A Point of View: Is there still any point collecting books? The answer is YES!!!

I  have a library of 1) favorite books -some belonged to my grandfather and father, mother, aunt and uncle -others I have collected over the years chiefly in English but also Spanish, Latin, French, Gaelic and some books in German and Greek (my Greek is not good but they happen to be dual language editions) 2) CD’s of classical music and Highland/Scottish music principally. Spotify is no good for me they have very little of what I want. I do collect rare classical, Latin and Gaelic recordings from Itunes but most of what I have I have collected in person from concerts and ceilidhs. Many are small run private label. They are not commercially available. At one time I had a large collection of classical LPs as well as Scottish and Irish Lps but I have kept only a few for sentimental reasons (autographs) and great multilingual notes. Arkiv (Deutsche Grammophon) was simply masterful. Reading those notes was an education in itself. I very reluctantly disposed of my LP’s but my LP player broke down and I decided to downside and not spend any money on that. I still have many cassettes (I can play them) but I plan to transfer them to computer/mp3 files this summer. Once again I have magnificent poetry readings (complete sonnets of Shakespeare read by Ronald Colman), books on tape (classics) and of course rare Highland recordings of poetry and song. I have been collecting Gaelic books, Gaelic song texts and Gaelic recording for most of my life. I have wonderful reprints of old books which were long out of print such as Alexander MacBain’s classic Etymological Dictionary of the Gaelic Language. It was reprinted in 1982 by Gairm publications and I ordered one immediately. Naturally I was familiar with it because the NYU Bobst Library had a copy (the teach Irish at NYU) and I used to read it and made xeroxes of the etymologies of national names, personal names and surnames. I became aware of NYU’s collection of Irish and Gaelic books from several native Gaels who worked at the library in the 1970’s. I remember them fondly. One was Luke Carolan from Country Mayo who used to show me letters from his brother in Hong Kong in Irish. I wasn’t really aware at that time how close Irish Gaelic was to Scottish Gaelic but Luke encouraged me and taught me some Irish phrases and also how close the two languages were. In one sense Scottish Gaelic is a dialect of Irish and of course used to be called Erse. They are about as close as Portuguese and Spanish. In any case, my person copy has commentary and quotations I have added. My father and grandfather were both Scottish born so they had an interest in Scottish songs, culture and poetry. My father kept a notebook of popular sayings he learned from his mother, father and aunt. Some of course are well known and are found in books like Alexander Nicolson’s Gaelic Proverbs first published in 1881 and reprinted in paperback by Birlinn. I was made aware of it by my old friend Mairi MacInnes who is a well-known Gaelic songwriter and composer. I bought it on the way to Iona on the isle of Mull not far from the Western Isles Hotel in Tobermory (a charming place and I had relatives who used to work there once upon a time -my father’s mother was born in Oban on Mull. My copy is unique because I have added in sayings by my father’s father and his people that are NOT recorded in Nicholson. One example is ” There is mony a mon in the cemetery that would like to have a cough like that!.” Tha moran dhaoine anns a’cladh a mhiannaicheadh casad a bhith aca mar seo. Auld Pop used to smoke constantly (a habit picked up in the trenches 1914-1918) and would cough and cough in the morning. He still wouldn’t give up smoking aside from drinking it was the only way he could relax. I now know he suffered from “shell shock” or PTSD as we would say today. Of course, many of the sayings my father recorded were well-known slogans or snippets of song but I treasure the ones unique to my people and that were passed down from lip to ear. Auld Pop used to use Gaelic, Scots and Punjabi liberally in his stories of the Great War. My father wrote down a series of stories and incidents and of course I had heard some of them myself. But it is great to have your OWN book and a book that my daughter knows well. She doesn’t know much Gaelic but has memorized some toasts and sayings and verses. Many of course I have translated to Spanish. In the books I also have family notes written down listing old addresses and dates of death of relatives.

3) a collection of fine movies, concerts operas on DVD. I enjoy watching opera especially in Italian and French with subtitles. When I lived in Europe and New York I was able to go see operas in person many times. We have some foreign language films but also films dubbed in languages we know. I like to watch films in French, Portuguese or Spanish just for review and for fun. Of course, the LONGEST DAY is in German, English and French but if you listen carefully the Lord Lovat sequence has some Gaelic too!! My mother loved films like I KNOW WHERE I AM GOING because there was additional dialogue in Gaelic others didn’t quite get (often prayer or merely pleasantries) The Quiet Man also has an Irish sequence most people don’t really get. It is really a joke about using condoms on your wedding night (not sleeping bags) quite racy for 1952! Remember condoms were illegal in Ireland until 1980!!!. Personally, I would rather see a classic film ten times than most of what is meant for TV today. I saw some episodes of GAME OF THRONES. I will say it was well-acted but it was also brutal and nihilistic. It featured dungeons and torture. Pornography. Incest. I couldn’t stand it so soon after Sean Bean was decapitated I tossed in the towel. I would rather read poetry or read Dickens. I really found the violence disturbing. My primary thoughts were of Sodom and Gomorrah. God -not present in the show- SHOULD appear and wipe everyone out. I like King Arthur stories and medieval movies like EL CID or the VIKINGS but these new films are too gross for me.

