27 June 2008

Tall Tales from the Trade

A bookseller specialist buys a large academic collection from an old professor--mostly sexology, sexual politics, censorship and moral studies. He gets them for a reasonable sum, but part of the deal is that he takes 10,000 porno paperbacks stored in the outhouse. Reluctantly he hauls them all out and takes the paperbacks to the recycling where they are pulped. Pulp to pulp.

Painstakingly he lists the scholarly works and offers them to a University library that he has ties with. They reply that, sadly, they have most of these books and what they really need is actual porn paperback fiction, 'we have all the books on censorship' the librarian says 'what we need is the material that was being censored - we need thousands of them, but I'm afraid we can only pay $20 each.'

I was reminded of this one when reading about David Hockney and his choice of book on Desert Island Discs. It was a gay pulp porno paperback 'Route 69' by Floyd Carter which he was allowed to take to his island along with the Bible and complete works of Shakespeare. There are no copies of Floyd's masterpiece on any web mall and the only works showing by him are Battle of the Bulges , Big Joe, Camp Butch and Forbidden Fruit --mostly on Amazon where they report no copies. These books tend to be rare.

A similar tale is set in 1965 in a provincial bookshop where trade is slow. The dealer has a sale of the books upstairs, lesser books but useful stock--even after severe reductions there are 10,000 books left. Rather than haul them down to the dump he decides to give the whole lot to the young girl who comes in on afternoons when he is out doing house calls, fishing, watching cricket etc., She graciously accepts them and says she will arrange to have them out as soon as possible. He sets off to a local auction and on his return is greatly surprised to find all the books have gone. The girl explains that a guy came in from a movie company needing 10000 books - for the book burning scenes in Fahrenheit 451 that they were filming nearby. She only charged £1 per book.

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