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
(Hardcover) 632 pages
Publisher: University Of Chicago Press (Nov 15 2009)
"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.
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