Sunday, November 24, 2013

This week in thrift-store books

I continue to find quality books at Goodwill and Value Village, books overlooked and unwanted by the public.  My goal is to accumulate these treasures while they are still available.  Before TSHTF, I am stackin' ... books.

Here's what I found this week.

I had some time to kill while waiting to pick up my daughter from a birthday party in Ballard, so I dropped in the Goodwill at 65th and 8th NW.  Good thing I did, because I stumbled across someone's old collection of Grosset & Dunlap books, of which I am an avid collector.

G & D, "The Story of" series

These date to the late 1950s and early 1960s, and are in excellent condition, with dust-jackets.  I need to order some more vinyl jacket covers from Demco soon (I order batches of 100).  Sometimes bibliophiles call these jacket protectors "Brodarts," but I don't order from them because Demco has them whipped on prices.

more "The Story of" series 

These will look great with protective sleeves on the jackets.  I would have been pleased enough to find these, but also found six books in the "We Were There" series from Grosset & Dunlap.  These are historical accounts where the author weaves a story involving a couple of kids into an event, to help explain it to the reader.  An historical consultant keeps the narrative honest.

G & D "We Were There" series

I'm kinda curious to see how the author gets two kids out in Bataan, and whether they are bayonetted at some point by the vicious Japanese, their frail bodies dumped by the side of the road.

more "We Were There" series

Value Village had this from Rodale Press, could be useful.

Rodale Press, Growing & Using Healing Herbs

And so could this:

The Chronicles of Amber

Value Village had this book, the first of a series meant to accompany and update the Great Books of Western Civilization produced by Britannica and the University of Chicago, Mortimer Adler's grand project.  Once in a while I see a Great Books series or individual volumes at thrift stores, even though I don't have a set or much interest in owning one.  My library has plenty of classics and overlap with the set, and professor Allan Bloom used to make fun of the translations used for these books.

The Great Ideas Today, 1961

I bought this because it contains a length essay by an old friend of mine, the late professor Edward Shils of the Committee on Social Thought at Chicago.  In his essay, in the inaugural edition of this series, he summarizes the condition of the social sciences and the world in general in 1961.  As soon as I started reading it, I realized that this was an amazing time capsule, which deserves further study.  Shils's writing here is like a letter from another planet, and I'll give it a good read and post more about it up here.

Deflation Land trivia -- my comments on charts are always in green text, a secret nod to Shils.  Anyone who has been his student understands why.


ikh said...

I always knew you were smart CG, so U of Chic doesn't surprise me. But that studied under Shils marks you as older than I thought ( what with all the epic solo hikes through Cascadia I couldn't imagine you over 40 ).

I only know Shils' name via Joseph Epstein's essay "My Friend Edward". Some hilarious anecdotes in that piece.

Christian Gustafson said...

Hehe, thanks ikh, I appreciate it. I never did meet Joseph Epstein, who was teaching at Northwestern back then. I was introduced to Shils by one of his best students, Steven Grosby, who came out of the Committee for Social Thought and now teaches at Clemson.

I managed to catch the tail-end of the era of great Chicago professors, including Shils and Allan Bloom. I was young and foolish and overwhelmed by it all at the time, of course, and probably squandered many great opportunities to be around these magnificent men. Shils died in 1995, Bloom in 1993.

With Shils you were quickly exposed to the economist Frank Knight, whose scholarship is far-ranging way beyond the limits of narrow economics as we think of it today. From there, it was easy to arrive at the Austrians, particularly Mises and Hayek, and a grand critique of the situation we are in.

Allan Bloom was about pure political philosophy, not modern value-neutral social science. At the end of the day, the Straussians are a band of good right-wing Nietzscheans, they teach fundamentals, and are not tied to modernity per se. Their approach can be liberating, participating in the grand traditions of the West, trying to free oneself of the modern horizons.

I think of these men quite a bit today, after many years, and I wish I could consult them for advice, dial them up like Obi-wan Kenobi. What would Shils think of K-winter theory, and how would he react to the idea that this was all a cycle and that the USD -- and quite possibly America -- could collapse?

To what extent were these great men even trapped by their own horizons, the meaty good years of the 20th Century?

We are so poor now not to have them with us to help us understand a very difficult future.

Christian Gustafson said...

You know, ikh I really enjoyed reading Saul Bellow's book Ravelstein, his novel about the last days of Allan Bloom. Edward Shils is represented in the book as well, it's a great read.

The relationship between Joseph Epstein and Edward Shils is analogous to that of Saul Bellow and Allan Bloom. Both Epstein and Bellow are good men, very good men, who know they are in the presence of even better men, the best of men.

Who are the great men alive today?

ikh said...

Wonderful that you caught that last wave at UoC. And interesting that you, who admire Mises, studied under Bloom. As you know, there is great enmity between the Straussians and the Austrian School ( Claremont absolutely hates the LVM Institute ).

I read RAVELSTEIN about 10 years ago and enjoyed it. You probably know that friendship between Epstein and Bellow ended over Shils. According to Epstein, the Shils character in RAVELSTEIN was one of Bellow's trademark literary hit-jobs ( later Joe returned the favor with his short story "MY BROTHER ELI" ).

Who are the great men? Hell if I know. Would V.S. Naipaul and Cormac McCarthy qualify? I like the theologian David Bentley Hart. But my personal 20th century favs are Solzhenitsyn and Eric Voegelin.

BTW, did you ever chat with cantankerous Bill @ GALLERY BOOKS on Belmont near the Brown line? I'll be there over next week when my wife and I visit her relatives in Ravenswood.

Christian Gustafson said...

I was at Chicago when Francis Fukuyama published his End of History, and we were very excited reading it, because he understood Straussian political philosophy as well as economics. At the time, it seemed like he was bridging the two schools. I also bought into his optimism for the future, granting even that there were some serious difficulties, such as how the worsening debt situation would ever turn out in the West. It was an exciting time, I was reading a lot of Hegel, too, drinking pretty deeply from the well.

So you see the progression I have made from young idealistic optimist to some very dark pessimism, circling back around to Malthus.

My main book pal was Roger Carlson at the Bookman's Alley shop in Evanston. I spent a lot of time and scarce money in his legendary shop.

I would always find the best books in Evanston, because Northwestern students don't give a shit about books! LOL