“We do not have the book,” he said.
“But I was assured it was set aside for me.”
“The only book we have is flawed.”
Now when I was in grad school I learned about the concept of textual depravity and got a sharp look from a professor when I laughed like a loon at the idea. Somehow I didn't think that's what we were talking about here.
“Well, unless there are pages missing, I think I can cope.”
The young man reluctantly brought the book to me. I examined it closely; it looked fine.
“See here. The front jacket flap does not align with the edge of the book.”
Was he serious? He was.
I insisted that I would take the book; I assured him that as a reading copy the book was flawless. I know he thought less of me as a person but he agreed to sell me the book.
I hadn’t thought of this incident in years until my husband and I attended a book auction at Swann gallery two weeks ago. Bob wanted to see an auction for some research he’s doing and since everything I know about the rare book business comes from John Dunning’s Cliff Janeway novels, I thought this would be fun.
Truly, I expected to be met at the door by someone who would say, “You’re not dressed appropriately for an auction. You’re wearing stretchy leggings and a T-shirt.”
But we were greeted warmly and given lovely catalogs of the books to be auctioned. (My T-shirt came from the British Museum’s “Shakespeare: Staging the World” exhibit so maybe that made a difference.)
Arthur Conan Doyle’s The Lost World (expected to go for between $6,000-$9000, it sold for $19,000) I think if you spend this much money for book you should be allowed a heartfelt “Yippee!” or “Huzzah!” but as this world is not mine, I shouldn’t attempt to dictate behavior.
George Orwell’s Burmese Days (expected to go for between $3,000-$4,000, it sold for $14,000.) Please forgive me when I tell you that my first thought when I heard that astronomical sum was “Gee, I got that as part of a Kindle Featured Deal for $3.99.”
I would hate anyone to think that I left New York City without buying books. I visited Bluestockings on Allen Street where a very enthusiastic young lady assured me the store was the last bastion of radical feminism. Alas, they don’t ship books so I was unable to buy as much as I might like but I came away with The Autobiography of Mother Jones and four packs of feminist playing cards. Then I went to The Mysterious Bookshop (alas, several days before it became a tangoteria) and left a nice sample of my paycheck.
If you’re looking for a bookish night at the theater, may I suggest Matilda: The Musical? I was a touch discouraged when I heard a little girl behind me say, “Well, I guess I like reading books, sorta,” but Matilda herself is wonderful. In fact in a few years maybe she’ll be joining the folks at Bluestockings.