Whut Glamour: Used Books!

Luxurious: The Collected Letters of John Steinbeck

Dear Diary,

I epiphanied last night that I have a fetish for first editions used books, ordered from Powell’s in Portland. This obsession began lightly a few years ago and was cemented last year when I received a first edition of my favorite novel of all time, Gore Vidal’s The City and the Pillar. What’s so important about the first edition of City is that Vidal rewrote the 1948 novel in the 60s and completely changed the ending. In my opinion the original version is much more authentic and a lot less clever and calculated than the rewritten version. Two days ago I received a gorgeous used copy of Steinbeck, which is a collection of John Steinbeck’s letters, beginning when he was a penniless hobo and ending with his multiple marriages, Nobel Prize, and coastal flip-flopping. One of the most exciting aspects of buying used books is when you find, within their well-worn pages, lovely historical artifacts. Steinbeck came with a mimeographed copy of Steinbeck’s Nobel acceptance speech (Sidenote: remember mimeographs? We used to have them in kindergarten and then they vanished forever, leaving me hungry for purple copied handouts). Almost every used book I have ever purchased has had some sort of memento in it. A receipt from a now-closed 1960s New York drug store, a personal note consoling someone about a death, a grocery list, etcetera. Each of these little pieces always alerts my imagination. Another wonderful thing about reading first editions is the books themselves become historical objects. You are holding the same exact book that was read at the time the book was published. Which is meaningful because no matter what the time period of a book, it undoubtedly reveals something about the time period in which it was written. What does this have to do with hobos, you ask? Well, another great thing about used books is that they are normally cheaper and more accessible to hobos like me. Except for that City first edition, which was like $80 because it’s such a rare find, and such an important book (it is widely recognized as the first dynamic and complex homosexual novel). The moral of the story is that you should be buying used books. Their tattered pages and hidden historical artifacts tell a better story than a glimmering new book.


2 thoughts on “Whut Glamour: Used Books!

  1. I’m enjoying your work here so much. So refreshing, so cheering, so encouraging. I don’t know of a better writer working in the United States today. Maybe I need to get out of the house more, but as things stand I don’t know of a better writer working in the United States today. Thanks!

  2. By the way, when you want to get a good edition, go here. There’s always one bookseller, sooner or later, who has no idea of what the thing’s worth. You can find one for, oh, 10 percent of reasonable, usually. You can even enter a “want” with price limits, and when one comes up you’ll get an e-mail. Try it!


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