Member Blogs > ten pound island book companyThis is what it's come to…

  • Sat, 07 Dec 2013 02:36:41    Permalink
    A call from a longstanding customer who is at death’s door and wants to be sure his collection is properly taken care of. He was avid and wealthy in the 60s and 70s and was able, with the help of a legendary Boston antiques dealer, to vacuum important material from the attics of Back Bay widows at prices that today seem ridiculously low. He also bought from Edward J. Lefkowicz, Carola Paine, Caravan Books, and me. The antique dealer is long dead, as are Paine and the proprietors of Caravan. Lefkowicz has retired from the trade. The collector called me because I’m the last man standing.
    Which highlights the fact that my “business model” has become frighteningly elemental. Outlast your colleagues and survive your customers. All I’ve got to do is keep showing up for work and not die, which sounds do-able. For the present, anyway. On the other hand, I went down to give blood this morning and they sent me home. I’m too old. Now I need a note from my doctor before they'll stick me.
    So I’ll be leaving early tomorrow morning and driving most of the day toward my rendezvous with destiny. (Hence this Saturday blog post.) Stay with colleagues Sunday night, then spend Monday and possibly more of the week examining and evaluating this man’s collection.
    It’s a situation known to everyone in the book business, at whatever level. And for those of us born without the risk-aversion gene, it’s the most excitement this trade has to offer.
    We invest time, energy, and money in an improvisation whose outcome is largely unknown – dealing with a customer on terms yet to be established regarding material that may or may not be worth the trouble. He says he has such and such, but does he really? Maybe the guy turns out to be a user in search of a free appraisal. Maybe greedy children have scarfed all the good stuff. Maybe we won’t be able to come to terms. Maybe, as often happens, some auctioneer has made tantalizing promises (which may or may not be met, not that the auctioneer cares). Maybe, as the gentleman himself has intimated more than once, he dies before I get there. Maybe the guy’s approaching death has made him delusional and he winds up showing me his collection of  Reader’s Digest condensed books. Or maybe, just maybe, I give a dying man some peace of mind and come into possession of one of the greatest collections of my career.
    Any of these things could happen or, worse, fiendish combinations of them. But that doesn’t matter. It’s all about starting up the car and driving into the unknown. Whatever brain chemistry makes this activity seem like fun hasn’t changed in eons.
    Wish me luck. If you don’t hear anything about it next week, the adventure was either very good or very bad.  

Looks like you are ready to submit this application

If you are satisfied that your application is complete, go ahead and click "submit this application."
Otherwise, click "review this application" to review your answers or make additional changes.