Thursday, December 30, 2010

Felled, But Still Standing

Okay. This is getting crazy. I’m on a three day posting schedule against my will! Tuesday night I was felled like a giant Sequoia by a virulent stomach bug brought to me for Christmas by the Michiganders. My oldest daughter had it last week, her mother-in-law who came with them, got it Monday, and Tuesday was my turn. It was only today that it occurred to me I might live another day or two. Actually I’m sort of well really, just not well enough, as my interest in coffee has gone so far south it's hovering somewhere around Atlanta. ME not interested in coffee!!! All I can say is this better change by tomorrow or you won’t be able to stand me.

Anyway, I’m well enough that I actually dragged myself off the couch, got dressed, and went to an estate sale – an hour late. You would think this would be a problem, but I don’t really think it was, due to the fact that estate sales never seem to be scheduled over the Christmas and New Year’s weekends .The ad even began “Surprise! Surprise!”, but I’m thinking maybe not so many people were stunned with joy given the small crowd and the large number of books left. Had I been shopping only for the internet I would have bought just three volumes – two art books and the one good one I’ll get to in a minute. But I’m shopping for the antiques mall too these days and that changes everything. I LOVE being able to buy books that strike my fancy – books about exploring the spice trails of Arabia, identifying marks on American silver and pewter, the drawings of Kaethe Kollwitz, and  collecting kilims --  knowing that I can realize a reasonable return on them that would be impossible on the internet. Anymore it’s getting to be a limbo dance in cyberspace – “how looooow can you go?”

But that’s another story for another day. The important thing here is “bookdar”, the term my buddy Sunday Morning Joe and I have given to that weird radar that draws you to a book you’ve never seen before. As experienced booksellers know, when it’s buzzing at high speed  magic happens. (Speaking of magic, no, I have not sold the fishing book yet, but that’s another story for another day too). My bookdar was on this morning, but I wouldn’t say the electromagnetic waves pulsed at top speed given my weakened condition. Yet even so, it drew me to a 1935 children’s book written in German. The only time I buy foreign language books is when the bookdar declares them worthy. The last time was this summer when I purchased Jugoslavien, Slovenien, Kroatien, Dalmatien, Montenegro, Herzegowina, Bosnien, Serbien which I featured here in a post. It sold at Christmas for $150. So when the bookdar faintly bounced off this cute little book it got my attention. Besides, it was only five dollars, so it wasn’t exactly a grand jete  in the dark.

The book is entitled  Emil und die drei Zwillinge by Erich Kastner and was published in 1935. My knowledge of German is fairly pathetic, so all I knew was that I was buying a book called Emil and the Three ---- somethings. Turns out it was the three twins and is the sequel to Emil and the Detectives, a book which played a major role in the creation of the children detectives genre. The latter was a huge hit in Germany and its author was one of the great intellectuals in Berlin, which of course meant he and the Nazis weren’t exactly swapping stories at the beergarten. In fact, many of Kastner’s books for adults were turned to ashes in the massive book burnings. My copy of his second children’s book is the first edition of which there are only two comparables on bookfinder (one other is signed so I am not including it) with values at $95 and $115.

All told, not a  bad day’s work for a coffee-deprived sickie.

Monday, December 27, 2010

Geared Up and Ready To Go!

Another Christmas season is over and I’m back at work. We had a rip-roaring fun party, but I’m happy to be here amongst the books again, especially since my family and friends were so united in what I need to make my bookselling life easier. You may already know where this is headed by the photo, but I don’t think there are too many booksellers who received a dozen pairs of reading glasses, three small flashlights, four pairs of heavy-duty socks, 12 bags of black licorice, two books on social media marketing, three Panera gift cards, and a partridge in a pear tree!

I probably already had six surviving pairs of reading glasses before Christmas, as well as a decorative collection box on the family room coffee table into which Eric religiously puts the stray pairs he finds strewn about the house. But the sad fact is that six pairs of glasses are simply insufficient to the task of keeping me reading the fine print. Even after the removal of the three pairs usually found on top of my head I was still several pairs short of prime. So now with the addition of twelve (one of which is a fetching blue) I’ve got my 20/20 sight firmly set on the 2011 book sale season!

At first glance the flashlights may sound a trifle odd, but I have been meaning to buy a small one for estate sales for at least six years. Every time we get into a dark place – an ill-lit basement, an eerie,attic, or even a low-light room, I wish I had one and vow that I will never be caught in the dark again. But of course we all know how THAT turned out. So now that I have an embarrassment of flashlights the trick is to determine which of the three is the light of my life. I can see already that one of them is out of contention for the simple reason that it casts too wide a beam. Books are not performers on Broadway – they need not be illuminated for an entire audience if you get my drift.

