A 65-year-old Ohio book collector (Booking in the Heartland, 1986) and fiction writer (Ghostly Populations, 1986; Crazy...



A 65-year-old Ohio book collector (Booking in the Heartland, 1986) and fiction writer (Ghostly Populations, 1986; Crazy Women: Short Stories, 1985; etc.) talks of collecting rare books. Matthews is a clear, sometimes amusing collector/dealer who only gradually got sucked into dealing, and goes about his dealing haphazardly. He tells about varieties of collectors who are often vastly knowing about narrow subjects (e.g., first editions of British mystery novels of the 1920's) to the occlusion of all else. Matthews himself early became a collector of Hemingway first editions, and one of his best chapters is a long discussion of Green Hills of Africa, which Matthews describes as a how-to book about aboutness--about writing, about hunting, about whatever strikes young Hemingway as worth laying down rules about and building a code about. Odder are collections of 19th-century joke books, old chronologies of world events, Civil War newspapers, and even ""unreadable books,"" such as The Talkative President: the Off The Record Press Conferences of Calvin Coolidge: [Silent Cal] ""could not fail to address dull topics with appropriate answers. . . [H] e is the featureless figure of almost forgotten memory: cautious, fair-minded, cautious, prudent, cautious, thorough, and cautious."" Meanwhile, Matthews comes most alive on books about crude Frontier medicines; when talking about Ralph Hodgson, a renowned 20th-century English poet who sought anonymity on an Ohio farm and died there at 91; about Henry Watterson, whose prodigious autobiography, Marse Henry, is ""utterly, irresistibly fascinating. . .superbly flawed--chaotic, anecdotal, rambling, and gossipy"" about 19th-century American life; and about lost buildings in Matthews' hometown, Columbus, and how the lives of famous American writers overlap the way the lives of American office buildings overlap. If you like old books, this is for one of your more idle hours, however you measure them.

Pub Date: Dec. 1, 1989


Page Count: -

Publisher: Ohio Univ. Press

Review Posted Online: N/A

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 15, 1989