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Posted By DMB

We are at the point of clearing out the last of the relinquished space and I feel the need to add to what I said in the recently posted “Lament”. My “lament”, which elicited numerous replies of sympathy from old clients and even some sales and visits, was perhaps misunderstood by some.

It was not really a whine that I was not selling enough books and making enough money, it was really a lament for something much different. And, in fact, today’s events have proven it. I have just sold a very large lot of books and feel even worse than I did before the lament was issued. What bothered me was that no one seemed to care that what I was offering at 90% off were very good books not used books or university sales detritus. A couple of the young dealers did come but there are so few now who have stores that I really expected little from the trade.

What finally occurs during all sales is the dealer looks at his books and begins to question both his own taste, even his experience. Has the world changed so much that nobody wants books that aren’t rare and expensive? I found myself disillusioned and deeply depressed that no one is even interested.

But then I had a call from my old friend Mordy Bubis of Benjamin Books in Ottawa. He wanted to see the books. He came in and we made a deal. Mordy took away 500 books. But it became bizarre. First, I was delighted and had my spirits restored to see Mordy at work. A real bookseller, my sort of bookseller. While he went through the stock quickly and efficiently I spent the whole period whining that he was robbing me but I was in fact pleased to see that every book he took was a good one. He gave me back my equilibrium. And if I was robbed, I can at least say that I was robbed by a real bookseller. With every book he chose I found myself thinking, “I knew that was an important book and he does too. He’s robbing me, but at least he knows what he’s doing. He vindicates me as he pillages my stock.

They stopped being unsalable dross that I might have to consider donating to those dreaded university sales who have done so much in their unthinking, indifferent greed – subsidized robbery in fact – to decimate the Toronto booktrade – once again becoming good desirable books going to someone who knew how good they are, and who therefore deserves to get every penny of profit he will take from them. There are at least two booksellers who still know a good book when they see one.

So, I find myself with the silly contradiction of bemoaning the loss of wonderful books while at the same time I am pleased that another knowledgeable dealer vindicated me by taking them. So, at the end I was both depressed and vindicated, a rather weird emotional state. The sale then went to $5 a book or less. But after Mordy it was back to the odd stranger ignoring most and quite unaware of what they were looking at. My depression returned and I stopped it all. End of sale.

I called two young dealers, both of whom had scouted the sale throughout and acted like young dealers should act, and told them to come in and help themselves to whatever they wanted for free. And now I’m giving the balance, again for free, to another deserving bookseller. During this period, I looked myself and pulled a few bags of books I couldn’t bring myself to give away, with some interesting results. I kept track. I found and retained: $200.00 books – 13; 150.00 books – 27; $75 to $150 books – some 325. I ignored all the rest, priced from $35 to $65.

I am now writing an essay on the death of bookscouting in the trade. Ignorance of what they are looking at is acceptable in the public perhaps, but amongst booksellers? Once again, I find myself happy I’m the age I am so I won’t need to see much more of this sad spectacle of indifference and ignorance.





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