The socks may also sound strange at first glance, but it’s winter in northeastern Ohio which means, cold, snow, sleet, and ice. Standing outside at estate sales on the frozen tundra is not for the faint of feet. So now I not only have thee lightweight wool pairs that can be worn UNDER my existing heavy ones, but also a lightweight wool pair that go up over my knees, which my friend Jessica, who gave them to me, swears will fit under my skinny jeans. I’m taking her word for it  because Jessica is my only diva friend, replete with a tiny dog named Fiona that she carries in a shoulder bag. I’m telling you, any woman toting a Chihuahua in a purse can be counted on to understand the nuances of skinny jeans.

As for black licorice, ANYTHING is better with black licorice – outlandish prices, junky books, crazy sellers, interminable waits, and crowded spaces. But this particular licorice will not be visiting any estate or book sales. It’s my treat at the end of a long bookselling day. Besides, I have something else to sweeten the sales -- the Panera gift cards which will provide me with dark roast coffee and one of their sublime cinnamon bagels, a confection so perfect it requires no toasting. Once we have our number at the estate sale the final hour is ours, so we always head to Panera for sustenance. Now, thanks to the generosity of the givers of said three cards, we will even have money left over for a few more books!

Speaking of books, I think I mentioned in a previous post that not long ago I bought a blogging book the size of Rhode Island that was supposed to connect me to foreign galaxies, but so far has failed to do so. This could of course be because I allowed the heft of the thing to intimidate me, but I think the fact that it’s written in Sanskrit has a lot to do with it too. But now, thanks to my daughter with the marketing degree, I have The Zen of Social Media Marketing and The New Rules of Marketing and PR. The fact that I never mastered the OLD rules is immaterial I’m sure because it’s the zen book that’s caught my fancy, as it ties into my new approach to business. Instead of being a neurotic, crazed bookseller in 2011 I am going to be serene, calm, collected, efficient and effective.

Or at least an eagle-eyed woman in plastic glasses with woolly legs and skinny jeans armed with a penlight and a loaded Panera card attacking the sales like a zen warrior -- comforted by the promise of black licorice when the battle is done. Make that WON.

Saturday, December 25, 2010

Christmas In Perpetual Motion!

Are we having fun yet? No we're not, but we will be soon! I hope you guys read this because I wanted very much to wish you a Merry Christmas and this is the first chance I had in two solid days to sit down in front of this computer for anything even remotely interesting. Get this -- I never even responded to yesterday’s orders. Is the world still standing????
Here’s what I’ve been doing:

Shopping, cleaning, lunching, gifting, talking, planning, grocery shopping, baking, wrapping, shopping,  gift downloading, dusting, vacuuming, cooking, stocking stuffing, table setting, centerpiece making, basket beautifying, and napkin ironing.

Yet to come is family greeting, cookie decorating, salad making, wine decanting, baby chasing, food presenting, messy cleaning, and Nerf guns playing. (Just found out about the latter.Wasn’t on the agenda). Then will come gift unwrapping, trash removing, vacuuming, and along about eight o’clock – COLLAPSING!

So here’s a little present from me to you which says all of the above better than I did. Hope it makes you laugh!

Merry Christmas to all! And may there be many books beneath your trees. :-)

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Christmas Challenges

Once again – LATE. I had forgotten when I wrote my last post Saturday (it WAS five-thirty in the morning let us not forget) that I had signed up to work my annual full day shift at the community center yesterday. Every Christmas they set up a very cool shop where families in need can come in and select toys, books, and stocking stuffers for their kids. I went at nine-thirty and got back at six-thirty totally fried, but glad, as always,  that I’d done it. You would think this would be depressing during the holidays, but it’s not. In fact, it’s the opposite  -- great fun, especially helping people choose books for their kids. A bookseller’s paradise!

The other thing I like about doing this is the perspective it provides. On the outside looking in it’s so easy to think people should just get a job and take care of themselves. But when you meet need up close and personal it not only  bops you over the head with stark realities, but makes you feel privileged to help alleviate it even a little. What blows me away every time is the grace and good humor the people bring with them, slung over their shoulders like Santa sacks. Not one crabby person, not one scam artist other than a guy notorious for a little minor finagling so obvious it's hysterical. I wouldn’t miss this opportunity even for an avalanche of orders.

At first it looked like it might get a little dicey though because donations had dropped this year. The offerings were great, but the place didn’t exactly look like Macy’s as they'd had this event Sunday too. Even toys for small children, which is what most people like to give, lagged in certain areas. But the book magic I experienced last week morphed into toy magic and through the door THREE times came huge donations of dolls, Tonka trucks, Candyland games, Bacuguans (I doubt I spelled that one right!) – even fiberglass sleds. And -- just like that! -- the ho-ho-ho surged back into Christmas.

