Yesterday, I was walking out of a bathroom at school and I see to my right two girls piling books into boxes and in front of them two signs: FREE BOOKS. As soon as the girls were gone I swooped. But before I could swoop, I ran into a fellow classmate and we spent a few moments catching up and chatting which probably would have turned out to be a longer, more successful hallway meeting were it not for my eyes darting from her to the books behind her. A part of me, and I am not ashamed to admit this, thought, “Would you move?! I need to get to the free books!”
Looking into the boxes I found that these weren’t just some lame, random books like the ones the Sociology Department puts out every spring, no no. These were cool books. The kind of cool books sold in actual cool bookstores that cost way too much cool money. There were even a few literary journals. Outdated? Yes. Filled with cool short stories you won’t find anywhere else? Yes. There were a few snoozers about linguistics (not cool linguistics, but how to teach teaching linguistics. Like, weird metalinguistics. Stuff no one can really do anything with. Maybe there is someone who can, but I don’t know if I really want to meet that person. Noam Chomsky maybe. But would I really want to meet him? Probably not. I don’t think I could really, you know, talk to the guy. You think that guy has normal conversations about cats and succulents? No way.) But amongst the few oddballs, I found some winners:
Nineteen Eighty-Four – George Orwell
Wuthering Heights – Emily Brontë
Hard Times – Charles Dickens
Middle March – George Eliot
There is one about Victorian prose, one about Victorian people, one with Irish poetry, three literary journals, and a book I don’t totally understand yet. In total: 11 free books!
By the way, let me just say that George Eliot was a lady. A woman, female, chick. I only make this clear because until I read one of her books last semester I thought George Eliot was a man. This was an intentional decision made by Mary Anne/Mary Ann/Marian Evans which is the real name of George Eliot. Also, it is a myth that Charles Dickens was paid by the word and that is why his books are so massive. Charles Dickens was serialized in Victorian England which means his stories were printed in sections not as the full-length, bound books we see today. The repetitiveness of his writing (which is one of the contributing factors to the length of his stories) was to keep people updated because of the gap between printings. He had to do a sort of recap of the previous events so his readers knew what was going on. So, when you read Charles Dickens, give him some credit. Dude had to make money some way and he loved to write so he got a job doing it which was really difficult to pull off in his time. People weren’t getting paid to write like they are now and copywright laws weren’t even around yet which meant if you wrote something and it got published it could get reprinted without your permission. Basically, other people would make money off of your shit. So, before you give Victorian writers like George Eliot or Charles Dickens a hard time (pun intended) think about how much of a drag it was to try and make a creative living in the Victorian era.
And check out this creepy cover of Nineteen Eighty-Four:
I was so excited about my free books that on my way back to class I tripped up the stairs and landed on my side which got me a gnarly blue and purple bruise on my hip and a scraped arm, but the books were safe. Instead of breaking my fall I made sure that the books didn’t tumble everywhere. Priorities.