Thursday, November 15, 2012

seldom is the day

Seldom is the day that I go into a space that sells used books and I can find a copy of On the Road and Howl on the same shelving but it happened today. I also found, for a buck, a 1951 Ben Shahn chapbook of A Partridge in a Pear Tree printed by the Museum of Modern Art. It's too nice to give to my little Tasmanian Devils. I will keep it for myself.

I was on Youtube today, casually looking over their videos on book scouting and it was slim pickings. One person dismisses using a smartphone to check value of book, another praises them. Are these people aiming their presentations toward rookies? Are they gearing their videos toward clueless fucks who don't actually READ books but are only in it for the money? I was not sure.

I am sure that I won't be checking out those videos anytime soon.

Look - I will say the same thing about getting into the world of used books that I told my sons about drug use: it's not for everyone. Not everyone can handle it.

I am interested in the hunt. I know enough to know that I don't really know enough. Always more Presses to learn about, more authors to research. More titles to find. More sets to complete. Or realize when it's time to cut bait. Start a fresh collection. Discover a forgotten author. A uncollected Press.

There is always more to learn and to know. The adventure is half the goal.

The other half is finding places for your little treasures. I am not a hoarder, if I were, well, I would have nothing but Ex-wives. I have a great wife and she is very supportive of my "gentle madness". She does challenge me to cleanse (my shelves) and I am willing to do that from time to time. If the price is right. I can always fill the open space with new treasures, right?

And now, we are approaching the end of the year - the perfect time to unload.

Still, it's been a good day so far. Nice pick up. I can replace a 1970 23rd printing of Howl and other poems with a 1959 8th printing. Staple-bound copy at that!

Thursday, August 30, 2012

the man with bad Steins

He collected Steins because she said she was a genius. He repeated himself in action as she repeated herself in words. But he grew tired of her repetitions of brilliance and her near surface existence, and one day realized all the books he had of her were defective and not great. The condition of the books reflected the condition of his thoughts of her. He did not think of her brilliance or her genius, but of the lack of money he would ever make from the bad copies of her books he now had.

Shortly afterwards he began to feel better about himself and his own otherwise repetitions of book buying and selling, once, that is, that he left the stack of bad Steins in the alleyway three streets over in the middle of a night when he was "out for a stroll". He donated them to the world, and the world accepted the donation because the world is round and that was the only title by Stein which ever did anything for him.

Sunday, August 5, 2012

ghost in an old paperback

I don't remember where I first learned of Alfred Bester, but somewhere along the line, I did. I found The Stars My Destination about the same time I was reading another of his better known books, The Demolished Man. Unappreciated, but there is a strong percentage of the books that I read which are by unknown or unappreciated. Under appreciated. Under read.

My copy of The Stars My Destination is a 1957 first. But it's now much beaten, brown-pages, falling apart as I read it. When I finish it, I will be purging it. There won't be anything left. If a book has a piece of the soul of its author in it, am I killing him by recycling his book?

Thursday, June 21, 2012

no name poets on ebay

I love it how on Ebay people post chapbooks of poetry by unknown or regional poets at prices greater than books by well known and established poets. As if no names are better or more valuable, or everyone knows who these people are.


Saturday, June 16, 2012

changeable mind

"last yesterday" as my 4 year old son would say, I went to a local library intent on finding a specific book in their "valuable" book room ($2.00 per book instead of .50 per book) and I looked down and on the bottom shelf, obscured by other books, I saw a book - picked it up and there in my hands were a first paperback edition of Tokyo-Montana Express by Richard Brautigan which I gladly paid for with the goal of tripling my money - at least.

Then, Katy May read me a section she liked, and I really liked it as well. So, this morning I took it off of my Amazon listed books and put it in my living room bookcase for further reading.

Brautigan was under-appreciated during his lifetime.

I ping-pong on Brautigan, changing my opinion of him almost routinely. I collect him, purge him, collect him again.
I am going to have to read more of his work. That's what it comes down to.

Friday, June 8, 2012

dreams and realities

In my dreams now I am scouting for books. I dreamt last night of being in Portland, Maine or rather going to Portland, Maine and looking for books at flea markets, used goods stores, second-hand shops. In the dream, I wasn't finding anything special but - I was looking. I also had to hurry since I had to fly to Seattle later in the day and look there for books as well.