But I think for booksellers, or at least for this bookseller, the ho-ho-ho may well be over. When you’re shipping out 1958 Montgomery Ward sporting goods catalogs (to Japan much less) and Ohio Stream Flow Part I;  Areas of Lakes and Drainage Basins Run-Off Records Prior to 1921 I think it’s safe to surmise that Santa has left the building. The best title of all to fly out the door though was this one --  Eigenfunction Expansions Associated with Second-Order Differential Equations. Isn’t that  fun to say? Makes you want to pop some popcorn, light the fire, and settle in with that baby! I'm trying desperately to work it into a conversation just for the pleasure of repeating it. It totally cracks me up, but then I’m easily amused.

Now then, getting back to where we left off on Saturday, I noticed a deafening silence regarding my challenge to try selling a shelf-sitter. As I said, I think the statute of limitations is up for me, but I’m going to give it a go nonetheless. To prove my serious intent I have chosen a title which may require the services of a witch doctor, a shaman, a gaggle of Tibetan monks and the Dali Lama himself. The title is Angling Books; A Guide for Collectors by Charles Thacher. I had two of these and sold one for $200 in 2007. Since then, however, the price dropped faster than the Waterford crystal ball on Times Square at midnight. I adjusted my price once (to $125), but haven’t looked at it in ages, so I suspect it’s zoomed so far south the book has sunburn by now. But that’s okay. The challenge is to MOVE it, so I will leap over burning buildings if needed to make it happen. Let’s give it two weeks due to the holiday and see if it can be done. I promise to report back with the news, be it good or bad.

In fact, I think I will start this little experiment right this minute.  I’d planned to list some books today – it feels odd being back at work, but good too – so I might as well add this one to the mix. As you can see from  the photo, I even hauled out my lucky stones and a stick of the Indian incense we bought in Cleveland Heights last week. Do I really think these  will help? Probably not. But they do make a nice picture.

Saturday, December 18, 2010

Man! Maybe It's Magic

Crazy days are  here again! The orders have slacked off in number, but the dollar value is holding, so I was happy to allot the entire day yesterday to a project which might make you say, “this woman has too much time on her hands.” It's five-thirty a.m. as I write this and we are off to Michigan for our oldest grandson’s seventh birthday today. Huge high-jinks involved there, including tickets to a matinee of a Broadway production of Mary Poppins in Detroit, following by the whole family converging on our daughter’s house for a birthday bonanza. We bought him a fancy Legos set and a battery operated card shuffler, the latter because I think our early morning Uno games demand it. Between us that child and I are in no danger of landing a job in Vegas.  For every occasion Tyler makes me a card, so I figured  it was high time I made him one too. I grabbed a few pieces of card stock, some old ephemera, the cotton from inside a jewelry box, wide silver ribbon and an old broken watch and set at it.

While I worked I thought about something I heard years ago from an old bookseller who told me that the fastest way to sell a book that’s outstayed its welcome is to get involved with it. Pick it up, rifle the pages, pull out an interesting bit of info to add to the description, change the price, take a picture –anything. I wonder if I was subconsciously channeling that the last time I posted. Remember The Book-Lover’s Anthology from which I quoted Ruskin? Not only did I write about it, but I took a picture too -- and guess what?  After four years in my company  it was ordered on Advanced Book Exchange the  SAME NIGHT  I wrote the post. Did the sale have anything to do with its appearance here? I doubt it greatly. It’s not like mobs and hordes descend daily to read my breathless prose. No, I’m leaning more toward book magic.

Here’s why. I told my friend Nancy about the coincidence in an email yesterday morning. Nancy does marketing and PR for a non-profit, so of course she’s always thinking of how to stir up activity. No surprise then when she suggested I do it again, only this time pick a REAL shelf sitter and write it up like it were the only printed copy of Oprah’s latest book club choice. I pondered it awhile and finally decided to go with The Natural History of the Human Races which has been here since 2003.  As directed, I  picked it up, looked it over, put it back, and then knocked off early to do a little Christmas shopping. When I returned later in the evening my voice mail held a message form a long-time customer from Philadelphia,

“Tess, I want to pay for the three books you’re holding for me, but I’m also wondering if you have anything on the evolution of mankind.”

No way! No WAY! It was not possible. I marveled over it all evening and  called him yesterday morning. You will NOT believe what happened next.  I told him it was written by  John P. Jeffries of  Wooster Ohio in 1869 and had some nice color plates.

