Tag Archives: Питирим Сорокин

that which war and revolution unleash (Sorokin, 1922)

 

Please note this post on my Sorokin site.

that which war and revolution unleash (Sorokin, 1922)

 

— Roger W. Smith

   August 2022

“Use of A-Bomb Condemned”

 

See my post

“Use of A-Bomb Condemned”

at my Sorokin site

 

“Use of A-Bomb Condemned”

— Roger W. Smith

Pitirim A. Sorokin: “the fact of stratification is universal”

 

Please note my post

“the fact of stratification is universal”

on my Sorokin site

“the fact of stratification is universal”

Sorokin’s observations have important implications.

 

— Roger W. Smith

new coauthored article on Sorokin

 

‘Special Considerations in Translating Pitirim Sorokin’s Work’

‘Special Considerations in Translating Pitirim Sorokin’s Work’

Downloadable documents above.

 

Special considerations in translating Pitirim Sorokin’s work “City and country” (Prague, 1923)

By Natalia S. Sergieva and Roger W. Smith

филологические науки

Международный научный журнал

№ 6 Часть 2

Ноябрь 2020

(Philological Sciences, International Scientific Journal, No. 6, Part 2, November 2020)

pp.  227-232

 

— posted by Roger W. Smith

   December 2020

flight from the cities

 

Please see my new post

“flight from the cities”

on my Sorokin site at

flight from the cities

 

— Roger W. Smith

new post: “Sorokin on human emotions in a time of plague”

 

Please see my new post on my Sorokin site (dedicated to the sociologist and social philosopher Pitirim A. Sorokin:

“Sorokin on human emotions in a time of plague”

Sorokin on human emotions in a time of plague

 

— Roger W. Smith

   April 2020

my Sorokin paper published

 

Сборник (‘Pitirim Sorokin and Paradigms of Global Development in the 21st Century’)

See pp. 25-30 of downloadable PDF (above).

 

Another one in the works.

Roger W. Smith, “Sorokin as Bilingual Stylist: His English Language Writings Examined from a Stylistic Perspective”

IN

Pitirim Sorokin i paradigmy global’nogo razvitiya XXI veka (k 130-letiyu so dnya rozhdeniya)

Mezhdunarodnaya nauchnaya konferentsiya

Syktyvkar, 10−12 oktyabrya 2019 g.

Sbornik nauchnykh trudov

Syktyvkar, 2019

Pitirim Sorokin and Paradigms of Global Development of the 21st Century (on the 130th Anniversary of His Birth)

International Scientific Conference

Syktyvkar, October 10−12, 2019

Collection of Scientific Papers

Syktyvkar, Russia, 2019

 

– posted by Roger W. Smith

 

further reflections on Shostakovich’s seventh (and what Virgil Thomson had to say); дальнейшие размышления о седьмом Шостаковиче (и что должен был сказать Вирджил Томсон)

 

The following comments of mine were prompted by a recent, rather wishy washy review by New York Times music critic Anthony Tommasini of Dmitri Shostakovich’s seventh symphony:

“At the Philharmonic, a Screaming Reflection on War”

By Anthony Tommasini

The New York Times

November 30, 2018

Excerpts from the Tommasini review follow, along with comments of my own that I made in a letter to a friend. (My comments are in boldface.)

— Roger W. Smith

   December 2018

 

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Shostakovich’s “Leningrad” Symphony is a sprawling score that heaves, blasts, marches and meanders for nearly 80 minutes. Written in 1941, while Hitler’s forces were devastating Leningrad in a siege that would last 900 days and take at least a million lives, the work practically screams, “This is a big statement!”

And scream it did on Thursday at Geffen Hall, where Jaap van Zweden led the New York Philharmonic in a performance of the “Leningrad” that was intense and powerful — sometimes overly so.

Shostakovich began composing this symphony, his seventh, before the German invasion. Debates continue over whether he intended it as a grim portrait of a historic city under siege, or as a more general cry against tyranny. Are there coded, anti-Stalinist messages in the piece? And are those long stretches of militaristic-sounding marches bitterly ironic?

I am aware of divergence of critics on these points.

