an eighty-two-year-old man I meet walking every now and then. Yesterday evening, he told me about his daily two-mile walks to Safeway and back, which I was aware of, and about how he picks up cans along the way, which I was also aware of, and about how he is eighty-two, which he’s told me a time or three. What I was not aware of, though, is that he is occasionally mistaken for a homeless person, and has been given money for coffee, or breakfast, or whatever meal corresponds with the time he is out. He accepts the money, even though, as he says, “I probably have more than they do.” Life is certainly interesting.
Having finished reading the correspondence between Virginia Woolf and Lytton Strachey, I’ve moved on to Strachey’s Books and Characters, French & English, published in 1922 by Harcourt, Brace and Company. The first essay, vigorous and entertaining, was about Racine. The author assumes the reader knows French. I like that. I like French. I like pretending I can read it. I like thinking someday I might even understand it. The next essay, which I hope to read today, is about Sir Thomas Browne, a writer whose complete works are very hard to find, at least at a price that I am willing to pay. And so it goes. Maybe I should start walking to Safeway.