Tuesday, September 05, 2006


A change of season

Fall always hits me a little hard - the daylight is receding noticeably and I'm sleeping two extra hours a night to compensate (I'm part bear so I long to hibernate, much as I love winter). And on my way to visit someone else's bookshop on Sunday I noticed that a few of the sugar maples are beginning to turn orange. It's too soon! Where did the summer go! Other signs of fall: the phone is ringing off the hook with calls from local university students who want everything from Cliffs Notes to Biology textbooks to Kafka. I always have a few books for the English majors - novels, plays, and poetry, some Norton critical editions and such - but not much else for the hapless student desperate not to have to fork over a hundred bucks for an anatomy textbook. Every fall I get a sinking feeling of dread and despair, which is then quickly replaced with overwhelming relief and glee that I myself DO NOT have to go back to school. Looking back, I wish I had done things differently in high school, college, and shortly after college. It's like a bad past life I'd rather not remember. Most of all, I wish I had discovered used books earlier in life. I mean, I grew up in a house full of books, but I didn't really discover the used bookshop as a way of life until I was 24 or 25. I remember the first antiquarian bookshop I ever walked into, when I thought, Hey - wait a minute - no one ever told me that THIS was an option! I was working at a new bookstore at the time, so I was immersed in books (albeit for just above minimum wage), but used books, old books...

I do wish that the town I'd gone to college in had a used bookstore (it does now, in fact it has two). Reminiscences aside, I had a productive weekend. When you work for yourself, you work all the time, holiday or no. On Sunday I bought a carton of books at a nearby shop, I kept my own shop open for most of the weekend and was rewarded with the last of the vacationing tourists overlapping with the first of the wild-eyed incoming college students, all of whom bought books. I also made a new oil painting yesterday, from memory: a night scene from the island, of black trees against a dark starry sky. Largely successful. I wasn't sure I could pull it off, but I keep looking at it today and thinking, Yeah, that's it.

The books I bought on Sunday include: a signed first edition, fine in fine jacket, of Robert Olen Butler's Pultizer-winning book of short stories, A Good Scent from a Strange Mountain (Henry Holt 1992), which was on my fiction list a few weeks ago. I have a first at home, but not a signed first. It was five bucks. I also found a small stash of books about books, that, miraculously, I do not already own and haven't read: Barton Currie's Fishers of Books (Little, Brown 1931), Ventures in Book Collecting by William Harris Arnold (Scribner 1923), a very nice little history of the John Carter Brown Library, The Fear of Books by Holbrook Jackson (Scribner 1932), a tiny book about the colonial printer Stephen Daye, Edmund Pearson's Books in Black or Red (Macmillan 1923, I had a copy once but it is missing in action hence I still haven't read it), a scholarly book about the censoring of Diderot's Encyclopedie, a fat lovely book about the Grolier Club's trip in 1963 to visit fine libraries in Italy, a book about bookman Frederic G. Melcher, and a two-volume set, The Journals of Thomas James Cobden-Sanderson 1879-1922 (Burt Franklin 1969). Cobden-Sanderson founded the Doves Press and bindery, and produced some very lovely books indeed. He threw the Doves type into the Thames when he closed the press - a famous incident among typophiles.

These books are doubly meaningful to me because they all came from the collection of a husband and wife team of local booksellers - the wife died recently and the husband sold a few thousand books to my pals at The Big Chicken Barn. They even had their own booksellers' ticket for a while, and two of my new books have this ticket. A grand slam purchase all around, although where I'm going to find some shelf space, I do not know. Back to fall - this purchase makes me think of growing another year older, and what will happen to my books when I go. I can't quite bear to dwell on that for long, because I know very well what happens to old book collections. I see it all the time. I've got to get to work on my own book ticket, and a possible bookplate. I like to think that my books will travel around the world long into the future. And so to work (I'm going to get back to the Pepys Diaries soon, and am psyching myself up for it).

I love fall,with the leaves changing and the temperatures getting cooler. It's like watching the world shed it's old skin before the winter snows start:)

Yeah,I've dealt with frantic college students-one time,a girl asked if we bought back books(her professor had us carry his required reading list)and when I told her"No,sorry we don't",she was stunned! I know the books are pricey(some of them were Norton anthologies)-a friend of mine in the area has found plenty of books just dumped in the basement once the courses were done.
In the basement of my old college dorm was a mystery room that our janitor maintained - every year at graduation, she'd collect all the abandoned books and furniture and junk that was saveable that had been left behind, then give it away the following year to indigent students... she was a sweetheart.
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