Mr. van Zweden seemed to take the piece at face value — in the best sense. He laid out this shifting score clearly, letting it speak for itself. He pushed the orchestra to blaring extremes at times, but the excessiveness of the music may call for that. (Critics who question the symphony’s merits, including Virgil Thomson, have found it obvious and steeped in banality.)

I wonder about this. Thomson is not NECESSARILY wrong, but I know the seventh well and find much to admire in it.

From the Philharmonic strings, Mr. van Zweden drew a dark, deep tone in the opening theme: a stern yet elusive melodic line, played in unison, that is soon goaded by bursts of drums and trumpets. The transition from there into a quizzically lyrical passage was deftly handled.

The most curious section of the nearly half-hour first movement comes when you expect a development section to begin. Instead, a snare drum plays an obsessive march rhythm. Over it, individual instruments, then groups, play what sounds like a jaunty march tune — over and over. Each statement becomes bigger, louder and more elaborately orchestrated. This roughly 10-minute section has aptly been described as Shostakovich’s “Boléro.” Mr. van Zweden and the orchestra played it straight, building inexorably to an assaultive fortissimo climax.

I don’t like Ravel’s “Boléro.” I know this passage in Shostakovich’s seventh well. I am not crazy about it. … Shostakovich often surprises.

The Philharmonic’s high level of the performance continued throughout the symphony: the second movement’s cross between a scherzo and lyrical reminiscence; the restless slow movement; and the often frenzied finale, which drives toward of seemingly triumphant (or bitter?) coda of victory.

 

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Composer and critic Virgil Thomson is known for having been highly critical of Shostakovich and composers similar to him, such as Sibelius. His caustic remarks on Shostakovich’s seventh are frequently quoted. The review quoted has, I would suspect, been rarely read in its entirely and it is not available online. I am posting the entire review here.

Whether one is able to listen without mind-wandering to the Seventh Symphony of Dmitri Shostakovich probably depends on the rapidity of one’s music perceptions. It seems to have been written for the slow-witted, the not very musical and the distracted. In this respect it differs from nearly all the other symphonies in the world in which abnormal length is part and parcel of the composer’s concept. Beethoven’s Ninth, Mahler’s Ninth and Eighth, Bruckner’s Seventh and the great Brahms “machines” are long because they could not have been made any shorter without eliminating something the author wanted in. Their mater is complex and cannot be expounded briefly.

Its Length Is Arbitrary

The Shostakovich piece on the other hand is merely a stretching out of material that is in no way deep or difficult to understand. The stretching itself is not even a matter of real though possibly unnecessary development. It is for the most part straight banal repetition. The piece seems to be the length it is not because the substance would brook no briefer expression but because for some reason not inherent in the material the composer wishes it that way. Of what the reason could possibly be I have only the vaguest notion. That the reason was clear to its author I have not the slightest doubt, however, because the piece all through bears the marks of complete assurance. It is no pent up outpouring out of personal feelings and still less an encyclopedic display of musical skill. It is interminably straightforward and withal is limited in spiritual scope as a film like “The Great Zigfield” or “Gone With the Wind.” It could have said what it says in fifteen minutes or it could have gone on for two hours more. The proportions of the work seem to this auditor, in short, wholly arbitrary.

Its Content Is Tame

They do not seem, nevertheless, accidental. Nothing seems accidental in this piece. The themes are clearly thought out and their doings are simplified with a master’s hand. The harmonies, the contrapuntal web, the orchestration show no evidence of floundering or of experiment. If the music has no mystery and consequently no real freedom of thought, neither does it obtain any obscurity or any evidence of personal frustration. It is as objective as an editorial, as self-assured as the news report of a public ceremony.

Heretofore this author’s music, whether theatrical or symphonic, has been animated by an instinct for easy theatrical values. He has put into his works with never-failing effect crowd scenes, barcarolles, burlesques and patriotic finales, holding these all together with a kind of neutral continuity-writing in two-part counterpoint. The most entertaining of these numbers have always been burlesques of bourgeois musical taste, which were the more charming for their being purged, as it were, of bitterness by the optimism of the final patriotic and military passages. One could always feel in them the rambunctious but gifted boy whose heart was really in the right place. In spite of the static and not very significant character of the innocent two-part counterpoint between, his “production numbers,” if one may call them that in symphonic music, have always been bright, full of gusto and genuinely characteristic of their composer. They have put us in contact with a real person.

