Monday, December 12, 2011
Books And The Stores That Sold Them
I did not come from a well read family. Indeed the only books in our house were the Bibles, Bible study books, and library books I brought home from school. I never owned a book (except the Bible and cover-less paper-packs from the drugstore) until I was a Freshman in College at Oklahoma Baptist University. I don't mean the textbooks, I mean a book I bought in a book store just to read. My first book was A Precociousness Autobiography by Yevgeny Yevtushenko. Following in that vein I bought a book of Frost's Poems and another by Emily Dickinson.
It wasn't until I was 21 and was in the Army and stationed in Washington D.C. for a year's training that I discovered real bookstores. I mean BOOK stores. Book stores that had all the new books. Book stores that had remainder books real cheap. Best all, bookstores that had old books, and better than that old cheap books. I was most certainly in an unknown corner of Heaven (about the same time I discovered neighborhood bars and ethnic foods).
Lower D.C. between G & K streets and 9th and 15th streets, had all sorts of used books stores at all prices. Georgetown had four of five used/antiquarian book stores which were my favorite. Then there was Lowdermilk's.
The year of my revelations was 1966-67. I made $115 a month as a PFC stationed at Fort Myers, Virginia. Each month I set aside $10 to go into town and buy one good meal from the variety of ethnic and national restaurants available. I set aside another $10 to buy books and pay for them to be mailed home to Oklahoma via "Book Rate" postage.
My first acquisition I still have. It was a first edition of "Poems" by Alan Seeger published by C. Scribners and Sons in 1916. For this I paid $1.25 from a book store Georgetown. As an additional bonus it contained a 2" X 3" book market used by the previous owner that was a funeral announcement in English noting So & So had died in Paris, France and when and where his funeral would be. It was dated 1838.
During the year I purchase several Hemingway first editions, the first edition of Dr. Zhivago in Russian published by the University of Michigan Press, and the collected works of Leonard Cohen (new). Also I bought a complete set of the Harvard Classics (1923 edition I think) and "My Seven Years In Tibet", first edition. In ten months, $100 worth of books and book rate postage. My parent to whom the books were being sent for safe keeping thought I had gone mad. Which I guess was true.
It started a life time of books. An affliction, I gladly note, from which I have never recovered.