Monday, June 1, 2009

Biblioscavengry, Bibliodipity, and Biblioschade!

Nearly once a week I come upon an open (or hidden) treasure of books in my neighborhood. And this led me to think about what I might call this experience: biblioscavengry? bibliodipity!? Well, perhaps both. But let me explain further what might be meant by these rather cumbersome terms.

Biblioscavengry: The idea of searching for books in other people's trash may seem rather socially anathema to some, but it may also be something exciting for others. I wouldn't necessarily call myself a biblioscavenger, but have been known to act in such a way on occasion. There is the sense of forethought behind biblioscavengry, though; the thought that you are going out for the purpose of finding a book or books that you'd enjoy reading in someone else's trash. Or, in the case of my neighborhood of Hyde Park, near the University of Chicago, this may be the case of free book bins. The famed Powell's bookshop on 57th Street almost always has book bins, though in their case, these are old cardboard boxes.

This is the most well-known and local form of biblioscavengry, because everyone knows about Powell's and their "free books" boxes. Admittedly, I've found some great works in these boxes, including Dicken's Our Mutual Friend (though tattered) and some yellowing copies of Sartre, a crisp, new novel by Annie Proulx, and some other contemporary fiction, among other items. The closest I've come to biblioscavengry in trash bins, was claiming a plastic bag placed next to a public waste bin on the corner near 57th Street Books (just a few blocks west of Powell's), in which there was a copy of a biography of the 19th century Mexican leader Benito Pablo Juárez García.

Bibliodipity: What then might be the difference between biblioscavengry and bibliodipity? This latter term is the idea that you come upon books in some location and they are both a great surprise and a happy, satisfying surprise. Two instances come immediately to mind. About a year and a half ago, I was walking down another street in Hyde Park (of course, every street in Hyde Park has books on it, because the proximity to the University of Chicago and the characters who inhabit this realm are both biblio-drenched entities) and I came upon a box, set up next to a silver maple. In the box were three books, one of which was Gilbert Rist's The History of Development: From Western Origins to Global Faith. Rist's work is rather insightful and is a broad reaching analysis on the term "development." I was pleased by this "bibliodipitous" find, and still cite it as one of my favorite examples of book-finding in my neighborhood. Though, perhaps my favorite find, was around the same time, when I came upon several large boxes in front of a fairly lovely (and expensive) home in the neighborhood. When I looked in the boxes, I found several volumes on Beowulf--original language versions, translations, commentaries, even guidebooks to sites in Denmark that had some connection to that era of Anglo-Nordic literature. Though, I did not take all of the works that were in this box, I acquired much of the treasury at hand, and have since thought it to be my greatest example of bibliodipity! It also piqued my interest in Beowulf and literature from that era. I began studying the texts and translations and even attempted to learn some of the antique terms in the original. The guidebooks, though dating back to the mid-1970s, were full of colorful images of Denmark and historical descriptions of landmarks in Jutland and environs.

Certain locales are more likely to be sites of bibliodipity than others, especially if you live in a community with a high concentration of readers, book lovers, and libraries. One last thing comes to mind though: an experience where I've found books (of course, in my neighborhood!) in a back alley, and after rummaging through them I discovered that they were old trashy romance novels. The sense of delight and bibliodipity soon turned into disappointment, because it was in the find that nothing suited me. In fact, the find disappointed and annoyed me. As a result, I turn to the Germans and their mastery of colorful language to define this feeling: biblioschade.

Biblioschade: (biblio + schade [Ger. "too bad"]) "the feeling which, upon finding a book or collection of books, turns from excitement to disappointment, when discovering the books you've found are of no interest to you; or, the books are too damaged to be claimed." -AE, June 2009

1 comment:

  1. What about Bibliobituaries by Tony? Or