The Seventh Symphony has the same formal structure as the rest of its author’s work. It is series of production numbers interspersed with neutral matter written chiefly in that same two-part counterpoint. There is a mechanized military march and the usual patriotic ending, neither of them quite as interesting or imaginative as they might be. And the rest of the episodes are tamer. The pastorale and the Protestant chorale are competent routine stuff, no more, and the continuity-counterpoint, though less static than usual, just sort of runs on as if some cinematic narrative were in progress that needed neutral accompaniment. The opening passage, which is said to represent the good Soviet citizen, is bold and buoyant. But nowhere is there any real comedy, which is what Shostakovich does best.

It is no reproach to an author to say that one of his works is the kind of work it is. And this work is certainly of more sober mien than most of its author’s others. It is very long and very serious, and both these qualities are certainly deliberate observances. The facile competence and the assurance of the whole thing, moreover, eliminate the possibility that any auditor find the struggle between the artiest and the material a major subject of interest. It is easy to listen to the piece, equally easy to skip any part of it without missing the sense of the whole. It is excellent journalism, and some of it can be remembered. But it will probably not make much difference to anybody’s inner musical life whether he hears it or doesn’t.

Its Author Is Growing Up and Not Very Prettily

Shostakovich is an abundant musician, a “natural” composer. He is also an experienced and perfectly assured one. Heretofore he has maintained a boyish taste for low comedy (redeemed by sincere patriotic sentiment) that gave gusto to his writing and made listening to it sometimes fun. The present work shows a wish to put boyish things behind him and a complete ability to do so without losing confidence in himself. That it is less amusing than his previous works is not to its discredit. That it is, in spite of its serious air and pretentious proportions, thin of substance, unoriginal and shallow indicates that the mature production of this gifted master is likely to be on the stuffy side. That he has deliberately diluted his matter, adapted it, both by excessive simplification and by excessive repetition to the comprehension of a child of eight indicates that he is willing to write down to a real or fictious psychology of mass-consumption in a way that may eventually disqualify him for consideration as a serious composer.

— Virgil Thomson, “Shostakovich’s Seventh,” New York Herald Tribune, October 18, 1942, pg. E7

 

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In an earlier review of a performance of Shostakovich’s Seventh by the New York Philharmonic, conducted by Arturo Toscanini, Thomson stated:

The Shostakovich Seventh Symphony is easy to listen to but hard to keep the mind on. It is easy to follow because the tunes are simple, the counterpoint thin and the orchestration very broad and plain. It is experienced work by a man of thoroughly musical mentality; and it is apparently designed for easy listening, perhaps even with a thought to making it possible for the radio listener to miss some of the repetitions without losing anything essential. It is hard to keep one’s attention on it at a concert hall because it repeats itself so much. One gets to thinking about something else while waiting for the next section.

As usual with Shostakovich, the quiet passages are less effective that the noisy ones. [italics added] Even these, with doubled brass and seven men at the battery, are not especially rousing. Like everything else in the work they are a little too simple to be interesting. The symphony seems to need film accompaniment, something to occupy the mind while it goes on and to explain the undue stretching out of all its sections. I do not find the work objectionable in spirit, and it is certainly sincere and competent music-making. I merely find it thin in substance.

— Virgil Thomson, “Imperfect Workmanship,” New York Herald Tribune, October 15, 1942, pg. 18

 

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I don’t, in the final analysis, agree with Thomson. I like Thomson’s music. And he writes very well. He was justifiably regarded as a very good critic. I don’t mind incisive criticism like this even when I disagree with it. It makes me think.

With a Shostakovich symphony, you never know what to expect. There are deep thought and great ingenuity in all his works. Somewhat like Beethoven, his symphonies (with the possible exception of the second and third symphonies) tend to hold their own, none “copying” another. Each one is a remarkable work.

