Tuesday, March 18, 2008

In Praise of Mighty Readers

An old acquaintance died recently. She struggled long and hard with COPD. When she could get out and about, when she could breath our dry, dusty air, she was a good customer. Don't ask me how I missed her memorial service. I was trying to keep this place open, I guess. I missed her estate sale, too. Another sad lapse on my part. But the daughter of my old acquaintance remembered me. She called me about a week ago.

"Do you want the rest of my mother's books?" she asked.

"Yes," I said...no ifs, ands, or buts.

I received 75 boxes on Saturday. When I opened the first box, my heart shrunk a little. My old friend was a reader, not a collector. There weren't many dust jackets. Spines were sun faded. Ends were dinged, edges water stained, bindings cracked. But, oh did I learn about my friend and the times she lived in. She loved to stuff information inside the pages of information. I have a five inch stack of ephemera next to my printer. I know I won't read all of it, but I hope to read much of it. Much of it is apropos to the times I live in. I found an essay by Toni Morrison in a book by Cornel West. Morrison about marketing and power, how U.S. citizens are no longer citizens, but taxpayers. Morrison wrote this in 1995. She could have written it yesterday in response to the Fed's bail out of Bear Stearns.

My old friend also saw to the gaps in this store's collection. The Tristram Shandy I sold a few months ago has been replaced. I have some Tillie Olsen at last. I have more Mark Twain. I have The Things They Carried by Tim O'Brien and Anthills of the Savannah by Chinua Achebee. The poetry section has been beefed up with a collected Yeats, some Stanley Kunitz, Emily Dickinson, and Auden. I have a new French section. And, boy, have I got some vintage paperbacks.

If you, too, are a mighty reader, you should come by the store and check it out. My old friend would be pleased, and so would I.

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