The Loneliest Book In The World.


I’m trying to find a way to sell more used books. While we are making more money than we made last year at the used book store that I co-manage to benefit our local library (Bryant Library in Roslyn, Long Island, New York), I want to “grow” the business because I’ve promised myself a case of New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc the first time we hit the outrageous monthly goal of $500.00. And I really like New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc and I like to drink it knowing that it’s for a good cause.

So I’ve started to make structures out of the books that no one wants. The castle (above) is my first attempt to make something enticing.

There’s an empty room at our library, a “Maker Space” for “teens”, that I’d like to fill with” teens” making Book Art. And I want these up-to-now-hypothetical “teens” to use our used book store as their art supply source.

BTW, when I was in that age bracket, I did not like being called a “teen”. I did not have a “teen” life, as was shown me by TV and LIFE magazine, and I hated every “teen” who did.

This was soooooo not me.

I am currently almost finished with my second structure, another castle made out of the classic illustrated YA novel, Half Magic.

It might surprise you that making Book Art is not nearly the dirty work that running a used book store is. Lately we have been receiving really filth donations — literally filthy. We get books that seem to have been stored in oily  garages for decades, we get books that have have been absorbing years and years of cigarette smoke, we get books that come from damp basements, we get books that have been pried out of dusty bookcases from the 1960s (we can tell because they are all Book of the Month Club sections, none more recent than 1972), we get books that have been colonized by spiders. Cobwebs are the worst.

This week we got a very nice donation from an SUV that had been caught in a sand storm. I unpacked the cartons in the hall way of our historic house, and had to wipe down every book cover to remove a fine layer of grit:

After wiping them down with a damp paper towel, every book had to dry off. And although this was a rather good donation, it also contained a book about how to manage your bowl disease. Really? You think a used book store would want that??

My favorite book of the week, however, is this one:

It was printed in 1962 and, I suppose, acquired that same year by Mill Lane Junior High School in Farmingdale, Long Island, New York. But as you can see, this book was never checked out, not once, in its lifetime:

For 56 years, this book has waited for someone to care. But alas, its Due Date was never stamped.

That’s an ugly cover, but the title is killer, if you ask me. Uses of Infinity: I can picture a great fantasy novel with that title, or a moving memoir of loss and recovery.

Hoping to find something the lived up to its first impressions, I peered into its pristine pages:

Without actually reading the book, which I don’t have the energy or the smarts to do, I have surmised that Infinity is something that you can graph, which means that Infinity is something that you can quantify, or present in an arcane visual language. Who knew?

Some of the sub-heading are as good as poetry:

Wait. This book was purchased for junior high school kids?? No wonder it was never checked out.

THIS BOOK MUST BE MINE.

At first, I wanted to bring it home so I could cut it up and make mysteriously inspiriting collages out of it, but more and more I have the feeling that this book is an artifact of the colossal curiosity of its author, Leo Zipkin, and all kindred souls who find beauty and meaning in higher mathematics. Now I don’t have the heart to destroy it.

One of our volunteer book sellers was working last Friday and she left a note that one of the library workers had come into the book store and taken 8 novels “on loan”. She said that she wanted to read the cover copy to a house-bound friend, get her selection, and return the books she didn’t want.

All our novels, hard cover and paperback, cost 50 cents. 50 CENTS.

I put my foot down and wrote down our store policy for all future cases of such entitlement and cheapskatedness. We do not  “loan” books. WE ARE NOT A LIBRARY.

People are amazing, are they not?

Then again, we’re talking about people, and there are still people who love Donald Trump, despite the clear Helsinki-adjacent evidence that he and the Republican party are determined to destroy our democracy through alignment with Russia.

I get stomach cramps just thinking about it. The times are desperate, Dear Readers, and it makes me crazy. So I bring you stories of paper castles and equations for infinity because we all need to think about something else, now and then, other than the pure venality of the right wing, or we will go insane.

