Book Mania or I'll Eat Some Other Day

What have you done, and what would you do, short of commit a crime, to attain a certain book you can’t live without. I mean, you really don’t think that life would nearly be as wonderful if you don’t buy the book sitting on the desk, or up in the bookcase, or in a shaded window?

If you’re anything like me, and let’s hope you’re not, you tend to put aside other responsibilities and budgets to possess a title to add to your collection. During our road trip, we came across some tasty morsels just in my collecting criteria, and price range–but, one or two, were a teensy bit over. Easy, no fast food or restaurant lunch, and depending on how much over, dinner that day. Make do with the stale pretzels, slightly soggy cheese sandwich and  find the food of knowledge in your purchase. Ha. If not knowledge, at least a tasty crime or splendiferous fairy tale illustration. Book over crappy food any day. But what about those times you see a title online, and you can’t believe it’s there, you’ve craved that book for years, but the dentist bill is due, the crappy dental plan didn’t cover the entire crown, and morally, you are responsible to get that bill paid ASAP. 

And I did–ASAP, or at least half the amount due, and technically ASAP. Because as soon as possible turned out to be *after* I bought a coveted first edition in near fine dust jacket of a scarce early 30s crime novel, from a great friend who has decided to–brace yourselves–SELL his collection!!! There are dozens of titles in his collection I’d certainly love to add, but even with cutting back on Blood Orange Sorbets, there’s no way I could find the bucks needed for just one. The rarer in F/F condition will find wonderful homes, just not mine. They wouldn’t like it here anyway, the shelves are nowhere near as lofty and waxed as a *major* private collector’s library would be. 

So after his startling announcement sunk in, and I sort of tried to talk him out of it, he asked if there was something I wanted, and bang–I remembered the title he bought online that came from a used/rare bookshop I always patronize! I was peeved! There I am visiting this store on a regular basis of at least twice a year, and somehow this book got past me? And into his collection? How could this be possible? LOL. He quoted a good price, he is a superlative bookman, and I assented with alacrity. OK, now that I’m committed to purchasing The Carnival Murder, where do I squeeze the cash from?

Oh, yeahhhhhhhh. That hundred or so needing to be mailed off to the lovely, kind, excellent dentist. OH. What to do.  Yes the bookman is a friend, but in bookselling, there are tons of friends, and the seller cannot wait upon sentimentality when he’s trying to turn a profit. Asking him to hold it is out of the question. Installments would be insulting, plus I *wanted* the book in my hot hands. How do I justify using money meant to pay for a service well done and legit?

I don’t. I do try to make excuses in my head like, “well, he’s a dentist, waiting a bit won’t kill him, he’s probably cleaning 20 sets of rotting teeth a day, think of all the cash falling down from Non-Flossers Heaven!” Or, “it’s not as though it will be for long, next month the payment will go out swiftly.” But I know this is just pathetic rationalizing of what cannot be justified. So, I don’t bother justifying, I just, ha, buy.

Do I advocate this kind of behavior, no, no, little girls and boys. Don’t try this at home! Various repercussions can be felt–like possible impacts on credit ratings. (I know this to be true, I hear it all the time, but since ‘credit rating’ is a term never used in my home, I have to take people’s word for it.) It could be sent to a collection agency! (It wasn’t thank goodness) The skillful dentist may decide not to treat you again. (that would have occurred if I’d not paid shortly after another notice came in the mail)

It’s not an honorable action. And it is, a risky one. In my defense, I do not deploy this plan often, actually very very rarely. Still, that’s like saying, “well officer, I’m not a serial killer, so why can’t I get off on this one teeny murder?”  

A former employer of mine has built a huge rare book collection and has been adding to it since the early 70s when money was tight. He recounted how he went many a moon without food to afford a copy he just HAD to have. Those must haves are worth a small fortune today. He never admitted delaying bills, but when a book collector is staring down a 1st edition Hammett in NF condition, I wouldn’t have been surprised if his rent went on hold, for a year!

I’m not saying my little collection will increase in value down the line. With these uncertain times, who will have the money to purchase any books?  Plus, reselling is never the main idea with a true obsessed book maniac. It may occur, no one knows the future, but one collects for the shear joy of possessing, of handling, smelling, reading, gazing, adding. 

And after that selfish need is satiated? I put the title on a shelf and happily forget it’s even there until I come across it at some point. 

That’s why I call it ‘mania.’ Only a maniac would struggle financially to  obtain paper in between cardboard with 8 or less pretty pictures inside, or  a tediously boring plot involving a little old man detective whose style of crime fighting is to put his opponent to sleep via his written exploits. And then, and then, lay it aside to hunt down the *next* gem the maniac can’t live without. 

I suppose I’m claiming it’s all about the ‘hunt.’ And maybe most of it is. On the other hand, usually the book put aside is later unearthed and scanned, if possible without hurting the binding, and added to public websites for all to enjoy what you rooked out of the dentist for a month, and what you as a maniac still visit occasionally to relive the glory days of anticipation and percurement! And of course to actually enjoy the solid reality of  this rare thing belonging to moi!


Anyone interested in seeing other books and ephemera from my bookseller friend, or to contact him about the sale of his crime fiction collection, you can find him on ebay, here: