I spend a lot of my breaks in charity shops, looking at the books. For some bizarre reason, I will occasionally see a book I want, but not buy it.
I have no idea why this is. It can’t be due to expense (as is the case in most outlets), or out of guilt (as is the case with Amazon) – it’s a charity shop!
Nevertheless: “Next time,” I think. I’ve even on one occasion made a physical note of the book, and the address of the shop, for my return. Only to find it gone, predictably, when I do finally come back.
I’ve missed out on some beauties as a result – in fact, the main reason I haven’t read Thomas Pynchon’s Vineland is because it brings back painful memories of my own idiocy.
Instead of the correct response (“Why? Why didn’t I just buy the fucking thing when I had the chance!?”), I began to imagine a mythical, covert figure who goes around the same shops as me, buying up all the books I want. I call him/her the Charity Bastard.
“Charity Bastard” may sound oxymoronic to you, but that’s only because your brain doesn’t work the way mine does. The Charity Bastard doesn’t buy these books because s/he believes in helping the poor/aged/cancer-ridden. S/he does it to fuck with me, to keep me on my toes.
The Charity Bastard is devious and the Charity Bastard is smart. Of course s/he’s smart. S/he’s got a 1st edition print of André Gide’s journals… in French! S/he’s got Clausewitz’ On War. S/he’s by now surely an expert on several fields I always wanted to read up on but never had the time to, from feng sui to the social geography of Peru.
I hate hir for all these reasons, but mostly because I feel that if war hadn’t been declared, we could have been good friends. Maybe even lovers, under the right circumstances. But it wasn’t to be. And it’s all hir fault.
So, I took war to the next step. I mean, this is really it now, Charity Bastard (I know you’re reading this as well). This shit just went nuclear. Because over the last 7 days, I have liberated these from various charity shops around West Kirby and Heswall (oh yeah, that’s right: I finally figured that the places where the rich cunts live would have the best shit):
Wittgenstein’s Nephew by Thomas Bernhard (translated by David McLintock)
Correction by Thomas Bernhard (trans. Sophie Wilkins, with an introduction by George Steiner!)
The Oriestea by Aeschylus (trans. Robert Fagles, who did perhaps my fave version of the Iliad)
Prometheus Bound and other plays by Aeschylus (trans. Philip Vellacott)
The Theban Cycle by Sophocles (trans. Fagles)
Electra and other plays by Sophocles (trans. E.F. Watling)
An anthology of Greek lyrical poets such as Sappho, Archilochus, Alcman and Pindar, trans. Richmond Lattimore
Travels in Hyperreality by Umberto Eco
Byzantium Endures by Michael Moorcock
Cocaine Nights by J.G. Ballard
The Restoration Game by Ken MacLeod
The Feast of the Goat by Mario Vargas Llosa (trans. Edith Grossman)
What is Life? by Erwin Schrodinger
Natasha’s Dance by Orlando Figes
Nobody’s Perfect by Anthony Lane
The Noonday Demon by Andrew Solomon
That’s right. In order to defeat Charity Bastard, I had to become Charity Bastard.
We’re at DEFCON 2, you sneaky cunt. Your move.