I also have kitty cats:

And I forgot to tell you that when I was in Washington D.C., our nation’s capital, three weeks ago, I had the opportunity to check in with Mr. Fluffy, the horribly mangy, filthy, smelly, scraggly, skinny, sickly cat who I rescued from the streets in ’17, who now looks like this:

He’s gorgeous and he doesn’t know it. He’s a very sweet kitty. You can pick him up and smooch him, he doesn’t mind.

Have a great weekend, Dear Ones. Our country still has the chance to redeem itself.

And if you want to read up on the latest in the resistance led by two smart and smart-ass women of spirit and gumption and righteousness, click here:

JackieSue, Yellow Dog Granny

Juanita Jean, The World’s Most Dangerous Beauty Salon

XXOO, Y’all.

16 Comments, RSS

  1. Kirra July 20, 2018 @ 3:42 am

    Your paper book castle looks great! I hope you manage to make enough to buy your NZ sav blanc. I also love the never borrowed maths book about infinity, surely someone could have borrowed it to make themselves look smart? I much prefer this and your lovely cats to thinking about the terrible president/world events at the moment.

    However I was also entertained by the theory that the Queen was taking on Trump via her choice of brooches that she wore when she met him, it’s great even if it’s just by chance (one was a personal present from the Obama’s, one from Canada in a snowflake design and one that her mother wore to her father’s funeral – see the Guardian online for full article).

    • Vivian July 25, 2018 @ 8:55 am

      I did read that Guardian article and I hope that every word of it is true. I hope that one day, all the Trumps will understand how much the world hates them, and they will internalize their shunning, and live lifes of agonizing despair. They all deserve it. Except maybe Barron, but most likely he’ll grow up to be a huge pain in the ass, too.

  2. Monique July 20, 2018 @ 7:59 am

    Fab book art!!!

    • Vivian July 25, 2018 @ 8:53 am

      Merci, merci bien chère amie.

  3. Alex July 20, 2018 @ 9:24 am

    Wow–when I saw the first photo, I thought you were posting about some book art gallery exhibit–and then I saw it was yours! Amazing, and what a great idea for the “teens”–hope it works.

    I have a theory about the Uses of Infinity: it was a prank. You see, when I was a “teen” , I did after-school volunteer work in the school library, and I decided it would be fun to add books that they would never buy. I knew how to make the cards, the pockets, the book spine labels, and the catalog cards. So I added things like Harlan Ellison’s “Dangerous Visions” (sex! violence! four-letter words!), and Yoko Ono’s “Grapefruit” (just plain wackiness). To this day, I’ve no idea if the librarians ever discovered my stealth contributions, but I do know other teens checked the books out regularly.

    So perhaps the “Uses of Infinity” was a teen volunteer library helper’s idea of a good joke. Too bad nobody checked it out–I would think the Method of Exhaustion would have great appeal to kids stuck in junior high math class.

    Mr. Fluffy looks fabulous–what a wonderful rescue!

    • Vivian July 25, 2018 @ 8:53 am

      I remember Yoko Ono’s Grapefruit. I remember reading it and thinking that it was very arty. I agree with Casey; you were precociously arty, too — I would NEVER have colored outside the lines like that at that age.

      I miss those library book card pockets. These days, our library books are simply bar coded, scanned when checked out, and we are given a flimsy paper receipt with the due date.

  4. Casey July 20, 2018 @ 9:37 am

    Incredible! Your book art is smashing especially for a first effort.

    Mr. Fluffy is a star, hard to believe that he was ever a scruffy alley cat. His people obviously love him, and that’s happy news in a dismal week of reality-defying antics from the person who is currently debasing the office of the president.

    Alex: How subversive! I wouldn’t call it a prank, I would call it performance art! And a prodigy performance!

