Tuesday, November 15, 2011
Eight Books, Cloud Nine
I like to tell myself that my book-buying days are largely over. A mere trickle moving through the house. Review copies. An occasional book from the Ridgedale de-acquisition shop. Well, yesterday that trickle became a flood. I picked up eight new books. I was on Cloud Nine.
An order arrived in the mail from Daedalus, the remainder house, at noon. It contained a coffee-table book about clouds, a brief history of the ontological proof for God’s existence, and a revolutionary revision of our understanding of the Middle Ages, Barbarians to Angels, by local archeologist Peter Wells.
Meanwhile, unaware that these goodies would be waiting for me at the front door when I returned, I went out to Ridgedale Library to retrieve a few books I’d requested about the early history of Texas. (Don’t ask me why.) Naturally I stopped into the adjoining bookshop...and left with a healthy stack under my arm. (Total cost: $5)
In that stack was a book of essays about books and reading by Washington Post columnist Michael Dirda; a slim volume of lectures by Jorge Luis Borges titled This Craft of Verse; a full-color travel guide to San Antonio and Austin; a book about tuning musical instruments called Temperament: the Idea that Solved Music’s Greatest Riddle, and a recently-revised Penguin paperback edition of Dante’s La Vita Nuova, (to replace my yellow and crumbling edition of 1982.)
The cloud book has quite a few full-page color photos of various cloud-forms, including the lentil-shaped altocumulus linticularis (sometimes mistaken for a UFO), the high-flying cirrocumulus stratiformis undulatis (otherwise known as “mackerel sky”), and the cumulus humilis (generally wider than they are tall, hence humble and unthreatening).
Among the heaps of cloud lore the book contains, I’ve already spotted one little-known gem: the cumulonimbus cloud, which is often associated with stormy weather, is also the cloud we refer to when we say we’re “on cloud nine.” Why? Because it was the ninth of the ten clouds enumerated in the original 1896 edition of the International Cloud Atlas.