In my waking life, books are keyboard clicks away. Easy to find, too easy. Of course, half of the search - the physical search is the handling of a book. The thrill of discovery. The validation of a decent sale. Like when I found a copy of a local history book in Pennsylvania that was signed by both authors, and to have it sell for over $100.00. That's cool. That's why I do it. Rescuing unwanted books and finding better homes for them. Like place orphans into good homes. Similar in a way.

The down side of electronic pursuits is when a book, say Minutes to Go by Burroughs, Corso, Gysin, and Beiles comes from across the pond (England) and there's a note written on the inside front cover saying that this is not the copy I want. I want the hard-bound version from 1957(1959?) and not this Beach Books paperback edition with flimsy cover. Shucks! Is that true? Is the very rare hard-bound first edition that much better? I am glad to have any copy of this book. It's an important document in the history of "cut-up". For that alone, it's worth having - but is this copy really that inferior? Would it have made a difference if I had handled the book before buying it? The book has a provenance, it's an association copy. Did someone warn Michael Butterworth that he had the wrong copy? The note goes on to suggest a different book. The note, I failed to mention, was on the inside front of the book.

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

The Straight Purge

I go from extreme to extreme, bingeing and purging with books instead of food, putting on weight and then peeling it off by unloading a bunch of old HBs. To no avail, really. I feel about the same once the rush of purchase or purging is over. I mean, sometimes I feel good about an odd book that sells for a good deal of money but my house doesn't add or subtract rooms just to suit my mood of the moment. It's just as well. I disgorge books almost as quickly as I acquire them.

Mao's little red book, for instance. Why get this? It was printed in Communist China in 1971. It wasn't signed by Mao (that would have been too cool). Unlike Vietnam, a country that the US fought a war with, China, while being a global power from its beginnings, is less of a draw at the moment. I felt that the market for stuff from the 1960s was strong, there was a lot of interest, but it's selective. China isn't really hot - or Mao isn't - or this book isn't. But I guessed, and guessed wrong.

If I owned a bookstore, I could fudge my bad guesses with plenty of good ones, but being a book scout doesn't offer me the advantages of hoarding (for some future day when everyone comes crashing through my walls with money galore, wanting everything I own). A bookstore owner is a slave to his/her location. I resist that sort of restriction. It goes with the territory.

I like my freedom to NOT do it as much as the having the freedom to drive 3 hours to go booking in a town in a different state. But so much freedom can be too much freedom, undirected "freedom" can be maddening. And of course, one man's treasure is another man's junk

Saturday, March 24, 2012

used booksale at local library

I went
I looked
I came home empty-handed

Yes, it's true. How is this possible? Well, even the "good" books were average. Nothing there was remarkable or especially valuable. I was fairly familiar with the stock of books there as I volunteer at this very library and have handled most of what I saw. I didn't need to get any more books, so I didn't get any more books.

that's how it's possible. I hit a brick wall. I saved my fifty cents for another day.

I am as shocked as you are, but that's how it is now. I have peaked. Leveled out. Of course, I got home and there was a sale to deal with. A book I got from one of the "freebie" book sites, Bookmooch - PaperbackBookswap - etc., sold on a different site (Amazon). So, that was a nice little +/+ moment. Patti Smith Early Works 1970-1979. I don't collect Patti Smith, per se, but I do have some of her earlier stuff. Chapbooks. Limited runs. Philly-connections.

A handful of years ago, I went to a similar booksale in a nearly library and rationalized that since I was there I should get something. Because I am in this library twice a week volunteering my time and effort already, I didn't feel the same twinge of guilt or remorse or civic duty. I basically wanted to see the booksale in action and it was pretty pitiful. It's a good thing that none of the other volunteers recognized me. I was there stealth and I left without notice.

Another day, another sale. Nothing new in. Not bad at all.