Yet, the greatest works of art can be uneven. “Perfect” construction is not necessarily desirable or a virtue. Samuel Johnson said as much in a comment about Milton’s Paradise Lost:

In every work one part must be for the sake of others; a palace must have passages; a poem must have transitions. It is no more to be required that wit should always be blazing, than that the sun should always stand at noon. In a great work there is a vicissitude of luminous and opaque parts, as there is in the world a succession of day and night. — Samuel Johnson, “Milton,” Lives of the Poets

Take Beethoven’s Ninth, for example. An inferior work? Yet, at times the construction seems sort of messy. How does the “Ode to Joy” fit into the work? Is it strident? Too much? An emotional outpouring that amounts to overblown sentiment?

Shostakovich has been accused of writing such music and of being inferior to supposedly more cerebral composers such as Stravinsky. Was Beethoven’s music at times too romantic? Is Shostakovich’s music as times too patriotic? Such questions seem nonsensical to me.

Shostakovich, in my opinion, stands head and shoulders above most twentieth century composers, including those who were trying to show primarily how clever or innovative they were. Shostakovich is a brilliant “musical thinker,” and, on top of that, one continually encounters passages of deep feeling and startling beauty.

Thomson’s assertion that “the quiet passages [in Shostakovich’s works] are less effective that the noisy ones” is flat out wrong. Here are some examples from the symphonies that demonstrate just the opposite:

 

Symphony No. 5 in D minor, Op. 47

3rd movement

Largo

 

Symphony No. 7 in C major, Op. 60 (“Leningrad”)

3rd movement

Adagio

 

Symphony No. 9 in E-flat major, Op. 70

2nd movement

Moderato

 

Symphony No. 11 in G minor, Op. 103 (“The Year 1905”)

3rd movement*

Adagio (Eternal Memory)

 

Only one of Shostakovich’s fifteen string quartets had been published when Shostakovich’s seventh symphony was premiered. Had Thomson been familiar with the quartets and other later works of Shostakovich — such as the 24 Preludes and Fugues, Op. 87, premiered in 1952 — he might have had a deeper and fuller appreciation of the composer’s’ oeuvre.

 

* The third movement of Shostakovich’s eleventh, “Eternal Memory,” starts with a halting motion on pizzicato strings, over which a noble melody (‘You Fell As Victims’, most famous of all the revolutionary songs and whose deployment was by no means limited to Soviet composers) is heard on violas then extended to upper strings. A sombre new theme, heard initially on woodwind and brass before being transformed on violins, begins the ascent to the apex, at the summit of which the climactic motif from the previous movement is sounded out balefully on full orchestra, underpinned by pounding timpani that continue as the intensity subsides. The viola melody, now a distant recessional, is heard again before pizzicato strings arrive at a questioning pause.  [Program notes, recording of the eleventh symphony by the Royal Liverpool Philharmonic Orchestra.]

The sociologist Pitirim A. Sorokin mentions this revolutionary song and Shostakovich’s eleventh symphony in his autobiography, A Long Journey.

 

— posted by Roger W. Smith

   November 2018

   transcription of Virgil Thomson’s New York Herald Tribune reviews by Roger W. Smith

 

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Addendum:

Shostakovich’s seventh has much in common with his eleventh symphony, another work comprised of program music of great beauty and power. See my previous post:

 

Shostakovich, symphony no. 11 (“The Year 1905”); Шостакович, Симфония № 11 («1905-й год»)

Shostakovich, symphony no. 11 (“The Year 1905”); Шостакович, Симфония № 11 («1905-й год»)

my Sorokin books

 

my Sorokin books

 

The above downloadable Word document contains an inventory of books by and about the Russian-American sociologist and social philosopher Pitirim A. Sorokin (1889-1968) in my personal home library.

— Roger W. Smith

   October 2022

Roger W. Smith, bibliophile

 

My latest purchase. A steal at $45 plus shipping.

 

… I take pleasure from the fact that I can enjoy [books] when it pleases me to do so; my soul is satisfied merely with possession. I never travel without books, neither in peace nor in war. Sometimes whole days go by, even months, without my looking at them. But it might be at any moment now, or tomorrow; or whenever the mood takes me…. Books are, I find, the best provisions a man can take with him on life’s journey.”

