The Music of Failure

by Bill Holm, published in 1985 by Plains Press.  With backcover blurbs from Carol and Robert Bly.  A really scruffy and young looking Bill on the back cover as well.  Inside some terrific essays and the black and white photographs of Tom Guttormsson.  This is early, early Holm, and as irrassible as ever.  Sharp and lovely essays.  Wonderful.

I found the book in the Half Price Book Store in Apple Valley.  It was one of several books that looked like they came from the same collection.  Also available Milkweed Credo series of books, hardcover and soft cover, some still in the cellophane wrappers.

It made me curious.  Who sold their library to Half Price Books?  Who had to downsize their book collection?  Who moved? Maybe, who died?

I also got a pristine copy of the first Waterstone lit magazine, with a great interview with Paul Gruchow.  Deborah Keenan was the first poetry editor.  No Fiction or CNF editor is named.  A treasure to be sure; full of interesting poets, essayists and articles. Nice to see where it all started.  How it has grown, succeeded in its mission.

Robert Bly’s translation of Rilke Poetry was also in the pile I took home.  It had a message on the first page:

To Sara, I hope you had a wonderful birthday. I’m happy you were born, so I could meet you.   love, Melissa.

So many clues and mysteries.  Who was Sara?  Who was Melissa?  The Holm book belonged at one time to Ellie from Deerwood, MN.  Who was Ellie?  All three of these women had excellent taste in literature.  Are they connected in some way other than their reading material?  So many possibilities.

I wish I could have taken all the books home, all those wonderful Milkweed editions, the books of poetry and essays, the literary reviews, all of it.   But, some I already owned, and the rest, I couldn’t afford.  Sad.  In many way very sad.

To Ellie, Sara, Melissa and all the others who sold their unwanted or unneeded books to Half Price Books, thank you.  My reading list is so much the better because of you.