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

a book I have re-read

okay, okay; yes, it's true. I have re-read some books. In this case, I have to admit that I have a soft spot of Possession by A. S. Byatt. In fact, I am re-reading it right now. 5th or 6th time, already. Why? Well, it isn't the romance aspect to it even though I am a hopeless romantic. It's the element of discovery. The way in which the discoveries present themselves and are dealt with. The level of excitement involved in the chase, the search, the journey. Both internally (within the characters) and externally (within the material being pursued and the relevance being uncovered - revealed)

When I first read this novel I was already well on my own way of finding interesting books with peculiar markers, or postcards, or letters left in them. I not only could visualize these events happening in real life but to some extent, had already experienced them in my own. More often than not, I made no attempt to follow up on the inscriptions or names on my piece of paper, nor call any left-behind telephone number (the ones without area codes were most amusing). Unless the book was signed by a famous person, contained details of that person's life; for example, when I found the small trove of books from Norman H Pritchard's personal library. All signed by him. His copies of text books or books he had read (and left notes in). Often I find threads of research that I don't wish to follow, not that they won't lead anywhere but I don't want to invest any time or energy in the trail myself. But then whom? I am the one with the appropriate copy, with the unique inscription, with the knowledge of a particular providence.

Is that enough? Who would care? Some grad student who is working on their dissertation on a related or perhaps near identical topic; yes, absolutely. What are the chances of that? I don't want to guess. It's not my purpose. Or maybe that is why I keep looking, collecting, and investigating as I do. Maybe it is in part my purpose.

That is certainly why I keep re-reading Possession. There is something in the story that intrigues me. The layers of discovery and the meanings UNcovered. I am hooked. While I enjoy the "bibliomysteries" of John Dunning's Cliff Janeway series, they are primarily detective novels. Possession is something else. It's more akin to Arturo Perez-Reverte's The Club Dumas. The thing surrounding it all is called A BOOK. The whole thing is called "a book". Writing, printing, publishing, binding, selling, re-selling, trading, archiving and/or pulping. The life cycle of a book is the life cycle of human existence as well. Books are human creations. Written by and for humans. They explain our condition and situation on this spinning marble. They comfort and amaze us, they terrify and cause us to burn them - over the endless course of time. But we continue to write and publish, and some of us continue to collect copies of them. That has to mean something. And, of course, it does.

Sunday, February 12, 2012

The Collapse of Work by Clive Jenkins & Barrie Sherman

Sometimes it is the providence of a book that is the remarkable (or notorious) element of it. In this case, the copy of The Collapse of Work by Clive Jenkins and Barrie Sherman (1979) was inscribed and signed by Mr. Jenkins to a "Congressman Frank Thompson". I wondered about this Congressman, and did a Wiki-search for him and yep, he existed : BAM! Abscam! A crooked Congressman. Well, shucks

That happened in 1980 so this book likely reached him in 1979 when the book was released (by Eyre Methuen, printed in Great Britain in 1979) So, EX-Congressman Thompson served 3 years in Federal prison and then retired to live out his life in Alexandria, VA. Interesting, that's where I found this copy. In the library donation bin.

If this Congressman had not left office in disgrace, perhaps this book would be worth something. As it is, the title of the book is a bit ironic: He was part of the group of Congressmen who had a funny idea of what constituted "work".

Friday, February 10, 2012

maybe my specialty is "the quirk"

maybe when it comes down to it that despite my interest areas what I am really good at is what I call "the quirk" : the bizarre, unusual, weird, definitely out-of-the-main-stream items. Like What it was was Rockabilly which I found at the local library. I sold it to a University collection for $28.95.

I don't remember libraries selling books so OUTRIGHT in their buildings but maybe they always have. At the least, it has evolved from semi-annual book sales at libraries to "on-going" sales. I don't recall seeing the change, but it definitely has occurred. Quirky books like this one are nothing like the norm; they are eye catching for people like me who is out there scouting for "the other".

I recently went to a Thrift store that wrote the price of each book on the spine in China marker. Ugh. I left without purchasing a single thing. No thank you.

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

frustrated journeys

I go to used bookstores, libraries, thrift shops, etc.

I can not find any Beat Books or Brautigan, or Hunter S Thompson. It's frustrating as hell. I envision these moments of discovery as though they were episodes of some reality TV show about book scouts (ha ha ha) and the reality never matches the fantasy. I do, however, find rare WWII books like Evidence in Camera published in Great Britain in 1958 and signed by the author. And I sell it for $48.00. That fantasy makes for a nice reality.

But I thrive on the what seems to be very elusive stuff. I don't care a spit for most of the books out there (and seemingly neither does anyone else, which is why there are so many copies of them out there)

Someday! SOMEDAY!