The Richardson Library had their annual big-ass book sale this weekend down in the crowded basement multi-purpose room. This used to be a massive deal to me. I would get a huge donated shopping bag at the entrance and fight my way along the long tables piled with paperbacks or heaped with hardcovers – the stacks screaming, protesting the weight. I would fill my brown paper bag until the kraft was tearing, pay my fee, and eagerly get my haul home.
Now, though, I have my Kindle. There are more books hiding in that slim slip of plastic than I can possibly read in the few remaining years I have allotted to me. I feel fairly certain that I will pass through this vale of tears with more than a few files left unopened.
I almost skipped the book sale, but I went more out of nostalgia than any logical purpose – though I do know there are books that I’ve been looking for that are not out in digital format. Plus, it is sometimes nice to have a real, physical paper book – something you can give away or curl up with when your peepers are tired of pixels.
So I eschewed a shopping bag and simply pushed myself past all the enervated shoppers. Once more into the breach.
A good part of the large but cramped basement room was dominated by a handful of families that knew each other. They had a fleet of the massive baby carriers (barely smaller than the aircraft variety) that blocked entire aisles and provided a perch for their pre-reading hellions to reach out their snot-and-saliva encrusted paws and pull teetering piles of books onto the floor while giggling like giddy gibbons. Their slightly older siblings were grabbing stuff out and exclaiming wisdom like, “I only want books about dogs!” or “Are you SURE this is a childrens’ book?” while their mothers clucked loudly at each other with self-satisfaction at the precociousness and preciousness of their satan-spawn procreations.
Finally, after forever, this boiling mass of distraction and pain moved out the front and could be heard arguing over the price of their purchases in the hallway. The sound in the room was reduced to a certain low growl made up of the combined almost-inaudible grunting of the serious bargain hunters scooping up endless tomes that they had never known of until today but could simply not live without. This is a sober business. The air-conditioning, installed under a government lo-bid contract, struggled to cut the heat and miasma of used book mold-spores and bargain-hunting sweat.
So, did I buy anything? You betcha.
Hardbacks were only two dollars and paper seventy five cents. It would be a crime to let this opportunity go unheeded.
I bought a really nice hardback copy of Alice Munro‘s Open Secrets. Someone at work expressed a love of short stories yet had never read any Munro (yeah, I know…). I want to reread “The Albanian Virgin” carefully and outline it – it is the most amazingly structured piece of short fiction I’ve ever seen and I want to try and figure out how she does it.
On a whim I grabbed a paperback collection by John McPhee. This one is called Table of Contents and is a collection of his amazing short non-fiction. I can always read me some McPhee and come out of it knowing something I didn’t before.
After choosing these two light bits of bon-bon I thought for a minute and hauled out a big hunk of meat – the nine-hundred page posthumous magnum opus 2666 by Roberto Bolano. I have had my eye on this gigantic pile of translated text for a bit. For some reason I thought it would be fun to attack it as a fortress of paper rather than a cloud of bytes. Will I ever actually read it?
Probably. If I live long enough. Stick around and find out.
The parking lot had been full and I had to hike almost to the post office to get to my car. A thin older man scuttled by me, on his way in. He stopped and stared at the burden under my arm.
“Hey, I want all three of those books! I was worried they would be all picked over by now!”
He shot off towards the maelstrom of the book sale. If he had waited I would have sold him the three I had… at only a slight profit.