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Apparently I Prefer Used and Abused

June 5, 2012

I have a signed copy of Pulp that I bought for somewhere in the neighborhood of $200 eight years ago. I stood at the counter at The Iliad book store shaking at the prospect of being able to hold this object, this book touched and signed by CHarles Bukowski, anytime I felt like it. I cried a little on the way home. I’ve opened that thing about 6 times since that day. It’s protected and dusted, it was the first book I bought with the intention of begin a proper, adult collection. And I’m over it.

My bashed up copy of The Collected Stories of Amy Hempel is much more valuable to me than almost any other book on my shelf and it has little to do with what’s in the book itself. I was at The Strand recently and came across a signed first edition for a few hundred bucks. I stopped breathing and my hands shook. Here I was again but this time, after a few minutes of hyperventilation, it passed. What did I want with a book I’d be too afraid to read? The copy I already own means the world to me because it’s travelled the world with me. It’s seen me through doctor visits, dental appointments, and turbulence of both the literal and figurative kind. It’s a scrapbook of various times in my life, with bits of paper and directions, even a photo shoved in it that I wouldn’t have otherwise. It is irreplaceable and priceless.

The truth is, I love books, I want to collect books. Larry McMurtry taught me how to buy them when I was a very young child – Used or at an independent bookshop and in massive quantities. The difference I guess between me and a proper collector is that I want to collect my books. I want to always be able to look at my bookshelf and see where I’ve been and where I’m going.

That said, I’d happily have Amy Hempel sign my book if I ever met her. Well, I would after I’d picked myself up off the floor.

2 Comments leave one →
  1. June 5, 2012 6:28 pm

    Amy Hempel…swoon! I was lucky enough to have a reviewer say my writing is similar to her own, but at the time I had no idea who she was. That’s when I thought I should start reading her work. I picked up The Collected Works of Amy Hempel, and she quickly became one of my favourite writers of all time.


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