Saturday, January 24, 2009


the twilight zone

Ryan and I attended yet another small winter-madness library sale this morning. It was a strange scene. We waited outside the door for a bit less than half an hour with a few other intrepid local dealers (hi Agnes and Paul), chatting and reveling in the warm weather. It must have been all of twenty-five degrees out, which compared to, say, ten, feels like spring right now. Then the sale opened and we all hurried into the room with the books. I started looking, and kept looking. I looked for a good five minutes before I put a single book in my tote bag. Me! And that book was a paperback. I thought about getting several decent cookbooks, but saw that they were priced at four dollars each, and then I noticed they were all faintly musty. No, thank you anyway. All the books at the sale were priced individually, in pencil, inside the front covers. The volunteers who spent hours doing this must have realized that their books are, in many cases, priced several times over what these same books could be bought for on Amazon. I don't know. But, I don't mean to be critical, because putting on a sale must be a hell of a task, and goodness knows I appreciate what I am able to buy, when I do buy.

More time passed, I had perhaps five books by now. Then Ryan came up to me, wearing a bit of a glazed look. He whispered, This is terrible... In the end, he found two books, I found nine, and I also threw in a few dvds. I was happiest to find Annie Lamott's most recent book of essays about faith, which I'd wanted to read all year but hadn't yet stumbled across a used copy. The only thing of value, though, was a dvd set of Fassbinder films from Criterion. Value in this case meaning resale value. As in I need to make some kind of a living here. I don't particularly want to be a dvd seller, but in this case I will bend, because the set is very nice and I don't happen to want to own it myself. It's easy to list on Amazon, and easy to ship. I also bought a Sigur Rós dvd. That I'll watch, then keep or sell, I don't know yet.

We left the sale feeling sad and a bit disappointed - usually there's something, some sleeper only we recognized, a signed book, something. It did feel like the twilight zone. It reminded me of walking into a used bookshop (now defunct) many years ago, years before my own shop, and I had that naturally hopeful expectation, an excitement dearly familiar to and treasured by booklovers of any stripe, that I would find something decent to buy - the shop hadn't been there long, they seemed to have a real inventory, somewhere north of ten thousand books. But as soon as I started looking around I got this terrible sinking feeling, and I slowly came to realize that there was nothing there for me. And I mean nothing. The inventory was tidy, and mostly hardcover, but up close it looked as if it had been assembled from the books left over from library sales like the one we attended this morning. So today it was déjà vu all over again. Well, that's one great thing about bookhunting - the wonderful anticipation never dies out, and we all dream of better luck next time.

I'll bet you have driven further for less! I stayed home Saturday in my very quiet shop, and drove to Stonington on Sunday to admire the light over the harbor. How stange to take a day trip without a book sale!

Will you be in my neck of the woods for the sale next weekend?
Hey there, Vicky - yes, I have. Much less. You know me so well...

Ryan has a roadrace on Saturday, so I am breaking my library sale streak and staying home this weekend. Hope you find lots of good books -
I've just stumbled across your blog. I sell used books too, so I know exactly what it's like. Some sales are great, but there are a few which are so disapointing! I hope you've been to many more wonderful sales recently.
No book sales for a while now, it's been too long! I've read everything I bought at the last few (and sold a bunch of things, too). This seems to be the tired time of year - I could use a crocus or two, some green grass, some new (to me) books. Soon.
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