Parting With My Books

storefrontalias

Chaos theory, according to Investopedia, attempts to see and understand the underlying order of complex systems that may appear to be without order at first glance.

Which sounds a lot like my bookshelves.

This past week, in anticipation of our move and possible relocation (I won’t explicitly say from where-to-where in this  post, because affirming it might jinx the outcome), I’ve been sorting through my collection of books. The goal was to scale down the amount of boxes I’d have to pack.

Maybe such an action seems premature, but I happen to believe that purging is good. Purging and paring down will help to disencumber and ready me for a sudden move to this undisclosed location should some miracle occur, like a job offer.

Letting go of your books is a tricky business. I must have gone through each of my bookshelves four or five times. I’d place a book on the “keep-it” pile, one day, and, then, in a fit of self-recrimination, switch it the next to “donate-it to the library” or “toss-it” — these being the piles of last resort. One book that gave me plenty of angst was Brideshead Revisited (I kept it).

For this move, and for the very first time, I also established a “sell-it” pile.

In 1996, when I moved to C.A. from N.Y., in a misguided act of charity, I’d donated bags of books — too many, in retrospect — to the local library. After I had moved, one day, I found myself looking to reread A Moveable Feast and realized, crestfallen, that I had given it away. A pocket-sized paperback, which took up no room at all. Given it away.

Keeping that in mind, this time, I bagged books by genre — beginning with books on the occult. Several unsentimental passes over the shelves yielded three bags of astrology, numerology, I Ching, graphology, tarot books and several decks of tarot cards.

My first stop was The Psychic Eye bookstore in Sherman Oaks.

so_storeThere’s an annex next to the main store where a bonafide witch (who is also a musician — I know this from our previous conversations) presides over the cash register. After she phoned the warlock for confirmation, I walked away from that transaction with $54.00 — thanks to the “rare” decks of tarot cards I’d included in the bag.

The next stop was Brand Bookstore in Glendale. I called the proprietor before my visit. Mentioning that his taste was eclectic and that he only looked at books from M-F, he also said, with particular emphasis, that he always broke for lunch. That made me laugh.

Which seemed to amuse him. “So what time do you eat lunch today?” I asked.

“H-m-m-m. Let’s see…this is Wednesday,” he said, pausing for a moment of contemplation. “Tooodayyyy, I’ll eat lunch from…one…to…two.”

brandbooksBrand Bookstore is an orderly shop with special sections dedicated to Paul Theroux, Peter Matthiessen and Paul Auster. My kind of place.

I emptied three bags-worth of books on the counter (the protocol for book-selling is that the seller always empties the bag). In the end, he told me, “At first glance, I didn’t think I was going to buy any. But when I started going through them, I actually wanted this stack over here!”

Seller beware: you are placing yourself at the mercy of book snobs, deservedly or not. Make sure to leave your ego at home.

At Brand, one bag’s worth scored me a premium price of $40.00.

The last stop at Alias Books in West Hollywood was the most humbling, for several reasons.

aliasbooks-guy

First, the high points. Notice the stuffed Bart Simpson sitting on the top shelf.

Also, in the entryway, there’s a portrait of the Mona Lisa hanging above a rack of discount books:

mona

The man behind the desk asked me right away if I had “ever been to the shop before.” Telling him, no, I also added that I was new at selling books. “I have to empty them on the counter, right?”

I browsed around while he perused my offerings. After ascertaining that Alias Books was, in fact, a decidedly eclectic store, I was overtaken by a wave of chagrin when I remembered that I had included Prevention Magazine’s “The Fat Belly Diet Book” in the pile I’d left for him on the desk. Pretty funny — when I think about it now.

Anyway, I made my way back to his desk and greeted him anew. In his hand, he held the best of the lot — the two Paul Auster novels Brand didn’t want, and two others of comparable literary merit.

“My boss is really strict about buying right now, you know, with the economy and all,” he said, a bit woefully. I realized, suddenly, that he was treating me like one of L.A.’s most needy cases. “I can give you four dollars, if you want.”

I shrugged and said, “why not.” I just wanted the books off my hands, at that point. I knew I didn’t have the conscience to toss them out. I also wanted to avoid another donation trip to the library, which required a climb up a steep grassy hill with an armful of books. “I only have quarters,” he said. “Do you  mind?”

Pocketing the change, I took out my camera and announced that I was going to take a picture. “Something to remember you by,” was how I put it.

He looked uncomfortable, but didn’t object. Now, I guess you could say we were even.

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One Response to “Parting With My Books”

  1. Maraya Says:

    Sue, you do such a great job of making an adventure out of stuff like shopping and selling. Reminds me of Patricia Marx. Cute ending.

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