Friday, June 05, 2009
This is the Captain speaking. Today I had an interesting book hunt excursion. I went on a call down to Chicago's Lincoln Park/dePaul neighborhood where lies some of the city's more pricey real estate. I was excited, having been told by a caller that she was disposing of her mother's estate and that thousands of books lined every wall of the house.
This can be a mixed blessing, as all dealers in used books have surely discovered. "Thousands of books" usually mean hundreds of bad books, hundreds of okay books, and tens of great books. Today was no exception.
The books were all stuffed into a smallish duplex, not bad looking from the street, but collapsing from the inside out. Crooked stairways, wavy, buckled floors, falling plaster, and dirt over everything. The decedent had gone to be with the book gods at the age of one hundred, and had lived here until the end, provided for by a caretaker who, apparently, didn't do windows.
The daughter, who had solicited my professional services, is a New Yorker, and she has returned to dispose of the house and contents. She herself had lived in the place in the nineteen fifties and watched her mother's collection grow, gathered from every source but new books sellers. All of the books appeared to have been purchased used, a good thing, but many had also been rode hard and put up wet, and that was even before being subjected to a Hoover -free environment ( a vacuum vacuum). They were, in short, pretty much of a wreck. Dirt, I hope you never learn through personal experience, kills books more often than fire or water.
These books were on open shelves that climbed to a twelve foot ceiling. The top rows had been untouched for at least twenty years and were almost invisible from the floor, so thick was the cobweb curtain that draped over the edge, filled with dirt and plaster dust. What looked like a disintegrated feather boa floated in pieces between the shelves and lay across the tops of many books. The owner had made hats, and this thing must have been part of her milliner's supply kit. Bottles and jars of beads and decorative trim also rested atop the books, covered with their own bottle and jar dust. Books were collapsing and disintegrating with the dust, the weight of it and the dryness of time and unhappiness of neglect. They rotted there, forgotten and forlorn, unremembered and unmourned in their orphanhood.
I had driven to the scene in the bookmobile, forsaking Clark the Purple Giant ( my bike) because I was kind of rushed. Parking down there in that 'hood is a killer, and I wound up using one of Chicago's newly installed pay boxes, which are hidden in the middle of the block so that you have to leave your car, walk, pay, and return before getting a fifty dollar ticket, thank you Richie Daley the Last.
I then hoofed it two blocks to the book trove, but didn't take bags with me, having assumed that I would just make a deal on the whole stash and send a truck for it, Mr. Big shot library buyer. As it was, so put off by the dirt and chaos, I bought about twelve books and promised to call back in a few days and arrange to spend more time going through things. Hundreds or thousands of books are still in boxes there, jammed into small rooms, leaving only narrow entry paths for the browser. It's worse than the store, and that's saying something, in case you haven't been here yet ( why not?).
I might expand on this story at another time, especially if there are further developments. That can wait til phase five, my memoir years.
In the meantime, please be advised that a new poetry issue is hereby proposed, and its contents will be provided by you, yeah, you, the one reading this right now. As with the last poetry issues, the late un slam National Poetry month thing, you are invited to send a poem to me at the email address on the group page (which will not publish on this blog entry, probably due to some homeland security amendment). Almost anything that comes in will be published, but it will have your name on it, so be careful. You're welcome to put it on your resume, and we pay just as much as the rest of those prestigious online poetry journals, to wit, zip. But your dean will be impressed and will not cause you to perish, bereft of publication. Drop a poem in the mail or send a query. The FB group also has its own wall where you can all communicate with me or each other.
May a piece of the bailout pie fall upon you and may you walk in the warmth of the sun god's beneficence forevermore, or until the Romulan invasion.