Friday, August 15, 2014

Bookish clues to creative life

In Manhattan, I enter a rare bookshop. It’s an unusual step; I know such places are likely to be blindingly expensive. On a large table, I see a book devoted to Yeats. It seems to be a handsome version of a scrapbook or album, with many pictures and excerpts, including sections of manuscript, on each of the heavy stock, creamy pages. I doubt that it has new content, but I’m attracted by its beauty. I look at the penciled price. $610. Too rich for my blood.
    A store assistant leans over and says, “It was last sold for $210.” I’m surprised he would confess to the huge markup. Then he says, “I could let you have it for $150.”
    “We get large consignments, usually from estates, and we have to keep the stock moving. Otherwise we have to let books go, and they just revert to paper.”
     I agree that I’ll buy the Yeats album for $150. I notice that there seems to be a second copy underneath.
    “Hold it for me for now.”
    “Are you looking for something else?”
    “Aubrey de Sélincourt.” I name the writer without hesitation.
    The store assistant makes a quick search and returns with a book with a yellow dust jacket without illustrations. It looks like an old scholarly edition. I glance at the list of contents. Each part of the book has a title involving a Greek word; part 3 or 4 is titled KTISIS, or KTHISIAS. The work seems rather rarefied, philosophy or theology. I’m not sure it’s what I want.
     I explain to the store assistant that I am interested in de Sélincourt as a writer who managed to enter the heart of the Ottoman empire, at its foundation.

Feelings: I woke from this dream this morning curious, intrigued
Reality check: I was in Manhattan yesterday. I know rare bookshops of this type in the city, and usually give them a wide berth. I love Yeats, and write in depth about our relationship in The Dreamer's Book of the Dead and The Boy Who Died and Came Back. I would probably buy a Yeats album like that, at the reduced price.
     I know Aubrey de Sélincourt as the translator of Herodotus, whose Histories describe the sweep of peoples across Anatolia, later the heartland of the Ottoman empire. I see that de Sélincourt wrote two dozen books. The son of the owner of the Swan & Edgar department store, he was an Oxford classics scholar, an athlete and yachtsman. He was an officer at Gallipoli, later a pilot for the Royal Air Force, shot down by the crack German aviator Voss and held as a POW for the last part of World War I.
    A little research suggests that ktisis means creation in the sense of founding from nothing, from Homer to the New Testament.
    I have read a little about Ottoman dreams, and have taught Active Dreaming in Turkey.
    As for books that "revert to paper" unless acquired - ah, well, I think of all my unfinished or abandoned drafts of books and stories from several decades, including a novella involving Yeats.

My intention last night was for insight into defining my present creative life purpose…

Action: Look again at de Sélincourt’s translation of Herodotus, and at his book The World of Herodotus. Venture in to one of those rare bookshops in Manhattan on a future visit. Accept the assignment of life creation. Stick my head back inside the dream, if I can, and bring back more of the book with the difficult Greek terms.

Bumper sticker: My creative purpose involves books of rare quality.

1 comment:

Sue said...

Thank you for this fascinating insight into your dream and your unravelling of its meaning.