Posted By DMB

Best advice from a doctor I’ve had in all 0f these three-five years of health problems came from Dr. Uno.

Thinking of going with Dr. Dos as he left his final post-graduate training and begins on his own – switching Rheumatologists – I thought I should first discuss it with Dr. Uno, my lung doctor. I seldom saw Dr. Tres, the head of Rheumatology, I would meet with Dr. Dos and see Dr. Tres at the end for five minutes. I liked Dr. Dos a lot, we connected well personally, shared a similar sense of humour and further, I sort of liked the idea of being his first patient. But he was going to a different independent hospital and we had learned something of the consulting connections between doctors in connected fields in all our hospitals which now includes Dr. Quatro, who is treating one of my ears. He also consults with the other ones I see. I thought it prudent to ask Dr. Uno for advice.

Dr. Uno said, “Choose what makes you most comfortable.” But here’s what to know about doctors, “In a doctor you should look for ten years’ experience. And you shouldn’t want one who has fifty years’ experience.” I laughed. “Why are you laughing?” he asked.

“Because precisely the same would be true of antiquarian bookselling, Doctor. Before they have ten years’ experience no matter how good a bookseller may become they are still just essentially used booksellers. But I’m laughing because I’ve just finished fifty years as a bookseller and the parallel with me I’d say is precisely the same as well. I don’t care about most of it anymore. The only enthusiasm which has never lessened and never will, is that I still love to buy books. I still do it with the same curiosity, passion, and anticipation that I did on day one.

“But most of the rest I leave to my wife.” I’ve lost the ambition I had as a young man and what’s left is taking me in different directions. These new areas, mostly coming from my incessant reading (the only other passion that has shown no lessening of intensity since I was five years old). And my recent passions for scribbling, and lecturing young booksellers (and rightly so, in spite of my awareness that they largely see me as an old pompous bore. I believe this is my moral obligation).

That moral obligation I feel to pass it on begins with giving out books with the candy to kids on Halloween. It occurs to me here that this would be a major difference between me and the late Peter Howard of Serendipity Books, a bookseller who I much admired, but found excessively humourless. Peter would have approved and might have given out books to the kids too, but he might have forgotten to give them candy too. I wish he was here, so I could accuse him of that. I once found out that his specialties in university were English literature and Biblical studies. It’s not surprising that the nickname bestowed on him by the ever-prescient Franklin Gilliam of Brick Row was “The Ayatollah”. Ever after that I felt I understood him. Told him that once too. He didn’t answer, just got that weird look he had, where you could tell he was thinking that he might hate what you were saying but he was giving your accusation the courtesy of thinking about it. Few do that, to his credit. But still when I find myself thinking of Peter after his death, I keep trying to remember him ever exhibiting a sense of humour. And I can’t.

Sorry I digress. Back to the doctor: Along with my bookselling ambitions, my arrogance has also diminished – except for when one encounters that percentage of humanity generally classified as assholes, a group that never diminishes and where the old finetuned arrogance is not only needed, but is permissible to enjoy. I get to do that once or so a week now. That can be very pleasurable, especially when you’ve spent fifty years dealing with assholes, which hones my natural talent. But mostly it no longer bothers me, most of those assholes are petty and irrelevant (except to themselves – and I guess to their underlings who they get away with bullying).

But, I still enjoy talking with the nice ones, the enthusiasts – no matter how ignorant –  and the curious. And especially the young ones – those I still spend a lot of time with and they more than make up for the rude boorish assholes who all small business people have to deal with.

And I still love what has always been one of my greatest pleasures: to sit in my shop, preferably alone, and just look around, to look at my books. What I have created by my vision out of my passion these fifty years, what has been the core of it all (excepting always, what’s inside those books). When I do this, everything becomes clear. I am, and was born to be a bookseller. Like all real booksellers I have done it as I should have, my way – what suited me, what pleased me.  I never wanted to be one of the kind who aimed to sell the million-dollar books, I just wanted to be a real bookseller, selling the valuable five-dollar books too. That’s why it’s so painful now that I can no longer afford to give space to them.

It is changing now in front of my eyes and I am attempting to come to terms with that, I think reasonably successfully; or at least a bit better every day. Debra has mostly taken over and she is in the process of molding it into conformity with the kind of bookstore she envisions and will soon have. And necessarily so. Even after thirty years working and being taught by me she is a different kind of bookseller than I am. As she should be.

I’m trying to adjust my mindset to a new reality, which is my knowledge that most of the most admirable bookselling firms I’ve known in my time simply evaporated when the founders died. Even the few exceptions (rare) where spouses who’d worked alongside or children took over, or valued employees inherited. These places survived but inevitably changed with new owners. Just as mine is doing now.

So, even as I see my imprint fade, beginning to merge with what will be a very different David Mason Books, I still have the pleasure of knowing what I started will continue. And that is no small pleasure. And I sit amongst my books absorbing the memories they bring back. I’ve been saying goodbye to many colleagues, clients, and old friends also in the last few years as well. The sadness is not bitter, but sweet. Just as my business is changing in front of my eyes so is the world and while there is much of the new I despise that’s how the world works, as it should.

 
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