I have mentioned from time to time that things are donated to this Book Fair without instructions on exactly where to put them. No, I’m not talking about the warthog tusk. I have a place to put that. I’m not going to tell you what it is so it will be a surprise to a certain book dealer when he starts to complain at this year’s Book Fair. If the police get involved, I don’t want you to be picked up as an accessory before the fact.
No, I mean this book right here: A History of Dentistry in Colorado. Heaven knows, I TRIED to get the Newberry to keep it, as a previously untold chapter of the tale of the Old West. (You knew Doc Holliday was a dentist, didn’t you?) But somehow they felt they could do without it, and now I have to decide whether it goes into History or Medicine. Books on the history of medicine generally go into medicine, but I keep thinking of the Old West angle and thinking the right customer might find it more readily in History.
And from the estate of the Cemetery Lady I have these stacks of the newsletter and the quarterly journal of the Association for Gravestone Studies, an outfit that covers art, history, and genealogy all in the same fell swoop, with occasional stopovers in biography and geology. What’s a book fair manager to do?
Last year we had that notable collection of books on the history of musical instruments as pictured in great paintings: page after page of color reproductions of paintings between 1300 and 1900, with closeups of the musical instruments. Music? Art?
Now, that book on the newest innovations in building construction using bales of straw was so nifty I put it on the cart outside the A.C. (Admirable Carts) McClurg Bookstore. This is one of our oldest principles: when in doubt, put it on the cart. That’s also what I did with the book on beautiful spearfishing decoys (Art? Sports? How To?) But not all the books that confuse are also cartworthy.
What to do with the biography of C.T. Studd, great cricket player turned missionary? It had been discarded—for who knows what reason—after spending decades in a library, and just wasn’t the sort of thing we put on the cart. Religion? Sports? Biography? Fortunately, it turned out to be quite rare (I wonder why) and rather valuable (ditto) and so it can go into Collectibles.
A lot of books by performance artists have been coming in, like the one about the lady who jumped on a trampoline in total darkness for two hours except for the moment when a cameraman jumped in, took a picture, and jumped back out. (It was part of the performance to photograph her at a totally random moment.) Um, is that Show Biz (performance), Art (performance Art), Photography? (I have had suggestions of Humor or Psychology, but these people are just being obstreperous.)
For decades there have been books which are motivational treatises showing how the author, in surviving a dread disease, learned to cope with life. I actually don’t worry about these any more, and sort them into Biography, Religion, Medicine, or How To (Head) depending on what mood I’m in on a given day. The people who look for these books will find them wherever they are. They have special radar for these things, or they wouldn’t have so many to give me.
That’s probably the answer. If demand is high, the book will be found wherever I put it. Who, after all, really NEEDS the History of Dentistry in Colorado?
(You do, if you know what’s good for you. I’m packing a warthog tusk here, pardner.)