Be wise. Be brave. Be tricky. (slithytove) wrote,
Be wise. Be brave. Be tricky.

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Build thee more stately McMansions, O my soul.

A long-term trend I've noticed is the tendency for 'stuff' to become both cheaper and lousier. Houses. Stone and brick houses used to be made of stone and brick. Now they're made of cinderblock, faced with stone or brick. Clothing. A couple of generations ago, one mark of a poor man was his 'shiny' wool suit. It was shiny because it was worn. Nowadays, there are few shiny suits, because suits are made of cheaper stuff, wear out sooner, and are discarded. McCann's Irish Oatmeal has disappeared from my usual supermarket, to be replaced by row upon row of flavored, sugared, instant crap.

Books are like this. A century ago, a typical book was hardbound, in cloth or even leather, sewn in signatures, and lasted forever. Also expensive. In the mid to late 19th century, many middle-class and poor families only owned one or two books. One was the Bible. The second book was usually Bunyan's Pilgrim's Progress. Nowadays, the typical book is paperback, and bound with glue. When the glue dries out, the book cracks, or its pages fall out.

There's a Folio Society interest group on LibraryThing. They complain that both binding and print quality of even high end Folio Society books has declined over the past twenty or thirty years. Even ordinary hardback books tend not to be cloth-bound any more. The covers may be hard, but they're covered with paper.

A few weeks ago I bought a book from an Amazon seller, Thomas Heggen's Mister Roberts. Appears to be the first edition from Riverside Press, 1946. It still has the mark of the original seller, 'The Book Shop', Fitchburg, Massachusetts.

Price on the dust jacket:  $3.00.

Hardbound in cloth, still in very good condition, although the dust jacket is somewhat worn and faded. Nice letterpress print job (of course). A book still solid after sixty years. $3. A bargain!

But wait. We've had some inflation between 1946 and today, haven't we? How much would $3 be in today's dollars? The Inflation Calculator can tell us.


Whoa. That's more than most people today would pay for a slim (221 pp.) novel, hardback or not, no matter how good the binding.

If I had to pay $32 for a book, I'd buy a lot fewer. Who bought books in 1946? Not just the wealthy. My parents had a small library, and they were middle-class. I hate to think what they must have paid for them, in terms of their income at the time.

So I have mixed feelings about books—and other stuff—becoming both cheaper and less sturdy. I'd like books to last longer than my current bunch of paperbacks. But I'm loath to be able to buy fewer books. Yes, libraries. But not everyone is near one. And it's just nice to be able to snag a book from the shelf and find a passage you're thinking of. It's nice to scribble in the margins of books, too. Easy to do to a paperback; I'm more reluctant to do it to a hardback.

Would I rather have frangible paperbacks? Or beautiful, durable books that I can't afford to own? Somewhat sadly, I conclude, with Leibniz, that existence is one of the perfections. Books I can't afford, however good they might be, are less perfect than those which actually have being, despite their flaws.

The market seems to agree with Leibniz, too. If people preferred expensive hardbacks to cheap paperbacks, they'd buy 'em.

I'm afraid it's one of those things in which "...something's lost, but something's gained / In living every day."


[i]da(ku), kaka(eru)

meaning: embrace, hug, hold

抱負 == houfu == (noun) aspiration, ambition, pretension
抱擁 == houyou == (noun which can take する to act as a verb) embrace, hug, holding in one's arms

Left radical is one of the many radical versions of 'hand', which in this context means 'arms'. Right radical is 'hold/envelop' (包). Henshall suggests as a mnemonic: 'To embrace is to envelop with the arms.'

Info from Taka Kanji Database
List of compounds including this character from Risu Dictionary

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