Friday, February 20, 2009

Dead books, tall tales

Buying used books has its own appeal. This generally lies in prowling through musty aisles and rifling through stacks of used books, usually in a nondescript shop in one of the quirkier neighborhoods of Seattle - Fremont, the University area or Capitol Hill. In Seattle, this usually also involves stepping over a cat or two.

The books themselves have their own stories to tell. I prefer "clean" books with no obvious signs of previous ownership, but the occasional random book with blemishes slips through. These can get interesting though.

My copy of The Money Game by Adam Smith has this on the inside title page:

XMas 1994

_____ & _______:

This year's investment classic from your parents (in-law). Read and prosper.

____ & _______

Wise words indeed - "Read and prosper".

When I bought The Buddha of Suburbia by Hanif Qureishi, I paid little attention to the fact that it was published by Penguin Italia. "Maybe it's an import". However, when I started reading it, out popped a receipt. 

Gelateria Brivido

Via Dei Pellegrini 1-3


It's a bill for 2500 Liras (that's 1.29 Euros as the receipt helpfully says). It's dated the 14th of September 2000 - that's 14-09-00 for you dd/ mm/ yy'ers. The web tells me that the Lira ceased being legal tender in 2002, replaced completely by the Euro.

It makes me think. What was I doing on the 14th of September 2000? It was a Thursday, meaning I was probably in college in India attending some kind of class or another.

This book's provenance just went from humdrum Barnes & Noble / Amazon to something altogether exotic. How did it end up in a used book store in Seattle? Was it an Italian student who bought it there, eventually ending up  in Seattle and selling the book while leaving? Or more likely, someone from Seattle on a summer trip to Europe? I can see him or her in Europe, taking in the sights of an altogether beautiful and alien continent, reading about an alien adjusting to a new and exciting world.

Dead books tell tall tales.


Anonymous said...

I simply love second hand books.I have spent endless sundays searching for old Penguin editions of some of my favourite books,in Daryaganj and now in Flora Fountain , Mumbai.
I even managed to get some priceless books for dirt cheap.
I got a second hand CnH ,which was gifted to a little girl on her 5th bday!!.No wonder it ended up in the second hand stall :-)

Ajay said...

Oh yeah, Mumbai has some great places to buy used books. I studied in Pune and I did my share of that to a smaller scale in Pune back then :)

notunma said...

N has a book called the "Grab-bag party". I bought it at a used-book lane in Hyd. ( some parents will cringe at the thought, what I did was bought the book and wiped it clean of the dust from the roads with a cloth)
So anyway, this cute kiddie book has a "this book belongs to" on the inside of the cover.. and it used to belong to somebody called Sarah G. Oftentimes I wonder how old Sarah G. is now, and whether she remembers the Grab Bag party!