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.

Powdered preferred.



Hilda said...

Where is the sale? While reading your blog, I felt a rush of blood through my veins as well, a feeling of going on the hunt for rare and wonderful books. Al this even though I will not be going. Have fun and watch out for those pjs. P.S. I found bottles for eye of newt on ebay, but, alas, they were but empty jars.

tess said...

Thanks for the laugh! Darn it, where are they hiding that eye of newt anyway?! The sale's in Clevland at Case Western Reserve University. It's huge and I always look forward to it. This year I'm more excited than normal because of last year. But you and I both know that last year is no guarantee for this year.

sundaymornancy said...

So by my calculations, you've been to the CWRU sale and your readership is waiting to hear the results.
Don't spare the details!
As for the eye of newt, now that he's got a new trophy wife, Newt Gingrich isn't selling off any body parts he may need later.

tess said...

I am laughing my head off over here! But, no, the sale is TOMORROW and then again Monday on reduced price day. You can rest assured that the entire tale will follow.