Monday, April 10, 2006


A weekend of many books

I'm in the shop up to my elbows in new (new to me, that is) books. The local chapter of the American Association of University Women had their annual booksale in Orono (five miles away) on Saturday; it's one of the highlights on my annual book-buying calendar, because year after year they manage to find my favorite kinds of books to resell: scholarly, quality, out-of-print hardcover nonfiction. Good solid books. This year was no exception - they had many more books than usual thanks to a new member who is gung-ho about collecting donations. I came away with fourteen cartons of books, and today I feel like I went on a book-drunk - the lost weekend.

Best finds unearthed so far: ten Anthony Powell hardcovers in jackets, including fine copies of some of the novels in A Dance to the Music of Time series, which I will read someday; nice firsts by Eugene O'Neill, Robert Lowell, and Dorothy Parker; a fine collection of early Maine town histories (Ryan stumbled on the Maine-book table shortly after the sale opened, and since he was the only person in the vicinity, he put every book on it into his box); an entire carton of the published papers and letters of FDR; and parts of the collection of a retired history professor, who left the bulk of his books to the AAUW - his books are on wonderfully obscure topics and are in (mostly) impeccable condition. We spent a few hours at the sale, and before I tallied up and paid for the books, I looked through the dregs of the old fiction for booksellers' tickets - I came up with ten more for my collection. All in all, a success. Sometimes I think I got into this business just so I could spend hours buying all the good books I possibly could. Shopping. Is this a bad thing? I love selling, don't get me wrong, but buying contains that magic combination of treasure-hunt and book-rescue which manages to simultaneously feel like bank robbery and virtuous recycling. Off to work - I've got to get these books out on the shelves.

Congratulations, Sarah. You done good.

And best of luck to Ryan next week in the Marathon.


By the way, have you ever read any Edmund Pearson? I'm nearly through his Books in Red or Black. He has a great line on booksellers- I'll dig it out and send it later.
I have read the Pearson book, and I loved it. I do not, however, know where my copy is at the moment. Not on my shelves of books-about-books, that much I know. I think Paul Collins waxes rhapsodic about it too, in "Sixpence House"? Or one of his essays elsewhere? I'll have to check...

Thanks for your good wishes re the marathon - a week from today! While Ryan runs, I'll have three+ hours to kill, so I'm planning a second visit to Brattle, but the rest of the weekend we'll be chasing bib numbers and plates of pasta, so I may not get much time to bookshop. Life can't be about books all the time, can it? (an obviously rhetorical question...)
I was wrong- the passage I was thinking of is on buying, not selling. Here it is, at the end of his piece Book-Shops:

Buying second-hand books is as interesting a game as poker; not as exciting, but never so expensive. It has the fascinations of discovery and exploration. You are always about to happen on something that you greatly desired. Beyond the horizon is the prize- and it is a horizon that fades forever and forever as you move. The pot of gold is at the rainbow's end, and you never catch up with it. But you keep finding pieces of gold which have fallen out. You do not go after any book in particular- if you play the right game- but you have vague recollections of forgotten books which you would gladly see again. Or you discover fascinating things which are totally new to you. The rivalries and enmities of the dealers are quaint, and the eccentricities of collectors as merry as the cantrips of unicorns on a grassy plain.

Dear Sarah,

Congratulations on the motherlode!

Wanted to let you know that after reading two dreadful memoirs (one was Metro Stop Dostoevsky, which was ok until she veered off into obsessing over her friend's betrayal) to reading Beverly Cleary's memoir, My Own Two Feet. Cleary's the author of Ramona & Beezus, plus Henry Higgins & Ribsy. She's fun to read in her memoir, although I'm aghast at what people had to do to graduate from college those days! Tap dancing, no less. Ick!
" have vague recollections of forgotten books which you would gladly see again. Or you discover fascinating things which are totally new to you."

Yes! People ask me all the time how I choose books for the shop, what do I buy, and I can only look at them and say, "Well, I buy the *good* books..." I have an idea of what good books are, which is both vague and precise, and contains specific titles and subjects, but is open enough to include whatever I see that I feel is good, though I don't know anything about it. What a crazy business, I love it so.

Thanks, Dan...

And Kim, I'll add the Cleary autobiography to my list. I recently came across a memoir of children's author Frances Hodgson Burnett (written by her daughter-in-law) that looks promising too. Tap-dancing, eh? Well, we couldn't all go to finishing school, could we, thank god.
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