Journey into the world of book collecting with the Goldstones-rediscover the joy of reading, laugh, and fall in love with books all over again.
The idea that books had stories associated with them that had nothing to do with the stories inside them was new to us. We had always valued the history, the world of ideas contained between the covers of a book or, as in the case of The Night Visitor, some special personal significance. Now, for the first time, we began to appreciate that there was a history and a world of ideas embodied by the books themselves. Part travel story, part love story, and part memoir, Lawrence and Nancy Goldstone's Used and Rare provides a delightful love letter to book lovers everywhere.
|Publisher:||St. Martin's Publishing Group|
|Product dimensions:||5.50(w) x 8.50(h) x 0.51(d)|
About the Author
Lawrence Goldstone's first novel, Rights, won a New American Writing Award. He has written for the Advocate and teaches creative writing at New York University.
Nancy Goldstone has written articles for the New York Times, Washington Post Magazine, the Boston Herald, Lear's, the Boston Phoenix, and the New York Daily News, as well as several novels, including The Lady Queen. The Goldstones live in Westport, Connecticut.
Read an Excerpt
Used and Rare
Travels in the Book World
By Lawrence Goldstone, Nancy Goldstone
St. Martin's PressCopyright © 1997 Lawrence and Nancy Goldstone
All rights reserved.
We came to book collecting because our birthdays fall eight days apart.
When married people have birthdays that close together, a certain natural competitiveness develops. Or maybe it was just us. In any event, birthday week had degenerated into extravagant spending and a furious determination on the part of each to outdo the other that inevitably resulted in our squandering money that we could not afford on gifts the recipients didn't particularly like but, because of the cost, could not admit to disliking until months, sometimes years, later.
Finally, with the maturity that comes with advancing age, we decided to put a stop to the problem. As a result, four years ago something like the following conversation took place:
"I want you to promise me that you won't spend a lot of money on my birthday."
"Ohhh no. That's what you said last year and look what happened."
"What do you mean? The nightgown wasn't that expensive."
"Two hundred dollars is expensive when I only spent fifty."
"Nobody asked you to only spend fifty."
"You asked me to only spend fifty. You would have gotten upset if I spent more than fifty."
"Depends on what you got me."
"You never like what I get you."
"That's why I didn't want you to spend more than fifty."
"It's not fair. You have it easy. You always go second."
"Look, you knew my birthday fell eight days before yours when you married me."
"Ten years and eight days."
"Why don't we just set a limit this year and stick to it for once?"
"No, I mean it. Besides, it's more creative. Unless you don't want to be creative, of course."
"I can be as creative as you."
"Great. How about forty dollars?"
"How about thirty?"
"Fif ... okay, twenty."
"Remember, no cheating this year. If you cheat, you lose."
"Lose? What, are we competing?"
Thus began the search for War and Peace.
If you want a book, the obvious place to begin is a bookstore. In Lenox, Massachusetts, where we had lived since abandoning Manhattan three years before, the local bookstore is called, conveniently enough, The Bookstore. The Bookstore ("Serving the community since last Tuesday") is owned and occasionally operated by Matthew Tannenbaum, a shaggy dog of a man who considers it a bookseller's responsibility to provide a convivial atmosphere for his customers.
"Nancy, did you hear about the two cannibals who were eating a clown?" asked Matthew. "One of the cannibals stopped for a minute and turned to the other cannibal. 'Do you taste something funny?'"
"I liked the one about the near-sighted fireman better."
Matthew looked disappointed. "So did everyone."
Jo walked up to the desk. Although she is technically an employee, Jo is actually more of a spiritual figure, a cross between an aging hippie and a schoolmarm. She has long straight gray hair, pulled back, excellent posture, a low, throaty voice, and a serious, unflappable manner. She will occasionally clasp her hands in front of her while she is speaking.
"Are you looking for anything in particular?" she asked.
