Sunday, August 29, 2010

Prospecting for Books

Yesterday Cameron, Vanessa, Brent, and I met in Long Beach for a book prospecting expedition.  Acres of Books went out of business, sadly, two years ago, but hadn't managed to sell off their vast inventory by the time the doors were closed forever.  In a last-bid effort to empty out their building, the current owners held a sale.  Twenty-five bucks got you in the door, got you a vintage apple crate, and got you the right to cram it as full of books as you could.

I chose a crate with a mountain goat on it.
After labeling our crates and leaving them in the staging area, we split up, taking the large shopping bags that had been provided to help us lug our loads back and forth from the stacks to our crates. The space--cavernous, warehouse-y, filled with neat piles of crates and huge canvases in addition to the 15,000 books left from Acres' inventory--was mostly dark and entirely dusty.  (By the end of the three or so hours we would spend hunting our hands would be black, our faces smudged, our clothes filthy.)  Although mysteries and SF had pretty much sold out during the final days of business, and although fiction A through L was missing (we never did determine why) still, there was a lot to choose from. 

The truly valuable titles had been grabbed up during the store's closing sales so what was left was a grab-bag--there were two entire shelves of Men Are From Mars, Women Are From Venus and I counted no fewer than twenty copies, scattered hither and yon, of Waiting to Exhale.  But among the dreck there were gems.

I came away with thirty-two books which, divided into the entrance fee of twenty-five bucks, comes to a respectable seventy-eight cents a pop.  My two favorite books (both first printings) of the bunch:  Irving Wallace's 1964 novel The Man, about America dealing with having its first black president, and Gay Talese's study of the early stirrings of the sexual revolution in the 1950s, Thy Neighbor's Wife.

Cameron thinks the cover of this one looks like a Tom of Finland illustration.  I think it looks more like a panel from a WPA mural, or maybe a propaganda poster from the forties.  At any rate, Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings wrote The Yearling and Cross Creek (the basis of one of my favorite movies of all time), so I'm willing to give it a try.

I just recently learned that Margaret Millar was the wife of Ross Macdonald (whose real name was Kenneth Millar).  Can't wait to read it.

The Tribes of Palos Verdes is a title of local interest to us in this area.  The author, Joy Nicholson, is a native, and her book is frequently assigned to high school English classes.

Book prospecting is usually, for me, a solitary pursuit.  It's satisfying to do alone, but as a team sport it's F-U-N: fun.  We worked separately, then came together.  We found things that we thought the others would like, or that they said they were looking for, we made and accepted recommendations.  We joked about some of the sad piles of books we saw (didn't anybody who obtained a copy of Wild Animus actually keep it in their library?).  We helped each other carry our loot.

At the end of the day I was thirsty, my feet hurt, and my throat was sore from breathing in all the accumulated dust.  All in all, it was a glorious expedition.

The loot!
Thirty-two books, stacked in a crate.
Peanut gets in on the action.

1 comment:

EnriqueFreeque said...

Great piles! Great grabs! Great crate! Classic, classic day, all around. And don't forget the two free Asia tickets that the nice gentleman manning the coffee/art house offered us in ... the heat of the moment"!

Absolutely awesome meeting bibliophiles in the flesh more bibliophilish than moi. Book selling industry insiders, you's guys.

Bittersweet, though. Sweet that we got one more opportunity to crash that place; bitter that it's now gone forever.

Acres away! ....

R.I.P., A.O.B.