August 15 is moving day in Madison, otherwise known as “Hippie Christmas.” Most leases here begin on August 15, so it’s common to see boxes stacked on porches, moving trucks in driveways, and trash piled on lawns. Combined with the August heat, it can be a pretty disgusting sight. If you’re willing to look beyond the stained mattresses and broken desk chairs, though, sometimes you can find a treasure or two. Yesterday, I picked up Selected Writings of Gertrude Stein in hardcover, as well as Henry Roth’s 1934 novel, Call It Sleep from a pile of discarded belongings near the curb. Both will make excellent, no-cost additions to my book collection.
The Stein collection will give me a good excuse to revisit some of my literary favorites from my English major days. I’ve got a some lofty footsteps to follow in, too. My 80-year-old grandmother is currently reading The Odyssey along with Harold Bloom‘s literary criticism of it. So don’t be afraid to pick up that Plato or Proust you see lying on the curb next to someone’s flattened U-Haul boxes and crumpled newspapers. My grandma might quiz you on it.