The Night Country by Loren Eiseley, published 1947
"Directly stated, the evolution of the entire universe—stars, elements, life, man—is a process of drawing something out of nothing, out of the utter void of nonbeing. The creative element in the mind of man—that latency which can conceive gods, carve statues, move the heart with the symbols of great poetry, or devise the formulas of modern physics—emerges in as mysterious a fashion as those elementary particles which leap into momentary existence in great cyclotrons, only to vanish again like infinitesimal ghosts. The reality we know in our limited lifetimes is dwarfed by the unseen potential of the abyss where science stops. In a similar way the smaller universe of the individual human brain has its lonely cometary passages or flares suddenly like a supernova, only to subside in death while the waves of energy it has released roll on through unnumbered generations."
In need and craving some sort of instruction and inspiration in the habit of world-viewing. I don’t know if that makes any sense, but earlier in the year I’d read a gorgeous collection of essays by naturalist Craig Leland Childs titled Crossing Paths, and it made me feel refreshed and utterly new, like taking a dip in an icy creek. My life lately has not afforded me much time for reflection, so I wanted somebody else to reflect for me. The Night Country is among my grandmother’s used book store finds, and had been sitting neglected in a pile of books in her living room for at least a couple years before I picked it up on one of my bi-monthly book raids (believe me, she has books to spare). Inside, above my grandmother’s signature, is a message to a mother and father from their children, perhaps, in 1973. And the spine is crisp with age, each page I turned would crack at its binding; and because I was forced to be extra careful in my handling of the book, I was perhaps more inspired to be careful in my handling of its words.
At times, this was difficult reading. I found myself reading and rereading certain passages (two, three, four times) before I grasped Eiseley’s meaning. This could be due to the fact that much of my reading takes place on public buses, behind the counter at a convenience store where I pick up evening hours, in the living room while Wolfman watches his space dramas (Star Trek in all its incarnations). But also, the reading was at times inscrutable because Eiseley is a consummate intellectual and philosopher—science is not simply rote fact, but magic, and he cites Francis Bacon, Shakespeare, and Thoreau as his predecessors and colleagues in the inscrutable, nighttime alchemy of the patterns of life on this planet. This is a beautiful, emotional book, and one which should be left out on coffee tables for frequent rereading, rather than hidden away on a shelf.
My Crowd: A Delicioiusly Diabolical Collection of Cartoons Featuring the Original Addam's Family, published 1991
Below, you see the bookmark the book came to me with--either my grandmother's or some stranger's before her.
I'm sort of ashamed to admit that I was not aware that The Addams Family was based on a comic series until earlier this year. I'd always assumed the television show was an original incarnation. So, when I found this at my favorite used book store, Mr. Mike's (of Cary), I picked it up in order to educate myself and delight in the ooky, witty, macabre world of Charles Addams. The quality of the publication is not the greatest--some of the pages look a little faded or muddy, but the content itself is, of course, wonderful--full of one-off panels as well as scenes we hold dear of our Addams's, and quite a bit of visual humor to boot. This book happily had a home on my coffee table throughout the month of October, where it will continue to dwell for the indefinite future.