“That’s IT!” he shouted, cutting me off. “I can’t believe it -- that’s the exact book I wanted to buy ten years ago. I was at a used bookstore and  saw it at the same time a professor from the University of Pennsylvania did.  I figured he might need it more than I did, so I let him take it and have never seen another one.”

If you think that’s amazing,  just wait -- there’s more. Last week I impulsively decided to take an Ohio title I’d had for a year to the antiques mall since Ohio titles seem to sell well there. It’s a topographical survey, but filled with extra letters by and from the author seeking and receiving specific additional  information. I had taken it to the antiquarian show last spring, and though it had lots of lookers, I didn’t sell it. So I decided to cut the price to $50 since I didn’t have much in it and just get rid of it. Mission accomplished - it sold at the mall last  Friday. Today, however,  I got an order from Biblio for the same book only priced at $150. My first response was to berate myself for being so hasty, as well as for forgetting to take it offline. But as I read the description realization slowly dawned. The order was not for the book I had taken to  the mall. The one at the mall had originally been $30 and in “dropping” the price I had actually raised it to $50! Quickly I located the expensive copy and saw that it had a slipcase, a huge map on linen, many more letters and was signed by the author because it was HIS own copy. So by moving the one book I sold two, one at full price and one higher than the original price.

Of course  there’s probably  a statute of limitations on this bookselling technique and I’ve maxed  out my share for awhile. But I think it would be fun if we all tried it and reported back our success, or lack thereof. What do you think? Well, mull it over while I’m in Michigan. I’ll be back tomorrow,  but accompanied by the entire Michigan entourage, as we have to go to a birthday party for Eric’s 93 year-old aunt.  I’ll check in at some point though. Let’s make some magic!

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Christmas With Cream On Top

I had planned to post early this morning, but things are REALLY cooking over here and we’re not talking dinner either. These last few days orders have been popping like popcorn and good ones too. It’s so interesting to me how books can sit around forever and then suddenly become hot commodities. Three or four years ago we went to an auction where I bought many 1920’s era children’s books . Right away all of Harrison Cady’s wee Butternut Hill books scurried out the door, as did many of the original Thornton Burgess titles from the Cubby Bear series. After that they sauntered out at their leisure one at a time – a Queen Holden here, a Flora McFlimsey there – and then pretty much stopped dead in their tracks. Until today. In the span of five hours three volumes were sold on Advanced Book Exchange to three buyers -- two of the Thornton Burgess books: Digger the Badger Decides to Stay (Whitman, 1927); and Baby Possum’s Queer Voyage (Whitman 1927); plus Happy Manikin in Manners Town by Laura Rountree Smith (Whitman, 1923).

The other totally amazing thing is the sale of the set of books, again on ABE, that I won at the silent auction in Dayton last month – The Architectural Treasures of Early America. This is a gorgeous Christmas-green 16 volume oversized set which I’ve had twice before and is apparently very desirable in certain quarters. But here’s the thing – the desire swells ONLY at Christmas. You can buy this set in February, or in July, or get it at the silent auction in November, but in my experience it sells only in DECEMBER. I am not making this up. I think architectural people give it to other architectural people when they want to make a big splash.

The final odd thing is my picker. As you know, he’s left the picking business to pursue farming, so I did not get the 28 boxes of gorgeous brand new, high end books that I count on to keep Christmas jolly. But it would seem that he’s become the gift that keeps on giving anyway. In the last two days I sold three of last year’s leftovers – one about Los Angles, one about Asian honey bees, and one on the canning industry. Guess which one fetched the best price? If you guessed canning industry you just won the golden bookmark. If you guessed that all three sold on Alibris, or one of its partners, you win two. The other small sites? I wouldn’t know as I’ve sold only on ABE, Alibris, my own site, and once on Biblio all month.

Though there are no more specific sales worthy of individual mention,  there IS one other good thing to report about all this commerce. So far I got to gift-wrap two orders for Christmas! It wouldn’t be Christmas if I didn’t get to rattle some fancy paper and unfurl a roll or two of satin ribbon, so even just two made me happy enough to help Brenda Lee sing Jingle Bell Rock while I played Santa. One was a book about England for a woman who is off to Oxford to study for her Ph.D. and the other a book about restoring a wooden boat, the recipient of which is a woman, but I don’t know the back story on that one. All I know is I love sorting through the pretties in search of just the right combination. I know – it’s time consuming, I’m not getting paid for it, the wrappings are costing me money – I’ve heard it all before. But the thing is I really don’t care. I love doing it and part of the pleasure of Christmas morning is thinking about the recipients opening their books all over the world. Actually, I think about every book I know for sure was a gift, whether I gift wrapped it or not.

