Member Blogs > ten pound island book companyA New Year's Recollection

  • Mon, 31 Dec 2012 11:14:56    Permalink

    For reasons I no longer recall, I stopped getting the Sunday New York Times years ago. Reading it these days is a rich and slightly over-the-top experience, sort of like taking a steamy bubble bath.
    My wife and I are spending the New Years holiday with friends up in Camden, Maine a couple weve known since we were hippies together back in the 70s. Theyve done quite well for themselves since then, and our visits with them now have that same bubble bath feeling, brought on by an abundance of food, drink, laughter, and fondly shared memories. Also a lot of napping and reading.
    All this by way of saying what a pleasure it was to loaf around this morning, reading the NY Times Book Review. I love it that, even after all these years, people are still writing books. Surely, these brave authors couldnt imagine they have anything new to add to the world. And yet they continue to bang their stories out, and we continue to consume them. Its a beautiful thing.
    This week's Book Review section ended with a pleasantly tepid essay, by the Dean of Libraries at some university, about his visits to the libraries of deceased scholars. This set me to remembering the best deceased scholars library I ever visited, under conditions that were neither pleasant nor tepid.
    Back in the 1980s I was friends with Kate and Nash, who ran a used book shop in Marblehead, Mass. called Much Ado. They specialized in Victorian literature, bows, and lace, and they had a marketing plan that turned their quaint shop into a sort of salon for people with similar tastes. Every business day was its own tea party. They were pretty successful at this schtick, for which I respected and admired them. But they were not equipped, physically or temperamentally, to purchase and sell large collections. So, when they had a chance to buy one, they called me.
    In pursuit of this particular opportunity, Nash and I drove at the crack of dawn to the home of a deceased book collector in Olean, NY. Hed been a history professor at nearby St. Bonaventure University, and had amassed thousands of non-fiction books, which filled the second floor of his tidy two story farmhouse.
    By the time wed exchanged pleasantries with the widow, temperature and humidity had gotten into the nineties, and showed no sign of backing down any time soon. Nash took one look at the mountains of books and freaked out, as Kate and I had expected he might. I told him to sit in the shade outside, and started in on the books.
    It was sweaty, filthy, miserable work, a continual battle against despair at the impossibility of the task. I tried desperately to stay focused in the midst of my physical discomfort, to grasp the parameters and potential resale value of this packrats assemblage. 

    Precisely at this point in my recollection, 11 a.m., December 31, 2012, staring out the window at Mt. Batties snowy flank, I read the following lines in the Book Review essay about scholars libraries, I leave as quietly as I entered, carrying with me privileged knowledge the warp and woof as well as the quirks of this scholars habitat.
    YESSS! Thats what I was doing! Also trying not to vomit, or to drip perspiration on the occasional rare volume.
    And there were rare volumes, along with a lot of good sellable used books, and only a smattering of junk. By 11 a.m. that morning of August the whatever, in 1980-something, Nash, the widow, and I were sitting on her porch drinking iced tea. It was so hot the world seemed to throb. She informed us that a local dealer had offered $10,000 for the library. I told her wed pay her $15,000 if shed let us pick through the collection and take what we wanted. Otherwise, wed pay her $13,500 if we had to take it all. She cocked her head at this upside down proposition. Locusts screamed in the trees. Then she got it. $13,500, she smiled.
    Thus began the longest afternoon of our lives. I started boxing the collection and the widow drove Nash off to rent the largest U-Haul he could find. Air conditioned, of course. Then we boxed and loaded, boxed and loaded. I dont think we stopped for lunch. We were too bloated with water, soda and iced tea. We quit at dark and collapsed in a motel, then finished loading early the next morning, before the heat got cranked up again.
    As I was gathering one of my last loads, I looked out the upstairs window and saw that the house next door, almost an exact duplicate of this one, was for sale. I asked the widow how much it was selling for. She told us it had belonged to another faculty member who had retired and moved to Arizona. He had it on the market for $12,500. Nash said, You know, Greg, we could have saved $1000 if wed just bought the house.
    The air conditioning broke before we got to Albany.
    Next week. Papermania!... all over againia

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.