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Old 07-20-2017   #31
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Re: Book Hoarding

If I were to even run my own business, I would be a used book dealer. I may be poor, but I would be content.

"The world is indeed comic, but the joke is on mankind." - H. P. Lovecraft
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Old 07-20-2017   #32
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Re: Book Hoarding

Quote Originally Posted by Robert Adam Gilmour View Post
I'd guess these people just really needed a job and like most people, they'll take what they can get and aren't passionate about the jobs they're able to find. Bonus: it doesn't seem like a stressful environment.
Yes, this is true, though stress is a subjective thing of course.

Without getting too much in to the nuts and bolts of the company, there are other non-book related positions available because we do not deal exclusively in used books, though the majority of the floor space is dedicated to them. What bothers me is that I have seen my bosses not call applicants with real book knowledge for interviews in favor of people who are more into geek culture (superhero comics, sci-fi movies and television, etc.). These people inevitably end up over their heads when buying books because very few of them have any knowledge of "literary" fiction. Many can not even recognize the classics that are so often taught in high school. The onus falls on me to provide them with a basic education, when my time could be much better spent. This task is often futile, because they do not have any real passion for books beyond Forgotten Realms and Chuck Palanhiuk novels. This lack of passion that you mention seems a key thing--and it's funny as it struck me only recently. It seems quite likely that this very lack of passion results in their inability to meet the standards that a used book store could reasonably expect.

But, to get back to the original intent of the thread, knowing that they are not buying these more obscure titles simply because they do not recognize them makes it a heck of a lot harder for me to "hoard" books. Work is nonsense, by and large, and though I realize I could have it much worse, one of the main things that keeps me there is the fact that I might score some rare gems while on the job.
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Old 07-21-2017   #33
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Re: Book Hoarding

"The truly cultured are capable of owning thousands of unread books without losing their composure or their desire for more."

-- Gabriel Zaid, So Many Books: Reading and Publishing in an Age of Abundance
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Old 07-21-2017   #34
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Re: Book Hoarding

Another thing this brings to mind is how I've occasionally gone through phases where I've felt the need to cull my bookshelves down a bit. When I was a young, omnivorous reader, I often kept all the old paperbacks once I completed them. But over time I noticed my collection was growing somewhat bloated, and didn't really reflect who I was or what I was interested in. For example, I had lots of books like "Robinson Crusoe", "Gulliver's Travels", Sartre's "Nausea", Thucydides' "Peloponnesian War", D.H. Lawrence's "Women in Love" Aristotle's Collected Works, The Canterbury Tales, etc. Well, I have no deep or meaningful connection to any of these works. Of course, Thucydides was OK, and so were Swift, Defoe, Chaucer and Aristotle , but none of these authors touched me on anything more than a superficial level. And there are some authors like Sartre whom I positively loathe. In the same vein, I found "Women In Love" to be a singularly repulsive display of all that I dislike in human beings. (Though I did like "The Rainbow" and "Sons and Lovers") So, in short, I began to ask myself what is the point of keeping such books around?

Needless to say, if I had a nice, old edition of Swift or Chaucer, that would probably be enough to convince me to hang on to such indifferent company. After all, you have to draw the line somewhere. Indeed, if you get rid of Swift, how do you justify keeping "Vanity Fair" or "Middlemarch"? (Both of which I place in the "good but boring" category) To have a respectable library you do need some breadth as well as some reference material. Admittedly, there is a degree of arbitrariness in all of this. In any case, I certainly regret selling back those nice volumes of Aristotle's Collected Works (I'm a mystic Platonist) for 20 dollars. I doubt that I would have ever opened them again, but, still, they looked nice! That said, it's not the same level of temporary madness such as when I sold back my hundred-year-old, multivolume set of Mann's "Joseph and His Brothers". What was I thinking there? I have no idea, but fortunately it was an isolated incident!

