Monday, July 09, 2007


Up to my elbows in books

Ryan and I went to a huge friends-of-the-library sale early Saturday morning and came away with ten cartons of books for the amazing price of $106 and change. Most books at the sale were fifty cents each. Most books at the sale were only worth fifty cents each, but I did find manage to find a substantial pile of decent saleable stock. After the initial flush of enthusiasm died down, I came away thinking about how great library sales were when I first got started dealing in used books, at least twelve years ago now, maybe fourteen. I used to find terrific general antiquarian stuff, and always at least one or two books in the hundred-dollar value range (or up) at every sale we went to. I mean, a fine first edition in jacket of The Hunt for Red October for a buck, a beautiful leatherbound set of Hawthorne's works for ten dollars, a fine first in jacket of Death of a Salesman, you get the idea - great books that I was so happy to sell because I didn't want to own them myself. Granted, I did have to get up at five or six a.m. and drive an hour or two and stand in line for an hour or two, in order to get these deals in the first place, but what fun it was. Now it seems that every sale I attend has been thoroughly culled by the friends group, and then by their volunteers, which is all well and good - always enough books for everyone, that's my motto - and I am happy that the friends are making more money for their libraries by selling their better books themselves, rather than in the annual booksale (literacy! it's a great cause), but OH how I miss finding the really fine things in amongst the dross. Of course I also miss the money I could have made myself, from those fine books. Modern first edition spotting used to be my specialty. Now I can feel my institutional knowledge draining away, as everyone turns to the internet to see what they can get for their books. I wonder where it will all lead. I don't know, so I'll try not to panic.

The only book of significant value, out of all the ten boxes I bought, I didn't even know I had until I had cleaned everything off, de-stickered all the books (every single book had a colored dot on its spine, and I swear I cursed every one as I removed them), and started putting brodart jacket-protectors on everything. At the sale I'd picked up a pile of Walter Farley hardcovers in jackets, just reprints, but nice looking, decent copies of 1950s and 1960s The Island Stallion, The Black Stallion Revolts, etc. Fifty cents each, hard to go wrong. Well, it was a nice surprise to discover while brodart-ing that one of them was signed by Farley on the half-title page. Yippee!

The other book I was happiest to discover was one that Ryan picked up knowing I would like it: Eric Partridge's massive Origins: A Short Etymological Dictionary of Modern English (970 pages!! second edition, Macmillan 1959). My cup of tea. That goes on the reference shelf after maintaining a place of honor on the top of the stack of books on my desk for at least the next two or three weeks. What else: I found a reprint copy of Somerset Maugham's Up at the Villa, and read it Saturday evening before bed (it's short). Disturbing little morality play set in the hills above Florence. Can't say I recommend it, but it reminds me of a cross between Tender is the Night and a Harlequin romance gone bad. I also picked up a hardcover of Elizabeth Gilbert's Eat, Pray, Love (Viking 2006), and I've almost finished it (read most of it yesterday). This I'm loving - successful young novelist/writer completely falls apart (repeatedly, for several years), ditches her old life, and travels to Italy, India, and finally Bali in search of God. With a capital G. I'm finding the book funny and wonderful. I don't usually read brand-new stuff, not lately, anyway, but I loved her first novel Stern Men, so was happy to find this (for fifty cents, did I mention that already?).

No reading today, though - I've got piles and piles of books to shelve and the shop's been busy. It's as if customers can sense from miles away that I've just gotten new books in. Oh, wait, it's just July. In Maine. Plain old busy.

I,too,love Elizabeth Gilbert having read Stern Men when it was published by Picador over here.

Eat,Pray,Love, is brilliant, even if the UK edition comes with a cover shout from Britney.
I wanted to stop by and see your shop last week but was hobbling and could not make the trip to Bangor. Did make a point to see your beautiful paintings in Blue Hill. Well maybe next year if the Get to Maine Gods are smiling.
Hi Jonathan... Britney, dear oh dear. That might have *stopped* me from buying the book (if I hadn't already read "Stern Men"). The U.S. hardcover has solid blurbs from Anne Lamott, Jack Kornfield, and Alan Richman. I wasn't expecting all the little hilarious bits in this book, she has a great way of keeping it light, even when she's dealing with the heaviest stuff. Doesn't take herself too seriously, even when she's taking herself VERY seriously. Great spiritual memoir - and I read a lot of those, across the board. I'm in the middle of Bali right now - should finish the book this evening.

Hey Anon - thanks for getting to Blue Hill, wow! Next time, the bookshop... Come back to Maine, and stay! Billboards in Maine: (1) If You Lived Here, You'd Be Home Right Now, and (2) Maine: The Way Life Should Be. Can't argue with that. Hope your gout heals up quickly... (or whatever affliction ails you).
Damn I want to get a deal like that :)
Hey Erin - get up early and head out to the book sales... ten years ago. Sad, isn't it. I want to get deals like that AGAIN.

Thanks for stopping by -
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