Someone was holding a garage sale down the road on the weekend. They had a big hand-painted sign:
They also had a couple of other signs:
Sail of the century!
Everythink must go!
I decided to give it a miss.
Having moved from the city I feared my days of book buying in bulk at ridiculously cheap prices at local fairs was over. But I was wrong. The local Rotary bookfest started on Saturday and despite my mother seemingly trying to put me off the scent (“It was pretty crap last year”; “I might go in later in the afternoon”), I went and found I was pleasantly surprised (and Mum appeared at my elbow soon after I arrived, my text message too much to resist obviously). There was none of the bloodsports of the Sydney Uni bookfest, it was all a bit civilised and almost bemused in some cases: “I have never seen so many books”; “Ooooh there’s just too many”; “I can’t fit any more on my bookshelf so I can’t really buy any more”. NONSENSE! Who would allow such a thing to inhibit the purchasing of books.
I walked out with
- The Goodbye Look
- The Great Fire
- In Cold Blood
- Short Novels and Stories
A. P. Chekhov
- One Writer’s Beginnings
- Unpolished Gem
- My Universities
- The Book of Snobs
W. M. Thackeray
- Studies in the Recent Australian Novel
K. G. Hamilton ed.
- The Useless Donkeys
Lydia Pender, Judith Cowell
All but two in hardcover. I already had some of these but I am of an age where paperback is just not good enough any more for books I like. This book sale had plenty of stuff in hardcover and a surprising amount was quality.
The pricing was concerning at first. It seemed that the bigger and thicker the book, the higher the price. Never mind the quality, feel the width. This theory seemed to be abandoned at the checkout, I was charged $10 for the above which is a lot less than I thought it would be.
The sale continues into the week. I may be back.
One thing that is definitely missing from this part of ‘the country’ is a decent bookshop. There is no bookshop in this small town. There was a secondhand joint that existed for a while whose stock was not too shabby but it didn’t last long.
So today when I was walking home I noticed a sign for a secondhand bookshop and ‘exchange’ (shudder) in the same arcade as the now-defunct store. I did a u-turn and went to check it out immediately.
Not surprisingly it was a total disappointment. It was to be expected that the stock would be primarily romance and airport novels but what disappointed me more was that the person running it obviously knew nothing about book buyers or readers. When he asked me “what kind of books” I liked I wanted to say “the one’s with covers and paper in between” but bit my tongue. When I didn’t respond effusively to his question he guessed that “you don’t like romance?” Er. no Sherlock. Not really. When I was not any more forthcoming than “all different kinds of books really” (because this is true) he went back to the gigantic headphones he had been wearing when we walked in. Rule number 1 of selling secondhand books: the customer likes to be left alone. If they want something they will ask.
I persisted with the stock, thinking that it’s often in places like this that you find gems. Alas, this was not one of those times. I dragged Dash away from his ancient book on the Concorde – ignoring his pleas to buy it because I didn’t want to explain that it no longer flew due to a fiery and spectacular crash – and left. The shopkeeper was not impressed that we had not bought anything, making it even less likely that I’ll go back.
Please, for the love of god, someone open a half-decent bookshop that is reasonably priced and has real shelves that are ordered logically and not in some representation of someone’s home cataloguing system. (Big books go here, small books go there, fiction goes here, contemporary fiction goes there, fiction written by women with gold lettering on the cover goes over there. For FUCK’S sake have you never heard of the Dewey system? What about alphabetical order? I know you can get all jazzy with faceted classification these days but books are NOT DIGITAL. They can’t be in seven places at the same time!) Er sorry, went into some kind of fugue state there…So, back to that shop. Yes, a bookshop. Here. In this town. Someone? Please do not make me do it myself.
So there I was, silently bemoaning the fact that invites for after-work drinks and the like were flying around my inbox, it was a slow Friday afternoon and I was destined not to join the party (you know, small child and all that). I had almost forgotten my invite to the Co-op Bookshop’s sale ‘launch’ that was being held this afternoon. They’d invited a whole heap of staff, as far as I could tell. They offered refreshments, good deals and asked for an RSVP. I thought it was all a bit strange, being the Co-op and all, but I duly sent my acceptance and thought I’d go and have a peek.
I almost didn’t make it. I was so tired and just wanting to pick up the boy and go home but I changed my mind, books involved, no real surprise. There was a large sign saying RSVP ONLY at the door and it all looked rather swish. Well, as swish as a uni bookshop on a grimy Friday afternoon can look. My name was ticked off by the doorbitch and then I was offered my choice of wine or beer and invited to help myself to the nibbles. They pointed out the baskets in case the load got too heavy and then I was left to peruse the tables of books at my leisure.
So, I spent an hour, drinking a beer, looking at books and getting bargains. Yes, that’s right, a cold beer on a Friday, books and bargains. Oh, and a complimentary stubbyholder with the ‘Outside of a dog’ Groucho Marx quote on it:
Is that class or wot?
Oh yeah, I bought some books too. Not many though. I swear, really, not many.
“I can’t give a book up, if it’s a book that meant something to me…I always imagine I’ll go back to it one day. I rarely do, but the intention is there, and I get a warm feeling among my books.”
In a trend Mindy noted had become almost a meme, a few of us have been blogging our book purchases at recent dirt-cheap sales. Ampersand Duck and Zoe also supplied photos to add to the vicarious experience of bagging a bargain. It has been interesting to see the choices of others (sometimes with jealousy, sometimes with WTF? and a raised eyebrow).
LibraryThing allows for even more of this book-perving. (Leave the URL of your collection in the comments if you want to open it up for a good inspection from the 3 readers of Stack. Hi Mum!)
It’s not a new idea that our books can tell others a lot about us and it is this theme that Jay Parini writes about in the Chronicle this week.
A personal library is an X-ray of the owner’s soul. It offers keys to a particular temperament, an intellectual disposition, a way of being in the world. Even how the books are arranged on the shelves deserves notice, even reflection. There is probably no such thing as complete chaos in such arrangements.
If you swoon over books as much as some of us, go and read it.