So I saw John DeNardo at ArmadilloCon and the subject turned (as it must) to books. And we talked of many things – of shoes and ships and sealing wax, of cabbages and kings. And then, the next week, I made a trip to Half Price Books and had a great time. So, I thought, why not share the story of what I wanted, what I found, what I bought, and why. So, here it is.
What I want: Simple. Everything! And lots of it!
What I found: Lots of stuff including many things that used to be mine though I do not believe any of the purchased items fell into that category. I had previously owned several of these titles but the copies purchased were not exactly as I remembered mine.
I apologize for the delay in doing these columns. The last year has been tough. Last summer my dad started falling down for no particular reason and was unable to get up. He fell on a Wednesday and I left work to get him. Two days later on Friday night, he fell at midnight and I had to get him up again. The next day we went to the emergency room to see if they could help. He checked into the hospital but never really left again. Nearly 6 months to the day, my step-mother who had been married to him for 16 years suffered a massive stroke and died within 48 hours. I have not particularly felt like doing these columns in the interim. Work got stressful, dealing with everything else got stressful, and I flaked out. I did not read, I did not read. I played solitaire. Not the best way to pass time. But the last few weeks I have had the urges again. I read six books last week, about the same as I read during January, February and half of March. I contributed 4 pieces to various blogs (including this one). John DeNardo gently pointed out that there was space anytime I felt like getting back in here. So, here I am.
This has not been a great year in the field of comic books with the recent deaths of Frank Frazetta and Al Williamson, two close friends who both worked for EC Comics in the 1950’s. They were both influential figures in the science fiction field as they showed how to tell a good story without words. They worked on the science fiction comics. Frazetta did Buck Rogers for famous Funnies and Al did Flash Gordon for comics and newspapers (in addition to his fabulous Secret Agent X strip).
Sorry this is late, folks. Life got weird for a while with some personal things. I hope to be on a more regular schedule here with the next column before Christmas. Onward.
GIANT BOOK WAREHOUSE!
What is It About Bookstores? I spend a lot of time in bookstores. I love them. Right now as I’m writing this out in longhand I’m in a Barnes and Noble in San Antonio while my wife is suffering through a business meeting nearby.
For more than twenty years I had a job that required frequent, almost constant travel all over the US. One of the first things I would do when I arrived was to check out the Yellow Pages entry for “Bookstores – Used and Rare”. Sometimes the travel would involve staying out over a weekend. I generally did not have to work on those weekends, just hang loose and be ready to work on Monday morning. That gave me the weekend to hunt and look.
Once, in the mid 1980’s, I was in Charleston, SC and was staying there over the weekend. Friday night I sat in my hotel room trying to find some activity to keep me entertained through the weekend. I thought I might do some Civil War related activity since that unpleasantness started there. I was reading the local newspaper and there I ran across those three magic words. They were on the back page of Section A and occupied the whole page. GIANT BOOK WAREHOUSE!
When you are building a collection it is always best to do it in such a way that you don’t go broke in the process. But that is easier said than done. If you absolutely have to have that first edition of The Man in the High Castle in fine condition with a fine dust jacket, it is not going to be easy. Or is it?
Amazingly, throughout the last 40 years I had had that book. Twice. Once in the mid 1970’s, I found it in a used bookstore for $2. I kept it for a few years and traded it to a good friend for some other items I wanted. I later found it in the late 1990’s. I got it in trade for items that initially cost me about $50. Inflation! What can you do? It went away as part of the giant book sale two years ago. Was I sorry to see it go away? You bet! But I can still read it. I’ve got that nice Library of America edition of Philip K. Dick with it and several other novels. (There are now three volumes in that set covering some of PKD’s best work.)
Soon my wife, Sandi and I will celebrate our 30th wedding anniversary. No one, particularly our folks, ever felt we would get that far. There were many days when I wondered about it myself. But, somehow we have managed to trudge forward.
Sandi is a saint. There are many devilish aspects about her. She told me on our second date these fateful words, “I may burn dinner but that’s not all I’ll burn!” Fortunately (for me) she has never burned dinner. For that matter, she has never made dinner. She also told me on that same date, “My momma taught me to be a Home Wrecker not a Home Maker.” Not quite true either. I, however, got through college on my cooking abilities and had regularly cooked at home for 5 years by the time I graduated from high school. I discovered in college that, if you worked for a restaurant, you might not get a lot of pay, but you generally got one hit meal a day.
Back then (the forgotten early 70’s) I frequently went with less than $1 in my pocket for days. Austin, where I attended school, was regularly considered to be the cheapest major city to live in. When working for the state, I was paid once a month and, after my bills, would live from the 5th to the end of the month on about $20. Somehow I survived and managed to acquire a few books.
How It All Started
Several years ago Rick Klaw wrote that he had decided to take a break from his popular column Geeks With Books which ran on SF Site. I ran into him that very week and expressed an interest in doing a couple of columns so that Geeks everywhere might have someone to rant and rave with. For whatever reason, I never ended up doing those columns at the time, but the idea kept lingering in the back of my mind. Recently I ran into John DeNardo of SF Signal and approached him with the idea. He liked it and this column was born. I liked Rick’s old title for the column and added my spin to it so that you get Geek With (Lots Of) Books.
Like Rick, I have been involved with books my entire life. I have worked in a bookstore. I helped open the first Walden Book Store in Austin in 1972. I found out soon that loving books and working with books were two wildly divergent ideas. I was a collector and worshiped at the altar of the paperback and later hardback.
Somewhere over the years I accumulated books. To be sure, there are a few collections within the walls, but it is mainly a mass accumulation. Before my massive sale two years ago, my wife, cat and I shared our living space with slightly over 20,000 volumes, assorted art prints, comics, movies, records, cassettes, CDs, and other entertainment related fun things. Early on I read voraciously – omnivorously, and indiscriminately. These days my time is at a premium. Where one summer I managed 120 books in the summer school break, I am now happy if I can squeeze in 50 pages before I nod off.
The previous couple of paragraphs probably describe too many of you out there. You are not alone. We are all members of the Brotherhood of Readers. For some, this is the Brotherhood of Evil Mutant Readers. Depends on your orientation. I tend away from Chaotic Evil these days.
Welcome back. Last time we talked about me and my mania with collecting books. This time, let’s talk about completeness.
I like completeness. Obsessive/compulsive that I am, I want it all. I may never read it but I am not happy when I have only part of something. I want to see it all, to know that nothing is missing. It’s like working a jigsaw puzzle and discovering that there are missing pieces. The sense of accomplishment is not the same at that point. Total completion has that pride.
There are types of collecting. There is the accumulation of stuff, the massive accumulation of stuff, and the collection. I have had all these things. For example I have accumulated assorted science fiction and mystery titles over the last 50 years. I still have more than the average Joe, probably 2,500 titles. I have an accumulation of mysteries now (nothing that deserves to be called a collection) and I have a fine collection of Joe Lansdale.
[Editors Note: SF Signal welcomes author and self-proclaimed bookaholic Scott A. Cupp in his new column, Geeks with (Lots of) Books, where he will dispense stories of his (some say crazed) love affair with all things bookish. Welcome, Scott!]
Hi, my name is Scott and I am a bookaholic. Chances are you are too.
It’s been two years since I last sold my collection. It’s been a tough two years. I mean, one day I’m sitting here looking at a complete collection of Philip K. Dick novels and stories, and the next day – zip! Nada! All gone. I watched as 19,000 volumes walked out the door. It took 10 trained packers over 6 hours to just pack them up. I wondered if I would ever miss them, where they would go, what families would have them to hold and cherish, would they love them the same way I did? It was devastating.