Once in a While the People You Meet in Line at the Grocery Store Aren’t All Jerks.

I was laying on the love seat in the den, hatching plans to take charge and rid the world of stupidity once and for all  as I am wont, and I had the best view of Taffy’s toes:

If you look carefully, you can also see Bibs’ toes, and Candy’s lumpy butt, and Lickety’s sweet dreaming face. More cats, fewer people, is the best I can come up with when it comes to putting a halt to idiocy. I have met some dopey cats in my day (in fact, Lickety isn’t all that stellar in the brains department) but their lack of intelligence isn’t evil, unlike the imbeciles in the Alabama Republican party who combine their low I.Q.s with a profound malevolence that makes democracy unsafe for all thinking people and cats. I cannot help but believe that another civil war is inevitable and I am sorry that I will not be young enough to go hand-to-hand with the mouth-breathing/pea-brained/in-bred/slack-jawed/road-kill eating/Christian Taliban.

Well, until the righteous uprising comes and defeats stupidity (if not once and for all, maybe for another 150 years), I might as well make myself useful and go to work at the used book store.

This is sweet:  last week at the used book store that I co-manage for the local library, I found a little gift that had been left on the shelf:

It is an exquisite little flower pot and daffodil, a piece of expert-level origami if ever I saw one. Thank you, anonymous origami artist, for making the day a tad more magical.

I know you all want to know what was in those 25 boxes of books that I got in at 10 o’clock at night last Wednesday:

Although the donor assured me that they were “very high level books” because her children were lawyers who read only the best. . . this donation was 90% crap.

There was a lot of horror and sci-fi from the 1970s; a LOT of mass market paperbacks of popular fiction of the kind that we don’t (because nobody buys it) sell; a lot of World War II histories and outdated sociology books; paperback copies of classics that no-one reads any more (Greek philosophers and minor 19th-century American novelists);and almost all of the books were in deplorable condition. Only the more recent hardback thrillers were in good enough state that we would accept them for sale in the store, if we had customers who would buy contemporary thrillers, which we don’t.

I felt sorry for the donor. She had gone to the trouble of renting a van so she could schlepp the books in from Connecticut, and she had packed the boxes very carefully, almost lovingly — she lined them with plastic trash bags (to keep out the morning dew?), and she’d taped them all shut (to safeguard them from raccoons?) which made the boxes that much more odious to unpack. It was, for the most part, dismal work.


Yes, there were some exceptions. I did pull about 30 books from this haul that I could put out on the shelves — some decent nonfiction about higher math (which sold almost immediately), some popular physics (which also sold out that weekend), and some biographies. And surprisingly, there were about 15 childrens’ books in very fine shape that I was quite happy to put into stock.

Among the books that I did not throw out, which I had a feeling about, was this:

It’s a sense you get, when you’ve handled 10,000 books, about what might be valuable. This is a paperback in almost new condition from 1984. Harlan Ellison is one of those fantasy/sci-fi writers whose fame and influence is such that I know of him even though I have never read his stuff. He was one of the writers of what is often cited as the best episode of the original Star Trek — The City on the Edge of Forever. Harlan Ellison died last June, which does wonders for an author’s collectibility. My feeling about this book paid off.

This little paperback is worth about $40.00. Yay!

I also had a very good feeling about this first edition from 1988:

This book has a peculiar publishing history. The first American printing of the first edition of A Brief History of Time came with a silver (not blue) dust cover and had to be recalled and scrapped because Hawking complained that it was “full of errors, with misplaced and erroneously labeled photographs and diagrams.” It also did not have a table of contents, and lacked a dedication to Hawking’s wife.

The book was corrected and re-issued with this blue dust cover, a table of contents, and a dedication to Jane, along with a new introduction by Carl Sagan. That edition is known as the second state first edition.

