Saturday, July 09, 2005

Book Hangover

My Bookman and I attended the 15th Annual Twin Cities Book Fair last night. It is held in one of the buidings at the State Fair Grounds in St. Paul. They say the building is air conditioned, but I beg to differ on that. It was hot and sweaty in there. The vendors who had fans blowing in their booths got longer browsing than the ones without. I've seen the place more crowded but there were a good many people. The fair is competing with the Computer Expo, the Golf Expo and the Basilica Block Party. So it was only the truly book nerdy who were in attendance. And what an interesting bunch we are too. You can tell by our social manners, or lack thereof, and our out of style dress that many of us don't get out much. I am surprised every year by the lack of women at the fair. There are only a handful of women vendors and most of them deal in children's books and ephemera. And the number of women browsers is also disconcerting. Do women not like to browse for used and antiquarian books? It is very strange. I have a bit of book browser's neck from tilting it to the side to read titles. I also didn't think to take any allergy medicine before going and within ten minutes of being there my eyes were dry and scratchy and my nose a little runny so I am suffering the after affects of that as well. Nonetheless we had a great time. Virginia Woolf first editions have begun showing up again, but their prices have increased significantly. Before Michael Cunningham's The Hours Woolf-iana was everywhere at the fair and usually for around $100. Of course back then that was beyond my budget. Woolf disappeared for a while and this year there was quite a lot. But of course the really good stuff is now double what it was and is once again out of my price range. I did walk out with a complete six volume set in hard cover of Woolf's letters. They are not firsts but they are in good condition and I have only two paperback volumes at home so it was a find. The fair has an over abundance of modern firsts. If you have managed to buy Stephen King in hard cover as they were published you are sitting on a gold mine. Signed firsts by popular mystery writers are also going for a premium. I drooled over a signed Robert Frost book. Considered a first edition book by Helen Keller. And almost bought up a bunch of Trollope paperbacks for $2.50 each. But not having read Trollope and only having the desire to do so I thought it best to hold off until I read something from the library and confirm whether of not I like him. I saw quite a lot of Evelyn Waugh and P.G. Wodehouse all for over $100. And when I pulled a worn and dingy travel book by Edith Wharton off a shelf to take a peak I choked when I saw the asking price of $250. Some day if I win the lottery I will be a great collector of old books. But until then I will happily browse and consider it good fortune to leave with not quite firsts or not quite the best but books that are finds for me and that I will enjoy reading and spending time with.