All this talk about Christmas commerce reminds me of something I read yesterday in The Book-Lover’s Anthology, edited by R. M. Leonard in 1919 (see photo above), a compilation of stories, poems, opinions, and facts about books turn-of-the-century style. I suppose it’s a one-eighty topic-wise, but I just thought of it, so that’s reason enough to share I think. Those of you who are booksellers will like it anyway. It’s by the philosopher, John Ruskin, whose been called the only Victorian more Victorian than Queen Victoria. Poet, artist, scientist, environmentalist, philosopher, he was a true renaissance man of the period. Ruskin believed in small-scale business, self-sufficiency, fulfillment in one's work, and the preservation of local crafts. Yay, Ruskin! So here goes:

"We ought not to get books too cheaply. No book, I believe is ever worth half so much to its reader as one that has been coveted for a year at a bookstall and bought out of a saved half-pence and perhaps a day or two of fasting. That's the way to get at the cream of a book!"

On that note, may Christmas be extra-creamy for us all!

Monday, December 13, 2010

Mellow In the Madness

If you thought I got buried in a snow drift you wouldn’t be far from wrong. The last three days felt like a whirlwind trip on an express train and now here I am – dumped out at the station in a white and silent world again. Schools are closed, the deer are in hiding, and the howling wind keeps kicking up bleached dust storms that fly past my office window like scenes in a Viewfinder.  Eric went to the store – what an optimist! – and I am left here to write this blog,  finish the NOBS article ( not as easy as I thought),  and maybe list some books, wrap some presents, find a cure for cancer, and establish world peace.

But never mind  all that right now. I had a few fun adventures this weekend worth reporting. On Friday, of course, we played hooky and went to the Coventry area of Cleveland Heights to shop. This place is like a little time warp. Take a deep breath, inhale the patchouli, and it’s the 60’s again. Buy a tie-dyed shoulder bag and a pair of Birkenstocks and pretty soon you’re kickin’ down the cobblestones and feelin’ groovy. Fortunately, I already felt groovy after a spicy Thai lunch, a look at the antiquarian books blooming like jewel-toned flowers in the antiques store, buying free trade jewelry and great stocking stuffer toys, and finally hunkering down at Books on Coventry where I found a Wally Lamb novel I’d missed. I love Wally Lamb. All it took was his novel She’s Come Undone and Wally had me heart and soul.

It’s a good thing I was blissed out on Friday though because Saturday morning found us at the weirdest estate sale ever.  The narrow lane to the house had iced over, a van was stuck in the middle of it, and the distance back to the house would take the better part of a week by camel. When we finally got there we learned that the books had been appraised, a fact which cranked up the only other (already cranky) book dealer present. By the time the estate sale guy made his usual very weird speech she was loaded for bear. To add insult to injury the house was incredibly small, so the “better” books got sequestered behind tables making it impossible for more than one person at a time to view them. THEN a loud argument broke out between the estate sale company’s owner and a customer, both of whom were a little bit right, a little bit wrong,  and a LOT full of themselves. Mercury was rising and Aquarius descending big-time, but it was okay because once I got back to see the sacred stash I was so damn tickled I nearly laughed out loud.

The thing is, there are appraisers and then there are appraisers. This, fortunately, was an appraiser, the kind who draws the line firmly  in the sand and then lines up the wrong books on each side of it. Now, lest you think these books were actually worthy of all the fuss they engendered, scratch that notion immediately. Instead think okay books, workhorse books, antiques mall books and you’ll see why in the  midst of the storm I retained the calm of the Buddha. While everyone fussed and fumed I scooped up a Japanese art book, a wonderful biography of Yeats, another on Wordsworth and his wife, a very cool New York Graphic Society book on the history behind Stevenson’s Treasure Island, the two volume Alice from the 40’s with the original illustrations by Tenniel, only hand colored, and several other pleasing items all for two bucks a pop.  

So  life was good at the estate sale, and later got even better when my friend Cheryl came over bearing a big box of goodies – pristine, turn of the century YA novels in fine condition with strong graphic cover art. (see photo of my favorite below) They’re not wildly valuable, of course, but who cares? Sometimes the value of a book lies in the book itself. 

Okay, I know what you’re thinking. This is all too Zenlike to be me talking, right?  But it IS me and even though my revived sales at the antiques mall will be zapped again for sure with all this snow, and the weather people are already bleating about the same thing for tomorrow, I’m okay. I’m good even, though I can’t say why. Must be the patchouli.

