Wednesday, November 30, 2011

in underneath

Some places I am "in" already, like the library. Although I don't feel all that special, I seem to be one of the Friends of the library who actually shows up. I spend about a hour there putting books out onto the shelves and rooting through new donations for my own pursuits - my own unpolished gems - and occasionally finding something of real value. A Ray Bradbury or Stephen King chapbook.

Then I lug some of my lesser finds to Bennies or someplace where the young idiot clerks who don't know shit from shiola do just that - they take the shit and give me almost shiola in store credit. So, almost in revenge, I look for something that is completely underpriced and I know will sell for double or triple what they are asking, and I get it for my meager store credit and go from there. Or I get in store credit books that I know another bookstore owner across town would die to have. Hey, it's a gift (learned art).

My wife had to fly out of town for work. I don't ask much since I can't. All I know is that she'll be back tomorrow but instead of taking her overnight bag, she takes my orange backpack. I decided to carry some books out into the world in a grocery bag. Slightly inconvenient but not a problem.

I never sell enough. I always get more than I sell. The buy public is nervous about the economy or fickle or have behaved like lemmings and jumped over the cliff into e-books. Maybe a combination of these insanities.

There's the reality show that's on these days called Storage Wars and it's about this small group of parasites that buy the contents of storage lockers whose rent has gone south. The storage unit company hires these auctioneers who auction off the contents of these storage units to these low lifes who, at least in the TV show, are little more than hucksters. They own second hand stores or are collectors - doesn't matter. To me, it glorified theft. They are bidding on someone else's property. Yeah, okay, left behind property, "not up to date on the rent" property. To me, it feels scummy. It's like Antiques Roadshow for hucksters and "out-for-a buck" moles. I have little respect for anyone on the show or who made the show. Then, the topper, was when in two consecutive episodes of the show, one of these "experts" bemoan the fact that the storage unit they won (stole) had books in it. Of course, to them, books are useless nothings. At that point I turned off the TV and won't watch another second of that filth. They are all ignorant dirtbags.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

nobody knows everything about everything

I got that thought, loud and clear, while reading John Baxter's A Pound of Paper and it's incredibly true. A lot of places I visit to get books have a blanket "50 cents for paperbacks, a buck for hardbounds" rule. But the used bookstores are another thing. The owners pride themselves on their knowledge of this-or-that writer, edition, publisher : whatever. But they don't know everything about everything and it's really surprising how little they know in my area about Hunter S. Thompson for example.

I went to Bennies and was really pissed when they only took my Orwells, but I found a copy of Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas there for $3.50 and it was a 1971 Popular Library edition. Hell, I instantly recognized a possibility there and took it for store credit. Of course store credit means that I took to Bennies dozens more books, some I actually paid real money for, and they "gave" me credit and I had enough credit to get this book as well as two others. But I really wanted the HST and once I got home posted it online for $3.85 (to prove a point to myself, I guess) and it sold for $21.50 (proving a point for myself, I guess)

Yes! A slightly bigger student loan payment this month. I can almost feel the interest falling!

Sunday, November 13, 2011

who reads George Orwell?

Orwell wrote only 9 books. Most Americans are familiar with possibly two; 1984 and Animal Farm. He had others although the disinterest in them is palpable. I had two like new copies of his books Homage to Catalonia and The Road to Wigan Pier and I couldn't get a nibble. Finally, I took them along with a dozen other "orphans" to Bennie's and they ONLY took the Orwell. Because he's Orwell. But his writing style - is his. I mean, not everyone, myself included, like the way he writes. He's very morbid. The life he chose played out in his work. One can almost feel his exhaustion. And that isn't even his real name, I mean, he is as much a fictitious character as any he writes about!

Anyway, I got A Writer's Diary by Virginia Woolf and The Saddest Story: A Biography of Ford Madox Ford by Arthur Mizener, who seems to have had a cottage industry of biography writing as I think of it. He wrote a number of them. I don't know a whole lot about Ford. I read The Good Soldier and liked it okay. "okay", sheesh, I sound like Holden Caulfield. Next I will be saying "phonies" or something. Somewhere I have another book by Ford, a book of non-fiction actually. The March of Literature published by the Dial Press in 1938. Ford died in 1939. Was the book panned, is that why a 1971 biography of him not even mention the work?

The strands are too numerous. I get so sidetracked that I lose my place, or my head; both. So, yes, Orwell, I won't try and collect him. Joseph Conrad, yes, and THERE there is a tie in to this whole posting. Conrad and Ford collaborated on at least two novels!

