Every day in May of 2020, I posted a randomly selected pair of books from my personal library in a series I called the Random Walk. I’ve since removed all those posts from the archives to collect them here in a single page.
After completing the series, I wrote a short essay on chance operations, which you can find here.
(Some dead links still lurk amongst the posts, which I will try to fix when I can.)
Two books chosen completely at random from around the house. How random? I generated two hexagrams to select the shelves (24 and 37), then ran a number generator (1–36, 1–8) to select a book on each shelf (29, 2).
13:30 OuLiPo is one of several core inspirations for this series, so of course it seems significant that this book showed up. Seems.
50:12 One of my wife’s books from her long shelf of Spanish literature. Verde viento. Verdes ramas.
25:10 Such a gentle surrealist. Like Brian Wilson, he just wasn’t made for these times. (Speaking of OuLiPo, I wrote this brief note 17 yrs ago.)
63:15 I’m still amazed I landed my copy of the Compact OED for almost nothing. This is a cornerstone of my library.
(49:3 is a rare example of a misshelved book. It should be across the house with the other guide books, but I used it as filler so the shelf would look nice in the background of a video call. And then I forgot it was there. Sign of the times.)
55:11 Storm is largely responsible for the practice of formally naming tropical storms. Such a clean, sharp writer. I highly recommend Earth Abides and Names on the Land as well.
3:13 This was a crucial book when I was a typographer. And Bringhurst is an excellent poet.
28:22 Poor old fool. Bold but deranged scholarship. Such hubris. Tempus tacendi, Nuncle. (O but what an ear!)
32:13 Hoban’s last novel, and one of the few I haven’t read. I’m saving it: there won’t be any new ones, and you can only read something for the first time once.
4:1 Gift from my aunt to my father, who loved dictionaries (and spoke seven languages, the bastard).
5:1 Part of my self-guided tour of Medieval history. During lunch breaks at shitty temp gigs in the ’90s, I’d take the skyway to graze the stacks and surf bibliographies.
21:30, 25:20 Two Irish writers in Vintage International editions.
4:22 The world my wife moves in, and what moves her, as choreographer and mover.
19:11 As part of my concentration in college, I studied the impact of public and private spaces on culture. This book is about the modern proliferation of spaces that are nothing and nowhere.
15:47, 61:8 The Authors’ Book was Macmillan’s style book for authors. A history of the company, a summary of the publication process, instructions on how to format a MS, and a glossary of terms. From when my father worked there in the ’50s.
11:14 I’ve been a fan of Erin Belieu since her first book, Infanta.
57:5 Should be called “The Twentieth Century So Far,” since it came out in 1949. (Another Macmillan book, which had been lurking quietly for years — and is now the newest member of my towering TBR pile…)
48:15 Shelf 48 is Davenport Central. (nb and tmi: I’ve done some reshelving since starting this Random Walk, so the contents of Shelf 47 have shifted one cubby to the right.)
31:19 I loved the TV series, but the books really are much better.
I tried commenting on these, but I got talking about dowries, genocide, potlatches, and fire, with stupid phrases like disastrous attempts at self-domestication; girl’s gotta have it; apex scavenger; chimp with a dayplanner…
Fuck it. Draw your own connections.
Today’s books represent two lifelong preoccupations of mine. (Because I’m more hedgehog than fox, I actually see them, like yesterday’s books, as aspects of my single lifelong preoccupation…)
17:16 Pronounced Mardu Gorgeous. Such a fun book, and exactly the sort of eccentric thing NYRB is so good at rescuing from obscurity.
16:24 (Click here for a dispeptic divagation on one of the blurbs on the back cover.)
29:19, 55:5 No comment.
From a certain angle, this is so me. I could have carefully chosen seven important books for last week’s challenge. But 62 books (two a day all month), picked completely at random, seem to be working just as well at sketching an outline of my identity.
45:5, 16:5 Tulips and New Amsterdam. (The NYC book was published in 1954. Absolutely amazing photos.)