    • Vivian July 25, 2018 @ 8:48 am

      I want to make a new business card that says:

      Vivian Swift
      Book Artist and Social Subversive

  5. jeanie July 20, 2018 @ 10:30 am

    I much prefer castles and kitty cats — that’s a wonderful idea about a maker space for kids. Older kids. Yeah, what DO you call them? Of course, it could be a maker-space for all ages, which might boost the number of books needed because we all know the older you get the more you have and the more you hoard and buy things for craft projects that will never get done but they look like such a good idea at the time that you just can’t resist them so when you see something at a good price you think “I could do something with that” and you buy all sorts of things you don’t need and support the library.

    STOP ME NOW! I couldn’t POSSIBLY be speaking of anyone I know, could I?

    I need to google bowl disease.

    I love the castle. Can’t wait for this fall’s visitor, Vlad. Wonder if we’ll get a Vlad balloon. By the way, you can buy Trump Baby t-shirts on Amazon, I just noticed.

    • Vivian July 25, 2018 @ 8:46 am

      You’re right! You can buy all kinds of Trump Baby T-shirts! Did you see the one that only has the one word:

      Tre45on.

      I love it!

  6. Susan July 20, 2018 @ 1:19 pm

    Your castles are brilliant looking. Promoting your books by displaying your castles in town (public library/town hall…) and also some promotions regarding books available for lower, middle and high school kids might help draw more people in. The nerve of that librarian…borrowing books at a book shop? How dare her. Glad you put your foot down. Love meeting sales goals. The latest Russian incident is disheartening. A reminder to get the vote out. The kitties look comfy in their lawn chairs, enjoying LI breezes.

    • Vivian July 25, 2018 @ 8:43 am

      We NEVER, and I mean maybe once in the five months I’ve been co-managing this used books store, get teenagers in. We have such limited shelf space that we actually pulled all our YA books and tossed all that were published before 2000, except for Newbery Prize winers or historical fiction, and now we are tossing the dopey books about dating and shopping.

  7. Birdie July 20, 2018 @ 1:51 pm

    Oi! I should take that book with me when I have my sleep study. I will be asleep in seconds.

    But the cat pictures! What lovely furry beasts they are. I love how they appear to own the place.

    Do you sell your books on abebooks?

  8. Thea July 20, 2018 @ 6:08 pm

    You hope to reach a monthly $500 by *fifty cent* increments!?! With cheapskates around to boot? Lady, you will well and truly earned yourself that case of wine.

    Fluffy is gorgeous, Fluffy deserves a book biography.

    When even the Queen takes to subversive commentary …

    • Vivian July 25, 2018 @ 8:40 am

      Mr. Fluffy is STUNNING! And when you pick him up, he’s so big that he fills your arms with fluff and kitty poundage, and he wraps his gorgeous fluffy tail around your wrist. He is really a loving, patient, sweet cat.

      People are cheap: We had a customer come in last Saturday and complain that the library in Sea Cliff sells used books for 25 cents each. P.S. That library seems its used library books, they have only two shelves, and really?? You’re gonna hock me for a QUARTER?!?!?

  9. Megan July 20, 2018 @ 7:37 pm

    Love the castle, I’m intrigued did you use cardboard under the paper or are you just fabulous at taming flimsy paper into a castle and getting it all to just hold its shape? I think it amazing and love the coloured illustrations too. Quite inspired. Thanks for the cat photos, I think Mr Fluffy knows just how wonderful he is, cats do you know. Glad he found the right owners and they him. Your mob look like they are waiting for cold drinks or snacks to be delivered while they are resting on their adirondack chairs. One more thing, people are cheap. I look at the price of things in the supermarket, I do not believe anyone can grow a punnet of strawberries, pack them in a plastic punnet and ship them and receive anything when they are sold for $3.00 it’s outrageous, however people are cheap and are mostly not interested in paying a fair price, I wish I lived closer I would definitely buy a book for 50c. Best of luck, I am sure your creativity will inspire others.

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