EVOLUTION OF A BOOKSELLER

<07-11T13:02:20+00:00">IMG_0063 Bookselling as an occupation, changes who you are, forever. At least, out of print bookselling does, all the ideas of the world in print passing through the doors of your shop has to have some effect. This is hard to believe for the first 20 years.

1) If you read even a few of your ‘products,’ you begin to reflect on the world, categorize the writers in it and feel curiously intimate with some of them. You begin to clean up your speech, dress differently (with fashion history of the world to draw from).

2) There’s a kind of addiction to reading that begins. You can’t imagine NOT having some book or other on the go. Books are no longer guilt. They are musts. You worry about someday not having enough to read and frantically increase your stock but you don’t read fiction till the sun goes down.

3) You begin to realize you’re turning inward somewhat. This is the eccentricity that little old independent booksellers are famous for. Contending with ideas, the ones that crawled out of the books and tapped you on the shoulder takes up the time that boredom once filled. Now there aren’t enough hours to cram it all in. You feel like someone under the gun at a pie eating contest.
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4) When someone is trashing an author, you begin to defend her, even if you didn’t agree with what she said, even if you don’t know ALL she said, it is enough that she was worthy of putting on your shelves. Now she’s dead and who else is left but you to speak up.

5) A certain passion grows as you realize you make your living on the proceeds of dead writers while returning none of the profit to them. You console yourself by thinking of it as advertising and promoting their works so that someday they will come back into print and thus generate royalties to the family once more. “I’m keeping them alive,” you tell yourself.
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6) A constant need for more space becomes an essential part of your life, even though your family hasn’t grown any and no relatives have come to live with you. You’ve begun to share an affinity with the recluse down the street that has just gone over the 100 cat milestone.

7) Books in boxes are sitting on your welcome mat when you open the front door in the morning – and you don’t want ANY of them. You have a NO BOOKS placard made up beside the doorbell. You see that the occupation forces you to be choosy.

8) You’ve become so discriminating that few books will do it for you. But of these writings, you don’t care if they’re in paperback or mangled beyond repair. These are the books you feel called to preserve, write about, defend and generally stuff into your sentences and into the consciousness of others at the least provocation. You become known as one of their disciples.
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9) You retire with a grateful sigh, no longer attend booksales of any sort, (which were always akin to rugby scrums anyway) sell off your stock, reduce your personal stash by 75%, frenziedly bug the library with order suggestions, troll the online sellers for obscure titles none of them can find, while continuing to suggest titles to absolutely anyone seeking advice and lots and lots who don’t even indicate they want any.

10) Now you are cantankerous, crotchety, opinionated (making a few bucks every now and then with submissions to Op Ed columns in the daily papers), seeing titles in everything anyone says. You still have far too many books for your surroundings but you tell people they make good insulation. Nor are you at all rich except in the ideas that persist in cavorting through your brain and the memories of good books and the writers behind them that never leave you.

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