My second trip to Eagle Eye wasn’t intended to be a book-buying excursion. I was there just to pick up my ticket for the Neil Gaiman reading on Saturday – obviously I’m super excited about this, and am only sad that I couldn’t get an advance copy of The Ocean at the End of the Lane, because if early reports are to be believed, it’s goddamn amazing. Anyway, my plan was to get in, pick up my ticket, get out, and continue running errands.
Yeah. Guess how well that worked out? When I returned to the checkout, the cashier looked at my stack of books and said, “Oh my.” I came in planning to get a ticket, and left with a ticket and four books (which, by the way, is not a lot, so turn off the judging face, bookstore guy). What did me in was how damn affordable all the books in Eagle Eye are – seriously, I don’t know how these guys make a profit. My four books (two paperback, two hardcover) cost a whopping $24, which is just stupid cheap. Can you blame me for going a little overboard?
Here’s today’s surprise haul:
1. Athenais: The Real Queen of France by Lisa Hilton
When it comes to history books, royal mistresses are my favorite people to read about. I had read a little about Athenais de Montespan before, in Eleanor Herman’s Sex With Kings and Antonia Fraser’s Love and Louis XIV: The Women in the Life of the Sun King, but have never read a biography focused specifically on her. Based on the jacket description, the book is going to explore the rivalry between Montespan and Maintenon, another of Louis XIV’s mistresses. Like Fraser, Hilton apparently makes the claim that Louis married Maintenon in secret, and hopefully she presents more compelling proof of this than Fraser did.
2. Paris 1919: Six Months that Changed the World by Margaret MacMillan
I grabbed this one on my way to the checkout counter, mostly because it involves post-WWI Europe and takes place in Paris, which is all that’s needed to get my attention. The book focuses on the six-month peace conference between Woodrow Wilson, David Lloyd George, and Georges Clemenceau – borders were redrawn, treaties were created, and new countries like Yugoslavia and Palestine were born. I’m hoping that this will be in the same vein as Vienna 1814 by David King, which succeeded as both a historical work and a detailed personal portrait of the people involved.
3. Geisha, A Life by Mineko Iwasaki
I read Arthur Golden’s Memoirs of a Geisha at an impressionable age, and spent far too many years believing that it was an accurate portrayal of the geisha lifestyle before I found out that just about everything in the book was straight-up invented by Golden, and has no basis in reality (although, you have to admire the balls it takes to be a white American dude who decides to write a book about a world he knows nothing about, and then not do any actual research or give a flying fuck if what he’s writing is accurate). This seems to be the legitimate version of Memoirs of a Geisha, because the author is a) female b) Japanese and c) an actual geisha. According to the author bio on the cover, Iwasaki was one of the most famous geishas of her age before retiring at age twenty-nine (twenty-nine!), and her book is the first time in the 300-year history of the geishas that one of the women has publicly told her story. I imagine that the working title of this book was Arthur Golden Can Suck It.
Divided into three sections (The Age of Fable, the Age of Chivalry, and Legends of Charlemagne) this serves as a all-inclusive reference source on various European myths, fables, and legends. I bought this mainly because it seemed like a good thing to have on hand, and it was five dollars for a hardcover edition. There probably won’t be an official review of this posted, because I don’t plan on reading it straight through like a normal book. I plan to dip in and out of this, reading a couple myths at a time and using the book mainly as a reference.