— Michel de Montaigne

 

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I was watching a Ken Burns documentary the other day. There was a photo of FDR’s study in his home in Hyde Park, NY. The walls were lined with bookshelves. As often seems to be the case in such situations, the books were behind something or other: a mesh? glass?

J. P. Morgan’s library, in his residence (now a museum) on Madison Avenue in Manhattan, looks just the same. Books everywhere. Many, probably all of them, priceless.

It looks, however, as if most or many of the books in such studies did not get read by their owners.

 

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I am definitely a bibliophile, but I do not collect books solely to be able to say I own them, or for money, as an antiquarian might.

If I “adopt” a certain author — add him to my all time favorites/must read list — I find that I then want to acquire everything by or about the writer that I can lay my hands on. This includes — with respect both to the acquisition of books and actually reading them — minor as well as major works.

I have found that sometimes, indeed often, reading a writer’s early works and ones considered to be minor can be very satisfying. And, I have found that works deemed “minor” can turn out to be among the author’s best and most revealing ones.

I am interested in the man and his life as well as the works. So, I will obsessively look for works of a biographical nature and books that provide ancillary information about the writer. It might be a book by or about someone with whom the writer was closely associated or by whom the writer was influenced.

I won’t stop once I have started. Which is to say, I will acquire every book by or about that particular writer that I can find.

This often seems to bear fruit. So that acquiring books as a sort of “futures contract,” based upon the idea that you may want to get back to the writer, seems propitious. This recently happened to me, for example, in the case of a Russian-American scholar Pitirim A. Sorokin, whose work I have long been interested in. I recently got an inquiry from a visitor to this site, based in Moscow, who was interested in my posts on this site about Sorokin. I was able to go to my storehouse of Sorokin books and found much valuable, pertinent information there to share with her. Many of the books are out of print, or hard to obtain even in libraries. Some of the out of print ones are obtainable on the internet, but at what are now expensive prices.

I can remember approximately what I paid for most of my books, going far back, and where and under which circumstances I bought them.

 

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I once remarked to a therapist I was seeing that I had acquired many books in the manner described in my comments above and that I was unlikely to read a majority of them. I was thinking, ruefully, that it was perhaps foolish of me to be buying so many books without the likelihood that I would ever get around to reading most of them.

The therapist, an intellectual and writer, who himself had developed a private library in similar fashion — and for the same reasons — replied by saying emphatically (in so many words), “you’ll get around to reading them eventually.” He dismissed my concerns that I was overdoing it.

His comment made me feel better and less guilty about my sometimes extravagant book buying. And, I do realize that just having certain books on one’s bookshelf makes one feel good. There is a sense of security about it. You know that certain books, especially those of your favorite authors, are there waiting to be read. It’s a nice feeling. (I have had similar experiences and feelings in compiling a classical music collection.) And, I do get around to reading many of them.

It also surprises me that I turn to books on my shelf more frequently than I would have expected, to look up something or other or to remind myself of what a writer said about something (sometimes unearthing a pertinent quote).

My therapist also made the point that there is something very pleasant and cozy about having a book lined study. I myself feel this way. It is pleasant to be able to contemplate and, indeed, to admire one’s own book collection; to view one’s bookshelves; to peruse them and think about authors and their works, as well as thinking about what one might like to read next.

I actually like to feel books, to have them in my hands.

 

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I have become a shrewd book buyer over time. You have to know when to “pounce.” If you see a book that you really want, and you can afford it, I have found that you should buy it without further deliberation.

An example of would be Walt Whitman’s Blue Book: The 1860-61 Leaves of Grass Containing His Manuscript Additions and Revisions. This is a two-volume boxed set that was beautifully and expensively produced. It was published in 1968 by the New York Public Library. It has tipped in pages which show revisions in Whitman’s own hand that he made in a copy of his of Leaves of Grass which he kept in his desk drawer while working in a government office in Washington during the Civil War. There is extensive editorial commentary as well.

I wanted to obtain a copy of this book, but they are quite rare. I found that there were — if I remember correctly — two copies for sale on the Internet, both priced at around $300 for two volumes.