The second state first edition is the only edition that has this introduction by Carl Sagan because Sagan copyrighted it, and all subsequent editions had to be printed without Sagan’s intro. That is not to say that you can’t have a 19th printing of the second state first edition, which would still have Sagan’s intro; but all later iterations will not ave the Sagan intro. So, Yay so far — we have a 1988 second state first edition with the Sagan intro!

This book has sold over 10 million copies and has been translated into 35 languages and was on the London Times best seller list for five years, so to find a first printing of the second state first edition would be FABULOUS and worth some nice coin.

If I am holding a true first printing of the second state first edition here, it would be worth about $150.00. Whoo-hoo!

And then I take a good look at the inside dust cover:

Cue the sad soundtrack.

Whomp whomp.

It’s usually a dead give away that, when the dust cover does not have a price printed on it, you have a cheapo book club edition that is only worth pennies. It might still be a first printing of the second state first edition, but it’s a book club first printing of the second state first edition which is a whole other animal.

It took me almost an hour on the internet to finally find proof that A Brief History of Time did indeed have a second state first edition book club printing, and of course, that’s what I had. And you can buy it from me for $2.00.

And then things got weirder.

This was one of the two comic books that came in, and of course it’s the second printing of a classic 1993 Superman comic, worth about $8.00. If it had been a first printing it could be worth up to $180.00

Jeeze. Did these people ever buy anything hot off the press? Did they always buy the literary equivalent of hand-me-downs??

The other comic book was porn, the kind where women have sex with monsters, but not in The Shape of Water way. . .

Not like this.

I thought there was a name for this genre of comic book so I tried looking it up in the internet so I could report to you, Dear Readers, on this strange sub-cult, and also hey, if the comic was worth big bucks I would look for a buyer no matter how distasteful the item.  But my porno comic book is not worth anything and now I could smack myself. Because now the internet knows of my search and now it thinks that I am interested in making whoopee with monsters and I’ll be slammed with all kinds of creepy ads for comic book porn that makes me sick. All because I am SUCH A SAINT when it comes to raising money for the local library A FUCKING SAINT. (See Mr. Pudding’s query about last week post’s in last week’s Comments re: the difference between regular saints and me, a FUCKING SAINT.)

You might think that things could not get even more weird, but yes, yes. . .  they did.

Do you see the book, in the photo below, sticking up on the far end of this crate, the fat tome covered-up in anonymous orange tape?

I pick it up and  I flip it open, all unawares, to the title page, so I can see what Im dealing with.

And it’s this:

I’ve read that every used book dealer comes across this book at least once in their career. So this is my initiation into being a real used book dealer.

Before its copyright expired in 2015, Mein Kampf was a hot potato. Most conscientious book dealers in the world wouldn’t touch it. Although 12 million copies were published in Bavaria before WWII, it has been prohibited to print or sell a copy of it in Germany since 1945. And now it’s in the public domaine and available everywhere, so it’s not surprising that I would come across a copy. This one happens to be a real antique. But still. Ew.

Stackpole Sons published this Mein Kampf in the US in 1939, as a way to make this filth available to Americans without paying one penny of royalties to Hitler. Hitler’s authorized publisher was Houghton Mifflin, who sued Stackpole for copyright infringement. The case was not decided until late 1941 in Houghton Mifflin’s favor but by then, the US was on the brink of war with Germany, and so Hitler’s royalties vanished into Houghton Mifflin’s account books.

Stockpile sold 12,000 copies of its Mein Kampf before it had to recall its print run while the court case was being argued. When Stackpole lost, all the remaining stock was destroyed.

I am sure that our donor, and her children, are not Nazis. Along with Mein Kampf, there was a lot of holocaust denial literature with many other books about denying holocaust deniers, and a lot of books on Judaica (which we also don’t sell) and a lot of WWII histories. So I think this reader was informing him/herself of the enemy by going to the source of evil, and I applaud the intellectual bravery this takes. But still. Ewwwwwww.

P.S. I did not know that Mein Kampf was such a long book. This copy runs 668 pages. I have not the slightest desire to read it. I don’t even want to touch it. So I will call the donor and ask her to take this book back.