Thursday, December 09, 2010

A Simpler Sort of Christmas

It’s beginning to look like Christmas here!  Eric set up the tree and strung the lights and I decorated yesterday morning in preparation for a visit from my friend Mary Lynn who used to live here in Medina, but moved to Dayton.  Only now she’s not coming, thanks to weather and a husband with flu, so I feel  like we’re all dressed up with nowhere to go. I also can’t find the angel tree topper which is crazy, as everything is stored in the same basement closet.  Either she flew the coop, or, as my Irish grandfather used to say, “I’m blind in one eye and can’t see out of the other.”  Oh well. I’ll have Eric put a big bow up there and it’ll be fine.

I woke up this morning feeling a bit down, as the weather has killed sales at the antiques mall (I’m holding to that theory) and online sales, which were fairly robust in November and the first week of December, seem to have slacked off too. I know why though. As I think I told you, we lost our picker who every fall brought me 28 boxes of brand new, high quality books which for years have kept  the jingle bells ringing merrily. Pickers never tell you where anything comes from, so it’s not like I could go fetch them myself. All I know is, he’s out of the book game and his loss is body-slamming the bottom line this month. Yet having said that, I also feel very grateful for the wonderful customers who make up for it. This year two of them, one from Massachusetts and one from Cornwall,  sent us the very same gift and it’s so delightful  I have to tell you about it.

Even though we’re well into December, Jacquie Lawson’s online  Advent calendar is worth buying, especially if you have children or grandchildren (but you don’t need any, as it’s for grown-up kids too). After I got mine I bought one for my grandson who’s almost seven. Last night he told me on the phone, “Gran, you need to look at your calendar in the morning and in the night because in the morning its morning on it and at night it’s night on it. And the fifth and the eighth are the best days so far.  But you’ll like the eighth better.” This morning I got caught up on both the two days I’d missed and the change of lighting which I’d not even realized existed and he was right – the eighth’s a gift for booksellers! I also like the day with the jazz band, though I forget which one that is. What’s so cool about this calendar is you could start  it on Christmas  and just keep going through the days all at once, enchanted by the village and its simple pleasures and awed by the computer pyrotechnics. I’m telling you – there’s serious html  going on there. Check it out at

If the snow stops in Cleveland (it’s worse there than here now) we’re playing hooky tomorrow for the planned trip to Cleveland Heights for Christmas shopping. I resolved this year to buy virtually nothing from big box stores and instead support only independent sellers, whether online or in the real world. I did buy some toys at Target for the little people because the big companies pretty much have you held captive when it comes to brand name toys, but that’s it. No more big stores for me. In Medina you would be hard pressed to follow this plan, but Cleveland Heights is the Mecca for funky, fun, unique stores and galleries. Plus, they have great restaurants too. My kids roll their eyes at my aversion to big stores and probably think it’s an eccentric old-ladyism, but I really don’t think it is. I think it’s about being a small business owner trying to support other small business owners. I’d be this way if I was twenty-five. I WAS this way when I was twenty-five. Well, not about this issue, but I’ve had so many causes and issues over the years if I put them in Santa Claus’s sack he’d be in traction in five seconds flat.

So on that note I’m off to fulfill an obligation. I promised the editor of the NOBS newsletter (Northern Ohio Bibliophilic Society) that I would write an article for him. The deadline is the 14th and I haven’t even started, but I think I'll make it, as I’m planning to modify a previous blog by dressing it up in more formal duds. As long as nobody blows the whistle (I'm counting on you, Andrea!), it should be simple.

Tuesday, December 07, 2010

Snow Is Falling ...

Once again, I’m a day late and a dollar short – literally -- and both because of the endless snow.   It’s very unusual to have such weather in our part of northeastern Ohio this early in the season, but here it is and it shows no sign of letting up. The reason I’m late writing is because I had planned on showing  you  something I got at Saturday’s estate sale only to find that I had stupidly taken it the antiques mall without snapping a picture. And of course, as neurotic as I am, I fixated on it to the point where I couldn’t think of another thing to say yesterday.  As for being a dollar short, that would be because my sales at the antiques mall flatlined yesterday for the first time. True or not, I blame it on the snow. I also blame any  flatlining today on the snow as well, just so you know .

I wanted to take a picture of the lake in this winter wonderland, but it  doesn’t look like anything but an expansive white carpet, so Eric went out and took the photo  above of our house festooned for Christmas.  He even turned on all the little white lights, but you can’t see them because it was nine a.m. Even though he had to go to the store so would be heading out anyway  I was not about to utter a complaint while I was standing in front of the gas fireplace in my sweats and fuzzy socks.  So we have the picture we have.

