#127, 25 August 2008

The Grab and the Gloat

Prelude to the Gloat: The Grab
Giving Purpose to One's Gloat

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Harrumph. It has been a long day. But now I am safely back home. Quiet. Ah blessed quiet. I braved the elements, I braved the drive through inclement weather and the frustrating traffic, I endured the long wait ... and I braved the competitors - mostly I braved the blasted competitors. Humph. Some were colleagues - I'll give you that - and we traded anecdotes, dissected a few individuals who were not present to defend themselves. But mostly I was gearing myself up mentally for the oncoming melee. No matter that I'd promised myself a hundred times over while on the drive to the sale that I would not take apart in the mad scramble. I awoke with that thought firmly in mind - or at least as firmly as thought is allowed to be so early in my day. I was determined to be above the fray. Above - the - fray. There would be books enough for all. Yes, books enough for all: I allowed myself the indulgence of these few stray egalitarian and altruistic thoughts. No mad scramble made by this old man when the doors to the sale were opened.

The doors opened and then - and then - then happened the scramble and the grab. The grab. Haw. No matter I mentally held myself above the fray. Haw! Simple resolution melted into nothing in the face of the reality of piles and piles of books. I had seamlessly melded myself with the body of fellow sale-goers and joined them in the rush to the tables - I was part of that first tidal wave of humanity that flowed in, around, over and under the tables piled with books. Hands grabbing books left and right, up and down. A hundred grabbings. A thousand. My hands operated as if they were instruments with volition of their own. You no doubt imagine me mindlessly grabbing books wildly left and right all the while singing mindlessly, sotto voce, "grab and stash, grab and stash!" Wrong. Wrong. Wrong. At a book sale my thought processes became focused in such a manner that if one could only harness the very power of that focus, great things could be done every day. (If we were on-line now, I would add a little winking emoticon after that last.)

An hour or two after the doors had opened I came to my senses ... I mean, I descended from the high state of perceptive puissance and returned to my ordinary state of everyday sharp perception. I realized I had filled several cartons with books. Looking down at the books on top, I vaguely remembered placing them in the box. They looked good. Harrumph! Of course they looked good. On the way out, wheeling the cartons to the car on a handcart I caught a glimpse of myself in a mirror - disheveled, a bit sweaty, dusty, a determined grimace just starting to fade from my visage, not exactly gimlet-eyed, but ... Where was my hat? Was that a bruise on the left side of my forehead? What had happened in the interval between when the sale doors opened and this moment?

Before leaving I cast one last look into the sale room. I noticed a few stray pages wafting about gently on the breeze from over head fans ... a smell of ozone lingered ... I espied a pair of legs sticking out from under one of the tables, seemingly inert. I recognized the polished oxfords of a colleague. Haw. He just wasn't up to the battle. Haw! One less competitor. Various sale organizers were wandering about, dazed and frazzled. One of them huddled in a corner, clutching a metal cash box to her body. In the opposite corner huddled a buyer, shivering and clutching a large tome. I couldn't help noticing with some sense of satisfaction that it had no covers. Harrumph. Amateur.

When loading the car, a sense of excited lassitude enveloped me. Surely I remember finding regal goodies, scarce first editions, wonderfully illustrated volumes, rare academic treatises ... it was good ... I ignored the momentary sense of embarrassment that warmed the back of my neck when I briefly recalled that I had abandoned all of my early morning's resolutions. I had been part of the scramble. I did rush to the tables. I recalled stumbling over and around fellow sale-goers - the swarming competitors; I recalled crawling - crawling! under tables scrabbling for what seemed a shiny bauble of a book. I recall snarling. Surely not!

But it was good. It was exhilarating. It was so ... satisfying.

But it was over, and I headed home for part two of the adventure. Something even more satisfying.

The sale had only been a prelude.

Appendix to the Grab: The Gloat

It is certainly gratifying to sit in one's home, or shop, the cartons filled with booty from the sale lying about one, and bask in the satisfaction of a quarry well sought and justly obtained. I challenge any bookman to think of something more satisfying. Now, in the heat of battle - at the sale - one does not have time to inspect closely every book chosen. The usual onsite examination consists of a quick perusal of covers, flipped once for edges, flipped easily - one, two for end-papers, a peek at title page and copyright pages, and a quick ruffle through the leaves. More often than not, even that much attention is neglected. One sees the title, and into the box it goes.

This first perusal of all my goodies is always fun, but I try to work utility into the process.

Considering first that most of this material is for resale, I prepare an area for the review. A clean surface. That's the ticket ... and enough room to sort into piles. Of course some liquid refreshment is advised; but I make it a strict rule not to imbibe any liquids around the books. So my glass of Highland Gold sits on a table away from my finds. If I need to take a sip - and I will need to - I get up and stroll over. A nice seventh binding stretch.

Secondly, I'll always want to take notes. So handily nearby I have a notebook and a nice easily erasable pencil. Always pencil. No lousy bleeding pens anywhere near the books. No matter how careful I am, if there is a pen in my hand, eventually there will be a mark on a book. That ink will stay ... a monument to my carelessness. So I have a nice supply of favorite pencils and a nice clean Magic Rub eraser. This nifty little item is indispensable.

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Questions or comments?
Contact the editor, Craig Stark

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