This morning I’m reading…

This morning I'm reading Fitzgerald's Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam. I hadn't realized the extent to which this isn't a simple translation -- it's a reshaping, a reworking, a selection of perhaps a quarter of Khayyam's original text. I don't read Persian, but the introduction to this volume claims that it's a great improvement.

Perhaps. What I know right now is that I'm enjoying this book -- the physical book. Mostly, I've been reading the exam books in Norton critical editions -- that's what I was looking for when I ordered them online, generally used, from all sorts of little bookshops through the Amazon marketplace. The Norton is most useful to me, since I can skim some relevant criticism immediately after reading the book. But sometimes the Norton wasn't easily available and I ordered a different edition; the Fitzgerald arrived as a small hardcover from 1942, beautiful condition, covered in textured creamy-brown fabric, with accents of red and gold. The text is large, easy to read. It's comforting somehow, holding it in my hand and reading about Fitzgerald's financially easy life, his unfortunate marriage, his process of reworking the Rubaiyat. It pleases me.

Awake! for Morning in the Bowl of Night
Has flung the Stone that puts the Stars to Flight:
And Lo! the Hunter of the East has caught
The Sultan's Turret in a Noose of Light

-- opening quatrain, 1859 text

4 thoughts on “This morning I’m reading…”

  1. Mmmm. Sometimes it’s a dilemna, when I shop for books – do I go for the least expensive edition, the one with the most notes, or for the well-crafted one? And, with used books, I also like the ones with inscriptions and marginalia, which goes against the grain of most formal antiquarians (thus making those books cheaper for me, though why I really like them has more to do with the sense of glimpsing the ghost of an earlier reader).

  2. Ah, yes, I remember a high school teacher making us all memorize (and saying we would be glad we had it)_

    The Moving Finger writes, and having writ,
    Moves on; nor all your Piety and Wit
    Shall lure it back to cancel half a Line,
    Nor all your Tears wash out a Word of it.

    Forty years later it is truer than ever, and just as beautiful.

  3. It’s funny, Peg — I like the ones with marginalia too, but I rarely actually read them. For me, it’s just something that reinforces the oldness of them. 🙂

    I do like that quatrain, GAC, though it’s not my favorite. Actually, the opening one probably is my favorite. Perhaps because it’s more joyful than most of the rest…

  4. I think there is something about the physical feel of a book that really changes my perception of the work.

    One of my favorite books is a battered and soft paperback which got that way as I read it hiking around San Francisco – somehow the feeling of books soft (but still sturdy) pages still communicates to me joy.

    When shopping, especially at used book stores, I frequently hold the book, feel if the pages will stay in the book as I read it, but also try to judge if it is a book I will carry with me and enjoy the act of reading it – the feel of turning the pages, of pulling the book out of my bag in some cafe or on the beach.

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