Then, I saw that the Stand Bookstore in Manhattan had a copy. I went to the Strand to check it out — it was in their rare books department — and found that it was in perfect condition. The Strand’s price for the two volumes: ninety dollars. I bought the book without hesitation.

Another example is a monograph by Thomas M. Curley: Sir Robert Chambers: Law, Literature, and Empire in The Age of Johnson. I have wanted to obtain this book for some time — I read a previous book by Curley about Samuel Johnson and was greatly impressed. The more recent book by Curley — the one about Chambers (an acquaintance of Samuel Johnson) that I have been seeking — is for some reason very hard to find. If you look for the book from on line second hand booksellers, it is egregiously priced. The available copies that are in “good” condition (which means good, but not mint, condition) are priced at around $550 to $650 — this for a one volume book published in 1998.

I saw a copy on line the other day for around $200. I ordered it. I knew that I was not likely to find the book at this price again and that, relatively speaking, $200 — while it seemed very expensive — was a good deal. I know from experience that I will not regret the purchase.

The bookseller charged me over $200 for the book plus shipping. It never came. I had great difficulty with the bookseller, but was ultimately able to get my money back through arbitration. Then, I miraculously found an online bookseller who sold me the book — a beautiful edition, in mint condition — for $100 including shipping.

It’s like the eighteen dollars I spent during my senior year in college for a beautifully produced book comprising a facsimile of William Blake’s Songs of Innocence and Experience. The book seemed very expensive then, but I had to have it. It was solely a question of did I have the eighteen dollars, never a question of would I purchase it. I do not regret the purchase — it seems that you can’t find this particular edition anywhere nowadays. Nor can you find other editions that are so beautifully produced with magnificent reproductions of Blake’s color plates.

And, it seems that, for cherished books that I have paid a lot for, there are many others that I was able to buy cheaply.

 

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And, then you get lucky. On May 7, 2017, for example, at the Strand Bookstore, I purchased An Autobiography by Herbert Spencer (1904). Forty dollars. Two volumes, illustrated. Over 1,100 pages. Nice wide margins typical of books of those days and splendid black and white illustrations — books were well produced a century ago! In very good condition. A serendipitous, unanticipated acquisition. I was looking for a different book in the social science section. It’s the sort of purchase one makes in used bookstores.

Worth reading? Will I? I’m not sure. Spencer was once a widely read and influential social scientist; his books were very popular among the general readership. I have run across books like this before and am glad of having bought them. Given the condition that the book was in and its rarity, I knew I was a good deal. But, I don’t purchase such books thinking of possibly selling them. Would not purchase if I didn’t think I might want to read them.

 

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You have to be persistent and continually on the lookout for books you want that may become available. An example is a nine volume work by Horace Traubel (sometimes referred to as “Walt Whitman’s Boswell”): With Walt Whitman in Camden. The book was originally published in 1906 in three volumes. Then, over the years, six more volumes were published posthumously, the last one in 1996.

I bought several volumes at random at the Stand Bookstore, whenever I saw one for sale. Then I bought the first three volumes, in mint condition, from an online bookseller for three hundred dollars. It seemed a lot to pay, but I was glad to have them.

I now owned eight of the nine volumes of Traubel’s diary cum biography. I checked an online global library catalogue, WorldCat.org, and it seemed that hardly any libraries — perhaps none — owned a complete set. I was missing only Volume 4. I found that only about seven libraries in the world owned Volume 4, including just one library in New York City: the Lehman College Library in the Bronx. They had two copies!

Finally, in June 2017, after several years of looking, I found Volume 4 for sale on line! I couldn’t believe my eyes. This completed my set of all nine volumes of With Walt Whitman in Camden. Probably some Whitman scholar has them, but I doubt that a library anywhere does.

 

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An opinion I have long held is that books are a cheap commodity, comparatively speaking. When you consider how much pleasure you can get from them — their “entertainment value,” so to speak, compared to other things like movies — and how long that pleasure lasts (you can keep the book, you can reread it, often with profit and pleasure), they seem like an awfully good way to spend one’s money.

