Impulse Buy

I’ve been buying a lot of books lately. Mostly used on eBay — great deals on good Catholic books. Got a nice former-library Encyclopedia of the Saints, which the whole family digs (10,000 saints — who knew?) for $2 or so.

Also picked up St. Thomas Aquinas’s simplified Summa Theologica, called My Way of Life, the source of that spectacular quote under This Moment on this blog, along with hardcover copies of Imitation of Christ and Imitation of Mary for something like $7 total, including shipping. Nice.

But what I really wanted was a nice pocket-size copy of Introduction to the Devout Life by St. Francis de Sales (pictured), patron saint of writers and journalists, and my confirmation saint. (Lest you think I knew at an early age what I would become, I should note that I was confirmed as a 25-year-old father of two; when I was a teen I didn’t know I would be a writer or a Catholic!)

There were lots of new paperbacks on eBay, and two hardcover editions from the 1920s. The first was a 1923 second edition in the saint’s native French, bound in brown leather. Beautiful book, but I don’t speak or read French, so it made sense that I’d bid on the late 1920s American edition, the size of a coat’s inside pocket, with the yellowed dust jacket still intact. There was another bidder, but surely it was destined to grace my shelf.

I bought the English edition, but couldn’t keep from watching as no one bid on the French version. Minimum opening bid was $5, plus $3 shipping. No reserve. No bids.

A horrible thought struck me: this book would be regarded as worthless and tossed. It would be burned, or rot amongst coffee grounds and banana peels. I had to save it.

I bid $5. Spent $3 on shipping. The book is beautiful, bizarrely bound (to my eyes, at least): a metal strip runs behind the leather spine, with two wire spring clips the hold the pages in. The pages themselves are not uniformly sized and are variously stitched together.

I was fascinated and promptly showed the family. Jodi smiled and shook her head. The kids were vaguely interested in the book — what caught their collective attention was Brendan’s question to me, in a tone equal parts hopeful and impressed, doubtful and incredulous: “Dad, can you read French?”

Um, no. I simply can’t help myself.

7 thoughts on “Impulse Buy

  1. I needed a Y & O update! – Thank you.

    I've never made the tiniest claim to know that much about you, but to find out tonight that you were confirmed at 25, well, that was a moment in and of itself. There's so much to learn. Someday, I hope to hear that famous Paul Harvey line (in my head) after a conversation with you and your lovely wife.


  2. Perhaps now,you or one of your children will be moved to learn French!

    There is a strength in the feel of a good book in your hand, eh?

    I too was needing an update. I had about given up hope! I feel like you are cheating on the readers relationship with this blog, while you are off writing in other places, we don't get to see or read!


  3. The Robot Wisdom dude says that the amount of time spent on the internet is inversely proportional to the interest your real life holds.

    Also, because I've started ending my comments with the word verfication:


  4. After my Grandfather passed away, I got his copy of My Way of Life. Small, black, old, leather-bound, and outstanding. That was a little over 20 years ago. I keep it on the stand next to my bed and read a little from it on occasion. Everything the Summa has in it, without all the words. It’s a great book.

    Introduction to the Devout Life is another favorite of mine. I've read it a couple times but haven't for a few years. It's one of those books which are profound and have “consequences” for the reader. It keeps you shifting in your seat, not letting you get too comfortable. I'd love to see the two versions you bought – they sound pretty interesting.

    As a side note, another book you may be interested in looking into if you like Introduction to the Devout Life is The Spiritual Combat by Fr. Lorenzo Scupoli. It was St. Francis de Sales favorite book and he carried in his pocket for 18 years. There's also an update version called Spiritual Combat Revisited by by Jonathan Robinson, but I think the original is very readable.

    I feel your pain as far as the book-buying obsession goes. But buying a book written in French to save it from possible destruction? Dude, that's awesome. And next time the UPS truck pulls up to my house and my wife gives me the beat-down for buying yet another book, I can turn to her and tell her – “It could be worse, and if you don't believe me just call Jodi.”


  5. Ephelba, the robot wisdom dude is right. I know it's true in my life, but that doesn't mean, Thorp, that we weren't waiting for you here.

    I am going to have the first line of that quote tattooed on my forehead, I think.


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