Books I Can’t Not Buy

I know I have a problem. I admit it. The last time I moved I had five truckloads worth of books, and that was 12 years ago. Now who knows.

I don’t buy anything I can get at the library, and I don’t buy anything because someone else might want it. But then there are these books I can’t not buy.

This Sunday it was World Enough and Time by Robert Penn Warren and The Cocktail Party by T.S. Eliot.

Robert Penn Warren used to eat lunch at Silliman College when I was there. I always had this vague idea that I should go and sit with him, but I never did. Maybe I missed a life-changing moment, but I don’t think so. Let the guy eat his lunch in peace is what I thought.

I read All the King’s Men about Huey Long, and it could just be the Great American Novel, but no one will ever know whether it is or not, so let’s just say it’s a good book. And I had never heard of World Enough and Time. That usually means it didn’t sell many copies, but that also means it’s obscure, so I had to have it.

The title is from Andrew Marvell’s poem, “To His Coy Mistress.”

“Had we but world enough and time, this coyness, lady, were no crime…” Like many adolescent males, I memorized it just in case I might find it useful in some romantic situation. Never happened. Good poem, though.

“And your quaint honor turned to dust and into ashes all my lust.” The argument, I think, is that the coy mistress should have sex with the poet because we’re all going to die. Can’t argue with that.

As for The Cocktail Party, by T.S. Eliot, it’s a play. Why hasn’t it been performed on Broadway? People devote their lives to a single poem by Eliot.

“The Wasteland,” which he probably knocked off in an afternoon, has been the subject of 529,097,321 or so postgraduate theses in the World of Academia because he makes all these obscure references that academics have such tremendous fun tracking down.

In Academia, there is no distinction between obscurity and profundity; to an academic, they’re exactly the same.

Isn’t it odd that a few pages, scribbled in a few hours, should generate, literally, enough verbiage to fill twenty freight cars? I think it has to do with the ratio of creators to analyzers.

So why hasn’t The Cocktail Party been produced on Broadway and made into a movie? I’ll let you know.

I was in Eliot’s Murder in the Cathedral as a young nitwit — I played the third priest — and believe me, it was a corker!

“In the still, small circle of pain within the skull
You still shall tramp and tread your endless round of thought
To justify your actions to yourselves,
Weaving a fiction which unravels as you weave,
Pacing forever in the hell of make-believe, which never is belief…”

I know why Murder in the Cathedral never made it to Broadway. No women!