Sunday, September 27, 2009

Basic Bibliography 9/27/09

12:51:30 AM EDT

Basic Bibliography

Some books are to be tasted, others to be swallowed, and some few to be chewed and digested.

Francis Bacon

Even before I ever came across this quote, I used to say that I don't read books, I eat them. I have many books that I've had a long time. I may never finish with some of them because I keep going back over them, rereading parts. Every time I do that I discover more brilliance in the writing and gain a greater grasp of the ideas.

I have sometimes found a book that I needed when I needed it just by walking into a bookstore and looking. I was once hired to do a public reading of John Milton's "A Paradise Lost." I didn't know the work but I went into the wonderful but gone Coliseum bookstore in NYC, went to the poetry section and there it was. A large paperback, the only one on the shelf. That sort of experience has happened to me often. But I have to tell you about my favorite book.

It was the summer of 1957. I had just graduated from high school and was about to enter college in the Boston area. I found myself one day in Harvard Square, Cambridge, Massachusetts. I went into a bookstore and I saw a book on the shelf that said it was the complete works of William Shakespeare. Normally Shakespeare's works come in a huge tome the size of a major dictionary. But this was small, slender and compact. I didn't believe it was the complete works until I opened it and read the table of contents. All the plays were there and all the poems including the sonnets. It was the only one like it on the shelf. The pages were full of words and very thin. There were no margins. There were only a few pages of notes and glossary in the back, plus an index of songs. I bought it, brought it home and wrote my name in it. I didn't realize at the time how prophetic that purchase was. It was another year before I knew I was an actor. But I started to read the plays and roles that I would be doing some day. The magic, the music, the inspiration, the greatness, the depth, the colors, the light, the lightness, the humor, the compassion, the understanding, the simple, the extraordinary, the pleasure, the wisdom, the universe all contained within this small book I held in my hand, cannot be put into words,

I cherish that book above all things. It has been with me for 52 years. It has gone with me wherever I've gone in my vagabond journeys. I will never part with it. I have never seen another copy like it. I have repaired it so many times it looks like a hunk of junk from the outside. No one else could possibly know the love that is showered on it. It's sitting on my table across the room from me right now. It still has the price written in it from the store, 6.50, (those were the days). It gets opened and read from almost every day.
That book and my bible are my desert island books. Even if I were to go blind (heaven forbid) I would never part with it. Beyond Shakespeare there is nothing on Earth but the songs of angels.

But this rough magic
I here abjure; and, when I have requir'd
Some heavenly music, - which even now I do, -
To work mine end upon their senses that
This airy charm is for, I'll break my staff,
Bury it certain fathoms in the earth,
And deeper than did ever plummet sound,
I'll drown my book.

DB - Vagabond Journeys

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