<<< Continued from previous page

So - to train for the hunt, to move on to bigger game, and to succeed ... that will be the thesis I am charged with developing, in as many articles as our esteemed editor, Mr. Stark, cares to solicit.

But in fairness, two important bits of bad news are the buried lede:

Firstly, there are very few successful booksellers who have not served an apprenticeship under the watchful and contemptuous eye of an elder in the trade. I am no exception. But as our business inexorably moves to the internet, I see it clearly developing in the direction of the self-taught, as well. So, my tech background, my sales background, and my experience on the internet - all offer themselves to the challenge of trying to explain the heart of bookselling as I see it; but without a smile, a handshake, or a raised eyebrow to be seen anywhere.

On the internet you have no voice; there are only eyes to see your wares. Remember that: It is as relevant to my dilemma as it is to yours.

Secondly, there are also very few successful booksellers who have not made some significant part of their "knowledge bones" in a used bookstore. Again, I am no exception. Read this one more time: There is no substitute for the smell, the heft, the beauty, and the tactile impression of a good book. Then likewise remember this: There is equally no substitute for the daily, unending, and almost unendurable bombardment of lousy books. Lousy books are important. We'll get to that.

So, after 56 years, with all but 8 of them spent pushing books one way or another, I may have something valuable to say. The kinds of booksellers that exist are varied. And I'll make no attempt here to label those true gods of the step-stool and catalog, in whose company I like to think I may one day be deserving enough to crack a joke. But I will put one of those labels on myself in anticipation, or in hubris if you like: I am an Empirical Bookman, and I go with what works.

At the least, I believe I understand the goal we all share. And that endpoint - that goal - is how I also choose to end this introduction.

This is the goal:

[Holland House Library, London, September, 1940, © RCHME Crown]

They say there are only two kinds of people in the world. There are those who don't get Opera immediately, the first time they hear it. They never will. And then there are those who sob almost uncontrollably the first time they attend. Mostly, they don't even speak the language. But they just get it.

I am one of the former, alas. I've always thought the lack may have interfered somewhat with my comprehension of that child of men who loved Opera above all else; and the most perfect American we've ever known, who they created - Bugs Bunny. But as much as I do understand our Bugs - cock-sure, abrasive, creative in adversity and laughing in the midst of battle - I see in him a reflection of the successful Bookman.

Today's test: Which of the men in the above picture is the Bookman? It's almost a gimme. But Part Two of this question may be a bit more difficult: Why? Why is that man a Bookman, and how do you know it? Oh, did I say something about T-Shirts? Well yes - the first person who correctly answers both parts of my question wins a Book Think T-Shirt! Holy Cats! It just doesn't get much better than that.

[EDITORíS NOTE: Please email editor@bookthink.com with your answers.]

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