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  • Writer's pictureMichael Sales

Vintage Books: Anthropocean de Jour!

I’m a lover of books that literally bend to my will. 

The sooner I can fold the pages of a book back so that I’m holding the whole book in my hand while seeing only one half of a volume the better. Their tendency to break at the seams while I’m reading is one reason why I don’t buy or read that many hardbacks. And plenty of paperbacks resist my reading methodology for over half of the work and proceed to split into unintentional sections from too much of my pressure as well. 

While they aren’t completely supple, Knopf Press’ Vintage paperbacks are an exception to my complaint. 

Knopf was founded in 1915 and still in existence today as an arm of Bertelsmann, another publishing house founded in 1835. 

I’m presently reading Vintage’s version of P.D. Ouspensky’s The Fourth Way. Ouspensky was a Russian émigré, a spiritual teacher and philosopher during the 20th century.His school of thought emphasizes self-remembering as a pathway to higher consciousness and a focused life. Much of Ouspensky’s framework is based on the ideas and mystical school propagated by G.I. Gurdjieff. Both men continue to be influential. 

P.D. Ouspensky

Applying my system of reading to the book, I thought: “Isn’t this good. This book is much easier to read my way than most! Bravo to the publisher. I wonder who it is?” 

So I turned to the back of it to discover that Knopf’s Vintage Books contains a number of titles I have read,  and many more that I wish to and should read. Polishing my apple, some of the ones that have influenced me are Wilhelm Reich’s Sex-Pol Essays from 1929-1934, several titles by Alan Watts and Christopher Lasch, Knots by R.D. Laing (a must!), etc.

The list of compelling, critical and courageous titles (e.g. Ulysses) goes on and on, and this is from the back of a Ouspensky’s book that was published by Vintage in 1971! All of them may be banned by school districts across  America in 2025, and many of them probably already are. 

I choose Vintage Press to be the Anthropocean de Jour because it has made a great and lasting contribution to the understanding of the mind and the ability to apply it to planetary and local conditions. Simplistic approaches to complex issues seem to be the order of the day in this fear-filled era where both the political Right and Left are embracing  authoritarianism. This moment in the Anthropocene is one where clear, advanced, broad and sometimes contradictory thinking is an absolute necessity. 

Blanche Knopf co-founded Vintage Books with her husband, Alfred. She traveled the Western world in search of great writers, and she found them. As of this writing, 27 Knopf authors have won the Pulitzer Prize and 16 were awarded the Nobel Prize. 

Blance and Alfred Knopf

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