A Pound of Paper: Confessions of a Book Addict [NOOK Book]

Overview


In the rural Australia of the fifties where John Baxter grew up, reading books was disregarded with suspicion, owning and collecting them with utter incomprehension. Despite this, by the age of eleven Baxter had 'collected' his first book - The Poems of Rupert Brooke. He'd read the volume often, but now he had to own it. This was the beginning of what would become a major collection and a lifelong obsession.

His book-hunting would take him ...
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A Pound of Paper: Confessions of a Book Addict

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Overview


In the rural Australia of the fifties where John Baxter grew up, reading books was disregarded with suspicion, owning and collecting them with utter incomprehension. Despite this, by the age of eleven Baxter had 'collected' his first book - The Poems of Rupert Brooke. He'd read the volume often, but now he had to own it. This was the beginning of what would become a major collection and a lifelong obsession.

His book-hunting would take him all over the world, but his first real find was in London in 1978, when he spotted a rare copy of a Graham Greene children's book while browsing on a stall in Swiss Cottage. It was going for 5 pence. This would also, fortuitously, be the day when he first encountered one of the legends of the book-selling world: Martin Stone. At various times pothead, international fugitive from justice, and professional rock musician, he would become John's mentor and friend.

In this brilliantly readable and funny book, John Baxter brings us into contact with such literary greats as Graham Greene, Kingsley Amis, J.G. Ballard and Ray Bradbury. But he also shows us how he penetrated the secret fraternity of 'runners' or book scouts - sleuths who use bluff and guile to hunt down their quarry - and joined them in scouring junk shops, markets, auction rooms and private homes for rarities.

In the comic tradition of Clive James's Unreliable Memoirs, A Pound of Paper describes how a boy from the bush came to be living in a Paris penthouse with a library worth millions. It also explores the exploding market in first editions. What treasures are lying unnoticed in your garage?

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
As he stooped over a basket full of stuffed animals at a London flea market, Baxter (Robert de Niro; George Lucas) made a discovery that would change his life forever. It was there, in 1978, that he unearthed a children's book by Graham Greene, called The Little Horse Bus, selling for five pence. He snatched it up, then impulsively purchased another Greene novel and one of Greene's African journals as well. Just like that, a book collector was born. Baxter chronicles his growing obsession with books in a way that's utterly infectious, with sharp wit and self-deprecating humor. He flits across Australia, England, the United States and France in pursuit of the perfect collection, always spurred on by the knowledge that book collectors find treasures in the most unlikely places. In his words, "acquiring [books] meant midnight assignations in seedy corners of London, white-knuckle bidding at auctions, speculative drives across England to cities you'd never seen, and nervous knocking on the doors of strangers that, in all probability, would leave you, a minute later, humiliated and empty-handed on the doorstep a hundred miles from home." He takes gleeful pleasure in underpaying those who are ignorant about the worth of their rare books, but he also holds certain texts sacred (like the uncorrected proofs of two James Bond novels given to him by Kingsley Amis). Baxter's memoir will be of great interest to serious book collectors because so much of the book conveys the insider's perspective, but his narrative is truly amusing and rollicking enough to entice book lovers of all kinds. (Dec.) Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
Film biographer Baxter (Woody Allen, 1999, etc.) reveals another true love in this entertaining account of his admittedly nerdy life. The author is a near-rabid bibliomaniac who has chased first editions across several continents and now lives happily with the cream of his collection in the same Paris building where Sylvia Beach’s Shakespeare & Co. once hosted Joyce, Hemingway, et al. Baxter, who grew up in Australia, dates the conception of his obsession to 1951, when, at 11, he acquired a copy of The Poems of Rupert Brooke. Thereafter, he chased Graham Greene’s ouevre (a collection he eventually sold once he’d acquired just about all there was), works about the cinema, books somehow related to the place where he happened to be living, and volumes by Edward Gorey, Lafcadio Hearn (!), and others. His tenet was "anything can be anywhere," and, indeed, he did find amazing things in unlikely places. At a Virginia "swap-meet" in the mid-1970s, he discovered a 1927 issue of Sylvia Beach’s periodical transition in a box of what was otherwise rubbish. For that item (and two others) he paid a total of 25 cents. Baxter showers us with anecdotes and bons mots, a majority of them amusing ("Most librarians don’t like books any more than butchers like lamb chops"), but also finds time to trace the history of the dust jacket. He identifies the best cinematic sex scene in a bookshop (The Big Sleep), explains proofs and galleys and limited editions, and tells us why unsuccessful authors sometimes resent signing first editions of their failed books (no profit for them!). Baxter describes the devastating effect of the Internet on ye ole bookshoppes (scads of which have folded) and examines the primitivebook trade that now exists on eBay. Like all nerd memoirs, this one features sexual conquests too, but the passages about his love life aren’t as interesting as those voicing his passion for books. Tasty junk food for book lovers.
Metro [England]

