Monday, April 2, 2012

So Many Books, So Little Time...

We love our public library. There are so many things that I didn’t even know I wanted until I saw them on the shelves.

Recently, I’ve discovered the Modern Scholar Series of lectures on CD. Since my clients are spread all over Wake County – and some far into the next – I’m in my car fairly often at 30 to 45-minute clips. The lecture series is great for trips like that.

First, Steven found The Lost Generation: American Writers in Paris in the 1920s. As you’d expect, that one focused heavily on Hemingway and Fitzgerald. But the professor also talked about Sylvia Beach’s bookstore, Shakespeare and Company. James Joyce almost didn’t get Ulysses published until Sylvia stepped in and took care of it for him. He’d already been turned down by several major publishers who found it too risqué.

We heard a lot about Gertrude Stein and how she held court among the literati of the time. And how Hemingway found her to be a phony. We also heard a good deal about Ezra Pound and T. S. Eliot. The professor spoke in a friendly, casual manner and made me feel almost as if I were walking along the Seine, or sitting in a café with my writing tablet. Good stuff.

Soon after that, I found a wonderful book called The Paris Wife by Paula McLain. It’s a fictional account of the relationship between Hemingway and Hadley Richardson, his first wife.  All of this coming soon after we’d watched Woody  Allen’s Midnight in Paris really had me eager to read all that I could of those great writers.

Now I’m in the middle of another Modern Scholar lecture series called The Detective in Fiction: From the Victorian Sleuth to Modern Day. Wow. It’s so much fun. The woman who’s narrating this one started out with very early murder in fiction, going as far back as Shakespeare and even in Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales. But the first real detective of note is, of course, Sherlock Holmes. She talks at length about him, from Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s life as a doctor before he began writing, through all of the great movies made of the sleuth, all the way up to the TV show House, which is unashamedly based on the Sherlock Holmes character.

Then she talked about Agatha Christie, Dorothy L. Sayers, Wilkie Collins, to name a few from early last century. And she progressed to more current authors such as Sue Grafton, Ed McBain, Dick Francis, to name a few more.

So back to the library. This past weekend, the Wake County Public Library held its annual Book Sale. They do this to purge the shelves of duplicates, slow-movers, and copies that just aren’t as pretty as they used to be. They also get a huge amount of donated books all the time, and they can’t use many of them. So they go on sale. Over 450,000 books.

The first day, the prices are $4 for hardcover and $2 for paperback. On Saturday they lower the prices to $2 and $1. But on Sunday........that’s when the fun begins!

On Sunday you can buy a box crammed as full as you can cram it with books for FIVE DOLLARS!!! For the whole box! Five dollars! Amazing.

The doors open at ten. We arrived at about 9:40. I was completely unprepared for what I saw. The line stretched all the way out the door, down the length of the next building, around the corner, down the sidewalk, across the grass, into the parking get the idea, the line was LONG!
I fretted that by the time we got there, all the books would be gone. 

Silly me!

There were still thousands upon thousands of books to choose from. This took place at the State Fair Grounds in the largest exhibition building. Long tables were set up row after row. Books were stacked spine-up  about six deep. They were carefully divided into genre, but other than that, there was no rhyme nor reason to their arrangement. You might find two books by the same author side by side, but that was rare
We started in General Fiction, then switched to Mystery, then back to General, then back to Mystery with brief forays into Crafts and Cookbooks. Oh, the treasures we found!

Here are just a few of the authors we grabbed:
Robert B. Parker, John D. MacDonald, PD James, Agatha Christie, Charles Dickens, Robert Louis Stevenson, Amy Tan, Tom Robbins, O. Henry, John Dos Passos, Virginia Woolf, Wally Lamb,  Elizabeth George.....

We filled up three boxes with 141 books total. That’s just over ten cents each. Book prices haven’t been that low in probably a hundred years.

I could go on and on, but while I’m writing this, I’m not reading!

What would you buy if the prices were that cheap? What authors have you been wanting to check out?

If you’re really, really nice, I’ll let you borrow my hard cover copy of Robert Vaughn’s autobiography. I’m expecting at least one early picture of Ducky in there.

Now go read something!
And report back.