In addition to the usual best-sellers and major new releases, The Bookstore stocks a larger than normal selection of obscure poetry, alternative fiction, Judaica, women's studies, Native American studies, African American studies, paranormal psychology, and organic vegetarian cookbooks. In the front, there is a rack of magazines for the intellectually serious, such as Granta, Mother Jones, and The Utne Reader. Next to the magazines, there is an extensive children's section presided over by a huge, incredibly filthy stuffed bear that every child under the age of five sticks his mouth on.
"I'm looking for War and Peace."
"Certainly." Jo led the way to the paperback section at the extreme rear of the store, reached down to the bottom shelf, and produced a Penguin edition. It was so thick that it looked like a piece of a Duraflame.
"No, no. We already have a paperback. I was hoping for a hardcover. It's a birthday present for Larry."
"You're getting Larry War and Peace for his birthday?" interjected Matthew, who had tagged along behind us. "What's the matter? Things aren't going well at home?"
"No. We made this ... we decided ... forget it."
"Ah." Jo nodded sagely. "Let's check Books in Print then." She went back to the desk and pulled a big brown volume down from the shelf. "There's a Modern Library edition for twenty-five dollars," she said, running her finger down a column on the Tolstoy page. "We could order it for you."
"What does it look like?"
"It looks like a book," said Matthew. "What were you expecting?"
"Well, we don't have War and Peace in the store at the moment," Jo went on, "but we do have David Copperfield, if you want to get a sense of what a Modern Library book is like."
She walked across the store and plucked a small, unimpressive book from a shelf. It was flimsily bound with thin paper leaves. The print was small. It did not seem a big step up from the paperback.
"I don't think so."
"Of course." Jo nodded and consulted Books in Print again. "Here's another hardcover. It's a two-volume set for forty dollars."
"What does it look like? Does it look like a birthday present?"
"If you wrapped it, it would look like a birthday present," said Matthew.
"I mean, does it have pictures and larger type?"
"I don't know," Jo said. "I haven't seen it."
"What do you want War and Peace for anyway?" Matthew asked. "Why don't you get Larry a real classic like Men Are from Mars, Women Are from Venus?"
"I don't think so. Besides, Larry likes war. You should have seen him cooing over the battle maps in the Civil War book. I told him, 'If you like battles so much, read War and Peace. It has great battles.' But all we have is this old beat-up paperback and he said, 'The print is too small,' and I said, 'What did we get you those reading glasses for then?' and he said, 'Just because I got them doesn't mean I like to use them.' So I thought, if I got him a nice copy of War and Peace as a birthday present, something in hardcover with big print, he'd have to read it, and then he would have this great experience. Besides, then I'd win the bet."
"Bet?" asked Matthew. "What bet?"
"Nothing. It's a good birthday present. As long as it doesn't cost more than twenty dollars ... or not a lot more anyway."
Jo thought for a moment. "Have you tried 'Books'?" she asked.
"It's a used-book store in Egremont," she explained. "I'll call for you and see if they have a copy."
"A used book?" Buying a used book sounded worse than buying a paperback. "Used book" evoked images of smudged and dog-eared copies of college texts, Beginning Chemistry or some such, the relevant passages of each chapter underlined in somebody else's yellow marker.
But Jo was already on the phone to Books. Luckily, they didn't have a copy of War and Peace either.
Where to try next? There wasn't any point in visiting any of the other new-book stores in the area. Everyone uses the same Books in Print.
No, not a new book. And not a used one. That didn't seem to leave much. And then, with almost staggering naivete, the thought of those books that they run at the beginning of Masterpiece Theater came to mind. Those looked nice. Maybe something like that. But where did one find books like those?
The Yellow Pages, of course. And there it was, right after "Book Dealers—Retail," a heretofore undiscovered category: "Book Dealers—Used & Rare." Keep it simple. Perhaps one of the listings that seemed to be just a person's name. Here was one in Alford.
On the third ring, a man picked up.
"Hello?" he said.
