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Letters to the Editor

NeglectedBooks.com is an interesting website that your readers might enjoy exploring.  The Book Trail is like a very long wagon train, and it's easy to lose sight of the predecessors who have come before us. . . (and) expanding the Letters to the Editor column might be a way for bookdealers to strengthen their ties to the trade, swap ideas about what works/what doesn't work in a rapidly-changing marketplace, and give potential bookdealers more perspective on what they might be getting into if they pursue the profession.

Back in the days when cities had book rows, book "hounds" could ramble practically door-to-door, browsing their way through tables of books set up in front of shops.  But with most of these book rows gone – victims of gentrification and skyrocketing real estate costs – a new generation of  potential book collectors and bookdealers have a harder time getting a sense of the trade as a "field," with a rich past and a viable future.  The shops have scattered in their flight from exorbitant rents, isolating bookdealers and weakening their sense of being members of a storied professional community.

Michael Ginsberg and Taylor Bowie have interviewed exhibitors at the ABAA shows and posted the interviews on the Net, going bookstall-to-bookstall, asking each dealer the same questions:  how did you become interested in bookdealing and who are the people/shops that have influenced you?  By asking them why and how they entered the field you get a strong sense of some of the major players of the past, where the profession has been, where it is today, and where it might be headed, going forward.

An afterthought about Neglected Books:  it is a reality check on the history of literature.  Anyone who only reads the landmark prize-winners – the best of the best –  loses their context, to make comparisons and get a sense of WHY they are prizewinners.  What made them superior to the also-rans of their time, and how/why did yesterday's important writer or book fall from grace? 

I had the great good luck to grow up in Christopher Morley's home town on Long Island, saw the now-obscure Big Man once, and went to his sparsely-attended funeral, so became aware early on of the transitory nature of literary fame and popularity.  As for the immortality of books, my mantra is the comment by Clarence Day, best known as the author of the lighthearted memoir Life with Father.  In his essay Books he wrote, “Civilizations perish but only books remain, to tell men's hearts of the hearts of men centuries dead.”  That, in a sentence, is the task that bookdealers (while keeping calm) shoulder and carry on.

Danna D'Esopo Jackson  (Between The Lines Books)
March 28, 2018

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