Snow may not be good for the antiques mall, but it’s very good for listing. There’s something cozy and quiet about it that suits the contemplation of books.  So today I am going to address the architecture books I bought from my customer when we went to Dayton.  I pulled out a few and took them to the mall (sold one) and sold another online, but most still sit in the cartons they came in. So I will be contemplating cornices, transoms, and dentil molding this afternoon in silent,white serenity. You do notice that I spelled dentil right, yes? Good. It makes me feel less architecturally challenged.

The other thing I want to do is list some of the better ephemera items from last week’s auction. There won’t be any auctions this week as Farm and Dreary lived up to its name, so I need to maximize what I have. Contrary to popular opinion, ephemera items actually do sell on book sites, especially Advanced Book Exchange, but I have also sold them on alibris, my own site, and, once in awhile on Antiqbook. The best venue of course was ebay back in the day when ebay was rational and loved their sellers, but that day is long gone, so no ephemera there. It’s okay though because ephemera has a magical way of finding its perfect owner. For example, last week on alibris (I think) I had an order for a 1920’s hardback book that was really a booklet about an American national checkers match (yes, checkers) and the man who won the trophy.  I know – that does NOT sound much  like a winner (pardon the pun), but I am drawn to that kind of stuff like a fruit fly to a ripe cantaloupe. I don’t care if I keep it for ten years before it finds a home (this one took a year) because it pleases me when it finally happens.  A very fun guy from Israel claimed the little book because – get ready for this! – his grandfather won the tournament and  died two weeks later . The pleasure of giving someone a piece of their own family history transcends the fact that I had to store it for twelve months.

On the subject of ephemera, the item above is a classic example of a hard, but not impossible, sell on the book sites. I got it last week at the auction and am crazy about it because it’s from Ohio and its fragile nature makes the odds of its survival low. What you are looking at is a salesman’s pocket  catalog published by the Ohio Card Company of Cadiz which is still a small, rural area. The blue paper is printed on the back with info on font sizes and styles and various prices and such, while the front displays three actual products – two cards and a fancy envelope. A salesman could fold it up, stick it in the inner pocket of his suit coat and be ready at the first opportunity to move some merchandise. Cool huh?

Well, I just glanced out the window and it’s still snowing, so I guess I’d better stack up some  items to list and get at it. My office window is very long, almost to the floor, so the view is lovely from the second floor. But,even so, I’m still not singing Let It Snow over here.

Saturday, December 04, 2010

The One, The Only, The Definitive Book!

As work intensifies with the holiday season I find myself longing for time to read. I always think I will do it in the evening, but anymore I’m comatose on the couch by nine. I wake up at eleven, stagger upstairs, and wake again the next morning between 4:30 and five. By 5:30 I’m at the computer printing orders and from there the good times keep on rolling. My reading time is now compressed to the fifteen minutes it takes me to have a bagel and the first cup of coffee. Consequently, I have been reading the first volume of Blanche Weisen Cook’s two volume biography of Eleanor Roosevelt for almost a month. One thing about being a bookseller in the collector and secondary markets is you’re often at least ten years out of sync with the rest of the reading world. Normally I hit the library for the current hot titles too – you KNOW how much I love the library – but I haven’t seen the inside of it in at least a month and a half.

So when a blog reader sent me this link it struck a chord so loud it sounded like Big Ben. As I scanned the list of famous women and their favorite books memories of past great reads – Jane Austen’s Emma, The Color Purple, The Year of Magical Thinking, The Great Gatsby, The Shipping News, Little Women, The Catcher In the Rye (the book my husband hates most!) and the often-banned children’s book, Are You There God? It’s Me, Margaret – cascaded like flowerfall in the spring. For a second I was a kid in the early 60’s home sick in my freezing, unheated bedroom reading Little Women under the covers and wishing I were Jo. Flash to 1969, and it’s my senior year in high school, and I’m in study hall (the waistband of my blue plaid uniform skirt illegally rolled), reading Salinger for Honor’s English at a Catholic girls’ school taught by progressive nuns. My best friend, who went to public school, wasn’t even allowed to read Salinger for an independent book report! Imagine – no Holden Caulfield, no Phoebe, no Esme -- but who would want to?

I must confess though that as much as I enjoyed this list, I am astounded that FORTY women somehow narrowed down a lifetime of reading to a single book. I suspect that some of them went with the last thing they’d read, or a classic, just to have a response. Call me a cynic, but as soon as someone says their favorite is Crime and Punishment I tend to figure they haven’t cracked open a book since high school. I know, I know – don’t say it! – some people truly do like Russian novels best. I get that. I really do because I liked Anna Karenina well enough, just not enough to have her throw herself under the train a second time. What I’m trying to say is it’s amazing to me that you can actually choose only one book. It’s sort of like buying a bar of Switzer’s black licorice and tossing out all but one bite. It CAN’T be done.

