“Wild Books, Homeless Books”

“Second hand books are wild books, homeless books; they have come together in vast flocks of variegated feather, and have a charm which the domesticated volumes of the library lack.”
― Virginia Woolf

Display at main Half-Price Books, Dallas, Texas

Everybody has their addictions; I think an important part of life is to constantly take a brave look at what you are addicted to and try and choose better ones.

I used to be addicted to buying used books. My dealer of choice was Half Price Books here in Dallas. When I first moved to the area in the early 80’s, I lived on Lower Greenville and their main store was on Mockingbird, next to Campisi’s Egyptian. It was a short walk to the old-school used book store – with its labyrinthine passages. I bought too many books.

Then they moved to Northwest Highway and an old Captain’s Cargo store. It retained the odd sailing-ship style staircases and had an strange open plan. I moved too to a spot that was too close. I kept buying too many books.

One day I drove there and found the store closed. Confused and disappointed, I turned and saw that they had opened up into a gigantic warehouse-style space across the street. This was very bad. I went in and found a book of quotations I had been looking for for years. My addiction blossomed into full-fledged hopelessness. It’s funny, I only bought used books – never new. There was something about the feeling that other, unknown hands had moved over these pages before. Something about the faint smell of mold. I preferred books that had a few notes in the margin, a handful of bent corners, evidence of someone having been here before me.

Nobody ever held an Intervention for me, but when we moved to Richardson the moving company charged us a hefty upfee because of all the books. What finally broke me was the arrival of the Kindle – now I can carry a library in my pocket. I have more books in my Kindle than I can read over the rest of my pitiful life.

Jeff Koterba color carton for 7/21/09
“Mars”

Now, I have two large and one small bookshelf. This is my limit. To buy a new book, something has to go.

Is my addiction gone?… of course not. It may be under control. I do check way too many books out of the library… but that is really an addiction that I can live with.

Today, I went to Half-Price to look for a particular book that was too expensive in its ebook form. I found it in the Clearance Section for two dollars. You can be a very well-read person and never leave the Half-Price Books Clearance Rack. I suspect that the employees sometimes put really good books into Clearance as a favor to society.

At any rate, my classic book by a famous author that has helped keep society from completely (so far) running off the rails was two dollars. I also bought a blank book (my bullet journal is almost full) and it was ten.

So, I guess that putting wonderful, skillful, important words on paper reduces the value of a book by eighty percent.

Display at main Half-Price Books, Dallas, Texas

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