I slipped into a local used bookstore today. It was depressing.
I love the fella that runs it...but it's like walking through a mental disturbance...aisles and small rooms heighten the effect. I don't think a book has been shelved in a decade...there's just, sometimes not, enough room to walk the rows. Books are "stacked"...heaped really...three feet high. So, whatever treasures the bottom shelves may hold are definitely buried. Yet every time I go back there's more...more piles...Why? It's like he's quit but can't stop...even if he knew how. It's existence as compulsion.
I couldn't find anything I was looking for. I can't ever find anything I'm looking for...if I do it's never in the condition I want. I want hardback books with dust jackets. I'm not looking for first editions...just something with a decent cover I can wrap in mylar.
I found a copy of The fall by Camus...but no jacket. Robert Penn Warren's A Place to Come with a dust jacket so ragged and frail I was afraid to stare at it...it was gonna burst into dust at any moment. I found a copy of Heart of Darkness...big thick copy with lots of analysis but, it was paperback.
I can't stand paperback books...for one, they don't last. Two, they look horrible on a shelf. You think that's shallow..tell it to Sven Linquist.
In one of the more bizarre passages in his bizarre book Exterminate All the Brutes (part history of the Belgian Congo, part literary criticism -Conrad, part travel literature and part nervous breakdown)...he get's all disturbed, it doesn't take much, remembering that his mother would put the better books on the shelf facing the front door so that when people stood in the doorway they would think that the shelf was full of leather bound books. How phony...how horrible...how bougie. Gee sven maybe she could have piled up her dirty drawers in the foyer...would that have been authentic enough for you?
[I just received the following text from my sister: U r obnoxious. Why don't you blog about that.
Sometimes puttin' on has more to do with the person standing in your doorway than it does with insecurities about standing. Sometimes it's just a decent thing to do..to let people know that you do care what they think. The individual, who does things his own way is rightly celebrated, but imagine showin' up invited to a fella's house for supper and he opens the door wearin' a speedo and a hockey mask...serves you a dirty glass of water and moldy bread on a soiled plate, puts his feet on table, blows his nose and tells you "I don't care what anybody thinks"...there's a time and place.
Anyway, and more importantly, if they look good on the shelf...the wife doesn't grumble too much when I bring home another stack of books.
I thought long and hard about that copy of Heart of Darkness though...even occurred to me that I might buy it as a reading copy.
Stop! Say what? A reading copy...of a book? Where had I gotten such an asinine and confusing idea?
Sellin' records on ebay. I sold a bunch of 'em last year and I noticed that people would list scruffy but playable records as "listening copies." A listening copy as opposed to what...a copy that sits on the shelf and maintains its value. What value if you never listen to it? Appreciation? So you're gonna sell it to somebody else who's never gonna listen to it...'cause it's too valuable in pristine state to be listened to? What is the value in a record that never gets played? Do I need to expand on the insanity of this?
I left the Conrad on the shelf...I've got enough issues with value and meaning already.