In the High Peaks

Sunday, October 27, 2013

All the Books that Swept across My Threshold Today

I can't believe I started this post last Thursday and am only finally finishing and publishing it today.

Just an ordinary Thursday, though it is United Nations Day (Oct. 24).

At the college library this noontime, I experienced the magical opportunity of being one of the first to view a clutch of new titles that hit the "New Books" shelf late yesterday afternoon. Very, very lucky.

I grabbed a new biography, Jack London: An American Life, by Earle Labor, foremost among London scholars. I've mentioned that I'm an annual reader of London's famous short story, "To Build a Fire." From living in wilderness I comprehend how easy it is to succumb to the forces of nature, yet nature is our life's breath. As of today, I'm determined to read London's White Fang. I've foolishly protected myself from this novel for my entire life. Today it occurred to me that there's no need. I'll just sweep past the pages in which the brutalization of an animal occurs. Earle Labor documents, in detail for the first time, the extent to which London was devastated by the loss of his animals and the abuse of others'.

I also grasped a new release, The Best American Short Stories of 2013, edited (and selected) by Elizabeth Strout, Pulitzer-Prize-winning author of Olive Kitteridge. I never manage to read all the stories in the annual collection, and I'll admit I'm partial to the stories penned by relatively unknown writers.

When I noticed that a story by Canadian Anne Munro's is included this year, I did a little investigating. I didn't realize until this week that The Best American Short Stories, published by Houghton Mifflin, selects their stories from all those published in American and Canadian literary magazines and journals, yet the front cover and the back cover blurb of the paperback do not specify this fact. (The information is disclosed within the first few pages.) I think this is unfortunate. Would you call it an opportunity lost? Does Houghton Mifflin think the collection won't sell as well if the title were The Best American and Canadian Short Stories?

Then, at the post office, I picked up the two Mary Stewart novels I ordered! They're beautiful editions, but The Ivy Tree, despite being a trade paperback, has tiny print and mini-spacing between lines. I've decided to try to ignore it because I'm that happy to have the book in the house at last. 


  1. I read White Fang for the first time recently and I didn't find it upsetting at all. I think you'll enjoy it.
    It annoys me when books are so meanly printed, no wonder e-readers are so popular, even amongst actual book lovers like myself.

    1. Hi, Katrina,
      I'm so glad to know you liked White Fang. Have you read Call of the Wild? I haven't read this London title either.
      If The Ivy Tree were available as an e-book right now, I'd be tempted to buy it, but this is the only one available. The cover is haunting, beautiful, and sturdy. The paper is high-quality. But it will be a tricky read, yet I'm game for it.