August 17, 2010

Book Chi Part One

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I always knew that one day one of my cats would pee on the Great Books: that ponderous, pretentiously leather –bound set from Encyclopedia Britannica which my parents bought in the 1960’s.    The exclusively male writers, chosen by Mortimer J Adler, include Homer, Plato, Aristotle, Dante, Plutarch, Aquinas, Newton, Kant, James, Darwin.  There are 52 volumes in all.

My father read them.  His note-filled bookmarks still stick out of them.  When he died, I brought the set to my house in Seattle.  I knew my mother didn’t want them: she only read Jerry Falwell approved books.  I thought I would keep them around to see if I would read them.  If not, I would sell them and become fabulously wealthy.

I haven’t read them and it turns out that nobody else wants to either.  For one thing, they aren’t reader friendly:  the books are heavy, the pages thin and the print tiny.  I am at an age where these things matter.  I sat for a minute in the cat-pee scented air to see which Great Books I have read in Penguin or Riverside editions.  Hmmm.  I went to a private liberal arts college so I have read quite a few of them.  So as not to sound pretentious, I won’t list them.  The only of these guys I have continued to read throughout my life are Shakespeare and Sigmund Freud.  In Book Chi Part Two, I am going to ramble on about what else I like to read and I guarantee it won’t sound pretentious.  At least some of it won’t.

I don’t know what got into the culprit who peed on the books last night.  I don’t even know which cat it was.  It’s the 5th hot day in a row and we are all a little ragged and drained; but Freudy was the cat who seemed most distressed about something.  He appears to be taking exception to my trying to put him on a diet. There’s a certain poetic justice in Freud peeing on the Great Books, I suppose.

I have tried to sell my set of Great Books to book stores, on Craigslist, on Amazon, and in yard sales, and no one wants them.  Now that they smell like cat pee and I can’t conscientiously pass that off as the scent of old leather, I expect they’ll end up on my parking strip with a free sign on them. How the mighty have fallen.

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