The comments in the previous post about the smell of old books made me think of something that happened several years ago. I was down on the Gulf Coast in the little town where Livia and I sometimes go, and of course I made the rounds of the little used bookstores there, as I always do. As soon as I stepped into one of them, I knew something was different about it. For one thing, there was a perky young woman working behind the counter instead of the grouchy old guy who usually ran the place. She was talking to another customer who asked about the previous owner, and she said, "Oh, yes, when I bought the place the first thing I did was to go through the stock and throw out all those old books!"
That's right. All the Westerns, mystery, men's adventure, and SF books from the Fifties, Sixties, Seventies, and Eighties were gone, replaced by dozens and dozens of copies of the bestsellers from the past twenty years. And of course they took that wonderful smell with them.
I turned around and walked out.
The new owner had every right to do what she did, of course. And maybe she had the right idea. The store is still in business, or at least it was a few months ago when we were there last. I guess most people who go away on vacation (it's a big tourist area) would rather read the latest James Patterson or Nora Roberts novel than some smelly old paperback published forty or fifty years ago. I'll even admit that I've gone back in there (after vowing that I wouldn't) and have bought a handful of books. It's hard to resist the temptation, and besides, you never know what treasure might sneak past the owner and make it to the shelves.
But that phrase "throw out all those old books" still makes me shudder. I'll bet it affects some of you the same way.
(Apologies if I've told this story before. It's getting harder to remember what I've talked about and what I haven't.)
Bing Crosby: White Christmas
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