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Their interest in rare books began innocently enough when they challenged themselves to limit spending on birthday gifts for each other. Nancy walked into a Lenox, Mass., bookstore in search of a hardcover copy of War and Peace and discovered instead the large, arcane world of out-of-print books. With the discovery in Boston, weeks later, of a $40 first-edition of B. Traven's novel The Night Visitor, they were hooked. At a book fair the Goldstones are stunned to encounter a $50,000 1914 first edition Tarzan, by Edgar Rice Burroughs. "Fifty thousand dollars for Tarzan? Could it be that somehow Tarzan was great literature and we didn't know it?" Through visiting all the best stores, attending fairs and auctions, and perusing catalogues, the Goldstones learn to read the dealers' idiosyncrasies and the terminology of the trade, and gain a perspective on the idea that the business of rare books is, after all, a business: Demand drives prices, and (as with antiques and other collectibles) what has value is whatever collectors want. (Soon they plop down several hundreds for a two-volume first edition of Bleak House.) In the manner of good travel writing, the authors' descriptions are evocative, their storytelling compassionate—and frequently hilarious. ("How did you find us?" complains a midtown Manhattan rare-book dealer when the Goldstones arrive on his doorstep. "We control our advertising very carefully.") And to their bedazzlement, they encounter some real gems, the "one of a kind," the "utterly and completely irreplaceable." In the end, the authors concede, there is satisfaction to be found in more mundane discoveries, too.
A sort of Year in Provence for book lovers: an entertaining armchair introduction to an esoteric but captivating subject.
"[Lawrence Goldstone] can tell a story!" —Los Angeles Times on Rights
"No doubt about it. Nancy Bazelon Goldstone has written a very funny book." —New York Times Book Review on Trading Up
Posted January 12, 2000
This is a curious book, with a gentle, evolutionary structure that makes it interesting on several levels. On the surface, it is an account of a couple learning to buy old books in an intelligent, informed way. At the same time, though, it is a portrait of the used book business -- with names, places, and lots of extended direct quotes. The Goldstones take you along on their oddesy in a very chummy style, but I mistrust their long quotes from dealers they met along the way. The story is about the people who sell books as much as it is about the books themselves, and the authors present some of them in extremely unflattering ways -- complete with names, store names, and quoted conversation. Did they record these chats, or make copious notes on leaving the store? Or did they parapharse the gist of what somebody had said a year or two before? The quotes (as quotes often do) bring the text to life, adding depth and drama, but I wonder what was actually said. Regardless, it is an entertaining story that induced my wife and me to trot off to a used book store on a Sunday afternoon, where we spent too much money on old volumes, followed by a romantic lunch ... just like in the book.
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Posted July 29, 2002
A great book to learn more about book collecting and its history. The authors' wonderful writing style instantly puts you and ease and it was wonderful to sit back and enjoy.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted July 23, 2001
An exceptionally interesting book, it made me want to start my own library today. If you enjoy books, reading, collecting, or strange characters check this out!Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.