Tuesday, July 08, 2008

CHARMING BILLY by Alice McDermott

The Book: Alice McDermott, CHARMING BILLY. Farrar, Strauss and Giroux, 1997 (first edition). Fine condition.
First read: 1999
Owned since: 2008 (this copy)

A couple of weekends ago, I handed off a copy of a book I'd ordered from England to Chris because it was a third printing, not the true first I'd been hoping for. I decided I'd rather have the American first than a UK third, as I have first printings of all of this author's other books.

"I don't mind having a third printing," he said. "I'm not obsessive about it like some people."

I protested -- I am not obsessive about it, and don't consider myself a collector. Really.

But yesterday, as I was dropping off yet another large donation of books to the Gardiner Public Library, I saw that they had this book -- a true first in perfect condition -- on their sale shelf. For two dollars. So I bought it.

I may have a problem. I'm just allowing the possibility. I am not yet willing to change.

But really -- a first edition of Charming Billy, when I don't even know what happened to my original copy! For two dollars!

It won the National Book Award for 1997, and I'm posting this from Boston's South Station before I catch my train, so I'm keeping this short. CHARMING BILLY is the story of Billy Lynch, romantic and alcoholic, told by the daughter of his lifelong friend after Lynch's death from cirrhosis. The central tragedy of Lynch's life, it seems, was the loss of his one true love, an Irish girl who went home to care for her parents and never came back. As the narrator investigates, however, she finds a very different story -- and wonders about the reasons for all the stories families tell each other about the things they can't explain.

I'm pretty sure I gave my original copy of this book to my mother, who probably then passed it on to one of my sisters or one of her friends. The year I read it, I pressed it on everyone, and my mother did too. I need to read it again ... just as soon as I get back from New York.


Ed Lamb said...

I'm pretty sure I have your original copy of this book. I got it from Mom.

It is well-worn from reading.

-- Ed

JIM LAMB said...

I was sure that book was still in the family. I was thinking it was in my Jack Rabbit storeroom.

I'm off to Jamaica in the morning and I'm not going to take to the computer.

Love, Dad

GWD said...

Hi. I came upon your blog while looking for information about the "light as a feather stiff as a board" ritual and saw you mention in your comments that you're scared of ouija boards. I just thought I'd let you know there's no reason to be scared.

It's called the ideomotor effect, you can look it up on Wikipedia, but it's basically when you move something without meaning to or being able to sense that you're doing it. You can test this easily by having someone observe people using a Ouija board, record the answers, then blindfold them and ask the same questions- watch the gibberish you get in response.

AnswerGirl said...

Yeah, I'm quite familiar with that explanation, thanks. Sessions with Ouija boards involve groups of suggestible people whose motives may not always be pure. I am also familiar with a case that involved a young woman who was very likely manipulated, through a Ouija board, by a person or people who did not wish her well. She was fragile to begin with, and it made a bad situation worse.

Leave the damned things alone, I say.

Moira said...

One of my all time favorite books!!!