Thursday, March 12, 2009


I am not really a clothes person, or a shoe person, or a cosmetics person -- my idea of fancy is MAC lipstick -- or a home furnishings person. I don't collect china figurines, don't wear much in the way of jewelry, drive a decrepit (but paid-for) car, and the fanciest electronics I own are an iPod (a gift), an iMac (a gift), and a decent digital camera (not, technically speaking, mine). I do have a lot of nice kitchenware, but it's all functional and I'd just as soon not replace or add to any of it if I don't have to.

But I understand the passion, the unquenchable raging desire, to acquire such things. I totally know what that moment feels like when you suddenly realize how terribly much you NEED something that you didn't even know existed five minutes ago. I get it. Fortunately, since I don't have all that much liquidity to work with, I don't feel that special way about consumer electronics or pricey footwear -- just books (oh OK, and cats). And more specifically, although I love browsing in a nice bookstore and my Amazon wish list is bloated like a tick, used books.

I love the thrill of the hunt. I love finding gems among the dross. And I love a bargain -- I am, as my mother's cousin Phyllis would say, a shoppah. But whereas our family has traditionally spawned shoppahs of the Loehmann's variety, I'm all about the used bookstore, the library sale, the castoff publishers' galleys, the sandwich shop with the $1 paperback shelf, the I-don't-keep-books-so-you-can-have-this friend, and my favorite of all, the street vendor. Luckily, or unluckily -- no, no, it's luckily -- there are a number of these within a five-block radius of my workplace on any given day with halfway decent weather. I rack up the bargains on my lunch hour, piling them on my desk to admire for a week or two and gradually decanting them homeward to read.

Mostly I keep my little triumphs to myself -- I'm pretty sure they would make for a dead boring conversation, and I never really thought of them as something I could or should write about.

However. Recently I've been blogging for Readerville, which is fun and has seriously stepped up my trolling of book news and RSS feeds. Anything that's interesting enough goes over there, but every once in a while I find something to keep for myself. For instance: Some random surfing the other day brought me to The Wisdom of the Discount Rack, a very amiable meditation by Phyllis Orrick about the 25-cent rack at the Berkeley Public Library. It's a bit nostalgic, a bit aleatory, generally pleasant. Which is what's good about blogging in the first place -- for every person you bore silly, there's another you'll unexpectedly engage.

So hey, I got bragging rights if I want them. The week before last was a very good shoppah week. For a grand total of $6.00 over three different days, I walked away with:
Because I live in the Bronx, I like noir -- that's enough.
Aside from being blurbed by Hayden Carruth, there is this on the back:
Jim Harrison writes about the austerities of growing up in Michigan during the Depression and World War II, his literary coming-of-age among fellow writers he deeply admired -- including Tom McGuane, Philip Caputo, W.H. Auden, and Allen Ginsberg -- and the cognitive dissonance of "making it" in Hollywood. He gives free rein to his "seven obsessions" -- alcohol, food, stripping, hunting and fishing (and the dogs who have accompanied him in both), religion, the road, and our place in the natural world.
Religion and stripping and dogs? I'm there.
Dude, it's Wendell Berry. How can he not be worth $2?

The first man who whistled
thought he had a wren in his mouth.
He went around all day
with his lips puckered,
afraid to swallow.
I guess it might be a little more interesting to blog about these books after I've actually read them. But I haven't yet, so for now the getting of them is the thing.

(Right now I'm reading this behemoth:
Which is about the size of the New York phone book, although oddly lighter, and didn't cost me a thing.)



Blogger Miss T said...

I am so jealous that you live in a city where there are street vendors with books. Really I am.

9:43 AM  
Anonymous Daniel said...

Wonderful thoughts about learning! If you can't go to grad school, then start one of your own! Online.

As if you need another blog or website to maintain? But still.

8:30 PM  

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