"Hi. My name is Nancy Goldstone. I wonder if you could help me. I'm looking for a nice hardcover edition of War and Peace."
"What kind of edition?" the man asked.
"What do you mean, what kind of edition?"
"Well, do you want it in Russian?"
Russian? "No. Of course not. It's for a birthday present."
"Well, then, do you want the first American edition? The first English edition? The first French edition?"
"No. I just want a nice hardcover in English with some pictures and large type."
"You want a used book," the man said coldly. He said the word "used" as though it had an odor attached to it.
"Don't you sell used books?"
"No. I am an antiquarian-book dealer."
"Aren't they the same thing?"
"But I tried a used-book store and they didn't have it."
"Try the Strand," the man said, and hung up.
The Strand, on Fourth Avenue and Eleventh Street in New York City, is perhaps the largest and most well-known used-book store in the country. It has as much floor space as an aircraft hangar and, as its advertising states, "over one million books."
From Lenox to lower Manhattan is a long-distance phone call, but it seemed worth the expense. Someone at the Strand answered the phone on the third ring, listened politely to the query, said, "Could you please hold for a moment?" and then never came back.
That left Clarence.
Clarence was Clarence Wolf, who lived with his wife, Ruth, in a two-bedroom high-rise apartment just off Lake Shore Drive in Chicago, featuring huge picture windows that provided a spectacular view of Lincoln Park, downtown Chicago, and Lake Michigan. The apartment was filled with beautiful antiques, lovely paintings, and, most significantly, books. Hundreds of books. Clarence had been collecting books for over sixty years.
Clarence was ninety-three.
Age, however, had not slowed him a whit. He was intelligent, articulate, and erudite. He read Intellectual magazine. Clarence loved to talk about books. Clarence loved to talk about Churchill. He loved to talk about marriage and the railroads. However, in a family that thought nothing of engaging in minutely detailed discussions of their golf game, hole by hole, stroke by stroke, no one really listened.
"Hello, Nancy," he said when Ruth called him to the telephone. "This is Clarence Wolf. How's my granddaughter?"
The quest was explained.
"War and Peace? Wonderful, Nancy. Wonderful. Couldn't be better," he said. "You know, War and Peace is on Professor Robert Maynard Hutchins list of the ten greatest books of all time. I have the article in the Chicago Tribune right here. 'Professor Hutchins List of the Ten Greatest Books of All Time to Serve as Cornerstone for American Role in World Government.' He lists Plato, Aristotle, Homer, St. Augustine, St. Thomas Aquinas, Dante, Tolstoy—that's the one you're interested in, War and Peace—Pascal, Shakespeare, and Thucydides. I don't know what the date is on this—it doesn't say—but it was when we were interested in world government. Must be at least twenty-five years ago. But it's a very good list. I don't want to bore you, but I was just reading Churchill this morning, you know, some people think it is all right to go out and play golf every morning, and I don't want to criticize, I don't have any argument with golf, but to me, there's nothing finer than getting dressed in a nice suit in the morning, you know, Dr. Samuel Johnson said that clothes make the man, and I'm not sure but I think he's right, that's why I wear a suit every morning, and I know I've said this a thousand times, but some people think it's all right to wear shorts or not to shower before sitting down to breakfast and I'm not saying they're wrong, but, I know you'll appreciate this, Nancy, there's nothing more wonderful than getting up in the morning and getting clean and putting on a dress shirt a silk tie, a well-made suit and then sitting down to a nice breakfast, not too much, just some coffee and orange juice and buttered toast, perhaps an egg, and then, afterward, sitting down with Winston Churchill, and as you know, I make notes on what I want to read every morning, and I hope I'm not boring you with this, Nancy, but when I make the notes it makes me feel like I'm having a conversation with Churchill. Now let me see, you wanted to know where to obtain a copy of War and Peace ..."
"Yes. Do you know where I might find one? I was hoping to get a nice copy."
