Saturday, November 25, 2017

A Visit to a Used Bookstore

The bottom of five weathered books stacked horizontally next to each other

There's a family-run used bookstore in the neighborhood north of the canal. The books are always well-organized and you can tell much effort is dedicated to keeping them so and the prices are more than reasonable. 

I wander about looking for some Thomas Wolfe but he's not there (perhaps he went home again) and so I search for a volume of James Thurber stories that I overlooked on the last visit. I've been telling myself that the Thurber wouldn't last because it was a great edition and yet there it is. I add it to some Dickens and "Stories I Tell to My Friends" by Dwight Eisenhower. The Eisenhower memoir may be one which I gave to the store years ago. It won't be the first time I've repurchased one of my books. You let one go and then you ask, "How could I have done that?"

Some writers are hard to find in used bookstores while others pack the shelves. My general strategy is to give special weight to books that are harder to find or which may just slip my mind. I violate that so often it can hardly be a strategy and yet it is an easy call to pick up a good book by an obscure author over a famous book by a literary superstar. The latter will always be around and won't be forgotten.

"The Wonderful Country" by Tom Lea is a wonderful book. I bought it for the second time a few months ago. I loaned my first copy to an old friend who lives on, and often across, the Mexican border and I haven't the heart to ask for it back. I'll read it again. It's one of those hard-to-find volumes.

On a shelf near the exit was a copy of Olivia Manning's "The Levant Trilogy." It looked lonely. If they'd had a copy of "The Balkan Trilogy" then both would have been snared. I believe they are the two best novels to come out of World War II and it is a crime that Olivia Manning isn't a household name. She's stunningly good.

They'll be on my Christmas list.


[Photo by Synd Wachs at Unsplash]

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