Sunday, January 24, 2010

TSS I Can Dream Can't I?

Salon Sunday may be found here.

Amazon is so nice-they send me personal emails just to tell me that there's a book I don't know about that I really want to have! Usually I think blindfolded monkeys have matched me to the books but this time they were actually right.

Jewish Poet and Intellectual in Seventeenth-Century Venice: The Works of Sarra Copia Sulam in Verse and Prose Along with Writings of Her Contemporaries in Her Praise, Condemnation, or Defense by Don Harran

632 pages
Publisher: University Of Chicago Press (Nov 15 2009)
Language: English


"The first Jewish woman to leave her mark as a writer and intellectual, Sarra Copia Sulam (1600?–41) was doubly tainted in the eyes of early modern society by her religion and her gender. This remarkable woman, who until now has been relatively neglected by modern scholarship, was a unique figure in Italian cultural life, opening her home, in the Venetian ghetto, to Jews and Christians alike as a literary salon."

Imagine my excitement.
But my book purchasing has to be judiciously based on personal value for price paid. I'm going to let you in on what goes through my head when I see a book like this that I would truly love to own. I think and read at warp speed so imagine this all happening in a few seconds. Italics are mine, all mine.

"Hardcover List Price $109.50"(!?) Your price " $68.99 & this item ships for FREE.(!) You Save: $40.51 (37%)."(!) (I don't know whether to laugh or cry that they do they math for me but that's another topic.) The remainder of my thoughts were directed toward the publisher, not the bookseller.

But 632 pages of "The Works of Sarra Copia Sulam in Verse and Prose"! That just might be worth taking out a small loan. I love bilingual books, I own a few. But I don't read the second language here. They don't say which it is but I'm betting Hebrew or Italian. So I'm personally paying for half a book that I can't use. Oh well, happy that others can compare the texts, more money for U of C, maybe. Okay, 316 pages of such a rare treasure will be plenty for me!
But wait.

"Along with Writings of Her Contemporaries in Her Praise, Condemnation, or Defense"?! That worries me greatly. I can only imagine how many of her contemporaries (all of them) were riled up and had something to write about a Jewish female writer/thinker of the times (that's at least four strikes against her already). Don Harrán has collected " all of Sulam’s previously scattered writings—letters, sonnets, a Manifesto—into a single volume". Doesn't sound like a tome of material to me. "Harrán has also assembled all extant correspondence and poetry that was addressed to Sulam, as well as all known contemporary references to her...Featuring rich biographical and historical notes that place Sulam in her cultural context, this volume will provide readers with insight into the thought and creativity of a woman who dared to express herself in the male-dominated, overwhelmingly Catholic Venice of her time."

Now that sounds like a tome and a half.
But just how many pages of this book does the Italian lady get in which to "express herself", gentlemen? Fifty? Less, I'm betting. Even at 316 pages this book is beginning to sound like one very small part Sarra and too many parts of what everyone and their ancestors thought about this nervy upstart. You already have an almost misleading title there that will take up two pages every time you write it. I know why you published this volume, the secondary reason I mean. To sell for women's studies. But how much of the woman do I get to study for my $68.99? And no, I am not overlooking the possibility that some of those who wrote "correspondence and poetry that was addressed to Sulam, as well as all known contemporary references to her" may have been women. One or two perhaps, but they are not Ms. Sulam.

No sale here. You publish all of her own words in English and I'll pay a reasonable price for that. I'm no academic but I can get a lot out of reading her for myself because I'm a woman and a writer and not much has changed. Four hundred years on and I'm still reading female writers who have to use male names to get their work picked up (e.g. Lionel Shriver). If what the rest of them have to say in this book is really worth it, word will get around. I'll spring for the Big Book of Interpretations and Opinions by Everyone Who Ever Knew or Even Heard of the Lady when I'm ready-and I'm not talking money now.

Have a good Sunday everyone. I'll see you at Mailbox Monday-yes, I broke down and bought some new books again. The monkeys talked me into it.


  1. Intriguing dissertation, Sandra! Love the way you break it all down for us...

    I see that you've read "Testimony." I relished it!

  2. You're obviously smarter than I am - amazon recommends fodder to me.

  3. Ha! I totally feel that way with Amazon too! Sometimes they are horrible books that they recommend and sometimes I get really excited with their recommendations. I loved reading your post!

  4. Enjoyed reading your post :) There have been times when I have bought a book because I was so impressed by the synopsis only to discover that half of the book wasn't what the author had written! I hope the plain and simple 'Works of Sarra Copia Sulam in Verse and Prose' comes in paperback edition someday so that you can read it and decide whether you want to buy the hardback edition for your collection.

  5. LOL....I hate when Amazon recommends books, as I end up adding a lot of them to that darn ever expanding wish list!

  6. I agree with you on the blind monkeys comparison. Most of the books they recommend are books I would never in a million years read.

    But, it looks as if they've hit on a good one for you!

  7. That was fun reading! =) I get those emails too, and from Albris.. and most of the time what's going off in my head with the Alibris ones is "got it, got it, got that one.." since Alibris deals in used and older titles & I've had time to catch up and build a substantial collection..and for Amazon when they are right I do add it to my wish list. When they are wrong I feel defiant and rush to the delete button.

  8. Since I recently ordered some stuff for my hubby and kids on Amazon (and didn't bother to let them know that it wasn't for me) I have been getting some weird Amazon recommendations lately. Some are spot on (and I've already read them!), but most just make it to the trash can in record time.

  9. As I read in two languages, Amazon often recommend books I have already read in one of my languages.

    I can understand you didn´t fall for this offer, but sadly Danish book prices are so steep that $ 60 for a new hardback is not unusual. So I support my local library, borrowing lots of Danish books, and buy English paperbacks. Not recommended by Amazon, but by book bloggers whose reviews I trust.

  10. *Laurel Rain: Thanks. I haven't actually read Testimony yet but I'm glad to know you liked it.
    *Kathy: Fodder is the best word I've heard for it. Good one.
    Amused: Thanks, I was beginning to think the post was too weird. I wrote it to distract myself from about the worst sinus headache I've ever had. In other words I was drugged at the time.:)
    *Vishy: I'm honoured to have you visit me again. So I'm not the only one who has been disappointed by what a book contains I see. Thank you for your kind wishes.
    *Diane: Glad you laughed. You must have different monkeys working for you.
    *Michelle: So far it's unanimous-except for Diane.
    Marie Burton, Jonita: Glad they get it right sometimes. I know what you mean, sometimes I feel downright insulted by their choices.
    *Dorte: Those prices are awful. I thought they were bad enough in the UK. We really are spoiled here in North America. We're not as cheap as the States. They have about seven times the population so a lot more competition but we do well for availability and price. As you say, one learns all the tricks to economize and after sixty years, I can't break the habit.

  11. It makes me joyous when Amazon proposes a book for me and I love it....(Hey, it happens!)

  12. This book sounds way over my head but I'm glad that the "monkeys" actually picked something you would appreciate!

  13. wow,i think i agree with you all around. fascinating subject but i'd like to read her own words instead of an academic treatise, and that's way too expensive!

  14. Pretty cool place you've got here. Thanx for it. I like such themes and anything connected to this matter. BTW, try to add some images :).



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