Thursday, November 14, 2013

Sad But True

There's a flea market in town. Not an organized, every one has a booth type, but the type that springs up in vacant lots and attracts old pickups filled with clothes and baby stuff and tattered paperbacks and boiled peanuts. I don't know what possessed me to stop in the other day-- I rarely do.

I found one of those compilations of reproduced newspaper front pages that's published as a commemorative after the occasion of a memorial event. HISTORY OF THE WAR IN FRONT PAGES. As I had recently reviewed some of the history of the war... . $3. What the heck?

And then I spied three or four boxes of non-paperback books on the ground. I knelt down to look over them-- not expecting much-- and the young fellow comes over to tell me they're all a quarter. We chat. He asks me if I know about old books. "A little bit," I say.

Do I know who L.M. Alcott was? Little Women. Blank stare. He has a book signed by her. Really? He digs it out and begins to read 

"To the many boys and girls"
but that's as far as he gets because she has terrible handwriting. He points to "1874." I show him where the book was published in... MCM ... L... VIII... 1958. That's probably a picture of her original dedication. 

And so it goes as he asks me about other authors-- he has a Shakespeare collection. He shows me a book published in 1895. Aren't first editions more valuable? How long would it take me to read that book? Well. It was a translation of one of the Dumas' Celebrated Crimes volumes-- so more than a week, for sure.

He thinks it's a shame-- that people don't keep these old books. Or worse, that they let them get ruined. 

He offers me all of the boxes for $20. No. I can't. He understands. 

What's up with this guy? He told me he'd gotten a lot of the books by buying the contents of someone's shed. But clearly, he's looked at them. He's not going to get rich selling books for a quarter. But he's not going to toss them out, either.

The whole experience left me feeling rather sad.

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