"A nice copy," he repeated, turning it over in his head. "Well, you could try Maggs Brothers. They're very fine book dealers in London. Very fine. They carry only the very best works. I bought one of my first books from Maggs. That was in ... I remember how wonderful it was to get their first catalogue. I've been getting their catalogue for a number of years now. I bought my Alice in Wonderland from them. Beautiful book. Not a first, but an early edition, very finely bound. If you write to Maggs, tell them that Clarence Wolf recommended you and I'm sure they'll send you a catalogue."
It was lovely of him to take the time but London seemed a little far.
"Well, all right. Thank you, Clarence. Let me look into that. I'll talk to you again soon."
Within forty-five seconds, the phone rang.
"Hello, Nancy, it's Clarence Wolf."
"Why, hello, Clarence. Is something—"
"I thought of something else. If Maggs doesn't have it, you might try William Reese. I have one of their catalogues right here. I can mail it to you, if you'd like."
"Does it have War and Peace?"
"No, no, I don't think so, but it's a wonderful catalogue. You know, you're going to find that this is a marvelous adventure you've started on. You'll forgive my going on like this, but the accumulation of a library is a wonderful occupation. I've devoted much of my life to this pleasure of mine. I read an hour or so every day. There is no substitute for great books. My books are like having some of the greatest minds in history in my home with me. I can pick up Shakespeare or Churchill or Dickens anytime I want."
"Well, thank you, Clarence, I'll look into it."
"Shall I send you the William Reese catalogue?"
"Sure. Thank you."
A minute later the phone rang again.
"Hello, Nancy. This is Clarence Wolf."
"I thought of something else. If you're going to do this, you should do a little reading. If I were you, I'd pick up The Amenities of Book-Collecting by A. Edward Newton."
"Thank you, Clarence. I will."
"I hope I didn't talk too much. And don't hesitate to call me if you need any more advice." He paused. "I'm also interested in fine wines, you know."
The Amenities of Book-Collecting turned out to be a small, decrepit volume sitting at the very back of the nonfiction stacks in the Lenox library. Only seven other people had ever checked it out. The most recent was twenty years ago. The first was in 1940.
First published in 1918, The Amenities of Book-Collecting was a wildly popular work that had at least eight to ten printings over fifteen years. Book collecting was all the rage back then and Newton rode the crest. While full of interesting information, Amenities seemed to lack current relevance. It spoke of Shelley, Keats, Lamb, and Oscar Wilde as "modern" authors. The prices of books were reported with great care—but they were the prices of 1918. Newton wrote loving and detailed descriptions of bookshops and booksellers who had been dead for fifty years.
Not just the subject matter was dated. The following is typical of Newton's prose:
If you would know the delight of book collecting, begin with something else, I care not what. Book collecting has all the advantages of other hobbies without their drawbacks. The pleasure of acquisition is common to all—that's where the sport lies; but the strain of the possession of books is almost nothing: a tight, dry closet will serve to house them, if need be.
It is not so with flowers. They are a constant care. Someone once wrote a poem about "old books and fresh flowers." It lilted along very nicely; but I remark that books stay old, indeed get older, and flowers do not stay fresh: a little too much rain, a little too much sun, and it is over.
There was no mention whatever of War and Peace.
A few days later, a parcel arrived in the mail from Clarence and Ruth. It contained two book catalogues and a scrawled letter from Clarence containing a list of other books that he thought would be useful to someone who intended to become a book collector. The biography of somebody called Rosenbach headed the list.
One of the catalogues was from William Reese and the other was from Maggs Brothers, the two book dealers he had mentioned on the telephone. The Maggs Brothers catalogue was larger. It had a glossy cover and was filled with illustrations. It was dated 1993 and numbered 1157.
Excerpted from Used and Rare by Lawrence Goldstone, Nancy Goldstone. Copyright © 1997 Lawrence and Nancy Goldstone. Excerpted by permission of St. Martin's Press.
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