Thursday, August 15, 2013

In Which The Professor Pays a Visit

I had quite a literary visit yesterday with my neighbor The Professor. I have mentioned him before...he is in his eighties, is a retired university professor of philosophy, has a house full of books (even though he has sold his 'libraries' twice), and is always seen in a freshly pressed Oxford cloth shirt and tie. I am sometimes the grateful recipient of his well-thumbed 
New York Times Book Review and American Scholar journals.

He is most erudite and is very likely my smartest acquaintance.

It was an abnormally cool August day. I was sitting on my front porch in the late afternoon engrossed in So Big by Edna Ferber when I was greeted by The Professor's cheery hello. He was standing at my gate - he was on his way back from the barbershop - and was in good spirits as usual. I invited him up and we visited for 45 minutes.

In addition to a rousing report on a recent dinner party he attended with a few of his former university colleagues, our conversation ran along these lines:

Jane Austen; the Jane Austen Festival; A Jane Austen Education (which we have both read) and Jane Austen: A Life in Small Things (which neither of us has read) ; book clubs; Edna Ferber; Dr. Samuel Johnson's dislike of music (with supporting quotes); The Magic Mountain; Arthur, a mutual friend, long dead, who for years ran one of the first local bookstores; Vanity Fair; P.G. Wodehouse; a surviving independent bookstore and one that has gone away; Florence, Italy; and, the Harvard Classics.

The Professor is like ten book blogs rolled into one! A fine ending to a fine day, wouldn't you say?


  1. What a lovely neighbor and what must have been an interesting conversation. I'd love to know what was said about the Harvard Classics. I have an old set of them that I treasure, but I realize there's a lot of discussion of the 'dead white men' authors who seem to make up the standard classics.

    1. Well, Joan, that turn of the conversation really had to do with a new edition of Jane Austen's books that Harvard University Press has published. Each book is annotated and contains notes on unfamiliar words and references and is illustrated. The Professor has all the ones published...I think so far there are four. Each one is $35. Here is the link to the website if you are interested:

      As to the 'classic' Harvard Classics, have you read or heard of "The Whole Five Feet" by Christopher Beha? It is an account of his experience reading all 51 volumes of the HCs in one year. I have added it to my TBR list. Sounds like fun!

  2. Belle, how nice to have such a brilliant neighbor! I love professors. And I must read A Jane Austen Education.

    1. Kat, The Professor is quite a character. He holds forth and I mostly just listen. Both The P and I enjoyed 'A Jane Austen Education'...even though I have only read one of her books. He was also quite impressed with the new annotated editions of her novels published by Harvard University Press. I think four of the six have hit the market. Quite pricey at $35 each!