Tuesday, August 5, 2008

Books for Sale

Forgive my absence but it's been a busy week since I last blogged. One of the highlights was the Rocky Mountain Paper and Book Fair in Denver. As a volunteer I greeted people at the turnstile and checked their tickets, made sure they had a program, etc. At the end of the day, I helped check books that had been sold for receipts and vendor numbers to be sure they had been sold and not lifted. Vendors came from as far away as Connecticut, a lot of miles and a lot of schlepping boxes and display hardware. They deserve to sell their wares. And their wares were amazing. I've been friends with book dealers for a lot of years, been to a few fair in the process, and never before seen such a clean, well-organized, altogether pleasant event. The Denver Merchandise Mart was air conditioned, spacious, clean--did I say clean? Books so often drag dust and mold with them, that I'm impressed by clean.

I am also impressed by books in general, particularly legendary books way beyond my budget. One of my duties on Saturday was to allow solitary vendors to take a break while I book sat. Mostly it was for short breaks like coffee or restrooms, but in the afternoon a dealer wanted a sitter while he had a handful of books to be signed by a visiting illustrator, one much in demand and the cause of a long line, and a long sit for me. But get this, I was in the company of first editions by Frost, Eliot, Hemingway, Wolfe (Tom, not Virginia, who has, I think, two o's). These books bore asking prices in the thousands, some so expensive they didn't have obvious prices and all assumed that if you had to ask, you couldn't afford them. These treasures were, of course, in glass cases, so I couldn't touch them. I'd probably break out in a sweat and make a mark on their covers anyway, so just as well. I did wonder about all the people browsing booth to booth, who among them could afford such collecting. As far as I know, most of the books I sat with went back to Chicago with their ownership unchanged, but another dealer said he took a deposit on one item that would pay for his trip to Denver. I bought a ten-dollar book as a gift for a friend and was happy with that. I'll go again next year and if I've won the lottery in the meantime, I know just which booth to look for.

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