When you think of all the expense and effort involved in producing a book — research, writing, editorial, production, and so on — it seems remarkable to me that they are priced as low as they are. Yes, “expensive” books fifty years ago cost five or six dollars; now they cost thirty or thirty-five dollars, perhaps. But, when you consider their relative value, and how much prices have risen in other areas, the cost doesn’t seem prohibitive.

 

– Roger W. Smith

   June 2017; updated June 2022

 

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Addendum — Booksellers:

I have always had a nose for books and have made many serendipitous acquisitions. Among my best places to find books, currently, I would include:

(1) The Strand Bookstore at Broadway and 12th Street in Manhattan. I have been going there since the late 1960’s. It seems to be one of the few used bookstores left in Manhattan. I keep making finds there. Everything is reasonably pieced — underpriced (almost always) compared to the online used book market; this includes books just off the press. The books they carry are in excellent condition — they don’t seem to acquire books that are not. A great thing about the Strand is that the books are very well organized, alphabetically by author.

You have to get a feel for their system, to know what section to look in. For example, if you were looking for a biography of Walt Whitman by Justin Kaplan, you have to know to look under “Whitman,” not “Kaplan,” and you would have to know that it would be in the literary nonfiction section. Books are rarely where they should not be. Plus, the Strand now had an excellent web site so that one can buy books from them on line. I often order on line from them. You don’t have to worry about getting a worn, beat up book delivered to you.

(2) Amazon.com is good for most book buying. I find their reviews quite helpful — I have written quite a few myself. Their books are reasonably priced, often at a discount. They seem to have most books that are in print. I find them less useful for used books. I would say, avoid buying (on Amazon) from secondary sellers.

(3) abebooks.com is, in my opinion, the best site by far for finding used books, especially out of print ones. If it’s available and for sale, the book will be there, or not at all.

The search engine is great. Just now, I was looking for a paperback edition of Platero and I, , a book by one of my favorite poets, Juan Ramón Jiménez. An English translation was published in paperback in 1962; it is virtually unobtainable now. It happens to be an edition I like because of the translation (among other things). I couldn’t find it anywhere until I went to abebooks.com. There were several editions available on the site. Quite a few were expensive. But, there was one in excellent condition that was reasonably priced.

You can sort the search results by price, date published, condition, etc. The booksellers are very accurate in describing a book’s condition.

I do not like to buy a book with a torn or tattered cover, underlining, crumbling pages, etc. — I don’t want someone else’s beat up book. I am willing to pay more to get a book that is in mint condition.

 

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Addendum:

Posts re books in my private library are on this site at:

Roger W. Smith, “my treasured books”

 

my personal library of works by Walt Whitman, and books about him

my personal library of books by and about Samuel Johnson and James Boswell

inventory of Dreiserana (books, etc. by and about Theodore Dreiser) in Roger W. Smith’s personal library

my Blake books

my Henry Miller books

my Sorokin books

my Melville and Hawthorne books

 

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addendum, May 1, 2020:

This past month, I was able to purchase the original four-volume edition of Pitirim A. Sorokin’s magnum opus, Social and Cultural Dynamics (1937-1941).

The books arrived yesterday. The thrill of now owning such a book was palpable.

There were only two copies of the set for sale on the internet: one priced at $500, and the other, which I purchased, for $150. As an experienced book buyer, I didn’t hesitate.
I have become personally acquainted with quite a few Sorokin scholars, most of them abroad. I know they would be thrilled to own this work of Sorokin’s, which is for all practical purposes only available at the present time in a paperback one-volume abridgment.

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Strand Bookstore, 828 Broadway, New York, NY

Curley, 'Sir Robert Chambers' - book cover.jpg

Thomas M. Curley, “Sir Robert Chambers: Law, Literature, and Empire in the Age of Johnson” (The University of Wisconsin Press, 1998)

'Songs of Innocence and Experience' - Orion Press.jpg

William Blake, “Songs of Innocence and Experience” (The Orion Press, New York, in association with The Trianon Press, Paris, 1967)

'Platero and I' (paperback) - cover.jpg

Juan Ramón Jiménez, “Platero and I,” Signet  Classic

cover - Social and Cultural Dynamics

Pitirim A. Sorokin, “Social and Cultural Dynamics,” Volume One (American Book Company, 1937)