Wednesday, January 9, 2008

Qui me amat, amat et felem meam.

It's been quite a week! We hired someone new, Shelley, and she and I have been slowly battling my old foes Chaos and Entropy by means of section-by-section team cleanup. We went through Reference and Germany like white lightning; I am proceeding with General History / Historiography, which is almost as much of a hodge-podge as Reference was. But don't think my nemesis Literary Criticism is forgotten. Oh, no. I left in the middle of P, and it awaits my return like a malevolent creature of doom.

We moved many of the hodge-podgier elements of Reference to more relevant sections. (Classifying books is always more an art than a science; I can see what would lead someone to put the Jazz Dictionary in Reference, though I deemed it better in Music.) I had originally intended to feature a book of charming and miscellaneous Latin phrases here, but I made the mistake of showing it to some of my favorite customers -- and they bought it before I could share it with you, gentle readers! * So, all in a flurry, I've just changed this week's Affordable and Interesting item:

It seems as though left-handed people feel a lot of anxiety about it. I mean, I'm not left-handed myself, but my best friend at age 7 was, and she was always going on about it. Those of us who are right-handed don't really notice, I think, until we are confronted by books like this one. Paging through it was like peering into another world! It has sections about the history of left-handedness, lefty organizations to join, and the differences between the very brains of righties and lefties. There's even a bit on "Are You Sure You're a Lefty?", as if to assure us righties that someone would actually care enough to pretend to leftyhood. This does seem like it would be a charming book for parties -- chock-full of ridiculous facts, like the Guinness Book of Records, but better. You could wow all your friends for $5.00!

Imagine what saying things in Latin says about you. Probably not as much as looking at inkblots would. You could discover for yourself with this week's Collector's Item:

I feel obliged to describe the Rorschach test, though I'm guessing most of you know what it is -- or have even undergone one (I have! I kept seeing a winged image that I thought of as the butterfly featured in chaos theory). It is designed to analyze subjects' psyches by having them look at inkblots:

Whatever a person sees (or imagines) in the inkblots hypothetically says a lot about her personality. These particular Rorschach plates are from the 1940s; they're sturdy -- they've held up well -- and they are the very ones that belonged to Erika Fromm, a psychologist well-known for promoting the use of hypnosis in therapy. For $250.00, you can not only learn uncountable things about your mind and those of all your friends; you can also enjoy the knowledge that you're following in Fromm's wise footsteps! We won't hypnotize you into buying the cards if you just want to stop by and do some on-the-go psychoanalysis, though.

I feel as though I can I somewhat understand the psychology behind the Rorschach test. This week's Favorite, however, seems outside my sphere:

"Only a general regard for the Soviet Government as 'an enemy of mankind' and relentless opposition against it can insure the failure of the vicious undertakings by which it aims to destroy the present political and moral principles of civilized nations." So ends World Wide Soviet Plots, a circa 1929 book detailing conclusions drawn from documents that were apparently seized from the Soviet Socialist Military Attache in Peking. It starts with a discussion of the various pseudonyms used by the writers of said documents, progresses through an analysis of the politics of the Soviet Socialist Republic and China in the context of said documents, and ends with terror and hysteria. After all, N. Mitarevsky exclaims, these documents do conclusively establish that "Soviet authorities do not recoil from any methods and that they resort to agitation, bribery, violence, terror and all varieties of crime in seeking their purpose."

This book is a bit beat up -- perhaps it was smuggled somewhere in harsh circumstances? -- and very scarce. In fact, I wasn't able to find any other copies available on the Internet -- was it not only smuggled, but suppressed? I don't feel qualified to judge the soundness of its ideas (though you could for $60.00), but I am quite interested in its alarmist tone and attitude of scandalous secrecy. If I'm never seen again after posting this entry, gentle readers, you will all know why!

I'll leave you with that comforting thought. Enjoy the 56-degree weather, fellow Chicagoans! I'm sure we'll be punished with 4 degrees again soon enough.

* My description of said book went like this:
I almost feel as though I should save Amo, Amas, Amat and More for Alan (you may have noticed his utterly gratuitous use of Latin in the entry he wrote), but let's give our loyal customers a crack at it first. The subtitle, "How to Use Latin to Your Own Advantage and to the Astonishment of Others", does a great job of summing this book up (although I am personally unsure of how much advantage one derives from quoting a Latin saying if no one else knows what it means). However, it is highly amusing to think about quoting exceptionally common English sayings in Latin, such as "Qui me amat, amat et canem meam" ("Love me, love my dog") or "Rem acu tetigisti" ("Right on").

I liked it too much to delete it entirely. And maybe some of you will glance around another bookstore for it, since we don't have it anymore!

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