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Posted By DMB

My old friend and long-time client Russ Musgrove, who I don’t see much of since he retired from the TTC (yes, those delays in bus service you suffer are probably because he isn’t there anymore), comments that he will be reading Klein’s Travels with Epicurus. He won’t be sorry. I’ve now given away 20+ copies and read it twice myself. I’ve even given copies to some of the doctors who are trying to keep me alive–at least until I can catch up on my backlog of unread books. Those doctors who are too young to need Epicurean wisdom yet, are advised to look on it like they look on preventive medicine.

Russ Musgrove built the greatest Mordecai Richler collection I’ve yet seen, which I brokered the sale of so he could pay for his daughter’s university education. Even though I sold the collections and earned a commission I was upset because I wanted to buy the Richler collection for myself but couldn’t afford it. I often think that Russ might have given his daughter a better education by giving her Richler’s works rather than sending her to university.

It’s curious that of my recent Books of the Month two others have been related to medicine, Siddhartha Mukherjee’s Laws of Medicine and Oliver Sacks’s magnificent autobiography On the Move, which demonstrates conclusively that Sacks, for all his quirks and eccentricities, was a great physician. The Sacks’s book also contains an antiquarian bookseller, the inimitable Eric Korn, Sacks’s oldest friend and a bookseller who many of the visitors to earlier Toronto bookfairs (indeed, most major North American bookfairs) will have encountered. If Sacks was somewhat eccentric, Korn was seriously eccentric, but an extremely knowledgeable bookseller who we all consulted on anything related to Darwin.

Eric travelled to bookfairs with Jeff Towns proprietor of Dylan’s Bookstore in Swansea, Wales, which at one time had the greatest street address in the annals of the booktrade, Salubrious Passage. We other dealers wondered how Jeff managed to deal with Eric–most of the rest of us found Eric extremely stimulating, but in small doses–and often referred to Jeff as Eric’s “minder”. In the obits on Eric’s passing a couple of years ago their professional relationship was described wonderfully–something like what follows: “Jeff made sure Eric got to the cities and countries he was supposed to, and in return Jeff received a liberal education in the Arts and Sciences.” A wonderful description. Eric wrote a column in the TLS for years which was so popular they later made a book of some of the columns–a book which is now extremely difficult to find because no one who owns one, including me, will part with their copy. Eric’s first wife was a Canadian and his second wife a Russian. They would often be seen at bookfairs having marital spats–usually over grammar and syntax–in Russian, a language that Eric seemed to have learned at an advanced age.

All this self-indulgent silliness is because I have to fill the blog and since my health is pretty good right now I don’t need to waste any space writing about it and I don’t, contrary to all those reports we read, wait ages to see doctors. So, for my American friends I must add, you may think we’re commies but our health system is wonderful.  Especially when you yourself need it.




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