At any rate, I feel uneasy if I'm surrounded by too many indifferent books and authors (Swift, Defoe, Tennyson, etc.). Kind of like being at a cocktail party where I don't know anyone. Or authors towards whom I feel outright dislike and antipathy (Lawrence and Sartre). So I would often ask myself, "Why is this stuff not in the used book bin?" Which led to other complicated questions and interrogations like, "Do I really need all the works of Camus? He's pretty cool, but he's not exactly dear to my heart like Hesse, Mann or Machen. And what about Tolstoy? Is life really long enough to read Anna Karenina twice? I doubt it. Which means it's probably too short to read Boswell or Tristram Shandy again either. But Johnson was an amusing fellow, so you never know.....And while I don't quite get Sterne, many of my favorite authors love him, so maybe he can get a pass too? In a similar vein, I have a book by Orlando Figes called "Natasha's Dance", which was good if slightly dull. It should probably have been returned, but it does have a beautiful cover. When I tried taking it off my shelves and back to the used bookstore, it was like turning off the lights on a Christmas tree. Amazing how one book could make that much difference to the color coordination of my bookshelves! So Orlando got a stay of execution as well, which he probably didn't deserve--aesthetics trumping literary considerations in this instance.

Hermann Hesse has an amusing little essay in his book, "My Belief", called "Books On Trial", where he asks the same kinds of questions. At this point in his life, Hesse was forced to move to smaller dwellings and was thus forced to part with a portion of his library. So he describes walking along his bookshelves before he moved, and asking himself "What should I keep and what should I let go?" Ultimately, writers like Nietzsche, Goethe, Kierkegaard, and Mann made his cut, while others like Zola and the modern poets were substantially plucked. Hesse also kept his many collections of German folktales, Icelandic Sagas, and old medieval books about saints and so forth. If nothing else, when I recently reread this essay, it made me realize how much Hesse has helped to form my own literary taste.

For my own part, I maintain that a book hoarder would never have given away bags full of philosophy books, tiresome modern novels, or that deluxe, seven volume set of Madame Blavatsky. (She's a bit of a kook, of course, but I still kind of regret just giving that away! It was a handsome set and the books did have some interesting content.) But as Hesse points out in his essay, there is something to this. Once you rid yourself of some of the dross, the treasures shine out that much brighter. Which means that in my own library there's no longer the sickly, neurotic shadow of Sartre's "Nausea", or Bertrand Russell's tedious aridities casting grayness on my Arthur Machen collection; and Keats, Baudelaire, and Swinburne look that much more delighted for not being forced to share space on my shelves with Walt Whitman or Maya Angelou!

But, yes, how lugubrious to think that in 30 or 40 years, some crass, illiterate little person in charge of my estate, is going to brutally round up my books and dump them off at a used bookstore--to be sold at a cutthroat rate!

Last edited by Pan Michael; 07-21-2017 at 08:28 AM..
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Old 07-21-2017   #35
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Re: Book Hoarding

Quote Originally Posted by Pan Michael View Post
To have a respectable library you do need some breadth as well as some reference material.
Does this really matter?

Couldn't you and Kevin write a will that specifies where the books will go after you're gone? Not sure how these things work.

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Old 07-21-2017   #36
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Re: Book Hoarding

Robert,

Not from the standpoint of others, of course. I'm a hermit, so no one is ever really in my house except me. And on the rare occasion that someone does drop by, it always amuses me how utterly indifferent they are to my beloved books! They just look right past them, or maybe ask why I don't take some of them to Goodwill? So whether I have a "worthwhile" collection or not is not something that I actually care about. I just meant that in a playful and slightly humorous way.

As for the posthumous destiny of my books, you have a point. Perhaps when I develop a fatal disease I will just put a post on TLO and offer them to whomever wants them? I certainly don't know anyone in real life who would have the slightest use for them!

Oh, and my set of "Joseph and His Brothers" obviously couldn't have been 100 years old since it was written much more recently. But it was old, and quite nice to look at!

Last edited by Pan Michael; 07-21-2017 at 11:38 AM..
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Old 07-21-2017   #37
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Re: Book Hoarding

I think the "problem" is that the type self-cultivation attained from reading "high" literature is simply too costly for most people. If I spend my time reading Dickens or Shakespeare (outside of a school environment), that means I can't spend that same time working longer hours, finding a potential mate, socializing, etc. A lot of people talk about how much it's important to read, but no one does because it is very, very expensive in terms of time management.

Most of us here, including myself, suffer financially because we chose to follow an extremely difficult path, one that will not be rewarding in terms of material well-being and/or relationships. It's the price one pays for indulging in the higher things. Not that I really care now as an antinatalist, but I would have probably started a family with a decent house if I hadn't devoured countless philosophical texts when I was younger.