But the books are the things I love the most. I enjoy re-reading books and studying them. One of my favorites is my father’s old book THE LIMITS OF ART by CAIRNS. IT is an anthology of the greatest prose and poetry of the past 2500 years (in dual language format Latin/Greek/Spanish/Italian/German. French with commentaries by famous critics and authors. A portable feast. I could spend an entire weekend just reading and making commentaries on it and I may do that this summer when I don’t have so many exams to correct.

Of course, I have many many dictionaries collected over the years – Basque/Spanish (Basque is nothing like Welsh or Gaelic nothing -it is a non-indo european language with very few Latin loan words).. I also have a Breton/French (Breton is closer to Welsh but I can recognize about 500 words in common with Gaelic). I have a German/Spanish dictionary Latin/Spanish dictionary and many Spanish-English dictionaries (Oxford, LaRousse, Collins, American heritage plus Portuguese and Tagalog. Plus a number of Gaelic dictionaries (Dwelley of course and one in Irish Gaelic; I can’t say I write Irish well but I can read it -my Scottish Gaelic is good. So with a dictionary I can read any poem or short prose piece. Books on Etymology …my favorite is a Spanish-Greek book on every Hellenistic Greek root in Spanish with the original Greek word in Greek and its etymology. Greek had a strong influence on Spanish (it was a spoken language i Spain for hundreds of years -many everyday words are Greek tio/uncle menta(minta) cada (each) and many more.). When I did work for Andrew Roberts he was amazed at the range of books I had -some information is only in Spanish/French/Portuguese/Gaelic books. One of my hobbies is collecting songs about the Napoleonic/wars Victorian Wars, WWI and WWII in Gaelic. Everyone knows the great WWI English poets in English but the Gaelic ones are far less known and many are very very good. So they are sources for great quotations that are little known. So is the memoir Fo Sgail a’ Swastika (under the shadow of the Swastika) by Donald John MacDonald’s , (published bilingually in Gaelic and English); it deals with the the grim privation of Scottish prisoner of war and the role of song and poetry to keep up moral. I have met people who knew him. The entire book is on tape and you can hear the poet reading his own poems.

One has to have physical books. There is nothing like them. And for me they are souvenirs of everywhere I have lived and traveled. I like electronic newspapers and electronic versions of classics (almost free) for travel. I never travel without about 10 new books pre downloaded. I have over 500 books in electronic version. Many are copies of hard cover books I have such as Paideia (Werner Jaeger/trans Gilbert Highet) and the Classical Tradition plus books by Andrew Roberts, Michael Grant, Victor Frankl , Dickens, Alex Kershaw and Arthur Herman. But my REAL books have things underlined, original translations from the Greek by my father, marginalia by me or my mother or in one case mud stains of Ypres (from 1915). That is a book of Kipling.

I don’t have my grandfather’s WWI medals (they were stolen in the early 1960’s but I saw them and have since documented them with medal cards for myself and for family heritage) but I would rather have photographs of him and some of his books and specimens of his handwriting and have some of his Lp’s and books and also comic books he bought for me and used to read to me. Books he read to me in the late 50’s and early 60’s remain very special to me. Some of the books I have are in very fine editions with fine paper. But books are not just for looks for me. Every book I have is to be read. I I suppose I have some valuable leather bound books or first editions but it is the books themselves that are meaningful to me and what is in them. Since the advent of electronic books I still buy hardcovers but rarely buy newspapers or paperbacks. Like LPs have have kept some paper backs for sentimental reasons But the older I get the more I like larger print which is the main reason I like my NOOK. It is much more pleasant to read on a NOOK than on the computer. There is nothing bonnier than a well-bound book. And when the Great Blackout comes where will I plug in my computer? For that time I have candles and a solar charger or two. That should keep me going until the MRE’s and fresh water runs out. Of course, I also have books and poems in my head a la Fahrenheit 451. But I try never to be totally without any book or reading material of any kind. THAT is torture worse than having to watch all of GAME OF THRONES and BLOOD AND TORTURE!.