"An addictive romp through the unconventional life of an obsessive . . . John Baxter may claim books lack sex appeal, but he proves the opposite."
From the Publisher

Critics Rave About A Pound of Paper

"Baxter chronicles his growing obsession with books in a way that's utterly infectious, with sharp wit and self-deprecating humor . . . . Baxter's memoir will be of great interest to serious book collectors because so much of the book conveys the insiders' perspective, but his narrative is truly amusing and rollicking enough to entice book lovers of all kinds."--Publishers Weekly
"[An] entertaining account of his admittedly nerdy life. . . . Tasty junk food for book lovers."--Kirkus Reviews
"Baxter has written an informative book, and a delightful one, that guides the reader through a specialized and eccentric world with a wink and a smile."--Chicago Tribune
"A Pound of Paper leads us on a merry chase in pursuit of books, an undertaking as chancy as betting on the lottery. Baxter . . . prov[es] a most erudite and entertaining guide. . . . Essential to any current or prospective collector who wishes to engage in the hunt for a gem that might be worth a fortune or who simply wants to enjoy the pleasures of the game."--Roanoke Times
"Lively and colorful . . . . Baxter tells his stories with humor, suspense and plenty of style."--Virginian-Pilot
"Erudite and mirthful . . . told with ornery, self-deprecating wit."--Time Out New York
"A Pound of Paper--the weight, more or less of a book-is the peg on which Baxter hangs episodes of autobiography . . . the book collectors who buy this particular pound of paper will profit from it in every sense." --The London Times
"Of the making of many books there is no end. But who's complaining, especially when something as entertaining as John Baxter's A Pound of Paper comes along? At the outset he quotes Groucho Marx: " 'Outside a dog, a book is a man's best friend. Inside a dog, it's too dark to read.' " --Glasgow Sunday Herald
"An addictive romp through the unconventional life of an obsessive . . . . John Baxter may claim books lack sex appeal, but he proves the opposite." --Metro [England]

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781466839892
  • Publisher: St. Martin's Press
  • Publication date: 4/1/2005
  • Sold by: Macmillan
  • Format: eBook
  • Edition description: First Edition
  • Edition number: 1
  • Pages: 432
  • File size: 389 KB

Meet the Author


John Baxter is a novelist and broadcaster as well as being a hugely acclaimed film critic and film biographer. His subjects have included Woody Allen, Steven Spielberg and Stanley Kubrick. His most recent biography is of Robert De Niro.
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Table of Contents

1 Collecting Graham 3
2 Left-handed Guns 17
3 The Rules of the Game 41
4 Surly Bonds 58
5 Star Begotten 72
6 The Loneliness of the Long-Distance Reader 83
7 Haunted Screens 102
Postscript to Part One 133
8 The Old Country 141
9 A Regional Collection 163
10 With the Rich and Mighty ... 191
11 The End of the Affair 219
12 Bookshop Dreams 245
13 Without Whom ... 269
14 There and Back Again 293
15 Guaranteed Anatomically Correct 315
16 Shakespeare and Company, and Company 343
Acknowledgements 364
App. I Lists: Cyril Connolly's The Modern Movement 369
App. II 'If Your House was on Fire ...': An Informal Poll 389
App. III eBay Gems 412
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Sort by: Showing all of 2 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted April 25, 2005

    What a bore

    I couldn't even get past 20 pages. Unless you are obsessed with Graham Greene, some author I am assuming, skip over this book. The author's writing style is dry and boring.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted February 23, 2004

    A Pound of Pleasure

    By Bill Marsano. The very first thing you should know is that this is a book about collecting, not just book collecting. Collecting--the determined search for specific objects on a given theme--is pretty much the same kind of mania for all collectors, whether they're after vintage cars, rare stamps and coins or--as in this case--books, and whether the treasure they seeks are top dollar or bottom. Every kind of collecting develops its own little cultures and subcultures, its side streets and back alleys, its characters loved or hated or legendary. And, of course, its litany of heart-lifting successes and heart-breaking failures. So if you collect (as distinct from accumulate) or if you know a collector, this book is a definite buy. John Baxter's collecting, which began with science fiction, made him into a short-story writer then a scriptwriter then a novelist and a teacher. He begins his trek in a desolate tank town in Australia, where things start slowly, but he soon moves on--and ups the pace and tension--to London, the U.S. (East Coast and West) and finally Paris. The whole journey runs along like a thrill ride as you join Baxter in a series of adventures and misadventures with his assortment of bookstruck ne-er-do-wells and genial lowlifes. He and his characters are not, be the way, the least bit stuffy about book collecting. The title of this book comes from Baxter's definition of what, in the end, a book is: a pound of paper. There are only pluses to this book. Plenty of amusing incidents and anecdotes, lots of inside information about book collecting (appplicable to collecting in general) and to top it all off, superb writing. Baxter writes vivid, imaginative, entertaining prose. He is a delight to read.--Bill Marsano is an award-winning travel writer, an editor and a desultory book collector.

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