"In a less scientific age, he would have been a devil-worshipper, a partaker in the abominations of the Black Mass; or would have given himself to the study and practice of sorcery. His was a religious soul that had failed to find good in the scheme of things; and lacking it, was impelled to make of evil itself an object of secret reverence."

~ Clark Ashton Smith, "The Devotee of Evil"
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Old 07-21-2017   #38
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Re: Book Hoarding

Quote Originally Posted by Robert Adam Gilmour View Post
Quote Originally Posted by Pan Michael View Post
To have a respectable library you do need some breadth as well as some reference material.
Does this really matter?

Couldn't you and Kevin write a will that specifies where the books will go after you're gone? Not sure how these things work.
Good question, but nobody wants these things. This ties in with an overall rejection of most material culture among millennial types, at least here in the U.S. We have furniture that is hundreds of years old and has stood the test of time. No interest among the relatives. I have Cormac McCarthy, Thomas Ligotti, and a bunch of other first editions. No interest among the relatives. In short, almost no interest at all in anything like this, all of which I've spend most of my lifetime accruing.

For centuries people accumulated good stuff on the assumption that those after them would want it, and in large part that proved to be true. But no longer. Aside from an (ironic?) interest in mid-20th century furnishings, 20 and 30-somethings have mostly rejected the past.

Which is not necessarily bad or good, but certainly an interesting phenomena. But as far as our discussion goes, it leaves me bereft. Most people don't read. When folks come to my house, they look right though the books, no questions, no interest, just like at Pan Michael's.

Well, I never bought Ligotti limited editions with an eye to who would get them after my death, and I suppose a harsh critic would ask why I would care. But the fact is, these things are wonderful and worthwhile in and of themselves, and the thought of some 60-something (formerly a kid) relative still playing video games while "I Have a Special Plan for this World" rots in a dump is a particularly irksome version.

Maybe that kid will get tired of his Ikea furniture falling apart after 5 years, and develop an interest in better things. Maybe. The game isn't over yet, but my pessimistic nature feels that, as usual, the Philistines will have the last laugh.

Assuming TLO is around decades from now (it will be, of course!) like Pan Michael I'll just post their availability and hope that someone who loves them will get them as I pass into nothingness.

Put your faith in God; he won't expect you.
Put your faith in death, because it's free.
If you believe in nothing, honey, it believes in you.
-Robyn Hitchcock
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Old 07-21-2017   #39
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Re: Book Hoarding

Mr. Veech,

Perhaps. But in fairness, our own Founding Fathers were some of the best-read men in history. And not only did they acquire wealth, mates and social status, they also carried on a dangerous revolution, wrote the Constitution, etc. And most of them were expert gardeners as well. So....

But I think we were wise to take the path we did. Outside there is nothing but a grotesque, inhuman, and rapidly collapsing civilization. The spiritual cesspool of America is the literal epicenter of the Kali Yuga, not merely the metaphorical one. So I fear all we can do in the face of this grim prospect, is to somehow find a small refuge from the madness, and try to live our lives in the higher realms, such as books, art, music, etc. open to us. (And, maybe treat yourself to a weekly dose of 5 dried grams of psilocybin mushrooms. This will keep off the despair of living in sordid times, and will take you to a place of enchantment and wonder.)

Last edited by Pan Michael; 07-21-2017 at 01:55 PM..
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Old 07-21-2017   #40
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Re: Book Hoarding

Quote Originally Posted by Pan Michael View Post
Mr. Veech,

Perhaps. But in fairness, our own Founding Fathers were some of the best-read men in history. And not only did they acquire wealth, mates and social status, they also carried on a dangerous revolution, wrote the Constitution, etc. And most of them were expert gardeners as well. So....
True, but they "benefited" from a slave-based economy. They didn't work in the traditional sense of the term. I respect our Founding Fathers in many ways, but they were essentially aristocrats.

"In a less scientific age, he would have been a devil-worshipper, a partaker in the abominations of the Black Mass; or would have given himself to the study and practice of sorcery. His was a religious soul that had failed to find good in the scheme of things; and lacking it, was impelled to make of evil itself an object of secret reverence."

~ Clark Ashton Smith, "The Devotee of Evil"
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