Thursday, August 21, 2008

Seen in the Wild

I'm amazed at how some book-lovers would eschew searching through the dusty and messy book bins of second-hand book shops. I do know some of their objections are quite valid on the subject: the books have to be in good or matching condition; the arrangement is too chaotic to do a proper search, the authors don't get any royalties if their books are bought from the bargain bins, etc.

I could order abroad but unfortunately, I'm not that rich (and the shipping is a killer!). And I still feel the advantages of looking through each and every pile of books outweighs the disadvantages. Personally, I only buy secondhand books if these aren't available in the regular bookshops or are out of print. And by keeping to stringent guidelines, I can still get that book I've been searching high and low without feeling like I'd be too ashamed to place these books on my bookshelf.

In terms of the much-abused paperbacks, I only get really, really hard-t0-find books that the market has already forgotten like a Penguin edition of The Circus of Doctor Lao by Charles Finney or a Ballantine edition of The Texas-Israeli War: 1999 by Jake Saunders and Howard Waldrop. But if they're TPBs and hardbound, then condition does matter.

For example, the incandescent Jeff Vandermeer (whose taste in books I always follow) cited the incredible looking Tin House: Fantastic Women with its roster of writers like Aimee Bender, Rikki Ducornet, and Kelly Link and edited by Rick Moody. Printed by a university press/small press, I never would have thought I'd get my paws on this book until I found a copy in very good condition sitting forlornly in a Booksale shop in Greenhills. How much did I pay for this? Php 320 or a little more than US$6 (as compared to its Amazon price of US$13).

Another book I recently found was a good condition hardbound copy of 999: New Stories of Horror and Suspense as edited by Al Sarrantonio. Supposedly Sarrantonio's effort to match Harlan Ellison's groundbreaking Dangerous Visions anthology, I wasn't much impressed with his fantasy anthology but I did hear good things about this-- his first-- horror anthology. And an interesting line-up too: aside from horror regulars Stephen King, Ramsey Campbell and F. Paul Wilson, it also has Joyce Carol Oates and-- wonders of wonders-- a novella by William Peter Blatty (creator of The Exorcist). This book I found at Booksale in Glorietta in Makati. The price? Php 80 or a little over one US dollar.

Now try telling me again that you can't find treasures in the book bargain bins. *winks*

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