Sunday, October 21, 2007

Beware of Falling Leaves

Yesterday errands and a strong wind blew us downtown, where Peter and I spent a couple of hours at the Trinity College book sale (it's on until Tuesday in case you're interested in some good deals). Peter bought an armload of science fiction, and I picked up a few treasures, including:

Margaret Avison's Momentary Dark (McClelland & Stewart, 2006), the last collection of Avison's poems published before she died this past summer.

A collection of Diane Schoemperlen's stories, Red Plaid Shirt (Harper Perennian, 2002), which I'll look forward to reading in the bathtub as soon as I can afford an afternoon break from Toronto literature. Schoemperlen's stories are not only good; more importantly, they come across as true. Homey without being domestic, they interweave the mundane (recipes, photographs, trips to the A&P) with the meaningful (meditations on love, morality, finitude). I also like Schoemperlen's invocations of Kingston, a city I loved living in.

Austin Clarke's The Bigger Light (originally published in 1975; my copy a 1998 Vintage Canada trade paperback), the third volume of Clarke's 'Toronto Trilogy' interrogating the experiences of West Indian immigrants in Toronto and their impact on the city's culture. See also: The Meeting Point (1967) and Storm of Fortune (1971).

Charles Sauriol's Remembering the Don (Amethyst, 1981), a kind of episodic memoir of the river and the ravine.

Oh, and other books of course: Irving Layton's memoir, Waiting for the Messiah (McClelland & Stewart, 1985). Alden Nowlan's Bread, Wine and Salt (Clark Irwin, 1973; originally published 1967), an amusing (and sometimes perplexing) collection of his essays, Double Exposure (Brunswick Press, 1978), and An Exchange of Gifts: Poems New & Selected (Irwin, 1985). Jay Macpherson's Poems Twice Told (Oxford, 1981; a reprinting of The Boatman and Welcoming Disaster). Derek McCormack's The Haunted Hillbilly (ECW, 2003); a novel/writer whose alleged cult status I might believe in if not for the stylistic/grammatical errors marring the text. Rob Budde's The Dying Poem (Coach House, 2002), which looks really interesting: bombed out libraries, dismembered poets -- how can you go wrong? Also New Canadian Poetry (ed. A.F. Moritz; Fitzhenry & Whiteside, 2000), a decent if brief overview/anthology of contemporary Canadian poetry. And, for good measure, Coles paperback editions of Catharine Parr Traill's The Backwoods of Canada (reprint of a volume originally published in 1836) and the diary of Elizabeth Graves Simcoe, circa 1792-1976 -- which I've long since tired of consulting in their electronic versions.

I have to admit that Trinity isn't my favourite book sale. It's usually appallingly crowded and busy with book scouts too busy chatting via cell with their dealers to get out of anyone else's way. Also far too many master's students loudly and self-consciously reviewing theorists they appear never to have read. As at University College, the gems are mixed in with a lot of trash (dated anthologies and multiple copies of the same title should not be taking up valuable real estate on the tables). The prices are higher than the other sales, as well as uneven: some decidedly third-rate poetry anthologies were marked at $6 while I picked up my copy of Avison's Momentary Dark for only $2. In its favour, Trinity has a great selection of Canadiana, lots of science fiction, and masses of history, military, philosophy and political science titles. For the most part they manage to weed out the marked-up textbooks. And the volunteers are helpful and efficient.

Biking toward home I was nearly run down by a well-dressed middle-aged woman plowing her late model black Mercedes through the intersection of Harbord and Spadina. Her approach to making the left turn was to play chicken with the pedestrians and other vehicles who actually had the right of way. Sadly, Peter and I failed to pull our usual box-phalanx formation in time and she got away with it despite coming close to crushing me under her left front tire.

But we had fun fighting the wind all the way home, stopping in at a great (tawdry, flashy, fun) Hallowe'en store at the Dufferin Mall to pick up a mask for Peter and a few costume bits for me for a party next weekend. Then back to work (still working on a long story about dwelling, homelessness and the im/permanence of objects ... set in Toronto, of course).

[Photo by Dan LaMee and used here under the aegis of a Creative Commons license.]


Christine said...

It sounds like you picked up quite a few happy finds. I wonder where the college sources its books for the sale?

Amy Lavender Harris said...

It is my understanding that the books are donated by alumni, faculty and friends. Several (or perhaps all) of the colleges accept donations throughout the year. I really like these sales as they are an unbeatable source of inexpensive books, raise money for the colleges, and ensure that many books find a new home when they might otherwise moulder unread or (worse) end up in a dumpster. The range of books is also extensive, from classics to recent titles across a wide array of genres and subjects.

Anonymous said...

Trinity has a room in the basement where they keep many of the books. There may also be another site, as one year I saw a pickup truck with some boxes. It's an old building, with no elevators, so one of the biggest jobs for the volunteers is just getting them all the stairs to the second floor. My arms would feel stretched for days.

As a reward, they'd let the students in a few hours early to buy up to 10-20 books, possibly at a slight discount. It was always fun to get in there ahead of the massed collectors. Of course, I don't think most of us had any idea what we were looking for in terms of value. And since it was the first day, there was a lot of digging through the still-full boxes under the tables.

Amy Lavender Harris said...

Thanks for the additional information, Wrenkin. Sounds like a good deal for the students.

As well, I believe University College has a book room where used books are available for sale throughout the year.