Speculative Fiction 2012 (and 2013)
Jurassic announces... a new history of SF by Andrew Liptak

"That's ok, I'll never open it"

This Rough MagicAnother irregular round-up of recent purchases and invaluable finds. Following off the back of recent, navel-gazing blog posts about book collecting, it has been an interesting few weeks... 

The 'big' thing was holiday - a long anticipated trip to Lyme Regis, home to bakeries, dinosaurs and one fantastic second-hand bookshop. I stocked up on ebooks on the way down (thus, recent spate of YA reviews) and, the first day we were there, I bought over two dozen books (thus, recent spate of 'bizarre old book' reviews).

The weird thing is (well, for me at least), most of those books were one-and-done. I read them, I reviewed them, and now they're at the local charity shop. We kept 7 out of the 24. And which ones... and why them?

1. Richard O'Connor's Down to Eternity (1956). Novel about the Titanic. Why'd we keep it? A Fawcett Gold Medal. 

2 - 5. Mary Stewart's Wildfire at Midnight, My Brother Michael, The Moon-Spinners, This Rough Magic (1962-1966). Four of Stewart's thrillers, no first editions and only one is a first printing. Why'd we keep them? Mary Stewart. The fact that they're Hodder helps as well. Ditto, great covers.

6. David Beaty's Sword of Honour (1967). Aviation thriller. Why'd we keep it? Pan. I don't actively hunt out Pan books like I do, say, Gold Medals, but the book is pretty good, and the Pannishness gives it the benefit of the doubt.

7. W. Howard Baker's Take Death for a Lover (1972). Atrocious murder mystery. Why'd we keep it? Robert McGinnis cover. I'd keep a box of Kleenex for all eternity if it had a McGinnis cover.

A few other bits: 

Two more for the Robert W. Chambers collection - a first edition of The Hidden Children (not one of his rare children's books, as I first thought - rather one of his historical romances) and a leather-bound edition of In The Quarter. The latter is particularly interesting: it is a Constable edition, "Harrap's Favourite Books in Leather Bindings". I can only assume that the mysterious Harrap had mediocre taste, as the library seems to be composed of 'the most forgettable books of today's famous authors'. Seems like some sort of commercial enterprise. 

...and speaking of favourite authors, I also found proofs of Jesse Bullington's The Brothers Grossbart and Frances Hardinge's Gullstruck Island

... and, finally, a rather spectacular copy of Samuel R. Delaney's Babel-17 from Easton Press. Leather, gilt, the works. I've managed to squirrel away a couple Easton Press books over the years, but they're normally way out of my price range. This one has a printer's error - a few blank pages, so was sold for a rather ridiculous £6. (£6!) The bookseller also apologised for the printer's error, and my immediate response is quoted as the title of this post: "It's ok, I'll never open it."

...which leads me to the realisation that I may never open any of the books I've chosen to keep. Even the ones I have read (the Stewarts, the Baker, etc.), whether or not I keep the book around has nothing to do with the text, and everything to do with the book as an object. When I'm in the mood to reread, say, Gullstruck Island, the last thing I'm going to do is crack the spine on a proof copy.

(By contrast, Anne and I spent the weekend digitising our CD collection. The actual object has no meaning to us (we'll be dumping them at a charity shop soon), but we're keen to keep all the 'text' - the music.)

All of which, again, leaves me foundering about in ideas of "value" as they pertain to book collecting, and, specifically, to what I want out of books. I think the advent of ebooks has essentially polarised my behaviour: I now, more than ever before, have text-books and object-books, and never the twain shall meet. 

This is also, handily, the first year that I have: a) a record of everything I've read, b) a complete record of everything I've bought and c) unbiased selection criteria (e.g. my reading was all through choice, and not skewed by duties as a Kitschies judge). I may do some introspective fussing with the data later this month and see exactly what my reading behaviour is. (Hypothesis: I'm most likely to read an ebook I purchase and least likely to read a hardcover. It seems obvious, but now I have quantitative proof! Woohoo!)