Wednesday, May 29, 2013
Charms and Incantations -- The Superstitions of the Bookseller
Three days and counting to one of the biggest book sales of the year. You’d think by now I’d have the sense God gave a gnat to know better than to act like I’m expecting to find a previously unknown original of Shakespeare’s First Folio on the specials table priced to sell at $15. It’s absurd and of course getting more absurd with every passing year. But all it takes is one lucky find, however many years ago, and a bookseller’s common sense packs its bikini and heads south.This year, I’m embarrassed to say, is no exception. Mine snagged a cheap flight to Mexico and flew out of Akron-Canton this morning.
Believe it or not, I'm so jazzed up I actually dragged out our bags an hour ago and put them next to the door like I might be in danger of forgetting them. All I need is a rabbit’s foot, a four leaf clover, a horse shoe, a St. Jude medal, and my lucky underwear and I’m good to go. I know. It’s crazy – of course it is – and yet here I am tossing salt over my shoulder and crossing my toes as well as my fingers. So far I have not succumbed to the desire to chant incantations in the backyard under the quarter moon, but there’s always tonight.
Frankly, I assign at least some of this madness to the glitzy card that came in the mail touting 80,000 books. I mean REALLY – out of 80,000 volumes something must be good, right? Wrong! Not only is it very possible to come up empty, but it’s also very possible to pay too much and wish you HAD come up empty. Past experience has hammered this home to me many times. But here’s the thing. Last year – oh, hallowed, glorious last year! – the number of books had visibly decreased and yet I made the best two finds ever. EV-V-V-E-E-E-E-E-R. The first was a four volume leather-bound set of Don Quixote in great condition illustrated with engravings and published in Dublin in 1795. The second, a slim innocuous -looking volume titled Some Letters of Edgar Allan Poe to E.H.N. Patterson of Oquawkwa, Illinois With Comments by Eugene Field published by the Caxton Club in 1908 in limited edition. See what I mean? Toss a bookseller a couple bones and she’ll follow you anywhere.
Okay, I’m exaggerating a little here about my craziness over this sale. But not much. Four years ago on the day before this very same sale I tore my rotator cuff when I accidentally tangled my foot in my capri length pajamas and fell up the stairs. For a few seconds the pain actually winded me and by the time I caught my breath I was shaking like an aspen in a hurricane. But did that stop me? No, it did not. Honestly, it never once crossed my mind to skip the sale. I tried to go – I really, really did, but I finally had to admit that I couldn't get dressed even with Eric’s help. Ah, but wait! I DID show up on Monday during a raging thunderstorm for reduced price day after sending him to Kohl’s for an over-sized shirt that buttoned up the front. I also went that same day to the see the collection in Bay Village that took me three years to finally acquire.
Was it worth it? I don’t know. Probably not. But that’s beside the point, as are the long lines, possible rain, too much time waiting around, the odds of inadvertently buying damaged books, paying too much for must-have books, paying too much for so-so books just to have something to show for the effort, and years of heartfelt avowals to never, ever again go to the preview. Which, by the way, starts at ten. We’ll be there by 7:30.
Now all I have to do is remember my lucky number (do I even have a lucky number?) and follow the exact same path I took around the tables last year and I should be fine. But just to be on the safe side if anyone knows of a reputable supplier of eye of newt do let me know.