Monday, October 31, 2011

the routine

I go out, I buy books. If the kids are sick, like today, I don't. I process the books that are here or I go through them and look for dupes, gather together lots. I check my accounts. I wander up the hill to the shed and spend a few minutes up there, going through on-hand inventory. Or I write to dealers I know. Collectors who are looking for that one elusive book to complete their collection. I might have it too, I have a good number of books around. More than my wife will ever know.

Fortunately, I find new places and open up new mining operations, you know? New veins of "gold". A Pocket Book paperback that I pay .35 cents for and sell for $5.00. I don't go to any one place more than twice a week. Things don't change too often, well, except for the donations at the library. That's a treasure trove. And I treat it respectfully, I mean, when I see a book that will sell - I do put it aside and leave a note for the head of the Friends. I just don't put everything book like that aside. Like the ARC of Kerouac's first novel. That one I kept. The Heritage Press books? I bought them, $3.00 for 6 of them. Don Quitoxe, illustrated by Salvador Dali? Yeah, that made it's way home with me too.

Some sit for awhile, warm up on chilly days. Ideally, I would buy a book on a Thursday, post it on Friday and it would sell over the weekend. On-line sales. I don't have a booth, I don't sit at a table - I don't do street sales - I don't own a shop - I don't sit, except in the comforts of my house, anywhere. I have kids to tend and books to mend.

Friday, October 7, 2011

used as bookmark #1

I have so many of these it's a side project of a side project itself. Not that I would sell any of them but I think it's interesting as hell.
Here is the bookmark from the copy of The Persuader by Robert Pollock that I found recently. It's a polaroid photo of a poster from the late 1960s (or so, I am guessing). Kind of goes with the suggestive cover image. Don'cha think? Anyway, the book isn't as near porn as the cover but it does raise the point that I have made in the past that covers sell and that sexy covers sell more - making up, usually, for crappy writing.

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

one way to kill a book value

Went outside the city over the weekend to a recycling center I know about and they have a metal trailer on site that is used for books and clothes. I found a handful of things including an 1800's copy of two books in one volume of J. Fenimore Cooper's work. Lionel Lincoln and The Wept of Wish-ton-wish.. The volume had been part of a set of collected novels by Cooper that had been published by Belford, Clarke, and Co. I haven't been able to get an exact read on the publication date but it seems to be 1850's.

To my great disappointment, however, the book has been taped together using clear packing tape. It's "together" but the value of the book is almost nil. There are no markings inside the book. It's an otherwise beautiful object. Otherwise, com'on, be serious, the binding must have broken and the idiot owner or whatever had the genius idea of using packing tape to hold it together. Repaired on the cheap. Christ, why did they bother? I am glad to have it in my possession but I won't expect to make a dime off of it. It's an orphan, a stray, a lost "soul". It's my job to save it.

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

why I hate poetry

I don't necessary hate poetry but my neighbor who calls himself a PERFORMANCE POET "borrowed" a book from me and then completely mucked it up during one of his performances somewhere and then GAVE the book to some clown in the audience. He offered to pay me for the book (maybe he noticed the glare I was giving him) and I told him that $5.00 would cover it. He bitched but gave me the money. It was a first edition of a paperback "tittalator" called "The Beat Generation" by Albert Zugsmith( Bantam, 1959).

Okay, Zugsmith wrote this book - the hell he did! Albert Zugsmith was a specialist in exploration films. He "bought" the rights to the name 'The Beat Generation' before Kerouac or anyone else thought to do it, maybe Ginsberg would have thought of it but he was out of the country when the Beat Generation thing exploded. Zugsmith made a movie called "The Beat Generation" which was pure exploitation crap. Nothing like the real Beat Generation nor any of their books, as far as I am concerned - and I have read a lot of the Beats over the years. No matter! It made Zugsmith a buck! What did he care about authenticity? So, he slapped his name on this title as the author but I am sure that it was a team of screenwriters who really came up with the dungheap.

But that's the not the point (of my disgust)! It's that this neighbor of mine ruined a book he borrowed from me! To be brutally honest, I have never liked modern poetry. I liked Walt Whitman because I know people to are verbose like that. Emily Dickinson? Not really. And why are there only two poets from the 1800s that we even learn about in school? The poetry from the 20th century I didn't like at all. Modern - Postmodern - LANGUAGE - (post)Postmodern, whatever the fuck they call it it's just babble to me. I like detective novels because they tell a story. Poetry in the 20th century hardly did anything but take up space on the page. I really really avoid it at all cost. I don't look for books by poets and don't attempt to sell poetry because it feels unclean to me. Ugh!

