Confessions of a Failed Egoist by Trevor Blake

Book: Confessions of a Failed Egoist

Author: Trevor Blake

Type of Book: Non-fiction, essays, philosophy, memoir

Why Do I Consider This Book Odd: SubGenii Unite!

Availability: Published by Underworld Amusements in 2014, you can get a copy here:

Comments: This book showed me in many ways that I have become a very bitter woman. I don’t think I am an egoist because I am sort of filled with self-loathing and seldom know what the right thing to do might be and therefore have no business using my own self as a life philosophy, but I can still see the charm in this book of short essays and articles dealing with everything from egoism to the sexual lives of the disabled to selling used books.

Blake’s style is erudite yet irreverent and breezy, almost to distraction at times. And god this book could have been better edited. It actually fell outside of my bitchy upper limit of what I can endure in regards to errors in books, but it was charming and intelligent enough to make it still worth discussing. You will also encounter words like “siphonophore” (a sort of man-of-war water creature) and improving your vocabulary via arcane words is a good thing.

Let’s begin this discussion with Blake’s definition of egoism:

Egoism is the claim that the individual is the measure of all things. In ethics, in epistemology, in aesthetics, in society, the Individual is the best and only arbitrator. Egoism claims social convention, laws, other people, religion, language, time and all other forces outside of the Individual are an impediment to the liberty and existence of the Individual. Such impediments may be tolerated but they have no special standing to the Individual, who may elect to ignore or subvert or destroy them as He can. In egoism the State has no monopoly to take tax or wage war.

Yeah, yeah, I see the appeal but in this respect I’m a pedant and anti-intellectual to boot – if I can’t see it working in real life I can’t really discuss it in much depth. Philosophies that end up stating that one of their tenets is that the State cannot tax or wage war cause me to want to discuss whether or not Ariel the Mermaid should have exchanged her fins for legs and if the exchange was worth it. Both discussions occupy the same head space in my brain.  Let’s discuss how many mermaids can dance on the head of a philosopher!

But even if I am philosophically stunted these days,  there is much in this book that resonated with me.

Biblio-sentimentality

This post originally appeared on I Read Odd Books

Mr Oddbooks and I had a moment at a recent book sale wherein we both agreed we needed to buy a specific book because of a letter he had found inside of it.  It was a coffee table book about sailing vessels (Mr Oddbooks is ex-Navy and longs for the coast like I long for the desert and here we both are in Austin) and was not particularly unique – he already had many books similar to this one.  But the letter inside pulled us to buy it.  The letter seemed as important as the book, if not more important, and as long as this book remains in our collection, that letter will remain inside the book, just as we found it.

I realized how often we both do this – purchase a book because something left in the book calls to us.  I’ve come to think of this tendency as “biblio-sentimentality.”  I have no idea how many books we have currently that we acquired due to our combined biblio-sentimentality, but I think I am going to record some of them here.  I have to think others are like this, buying books because they feel an emotional connection to them due to marks and items left in the book.  Perhaps others will enjoy seeing these books.  Perhaps this is just more of my extremely indulgent blogging style.  If so, no harm, but I can say that I would love to see any books you fine readers may have that you purchased due to biblio-sentimentality.  Feel free to include pictures in comments!

I divide biblio-sentimentality into three categories: inscriptions, marginalia, and ephemera.  Inscriptions, of course, are messages to a gift recipient or from the author, written generally on a title page, but could be included somewhere else in the book.  Marginalia refers to notes about the text written in the blank margins of books, but it can also include highlighting or underscoring text.  Ephemera refers to items found in the book that were not meant to be permanently left in the book, like letters, cards, bookmarks and similar.

In this entry I’m going to share some of our examples of biblio-sentimental ephemera, since this discussion was inspired by the sailing vessel book with the letter in it, and it seems fitting that I should begin with that book.

sailing 0Mr Oddbooks found this at a huge Half-Price Books warehouse sale. He really does have dozens of similar books but when the letter fell out of this book, he immediately read it and then put the book in our cart.
sailing 1A woman fighting for sobriety left this letter to herself in a coffee table book about sailing ships. Though it is unlikely anyone would be able to identify her through this letter, I redacted her name anyway. This was a rescue ephemera – this letter seems very important to me, a woman with my own addiction demons. It was unusual that this woman placed this letter in such a book – was she using the book as a make-shift lap desk? Did she think this large book was the best place to keep such a letter since huge books about sailing vessels aren’t usually the types of books most read in the average home?

It worries me that she forgot about the letter in this book, or that there is a worse reason that this letter was left behind in a book, like she lost her possessions in an eviction. Or maybe she worked the steps and is clean and has no need to remember this letter. Regardless, it seemed callous to both of us to leave this book with this letter behind. It needed to be saved and kept.  It seems very important to me even if I don’t know exactly why, outside of the shared experience of addiction.