Wednesday, January 19, 2011

`Collected, Respected, Read and Loved'

In the cushioned envelope came the book I’ve been waiting months, and probably much longer, to read: Étienne Gilson’s Being and Some Philosophers, the second edition, “corrected and enlarged,” published in 1952 by the Pontifical Institute of Medieval Studies in Toronto. My benefactor is Helen Pinkerton, who writes in an e-mail:

“I had three copies including an unmarked second copy of the 2nd edition, which I include. Reading this book when I was about 21 and at Stanford changed my life, I found in it the philosophical grounds for believing in God's existence, which delivered me from youthful atheism and have sustained my faith ever since. Though [her teacher, Yvor] Winters recommended reading Gilson's histories of philosophy, he did not mention this book. When I asked him in later years about it, he confessed that he had not read it. I wish that he had.”

In the accompanying package, a recycled box, the poet also sent a paperback copy of Good-Bye, Son and Other Stories (1946, revised 1986) by her friend Janet Lewis; Open to All: What the Library Means to Me (2007), edited by Molly Fisk, Steve Fjeldsted and Steve Sanfield; and Pinkerton’s Taken in Faith: Poems (2002), signed by the poet and inscribed with words too embarrassingly generous to be reported. In short, Pinkerton has shared precious pieces of herself and her identities as writer and human being. Words, as happens with increasing regularity, fail me.

Open to All is no random gift. It was published by Comstock Bonanza Press (words that constitute a core sample of the American West) of Grass Valley, Ca., for Nevada County Library and the Nevada County Library Foundation. Among its contributors are names familiar if not impressive – Gary Snyder, Utah Phillips, Anne Lamott – and two checked for emphasis by Pinkerton – John Church and Erica Light. In “My Library Home,” the former describes traveling as a boy between Montana and New Mexico with his salesman father, habitually visiting public libraries along the way. Much of his remembrance is devoted to the library in Butte, Mont., where, as Pinkerton says, “I first checked out books.” Church, a retired librarian, writes:

“As we left Butte in our car, we felt in spirit the joy of being `on the road again,’ which we chimed out in unison as we looked at the road ahead, knowing we would soon be in another library with books, a librarian, and a peaceful place to read.”

Light is a library assistant for Nevada County Library and Helen Pinkerton’s daughter. In “World of Connections” she writes:

“My world has always included at least one library. In our family books were collected, respected, read and loved.”

And in mine. Thank you yet again, Helen.


Anonymous said...

Could you persuade HP to start a blog?

Cynthia Haven said...

"Embarrassingly generous," but undoubtedly merited, Patrick.

As for Étienne Gilson, I'm almost certain Milosz mentioned him when we spoke a decade ago, though I can't find it in my notes.

Unknown said...

May I just say at this point that you are killing me with the number and quality of writers I've never heard of and who I want to read? Just killing me. Not enough time. How to decide what to read next?