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Ephemera

— The library at UCSD has just purchased some letters and related miscellanea belonging to Gary Snyder, a Northern California poet famous for hanging out with fellow Beat Generation writers Allen Ginsberg, Jack Kerouac, Philip Whalen, Michael McClure, and Lew Welch back in the 1950s. Kerouac even included him as a “mystical poet” in his book The Dharma Bums. Besides 25 pages of letters, the haul of papers, bought through L.A. rare book dealer Thomas A. Goldwasser, also includes four poems and a signed typed postcard, as well as “an envelope containing pieces of sea glass”; “a small black and white headshot photograph of Snyder”; “a long narrow scrap of paper with autograph notes on Jung”; and a “typed leaf explaining how to take care of Snyder’s cat, titled ‘Commentaries and Prolegomena to the Care and Integration of Genji.’ ” In making his October sales pitch for the documents, Goldwasser emailed librarian Lynda Claassen, “I wonder if you would be interested in these splendid Gary Snyder letters. I know you don’t have his papers, but you do have some of them, I believe. In any event, this group, particularly the long early ones, still feel touched by the muse.” According to an invoice obtained from the university under the state Public Records Act, the entire collection cost $23,595, discounted from the original $27,500 offering price.

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— The library at UCSD has just purchased some letters and related miscellanea belonging to Gary Snyder, a Northern California poet famous for hanging out with fellow Beat Generation writers Allen Ginsberg, Jack Kerouac, Philip Whalen, Michael McClure, and Lew Welch back in the 1950s. Kerouac even included him as a “mystical poet” in his book The Dharma Bums. Besides 25 pages of letters, the haul of papers, bought through L.A. rare book dealer Thomas A. Goldwasser, also includes four poems and a signed typed postcard, as well as “an envelope containing pieces of sea glass”; “a small black and white headshot photograph of Snyder”; “a long narrow scrap of paper with autograph notes on Jung”; and a “typed leaf explaining how to take care of Snyder’s cat, titled ‘Commentaries and Prolegomena to the Care and Integration of Genji.’ ” In making his October sales pitch for the documents, Goldwasser emailed librarian Lynda Claassen, “I wonder if you would be interested in these splendid Gary Snyder letters. I know you don’t have his papers, but you do have some of them, I believe. In any event, this group, particularly the long early ones, still feel touched by the muse.” According to an invoice obtained from the university under the state Public Records Act, the entire collection cost $23,595, discounted from the original $27,500 offering price.

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Comments

The question is -- are these items worth $23,595 and could that money have been put to better use by the library, such as the purchase of more books for the shelves or for those in the community who cannot afford books; that money could also have paid for several student employees who need the job to help them go through school (or the partial paycheck for one full time employee).

The purchase of such letters and manuscripts should be for future use by scholars and students who are writing papers or books on the subject; these documents would assist in research or make for interesting footnotes.

As Synder is a minor Beat poet, and seldom a subject of any significant acadmeic research, I fail to see the justification of such a high price for mere correspndence, a postcard, and instructions for taking care of a cat.

At best, these items may have been worth $2,000.

June 11, 2008
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