The Impediments of Generosity | Newberry

The Impediments of Generosity

Two weeks from now, we will be packing up the twenty-three leftover books, and frankly weeping that the 2019 Book Fair has ended. This is the Circle of Book Fair Life, of course. One Book fair must finally finish so we can move on to the triumphs of the next one. We have worked so hard, between moving to our newest new location, where we hope to stay for a few decades, and dealing with, say, all those garbage cans full of books which came over one day (fraught with material for our new LGBTQXYZ category), that it is difficult for us to believe we have reached the middle of July, and soon we will be selling instead of sorting.

As always, some of you are dealing with the same confusion. There are those within the Newberry walls who demand to know why I don’t just order everyone away at this point. “Get thee hence with thy books!” they want me to shout, “And take those hence, too. This ain’t no chicken outfit!”

But, of course, there is always the fear that something wonderful may be in that SUV, and if we chase the owners away, we may never see that amazing donation. In illustration of which, I submit these examples of wonderful things which have come in this very month, most of it after the donation deadline.

A signed first edition of a novel by James Michener: There are people who mock Michener as a tireless author of thumpingly long bestsellers, while others salute him as an important contributor to American Literature. His autograph reflects this: people are willing to pay money for a signed first edition in good condition, though they would prefer it be one of his early books. THIS book has a beautiful dustjacket and is in excellent condition EXCEPT that someone went in with scissors and cut the autograph off the title page. We, um, usually charge three dollars for an unsigned hardcover by Michener, on weight alone, but thanks to your scissors, I will be charging two dollars for this one.

A collection of the David Suchet Poirot mysteries on DVD: Everyone has a personal Poirot, but the Newberry crowd has plenty of people who feel Suchet did the exemplary job. And these are handy one-season packages: people sometimes balk at buying an entire run of a series, even on DVD, because even though it takes up less space than a videocassette on their shelves, it will potentially take up a lot of space on the calendar. Not to fear, true believers! Our donors have come to you rescue. Not only did they donate Poirot in single season sets, but each set is missing one disc. These will take you even less time than you thought.

An extremely rare 1950s art textbook: I’m being polite, of course. The customer in 1951 knew as well as I do that “Line and Form” had very little to do with art instruction and everything to do with those 32 full-page photos of nude models. This is why the chapters are arranged not by, say, shading instruction or how-to-draw-shoulders, but by model. Each model’s name is given in big letters, followed by half a dozen photos of her as nude as the law would allow in England in 1951. I am NOT complaining that you drew stars on the pictures you liked best: that adds a little cheerful nostalgia to the whole package. I just KIND of wish you had hung on to the cover. That would enhance the price.

Thirty year-old medical texts, jigsaw puzzles with a different puzzle inside the box than is shown on the cover, paintings your son did when he was twelve and which you think you can get rid of now that he’s forty…all these and more treasures have been piling up by our doors. I’d hate to miss any of them.

If we can get the Book Fair set up in the time slots between hauling these donations downstairs, the ones which made it through to the tables will be available in just nine days. Get ready for the fun.

Add new comment