I had a happy browse this evening in The Reading Well Bookstore. Tucked away in an historic building on Water Street, it offers an eclectic mix of new and used books with an emphasis on works by local authors. The selection is excellent and the ambiance everything one hopes for in an indie bookstore. There were at least ten books that I wanted, but I exercised a bit of restraint and came away with just two: The Ego is Always at the Wheel: Bagatelles by Delmore Schwartz, and The Diary of James Schuyler.
I find Delmore Schwartz’s work to be wildly uneven. His “In Dreams Begin Responsibilities” is possibly the best short story I've ever read. His “The Heavy Bear Who Goes With Me” is one of my all-time favourite poems. Others of his stories and poems leave me indifferent. But if he's that good when he's good, it's easy to overlook the dross. The Ego is Always at the Wheel is a collection of short personal essays that were collected together and published as a book only after his death. In the foreword, editor Robert Phillips describes them as “light-hearted and mocking views of the poet himself, of the literary world, and of the world-at-large.” I anticipate that there will be at least a few gems among them.
The Diary of James Schuyler is a book that I persist in thinking I already own despite the fact that I can never find it on my bookshelves. I suspect that the day I bought Schuyler's Collected Poems I almost bought the diary as well, then in a moment of misplaced economy left it behind at the till. In any event, I definitely have a copy now. If it proves to be a duplicate, I’m quite sure that one of my pals will gladly take it off my hands.
It occurs to me that putting these together with last week’s purchase of Auden’s The Dyer’s Hand, I’m on a bit of a prose-by-poets binge.