BTW, the orange tape was easy to peel off, and this is what was underneath it:

So as you can see, this donation can be summed up in one word: dispiriting. Because time and again, this would happen:

O, sweet little ordinary orange book, what fresh disappointment do you bring?

First edition, 1978, cult classic.

With dust cover, worth about $40.00.

WITHOUT DUST COVER: worth $1.00.

So when I pulled this out of a box, I was sure that this, too, would be crap:

But Lo, and Behold — this is a First Printing/First American Edition from 1977  with in-tact dust cover. It even has the map, in pristine condition, that came with it:

Great balls of fire, how did this happen?? Why is this book not beat to hell, with it’s dust cover ripped off and the map illustrated with school boy graffiti?

This book redeems the whole 25 boxes, the 10 o’clock rendezvous, and all the gross outs.

It’s worth $350.00.

All I have to do now is find a buyer.

And that brings us to the end of this post, Dear Readers.

But hold on there, Vivo, you are thinking; You haven’t explained today’s headline about the people you meet in line at the grocery store.

Right you are. So here’s the uplifting story of the day:

The guy in line behind me at the grocery store accidentally rams his shopping cart into a display of muffins perched perilously close to the cash register and knocks a 6-pack off the shelf and onto the floor.

The guy scoops up the muffins — they were corn muffins — and puts them back into their package, and hands the muffins to the cashier.

“Here,” he says; “You can throw these out. I’ll pay for them because I knocked them onto the floor, but I don’t want them.”

I turned to him and blurted, “Oh, no, don’t throw them out! You can feed them to the raccoons!”

The guy was clearly annoyed with himself for knocking over the muffins, although it wasn’t all his fault because they really were stacked too close to the cash register, so he kind of scowls at me and says, “You feed raccoons??

“Yeah,” I said. “It’s their world too.”

I’ve read about this in books, but I’ve ever seen it happen: his face went from “highly miffed” to “somewhat interested”. In books, it’s written: His face softened.

And the guy stares at me for how ever many seconds it takes for a person to wonder whose turn it is to talk or did I just say something stupid or why is there this hush all of a sudden, and then he takes the muffins from the cashier and hands them to me and says, “Here. This is for your raccoons.”

I thank him profusely and take the muffins, and for the rest of the hour I had a really good feeling about the fate of mankind.

The raccoons devoured the muffins later that night.

And now we are really at the end of today’s blog post. As I type this, Old Wednesday volunteer (read all about her odious self in my blog of May 2, I Got Cat Class and I Got Cat Style) has been making trouble again in the small world of the Friends of the Library, and needs to be smote once and for all. I will tell you all about it next week.

Have a fabulous weekend, Dear Ones.

Be kind to your local raccoons and, maybe, cut someone a break today. Chance are, they could use it.



9 Comments, RSS

  1. Mary Brickman

    My second husband, a Jewish person, had the book “Mine Kampf”. He was reading it, he said, because he wanted to know what Hitler thought about. I didn’t inquire further, but I just wanted you to know, it wd be wrong to tell the previous owner you don’t even want the book in the second hand store. ( did I misunderstand your thoughts?) It might have had information that a Jewish person could learn something.
    Just my thought.
    I enjoy your blog every week. You have a thank-less position at the store. I wish you’d get a real donation that wd be beneficial , from the Second Hand store. It’s important.

  2. Mary

    Oh Vivian Swift, I do love your blog and look forward, every Thursday night, to getting in bed, opening my iPad and experiencing from afar, your slice of life on Long Island. Being a cat lover, used book store lover and good champagne lover, I get endless chuckles out of your cat tales, book store rants and champagne-ometer. All that, topped off with wonderfully irreverent and vicious descriptions of the idiot politicians – oh, my little Thursday night cup just runneth over. Tonight was the perfect blend of everything, although I’ve missed your lovely, delicate watercolors. I hope Steve is doing fine, love Taffy’s little feet and…the cat couch…it’s the icing.
    Thanks so much from a Left Coast Fan – give ‘em hell!

