Tuesday, 29 December 2009


It is not that widely known that I can read. My ability to read leads to another interesting fact, I own books and sometimes even buy some, like, every week or two.

For some reason, I didn't follow the book market in the Reservation (1) for quite a while so I needed to catch up. I tried the easiest and by far most pleasant way, I went to a bookstore with a shopping list.
That proved to be a disappointing experience, the small bookshops were plainly small and with a limited choice so I shrugged and went to find my Homo Ludens on eBay or... well, just somewhere. Apparently, the library copies are either stolen or booked until next August, or, in the case of the one I borrowed, underlined to death and badly bound, to my eternal anger. Weren't the book messed up, I'd go the way of the cheap and copy it but I thought that being a rather small volume, it might not be expensive. I was quite right on the 'not expensive' bit but the expectation that it may be something like available was just too wild. It was last published in the Reservation in 1997 and the library copies are being stolen because it's been sold out since almost forever. After several days of detailed search of the internetz...

Interlude I.
I wandered into a major bookstore and asked a shop assistant armed with a computer if he could please check whether they have, just by chance, Homo Ludens by Jan Huizinga. "Hey- what?" the shop assistant, who idled around the philosophy department, asked. So far for qualified personnel. This was not the worst yet, though.

...and the internetz spat out a Local Bookstore of Hometown, or namely its branch in Anytown. I reserved it online, happy to support a good bookstore, they are one of the best bookstores I know, you know, stuffed to the ceiling, they stock even back numbers of Dance Zone (2) and various oddities and they sort of serve the needs of the Arts Faculty. Or not actually the needs of it but the innermost wishes. I called them asking whether the Anytown branch could somehow transfer my Homo Ludens to Hometown and the lady on the line nicely and floridly explained how busy they are, how busy the pre-Christmas period is, how they have barely any time to breathe and so on for 15 minutes, ending with a piece of highly useless advice: call the boss and when he drives around, he might take the book to the main store. Then she hung up, leaving me to my own means of conjuring up the boss's phone number.
Since the world is smaller than people generally expect, one of my father's companies opened a shop in Anytown about a month ago so I simply asked Dad who said Yeah, fine. I still don't have the book in my dirty paws, though (3), so nothing is certain.

The other thing I wanted to own were the remaining two volumes of Man'yōshū. I've always wondered what naïve yet lovable soul would want to run a publishing house specialized on Asian stuff and Russian literature between the wars. The publishing house closed down since the last time I had checked (no surprise) so I couldn't plainly order it directly from them and as in the case of poor Huizinga, the bookstores didn't stock it.

Interlude II.
Armed with the experience with Huizinga and a shop assistant, I didn't ask about Man'yōshū in case I was sent to a logopedist or something. I browsed Big Bookstore, trying to find the most probable location of the books, which would be the poetry section. The issue was that I couldn't find the poetry section and it wasn't on the store directory. I asked some information woman, she told me that on the second floor somehow to the right. I went there and after careful looking, I found two shelves of poetry squeezed between celebrity cookbooks and romantic novels. Obviously, there was nothing worth looking at and even less anything I would wish to buy.

Another extensive search brought me to the website of the very some Big Bookstore, they did stock both volumes III. and IV. (I was enthusiastic enough to grab the first two when they came out, good for me or else I'd need to steal them from some library nowadays.) They did possibly stock it and would deliver it to their shop of my choice after checking physically that they have it... so I simply ordered the stuff. While searching, Google led me to various weird websites - if I were a sociologist, I'd write a paper on why it's mostly some tie-dyed rabble (C) (4) who is interested in Asia.

Now, I must say that I like the footnotes much better than the actual poetry; most of it is lost in the translation and what remained is rather bland, not that it would be any wonder, though (5). The afterword said that the Czech translation is one of the two complete ones, after René Sieffert's French one. When one has a crazy guy around, things happen.
Footnotes, well. My messy (should you wish to be nice, call it eclectic) library hides various stuff. The obvious books on botany or Italian painting, more dictionaries than one would want to imagine and the less to live with and a well-worn copy of The Princeton's Companion to Classical Japanese Literature (6). It's one of the bestest reference books I ever owned, basically made of footnotes. Glossaries, maps, such stuff. If I weren't such sociophobic chickenshit (7), I'd hit people's heads with it to see a great example of book design. Simple and efficient.

Is still anyone reading this? If so, say 'yes' in the comments, then I may continue in my book rants.

(1) to those who haven't noticed yet, I'm nothing even remotely close to a patriot. Reservation, when used as a designation for the country whose passport I own, is one big bad connotation of self.
(2) the hard copy of the magazine is half in English, not the website
(3)I could, obviously, take a bus and go there on my own. I didn't feel like going anywhere in the pre-Christmas hell of shopping people; it's not far away but getting there by bus or train is somewhat complicated and it would basically mean half-day trip. Why bother if someone goes there for business every now and then? Alas, the someone is chaotic and forgetful.
(4) to put it short, since I'm not a sociologist, just a mean observer of my fellow humans: tie-dyed rabble (C) is a heterogenous group with a few common traits. They tend to wear cheap stuff imported from India or around which looks vaguely ethnic - unbleached, bad fabric ('It isn't bad, it's irregular because it's handmade!'), some of it is even tie-dyed in a crude manner, featuring 'ethnic' patterns and such. These folks also would like to have some spiritual enlightment (I don't want to know what it is, for my mental safety) and for reasons unclear to me, they believe that it is obtained somewhere towards the East and they don't mean, say, Moscow, Christianity is so passé. Thus they become cafeteria Buddhists or something like that. They are the reason why there's no decent tearoom (imagine Willow Tearooms in Glasgow for 'decent tearoom') in this country, all of them cater to the tie-dyed crowd and most tend to look like a Bedouin tent crashing into an Indian brothel, with a few cheap incense sticks thrown in. So, these folks gather around websites that cater to their tastes and the poor innocent Man'yōshū, a poetry collection that has nothing to do with whatever crap the tie-dyed rabble (C) believes in but for being something better for having come from the oh-so-spiritual-oh-so-better East, is discussed there. Blah.
end of pseudo-sociologic rant
(5) find thee some scholarly type from the right field of study to explain why, should you want to know. I'd be only parroting things.
(6) I got it some ten years ago on March 6, 1996 - I have a catalog - in a bookstore that was closed down long, long time ago; they used to have lots of interesting stuff there, so interesting that I never understood their policy and I don't wonder that they closed down eventually
(7) It works in weird ways. I could elucidate someday, I think


  1. yes, haha, it's quite interesting


    (thanks2god you've changed the language of your blog to eng)

  2. Anony Mouse, I'm not aware I had ever used any other language but English. Or you're hinting that I started using shorter words?