Tuesday, October 07, 2008

An old book

At various times I've mentioned Lord Dunsany here as a writer I enjoy. A fair chunk of his work is available at Project Gutenberg, but I decided I wanted to check out a physical book of some of his stories instead. Our local library has only one collection, but the library is part of a bigger grouping of libraries throughout northern Colorado that share their holdings without a lot of restrictions. Once in a while a request will come back denied because the book is one that the library isn't willing to send out, but generally it's as if I have an account with dozens of different regional and city libraries.

So I requested two Dunsany books that I found there, one a recent collection from Penguin Classics. The other was listed as a book from 1906, and its title, Time and the Gods matched the book published then, but I suspected it was a later reissue, or that if it really was from 1906, then the library would deny the request. Wrong on both. The book isn't in great shape, isn't even in good shape, but it's beautiful nonetheless. The illustrations are themselves a wonderful part of it, and there's something about the smell of an old book I love.

As a college student I worked in the school's library, so I've held older books, and likely rarer books, but that in no way dimishes the pleasure in holding this, in carefully leafing through its pages, and in reading these stories.

Dunsany is frequently referred to by fantasy writers. He's honored by writers as diverse as LeGuin (whose writing I greatly admire) and Eddings (whose...well not so much) plus many others whose works I've enjoyed--Lovecraft, Moorcock, Beagle, Borges, Gaiman... And apparently in earlier decades there was a bad tendency to try to write like him...usually with predictably awful results. But I frequently get the sense that most fantasy readers today haven't read him. Many of his works are here at Project Gutenberg, so do check him out.

According to the Penguin Classics intro, by the way, it's pronounced dun-SAY-knee, which surprised me. I'm still trying to roll that name around on my tongue to get used to it.

1 comment:

Terry said...

Ah. A fellow bibliophile--although I tend to go for theology. My most delightful serendipitous find was when I ordered James Buchanan's The Doctrine of Justification from the Baker Used Bookstore in Grand Rapids. I was mostly interested in getting a copy to read and expected the 1960's Banner of Truth reprint. I received in the mail the 1867 first edition in excellent condition--one of my treasures--although I don't have a glass covered bookshelf to keep it in. I love that store. We buy a grocery bag of books every time we go to Grand Rapids.