What's New Among the Old

Oh, not bad. How’re things with you?

Yes, people keep sending me books, and SUCH books. I had a run of a magazine called Politics, which was edited and partially written by Dwight McDonald, who didn’t much believe in politics. Everybody else was wrong, you see, and he said so, at length, and people like George Orwell and C. Wright Mills would do articles to agree or disagree. Orwell’s article on the ethics of detective fiction appeared here, as well as McDonald’s article on the end of World War II in Europe, in which he congratulated the allies on turning a torture chamber into a cemetery. He didn’t like ANYBODY.

I was left to reflect on comparative sociology and changing times when a small collection of books on natural medicine arrived. On top of the box was a paperback from 2004 called “Natural Cures for Killer Germs”. Beneath it was a hardcover book from the 1950s, entitled “Simpler and Safer Remedies for Grievous Ills”. I’d love to believe it’s really just the same book, translated into 21st-century terms.

Those of you who have never ventured into the world of Government publications may be unaware that our tax dollars once produced some amazing things. I am in receipt of a fine, massive Victorian set with the fine, massive Victorian title “Reports of Explorations and Surveys to Ascertain the Most Practical and Economic Route for a Railroad from the Mississippi to the Pacific, 1853-54”. It contains even more than the title suggests, since the thing is packed with engravings, many of them in color, and maps, showing much previously unexplored territory, the people, plants, and animals to be found there, and where a railroad might go to take people quickly to California (since if a person shows signs of wanting to live in California, it is best to remove them quickly.) Not only is this a U.S. Government production but it was available in more than one edition: Senators received a set issued and numbered differently than mere Congressmen. I have not decided quite what to DO with this yet. Prices run a little higher than is usual for the Book Fair, and if I’m going to sell it at that price, I’m really obligated to leaf through and make sure every single map and picture is in place.

Which, returning to my remarks earlier about changing times and comparative sociology, is something I need to do with these two or three hundred Pokemon cards somebody dropped off. Were you aware that some of these cards have been published in three or four editions, with different illustrations? And that’s just the American ones: the cards in Japanese are similar, with the added difficulty that I have to figure out who these monsters are by the picture alone. (My reading Japanese is slightly worse than my speaking Japanese, which is nil.)

I like to brag once in a while about our illustrous donors. Have you noticed that the US Postal Service issued a stamp this year to honor someone whose books came to the Book Fair? I suppose he did other things as well. Anyway, we now number among our famous donors the US Postal Service iself, which has sent me 90 copies of the 2008 Stamp Yearbook, um, without the stamps. Not too soon to start thinking about December, if you’re lookin for a gift for that Someone Who Has Everything.

We had a massive collection of vintage videocassettes come in. You can tell when you’re dealing with videocassettes from early in the commercial period because the plastic is two different colors and the cardboard case extends an inch beyond the cassette on all sides, opening rather like a jewelry box with Porky’s nestled like a gem in the center. These WILL play in a normal modern VCR. What’s that? There’s no such thing as a modern VCR? You must be one of those killer germs we were talking about a few paragraphs ago.

We also had another small collection of books on how to make and use hallucinogenic drugs. I have tucked these away with the others while I think over what to do with them. I try sniffing them from time to time to make some of these things go away, but that doesn’t seem to work.

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