RARE BOOK GUIDE - THE RUNNERS, THE RIDERS & THE ODDS

01 September 2008

Bastards with Bookshops 2



THE WORST BOOKSHOP IN THE UNIVERSE
In the last posting I referred to a store in New Hampshire (now known to be 'The Antiquarian Bookstore') with a proprietor of a somewhat erratic disposition. I have since heard that the bloke is not a bad guy with a soft side to him when he is not belabouring your skull with an iron pipe. Moreover out of the goodness of his heart he takes the $5 browsing fee off your first purchase and that he actually has decent books. The motto of New Hampshire is 'Live Free or Die' and this man is simply following his bliss, dammit. Let him be. 

As for the shop known as "The Worst Bookshop in the Universe' this was identified in January 2001 when it was still extant on a book group called rec.collecting.books. Among other things that were said were:
"...books that have been there a long time are repriced upwards at the checkout, the owner (who apparently owns the whole block--no small money in today's San Jose) has paranoid notices everywhere and will even tell people who have their shirt tails worn loose (as is the fashion) to tuck them in less they conceal a book thither. The atmosphere is oppressive, the stock would disgrace a thrift shop.. Upon entry, I was greeted not by the pleasant scent 
of old paper, glue and cloth that I was expecting but instead 
encountered an aroma consisting of the apparent mixture of smoke, mold, 
and swamp-gas...

The man behind the counter looked at me with a blank hostile 
glance and continued to argue with someone on the phone. I quickly surveyed the cramped aisles and began poking around. I pulled 
the first interesting book I encountered and was disconcerted by the 
fact that the owner had used a red pencil to angrily gouge a price on 
the endpaper - way overpriced. When I looked at some book-club editions 
that had 1st-edition prices gouged in them I felt my anticipation slowly 
leaking away. I got the impression that the owner had no idea as to the 
worth of any particular book, and so priced them all outrageously so as 
to avoid accidentally selling one at a price below it's value (common book bastard ploy) terrible and inconsistent business hours... 
poor lighting, 
filthy floors/shelves ...
misanthropic proprietor... 
way-over-priced books...noxious stinky atmosphere... 
Horrible treatment of books ...
"Don't read the magazines unless you're going to buy" sign ...
Stagnant stock...Stygian...


Two things to note, the guy although he looked like the roady of a fifth rate Metal group was probably worth many millions- the dotcom boom had sent San Jose property prices ballistic. The worst guy to do a deal with is someone who doesn't need the money. As with other really bad shops personned by b'stards (there used to be one in the Tenderloin area of SF) they reprice stock that has been there a long time, often checking the net and ignoring low prices. Surely if a book has been there a long time the price is right or, in most cases, far too much? My own contribution to the debate was this:
"As I recall there was also a virulent phone argument going on as I came in. Old San Jose book scouts tell many a tale about this place, possibly over a pint in the nearby Gordon Birsch brewpub. I have come across many unpleasant overpriced dull shops but this takes the biscuit... in the movie version of 'The Worst Bookshop in the Universe' the part might be played by Michael Keaton reprising his Beetlejuice persona."


The shop went a few years back- probably mostly in dumpsters- but it has a half life on the net with the odd review still up as if it were still there. There is even a site where you can click on a phone and it rings the shop--I didn't try it and it would only get through if it was one of those new time machine phones. Was it not Eliot who said '...If all time is eternally present/All time is unredeemable.'?

to be pursued...
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