Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Roman-Capitalist Mystics

Let me first say what a privilege it is to fill the shoes of my inspired co-worker Lydia. She is a triumphant force of nature, single-handedly pumping the virtual bellows that powers O’Gara and Wilson’s electronic existence. I guess double-handedly, actually, since the virtual bellows is our keyboard, and one pumps a keyboard by typing, which requires two hands. My apologies for making the metaphor explicit. Lydia probably wouldn’t have done so, being skilled in the art of rhetoric, and humble enough to revise. Indeed, her flair for writing is matched only by the beauty of her penmanship, which is reason enough to visit our store.

But enough with the niceties. MY name is Alan, and though I have never written a blog entry before, it is my sincerest hope that this one will be successful. That is to say, I hope to avoid offending people, and inspire them to purchase things. A meager definition of success, perhaps, but such meager definitions are crucial for keeping one’s success constant.

The Confucian aspect of my training at the divinity school is now reminding me that success is also contingent upon respect for tradition. So, without further ado, allow me to present this week’s Affordable but Interesting item:

I’m sure most readers of this blog, insofar as they are educated, are already fervent supporters of laissez-faire capitalism. But for those who have not yet been awakened to the truth about free-market consumption, you may want to read “How We Live,” a hardbound 1944 manifesto on the indubitable and inexhaustible advantages enjoyed by a consumer culture. Never fear the specter of propaganda, my friends! The authors assure us on page one that “there is, in this book, not a single opinion, not a single word of praise or condemnation.” The graphics, needless to say, are all in keeping with this claim. Our kind and even-handed explicators of the economic process exhort us: “It must be remembered that harmful, uncontrolled monopolies cannot exist as long as the customer is free to buy from whomever he pleases.” And they observe that “disemployment and hardships are caused by one large group securing advantages over other groups, and that those who suffer most are to be found in the group that supposedly has the advantage.” Common sense, to be sure, but everyone can use a refresher course. And a cheap one at that -- $12.50 Give thanks to our consumer culture for driving down the price.

The previous paragraph is, in fact, intended to be somewhat tongue-in-cheek. Just making sure.

We turn now to a man who wrote with his tongue far, far, far away from his cheek. Thomas à Kempis was a Roman Catholic monk, best known for his devotional work “The Imitation of Christ,” which is this week’s Favorite. Originally written in Latin and published anonymously, Kempis’ mystic meditation on the divine has been printed in over 2000 editions. It is filled with everything from straightforward statements about proper Christian humility, to more paradoxical statements: “At the Day of Judgement we shall not be asked what we have read but what we have done.” Geez Thomas, don’t you know how that’s going to make me feel, given that I’m reading your book? In all seriousness, it is a wonderful work, and deserves a binding that does it justice:

This 1876 edition was custom-bound by Stikeman and Co., a late 19th century high-end American bookbinder. The binding actually contains the company signature, subtly worked into the intricate hand-tooled gold border that you can see lining the leather boards (this type of work is known as “doublure”). At $60 this makes a beautiful gift or addition to a collection. The book is pristine but for rubbing to the leather on the outer front hinge.

I don’t know about you, but I’m still reeling from Thomas’ statement about reading. Maybe books aren’t the way to go after all – didn’t Aquinas say that everything he had written was straw? If you’re feeling like I am, perhaps the Collector’s Item will be more up your alley. We have, in our increasingly inaccurately named “bookstore,” a number of genuine Roman glass pieces:

These are from the 1st or 2nd Century A.D., and range in price from $75-175. Some are flecked with iridescence, others boast unusual patterns and colors. They are almost guaranteed to be the oldest item you own. We recommend scrubbing them thoroughly before using them as serving vessels, however, since these Romans were somewhat boorish in their eating habits… recall Seneca’s words: Cum ad cenandum discubuimus, alius sputa deterget, alius reliquias temulentorum [toro] subditus colligit. I’ll leave you scholars out there to translate – this blog must remain a place of relative purity and good taste.

Well, that’s all for this week. Thanks to Lydia for letting me hijack her venue. Hmm… I guess I didn’t really hijack anything, since she gave me permission to wr DARN IT!! There I go again explaining metaphors. I’m outta here. Happy holidays to everyone!


Anonymous said...

This is genius. Alan, you are incredible. I see no reason to continue writing the blog myself!


Anonymous said...

This is crazy. You guys are crazy. I wish I had money to support my book habit...

Alex from across the street.

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