Friday, October 23, 2009

Le Livre de Poche

I love it when people post book cover scans; old Penguin and Puffin Classics are so delightful, and I'm not above buying a copy of a book I already own because the cover is really great. Generally these are old books I'm digging out of a stinky pile at the local thrift store, while my paramour holds his nose and sags noticeably with every passing minute. He doesn't like standing around in musty second-hand shops. Unfortunately for him, I love it. If all I had to do all day was sift through other people's attics and closets looking for weird old junk, I would be a happy lady. As it is, the bread, she must be earned. And the kettle chips.

Anyway, old books. Here are a couple that I'm particularly fond of. And because we are in Canada, a land peppered liberally with native French speakers and frustrated French students, these castoffs are in French, and all from le Livre de Poche.

La Jument Verte - Marcel Ayme, 1933

How could anyone pass up this book, which is about a green horse, and includes an obviously crazy ensemble cast. As with many old books, this one is lovingly inscribed with its owner's name - useful in case you went to a wild book party and needed to collect your things a week later, when the gin had worn off. So we know that Janice owned this in 1971, and she had very nice handwriting. I'll also mention that all rights are reserved in every country, even the U.S.S.R.; were they particularly guilty when it came to copyright infringement? I do not know.

The back. "A well of health and good humour." (Very roughly.) I guarantee Rene Lalou never though his review would look so funky. If book backs could be this well-designed now, people might bother reading them with some interest. There are more words on the backs of some books than in them, and for what? Abandoned self-congratulation, methinks. This, however, is beautiful. Your local bookstore could display this thing backwards.

le Diable au Corps - Raymond Radiguet, 1923

This book is gorgeous and creepy all at the same time. When I read this on the bus (showing off, obviously) it eventually occurred to me that it could make you look like a proud French smut enthusiast, which is maybe not the worst thing. The problem occurs when you notice the obvious youth of that kid on the right. Ick. Thankfully the book isn't criminally perverse, just sexually weird in interesting ways (I'm defining something here, but I'm not quite sure what).
This book belonged to Odette. Charmed.

When Jean Cocteau says you're a phenomenon, and compares you to Rimbaud, and says that your genius is basically a giant burden, you jot it down and fax it to your editor, asap. Probably that's not what happened here, but it's a good tip for any aspiring writers out there.

Le seigneur des anneaux - Tolkien, 1954

It can scream pocketbook all it wants, but that sucker is huge. This is a 1979 edition of a 1966 translation. The fun of this book is to hold it up in front of nerd friends and challenge them to identify it. If you want to make it legitimately difficult, cover the author name, but honestly it's amazing how long it seems to take. Maybe the little hobbit (oops, spoiler) in the bottom right corner, with his loopy hairy feet and spats, seems a bit... goofy? And I'm not sure why we've got TOLKIEN in giant BONANZA-style lettering. I enjoy the big gold rings though, very threatening and Christmasy, all at once. The French edition wins out in this regard also: "Tome" is waaay more impressive than "Book" or "Volume."

I take it back, he's not goofy, he's hilarious and I would like to watch him eat scones and fight dragons in a mountain:

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