• Favorite Personal Finds 2023

    I am not much of a collector, of any sort. I have hundreds of records, many bought in the late nineties and early 2000s, that would be worth quite a lot if they were in better condition. But I abuse my records and books, leaving the vinyl on the turntable to gather dust and using a hardcover as a coaster for a coffee while making a note in my bird log. I need copies of books I can read while I’m out, which means putting the book in my bag or tote, accompanied by loose Altoids and melted lip balm. Nevertheless I have a few soft-spot authors that I have difficulty letting go, so this year I was happy to find:

    -On eBay for cheap Tove Ditlevsen’s Complete Freedom, a book of short stories translated into English in 1982. These stories aren’t included in the recently(ish) published book of unpublished stories The Trouble With Happiness. I also found at a library sale an anthology of contemporary Danish poetry called Contemporary Danish Poetry that includes seven of her poems. As far as I know there isn’t an English translation of her poems in book form. I already have the first English publication of The Faces, so am on the hunt for the early English publications of Childhood and Youth (which according to a New Yorker article exist) and Early Spring.

    -The first library sale in Woodstock this year was so sparse that I didn’t return again all summer. But I did pick up a Frankenstein hardcover published by Bobbs Merrill in 1974. It contains the 1818 text, the variants of later editions, annotations, as well as the works by Byron and Polidori that were written during the much-mythologized stay in Geneva. I fully intended to sell this copy, and tried to online and in two booths. But then I got into Mary Shelley, having listened to her biography and after reading Mathilda, and I told myself that if Frankenstein doesn’t sell during Christmas I get to keep it. I have also picked up not especially special editions of Shelley’s Lodore, Maurice, and Collected Tales.

    -Over Thanksgiving I visited my college stomping grounds in Pittsburgh and visited Bottom Feeder Books, where I discovered the first edition of Maude Hutchin’s debut novel Georgiana. I had never heard of Hutchins before but after some research I’m interested. A neglectful mother who was a pilot? I love a good mid-century eccentric who was maybe kind of not a “good person.” Bonus points if they're rich.

    -Found one then another in quick succession first U.S. editions of DeWitt’s The Last Samurai so I got to keep one. The Last Samurai was one of my favorite books I read in 2023. I hadn’t read it before because it had Samurai in the title.

    -First U.S. edition of How Should A Person Be at my local. Seminal. Influential. For me.

    This year I will be as ever on the lookout for: Early Lucia Berlin, Lorrie Moore’s Self-Help hardcovers, other Mary Shelleys, aforementioned Tove Ditlevsen, Tyrant Book books, Rosemary Tonks (as if),a pretty Middlemarch, and something special before my time and amazing that I never heard of, extra credit if it's a translation.


    Continue reading