Dedicated to classics and hits.

Saturday, February 26, 2011


by Alonzo W. Pond
p. Thomas Nelson and Sons 1962

   I bought this book when Wahrenbrock's Book House was going out of business.  I bought maybe three, four boxes of books at rock bottom prices, but I'm discovering why some of them went unsold.  This was one I picked out based on it's "cool" factor.  It's a well maintained hard back with the cover and the cellophane wrapper still intact.  The back flap has a picture of the author that makes him look like an extra in Wes Anderson movie.  Even though this book was published in 1962 it has the technique and approach of a late 19th century adventure yard mixed with quasi-academic observations in the area of anthropology and sociology.  The author was a scholar who also worked with the United States army, and it's clear he spent a lot of time in the deserts of the Middle East on the Government's dime.

    Pond's claim to cover the entire Desert World is a little specious, but he does have a wealth of observations about the geography, geology and sociology of the major world desert areas: Sahara, Arabia and the Gobi/Mongolian.  His chapters on the American deserts are sad and useless.  The strongest work is in the fields of geology and geography, as he gets into human relations Desert World is more likely to show its age.

   The single most interesting chapter in a book of more or less disconnected chapters about different deserts and desert peoples is his chapter about the Tuareg, a Berber speaking people who are famed for their fierceness and veil-wearing.  Pond was with the 1923 French military expedition that discovered the tomb of Tin Hinane, the "Mother of Us All" of Tuareg legend.  Hinane's grave was found to contain the bones of 4th century AD era woman of Mediterranean ancestry- in her grave she had a coin from the Eastern Roman Empire and a household god of the kind associated with pre-Indo European civilization in Europe.  So that's a pretty interesting chapter.

   I feel like keep these particular books alive helps to maintain the memory of Wahrenbrock's Book House.  I, for one, don't think that the Kindle and Ereader will destroy the market for printed books, but like the effect of mp3s on the music industry, all that is now here will be destroyed.  See, for example the closing of the downtown San Diego Borders.  The main thing that book store's need to do is adapt to the realities of the role of buying and selling books on the web, and use their physical store front as a way to purchase books that can be resold on line.


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