But of course it can, and it was, and the truth is it sort of makes me envious. I would love to be able to look back and point my finger on THE book, the rock-your-world, definitive, change-your-life forever book, but I really, truly can’t. Eric told me I was being too literal and that all that’s required is the first of my favorites to pop into my head at the moment of questioning. But that sounded to me like a cop-out, so I did an informal survey of my own. The answers invariably included at least two titles -- The Moviegoer and Truman Capote’s A Christmas Memory, Virginia Woolf’s To the Lighthouse and The Hours. And then I asked my youngest daughter. Without missing a beat she popped off an answer.

“Easy. Napoleon Hill. Think and Grow Rich.”


Thursday, December 02, 2010

Over A Paper Moon

If you heard an enormous sigh of relief that would be mine! What a hectic two days these have been. It all started late Tuesday afternoon while I was online trying to renew my Norton anti-virus thing. The loading process was moving like a bill through Congress, so I let it do its thing and left the computer for maybe ten minutes. When I got back I was greeted with a blue box headed “Microsoft Computer Crash Analysis.” Uh-oh.

First I had a mini-melt-down, then picked up the phone and called my computer gurus, Larry and Sean, in Brunswick. Got Sean on the phone and wailed my tale of woe whereupon he took control of my computer from the store to see what has happening. His first response?


To make a long story short it was not the disaster it appeared to be. He had me unplug this and unplug that and soon realized that my keyboard had wigged out. My black one that matched my computer had broken almost as soon as I got it, so I’d temporarily resorted to the beige one from my old Sony. Somehow “temporarily” ended up being three years, so I guess it’s no big surprise that a seven year old keyboard got cranky. I went out and got a new one, plugged it in and was back in business – except I I had lost all the cookies that automatically log you in to your sites and could not get on my blog. It sounds crazy I know, but I had forgotten my password and nothing I typed in pleased Blogger. I finally found the thing that SAYS it reminds you of the magic word, but in actuality it makes you change it.

Enough of that though. Yesterday I spent most of the day at an auction (yes, Farm and Dreary delivered) in a town an hour and fifteen minutes away, which meant we crept out of here in the bitter cold at an unseemly hour. I had been to this auction house once before (actually it was the time I referred to the other day when I got all the Architect magazines), so I knew there was at least one thing I’d like -- the auctioneer. Don Wallick is without question the Josh Groban of auctioneering. I mean it, this guy takes country auction patter to such stratospheric heights he’d have you do-si-doing around the room snatching up head vases and Connie Francis albums! The music of it trills and dips and trills again to include snatches of songs. Imagine bidding on magazines while torrents of nonsense syllables pour forth to the tune of Ten Little Indians. The guy’s an auctioneering genius. He’s also very funny.

Fortunately, I refrained from snatching up anything but paper. He had books, but they were a sorry lot, though I did buy a box for six dollars just to get two fairly good ones that I knew would clean up well and already have. They priced out at $60, so I guess it was worth crawling around the floor in the back room. By the time I finished  the knees of my favorite jeans actually created a dust storm when I tried to brush them off. All I needed was a cowboy hat from central casting and I was ready for the big dance number in Oklahoma.

As luck would have it, the most serious bidding was reserved for the paper and, as usual, it was male dominated. I lost one extremely nice Victorian era sign to one of those guys, but the fact that I made him pay for it diabolically assuaged the pain.  Ditto for a box of paper dolls, though I’m a tiny bit regretful about those. That having been said, however, I really can’t complain because I got every single other thing I wanted and didn’t overpay for any of it. In some instances I had to buy an entire table full of miscellaneous junk to get what I wanted, but I’ll tell you right now, if you ever need a pencil I’m your girl. I must have four hundred of them.

As luck would have it, the antiques mall responded to all this new paper, which I have not yet processed of course, by reporting the sale of several items of the old stuff. Five Christmas pieces went to the same customer (amazing how it adds up dollar-wise) and I also sold a high school diploma from the 40’s from a local high school that’s barely even a memory to most people. This  means I have a little more space over there, which is good because I’m totally in love with this new stuff. As soon as I got home I lined the boxes up on the kitchen floor, sat down, and was missing in action for over an hour. I divided it into four categories: salable, useful for art (provided I had time to MAKE any art), trash, and letters. The latter category is a crapshoot because most letters are interesting only to their recipients (well, maybe only to their writers), but every once in awhile you get lucky.

Even if I don’t on those, it’s okay because today I am, as the title says, over a paper moon!