Pressed Wafer has heard from enthusiastic readers of Daniel Aaron’s Commonplace Book,1934–2012 that they have read and enjoyed the book in two ways surprising to us. We expected readers to dip into the book, be absorbed for a few pages, perhaps add notes under an entry, then return the book to their bedside table.
Several readers have e-mailed that they read Commonplace Book straight through taking it for an autobiography. Two readers assure Pressed wafer that they have loved it as a novel! In all three cases, high-grade literature.
See your yourself.
Pressed Wafer knew Daniel Aaron, as the world of American letters does, as Professor Emeritus of English and American Literature at Harvard University, author of Writers on the Left and cofounder of The Library of America. We never expected to be offered a book by him.
But in 2013, author and professor of law at Harvard Law School, Noah Feldman brought Daniel Aaron’s Scrap Book to Pressed Wafer. This collection of newspaper photographs and text spanning 1937 to 2011 and focusing on the grotesque in daily American life was clearly not going to be published by a big press. It was just right for Pressed Wafer and we printed it on tabloid size newsprint with a note by Feldman and an interview with Aaron by Feldman and Hillary Chute. Scrap Book appeared in 2104.
Feldman told us that Aaron had also kept a commonplace book beginning in 1937, which Christopher Irmscher and Steven Brown were typing and editing up under Aaron’s supervision. Were we interested in looking at it? Yes, followed by a very enthusiastic yes after we had read the book. Commonplace books are rare. Perhaps the best-known modern example is W.H. Auden’s A Certain World. Aaron’s book is equally superb as intellectual autobiography and for pure pleasure.