There’s a flea market in town. Not an organized, every one has a booth type, but the type that springs up in vacant lots and attracts old pickups filled with clothes and baby stuff and tattered paperbacks and boiled peanuts. I don’t know what possessed me to stop in the other day– I rarely do.
I found one of those compilations of reproduced newspaper front pages that’s published as a commemorative after the occasion of a memorial event. HISTORY OF THE WAR IN FRONT PAGES. As I had recently reviewed some of the history of the war… . $3. What the heck?
And then I spied three or four boxes of non-paperback books on the ground. I knelt down to look over them– not expecting much– and the young fellow comes over to tell me they’re all a quarter. We chat. He asks me if I know about old books. “A little bit,” I say.
Do I know who L.M. Alcott was? Little Women. Blank stare. He has a book signed by her. Really? He digs it out and begins to read
|“To the many boys and girls”|
but that’s as far as he gets because she has terrible handwriting. He points to “1874.” I show him where the book was published in… MCM … L… VIII… 1958. That’s probably a picture of her original dedication.
And so it goes as he asks me about other authors– he has a Shakespeare collection. He shows me a book published in 1895. Aren’t first editions more valuable? How long would it take me to read that book? Well. It was a translation of one of the Dumas’ Celebrated Crimes volumes– so more than a week, for sure.
He thinks it’s a shame– that people don’t keep these old books. Or worse, that they let them get ruined.
He offers me all of the boxes for $20. No. I can’t. He understands.
What’s up with this guy? He told me he’d gotten a lot of the books by buying the contents of someone’s shed. But clearly, he’s looked at them. He’s not going to get rich selling books for a quarter. But he’s not going to toss them out, either.
The whole experience left me feeling rather sad.