  3. Casey

    Taffy’s toes are delicious and what I would give to be part of that cat puddle. Lucky you.

    I too miss your watercolors but the stories from the Land of Second Hand Books are delightful. Who knew that used books could bring so much drama? The ups and downs of co-managing a used bookstore, maybe that’s your next book?

    I have never seen a copy of Mein Kampf but I have heard of the book forever, so as an object that book is fascinating. Thank you for the history lesson. I don’t want to read it but maybe there’s a rabbinical school that would want it? And if it is worth money why not sell it for a good cause.

    Your blog takes me to so many places, from cat naps to politics to culture HA!! Today I learned about monster porn. The world is an amazing place, and you are an amazing reporter of it.

  4. Every time you get one of those donations from the people who hoard useless books, I have to go and check if we really have been hoarding a valuable copy of something or other. This time it’s the Tolkien book. I bet ours is the second-string useless publication that we always have to buy. I’m sure when I donate it to the library sale they will curse me as you do (in fact, maybe I have already donated and done been cursed). But what can I do, that’s what we have been reading all these years, stuff that nobody wants any more. Sad. Yes, I have a huge bookcase full of books on Jewish history and culture but no Hitler.

    best… mae at maefood.blogspot.com

  5. Kirra

    What a great in depth report on the opening of the 25 boxes of books, it really was a mixed collection and good that you sold the maths and physics books straight away. I still can’t figure out why the woman told you all the books were great….she didn’t know she was donating you a copy of Mein Kempf! But sounds like she went to quite a bit of effort to get them to you. What do you do with the books you can’t sell? Can they go in paper recycling?

    I think the Tolkien book was sent to inspire you to once again smote the ex-Wednesday volunteer. I bet since she only turned up some of the time she’s enjoying making trouble more than the actual volunteering.

    Alabama sucks at politics and so does Australia (election last weekend).

    I love your explanation of a fucking saint and you are now therefore the fucking saint of second hand books! The origami daffodil pot and muffin paying man are my uplifting things for the week, thank you.

  6. Love the raccoon story and sweet kitty toes. And sorry the book donation was so grim. Maybe next stop, goodwill? Maybe Mein Kampf could go to Goodwill too, so the former owner won’t feel unappreciated. That was a fine final one, though. Well done!

    Mein Kampf…. no wonder it was long. Hitler was in jail a long, long time…

  7. Let me guess: the popular fiction nobody wants was by John Grisham, Tom Clancy, and James Patterson? Every other donation we get has those authors, and/or Twilight/Hunger Games/Divergent series. Bleh.

    For some reason, whenever we get old math/physics/chemistry/engineering books, they sell well. Go figure.

    Sorry the books weren’t more exciting; I hope you can find a buyer for the Silmarillion — nice find!

  8. Well, thanks for all the info about those boxes of books. It’s too bad you didn’t get a better haul, but I don’t think you did too badly, actually. That Tolkien IS pretty amazing. (I don’t think anyone liked that particular book, which is probably why it’s so pristine — it probably never got read!)

    We have an old Mein Kampf in our library, though by a different publisher, I believe. I assumed they were pretty commonly available, even before the copyright expiration. Like you, I can’t imagine actually reading it.

    Did the ’70s paperback sci-fis have cool covers, at least? Sometimes those old sci-fi novels LOOK really good even if they’re abominable to read. I remember finding a bag of ’60s sci-fi paperbacks in the trash in New York once — I put them on eBay and sold them to some guy who collected them! (Not for much money, admittedly.)

  9. Hmm it seems like your blog ate my first comment (it was super long) so I guess I’ll just sum it up what I had written and say, I’m thoroughly enjoying your blog.

    I as well am an aspiring blog blogger but I’m still
    new to everything. Do you have any recommendations for rookie blog writers?
    I’d definitely appreciate it.

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