Member Blogs > ten pound island book companyThe Best Letter Ever

  • Mon, 15 Oct 2012 10:07:23    Permalink

    Seattle, 2012

     Bob Dylan and I have been touring for decades, and occasionally our paths cross. But I didnt see him at the Key Arena Saturday night, and he didnt see me at this weekends Seattle Antiquarian Book Fair.
    As usual, the event was flawlessly organized by local bookselling legend Louis Collins and, although the number of exhibitors was down a bit owing to conflicts with the Torontoand MARIABbook fairs, attendance was excellent. (Louis can really turn em out.)
    Thursday afternoon I did some scouting downtown, primarily at Brooklyn Seafood, but also at a place where I was able to purchase a letter about the Great Fire in New York in 1835. Did you know there was a great fire in Manhattan in 1835? Me neither.
    Then I stopped by Mercer Street Books, around the corner from my hotel, and was happy to see that the shop was flourishing (see the Bookmans Log entry for October 11, 2011). While I was there I discovered a shelf labeled with a subject heading Id never seen before PARANORMAL ROMANCE. Deb, the owner of Mercer Street Books, stopped by the book fair to say hello on Saturday, and I asked her about this new (to me) genre. Mostly vampires, she replied.

     Aside from putting my knee through my trophy case while attempting to move it, setup proceeded without a hitch. The knee was fine, but I ruined a good pair of pants

    After setup, boothmate Rob Rulon-Miller and I repaired to a dinner at a local steak house, sponsored by the Book Club of Washington. The speaker of the evening was poet and NPR personality Andrei Codrescu  who gave an obscurely witty and rather mumbly talk about his new book, Bibliodeath. The book, which Ive been reading, is much like Codrescus speaking style obscurely witty and occasionally mumbly, owing to long stretches of 8 point type. But when you can hear it, its terrific. One of the points Andre made in his talk was that when everything is digitized there will be no way to control texts. Imagine someone hacking For Whom the Bell Tolls and saving Robert Jordan from the Fascists at the end.
    The fair opened Saturday morning with a flurry of activity. Many of our visitors actually bought books from dealers who brought books that people could buy. Colleague Andy Nettel of Back of Beyond Books, for example, had a busy day. However, business seemed to tail off on Sunday. The crowd was robust but mostly kept its hands in its pockets. For some reason, no one was interested in my $75,000 whaling log or my $30,000 signal book, and my sales met expectations, totaling $275.
    This measly result was offset by something over $11,000 in purchases, So I was able to leave Seattle with my head held high. (Dont try cashing that check!)
    As has been the trend of late, good books were scarce, and those that made an appearance were priced beyond reach. (One genius had a beat up second edition of Rickmans Journal of Captain Cooks Last Voyage priced at $12,500. When I showed him recent auction records for comparable copies at about $3500, he gazed steadfastly at a spot on the wall over my right shoulder and said, Well, Im sure we can talk about this on Sunday. We did not talk about anything on Sunday.
     Consequently, most of what I bought was manuscript material. The high spot was a letter written by one D. McCarthy to his dear cousin Jim in Canada, and it was far and away the best letter Ive ever bought. I could rave for paragraphs about it, but instead, I think Ill just copy it for you here, in all its supernal perfection.
    KilcatherineEyeris P.O.Co. Cork
    Dear Cousin Jim
    I guess this letter will be a surprise to you as I have never written you before. I got your address from your old father may God Bless his old heart Your old father was telling me that you have gone high places in Canada God Bless you, I hope that youll not be putting on airs and forgetting your native land. Your cousin John McCarthy was hung in Londonerry last week for killing a policeman. May God rest his soul. And may Gods curse be on Jimmy Rodgers, the informer, and may he burn in hell, God forgive me.
    Times are not so bad as they might be, the herring are back, and nearly every good one who has a heart is making ends meet and the price of fish is good, thank be to God, We had a grand time at Pat Muldoons wake. He was a Blathershite and it look good to see him stretched out with his big mouth shut. He is better off dead and hell burn till the damn place fresszes over.
    He had too many friends among the Gangemen, God curse the lot of them.
    Bless your heart: I almost forgot to tell you you about your uncle Dinny he, took a pot shot at a turn-coat from the back of a hedge but he had too much liquor in him and missed Gods curse be on that dirty drink.
    I hope this letter finds you in good health and may God keep you reminding to keep sending money to your old father. God bless him.
    The McCarthys are 100% strong around here since they stopped going to America, they have kids running all over the country!
    Father OFlaherty who baptized you is now feebleminded and send you his blessings Mollie McCarthy the brat you used to go to school with, has married an Englishman Shell have no luck. May God take care of you and keep you from sudden death. From your cousin D. McCarthy.
    P.S. Things look bright again and every police barracks and every Prosentant Church has been burned to the ground in Cork : - thanks be to God. Well Jim I hope you keep on sending money to your old father and may God bless you & keep you from your devoted loving cousin D. McCarthy.
    5 page A.L. s, $1500

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