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

this week, our box disappeared again

only thing is if there are snoops playing around all they got was a 1905 book on games that children can play and an empty egg carton. that will keep the agents guessing, if there are agents to be guessing which here in the DC area one can only guess are doing just that.

whatever -

Tuesday, September 20, 2011


for some reason our box of paper recyclables disappeared overnight LONG BEFORE recycling was picked up. Just our box – just ours. Should I be paranoid?

Thursday, September 15, 2011

through many rabbit holes

It fuzzy since I didn't write down such things at the time but I think it was this book and seeing the old B&W film version of it that got me interested in "crime/detective" novels. I read Cain and then others, somewhere in the middle of one book I was see a rabbit hole opening and then would plunge into that (subject, author, publisher, genre). 'One thing leads to another' as the song goes. I think it was around the time I have buzzing through the Sax Rohmer books that it occurred to me that there was this other writer from the late 19th - early 20th century who wrote at least one book in this vein: Joseph Conrad. The Secret Agent. Yeah, yeah, yeah - perfect title alone, you know? For some reason I am sure that a therapist could work out I latched onto that book. I mean, right now? Right now in storage unit A I have 26 copies of it. Altogether I think I have 68 copies of the book. I don't know why exactly. I see them and I get them. It's like I have said before, I don't believe in wasted trips. If I go to a place that has shit for books and I see a good copy of a book I know or like, I at least get that. Sure, 68 copies is a lot but I am - well, I believe they will come in handy someday. That's the hope. ___ will never understand why I "need" so many copies. But, she's promised never to read this blog so....

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

next volunteering gig

I went to volunteer at the library and sought any Heritage Press books that had been left in the Friends room or the boxes outside in the hallway. I found 3 and then went about filling the shelves with books. The Friends are promoting Hardbound books, histories and biographies primarily, but all HB books so I was looking in the stacks of boxes for some HBs of various thicknesses to fit on the shelves. I did see some mysteries but nothing I don't already have - and as I was going through the boxes I spied a book I had seen before, one I had handled before, a copy of Don Quixote. I remembered seeing two of them in the box and I dug down to the bottom and sure enough the other one was there and - wait a minute, what's this? Illustrated by Salvador Dali? How did I miss that? I don't much like Dali personally but I can respect the value of his work and here's a copy of a book illustrated by him?

I quickly open the cover and what do I see? The nameplate! It's one of those!! I place it in a bag. A bag that fills and I pay for them with a couple of $2.00 bills (yeah, I still use them!)

Came home and researched the Dali illustrated book - $150.00 for a good copy and I have a good copy. I still can't believe that the family just dumped to books off at the library. It's not like the library staff knows the VALUE of everything. It's not their job. Nor the Friends, and it's not like I am going to enlighten them right now. Hell, everything I make gets "shoveled" onto student loan payments {have a said it a hundred times yet? i promised myself i would keep track - shit, have to - no, just keep going)

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

deals and sub-deals

Unlike my daughter, who when left to her own devises finds the shittiest books around, I have side-deals and sub-deals going on as I try to find the right mix of books and genres to pay off handsomely. Okay, to do better than break even. At the end of last year I looked at my student loans and cringed at how little that number had moved over the year. I was determined to do more - this way, through moving books - to pay off my student loans. Yeah, a tall order but at least I have a goal now. I might beyond the taking care of the kids goals which I do all the time.

This is different. I have been running "games" for myself before but this is different. It's direct. I am going after one thing: the student loans. I could kick myself when I think about how much money I wasted on cigarettes and bar-hopping before I met __ . She forced me to change, we had kids right away and I wasn't about to smoke in front of them. So, I quit. That money saved didn't go to the student loans though. I wasn't focused enough yet. They went to jumping into the book trade as much/little as I have.

"games" - deals - subdeals. It's all the same thing to me. Mental distractions, if you will. I don't watch TV like I used to, got to hear the kids, so I "run the numbers" in my head a lot. The side projects add spice to the main meal of best sellers that move but are boring to handle. Yeah, even moving best sellers are boring. I loath packing them and taking them to place I KNOW will take them, and will sell them because people want to read them but not pay full price. It's not the money they don't want to spend, it's the boring story lines and lack of character development and.... listen to me.... no, it's boring because my runner could and should do it. I like the thrill of handling dangerous material, you know. The thrill of it all (Roxy Music)

I like finding and selling Beat Books {Ginsberg, Burroughs, Kerouac} but there aren't as many of them floating around as you might think. As much as I hope, anyway. I like to think of it like the adage about playing the stock market: buy low, sell high. I do jump in online when I see a bargain, like a lot of Beat books that I know I can split up and double my profit. But going into any used bookstore around here? It's a fucking crapshoot. I am as likely to see nothing close to Beats in the bottom of a crumbled cardboard box as to actually scoring a find. And now with my "new religion" about paying off my student loans, all I make from all my hustling goes to paying fucking interest on the loans. Hardly touch the principle. I just realized that both meanings there are true.

I have toyed with dealing with porns in the past. Those clients have vanished. I guess I could find others. I am finding some in the wasteland that I tour. Enough to put together a LOT of them. But posting them on, like, Ebay is an invitation for some moral prunes to FWD me to the authorities. Like I am a child raper or something. I sell books, that's all. I separate one aspect of my life from others to protect my kids, you know, honestly - I am sure that there are some completely sick/fucks out there who deal in more than porn BOOKS but I pray they don't also have kids. I know the line I am walking. It's a little dangerous - maybe - but it does get me closer to paying off my student loans and that's all that counts.

Saturday, September 10, 2011

dealing with porn

I have two kids under the age of 4, they are suggestible and observant. If they see me get a book that has sexual content on the cover, this is reported to the Mother authority. If I choose to deal with porn, I have to make separate trip and develop a certain clientele that would be both discreet and deep pocketed. Fantasies, I know but one can hope.

My daughter left to her own devises would pick the crappiest book covers imaginable. In fact, she already has and when I catch the offending book before the clerk can ring it up, my daughter would blurt "but, Daddy, It's beautiful! It's purple" (which might be true but doesn't lead to the first point at all) PLUS she picks romance novels. She should be crawling through the kids section instead of picking purple covered romance novels! I can't even blame it on my wife because she doesn't read romance novels and it too consumed with her work-related readings to contemplate "trashy pulps" as she has called them in the past. Our daughter, on the other hand, goes straight for the worst looking cover and offers it to me as "my one". I have to decline saying, "no, go find a real kid's book".

Friday, September 9, 2011

i am wondering...

i am wondering if it makes it more weird for someone to look at the face of the person whose nameplates one is researching, if seeing the face of the first owner affects the decisions I will be making about how to dispose of his books. I have a degree of separation that his grown children didn't have, but still - it's weird and awkward. I wanted to see if the person had died and he did. And there's a photo of the man and I looked at it. It's not like selling Scrooge's bed linens, if it? I don't think so. I hope not.

Were the books in his library listed in his will? I am asking that but draw the line there. I don't want to be voyeuristic about it. I have some of his books, not his body, not his soul.

ob - book diary 1

.... previous entries not listed.

OB is the name I have chosen for this diary/journal which will be used to collect my thoughts on my Book (thing/fetish/whatever)
I am sure I will do some editing as I go along. I have been actively involved with "the book trade" as a scout/seller for a decade now. My primary function is as a Stay-at-Home Dad for our two kids. Girl - 3, Boy - 18 months. I go to many places in search of books, of course, and for as little as possible while maintaining a level of quality. I have handled enough underlined or tanned paperbacks to build a bridge out of.

This entry is about a number of books that I have recently found at the local library where I volunteer. Of course my motives are not purely civic: they get great donated books in there all the time! In fact, very recently a number of books published by Heritage Press have appeared with nameplates. The one at the top of the entry. My wife, who works for an office in the Federal Government I am not at liberty to mention, and I have speculated that the reason these lovely books have appeared now is that the owner had died. I have been able to confirm the owner's passing. It's a shame that the books have past from the family but perhaps the children didn't value the books. Perhaps they couldn't settle on how to divide them up. I don't know.

I feel badly for the collection. Left at the bottom of the donation bin in the back of the library. I bought a few books to upgrade the titles I had. Swapping collectibles for paperbacks is a no brainer if it's books that I am planning to keep. I have some others, and I will go back and get the rest and put them up as a lot. It makes sense to try and keep them together. Even if only to be sold to some anonymous buyer out in the world. They stand a better chance of staying together. I like to help orphans. It's one of my missions. Saving all books I can. (or that my wife will allow - glad she doesn't know about the storage units)