The book collecting addiction latched onto me about 15 years ago. It arrived like Daniel’s introduction to the Cemetery of Forgotten Books in Carlos Ruiz Zafón’s novel The Shadow of the Wind, suddenly and mysteriously revealing itself and leading me into a world of rare and desired first editions. Modern Firsts is the easy answer for what I collect, first edition novels from the mid-20th century — Faulkner, Katherine Anne Porter, Dawn Powell, J.D. Salinger, Thomas Pynchon, to name a few; however, my love for beautiful books in general opens the field to an uncontrolled frenzy. That explains why I had to buy The Sweet Flypaper of Life by Roy DeCarava and Langston Hughes. The moment it was shown to me, during a visit at Acorn Bookshop many years ago, I immediately felt that overwhelming want that plagues the gently mad book collector, what with those innocent eyes on the cover looking at me. The famous writer Langston Hughes (1902-1967) had signed this paperback photography book in bright green ink, and so the price was daunting; and yet, this marvelous neighborhood bookshop, filled with used and rare book treasures, gave me a layaway plan. One day, about a year or so later, I walked home with the book.
Acorn Bookshop has announced its closing, after 25 years of bookselling. They’re going out on a high note of celebration for these many good years, and yet the unspoken reality of online competition hovers behind this glorious anniversary. I could go on about digital retail and the crushing effect on independent book selling, especially for used and rare booksellers, but that’s old news. We’re all aware of the constantly changing shape of how consumers shop and their 21st century expectations of price and delivery. The other day I told someone I was walking to the bank to make a deposit, and she replied she’s never made a bank deposit other than online. This has nothing to do with books, but everything to do with how the digital revolution has changed the way we do things. It also shows how some of us still prefer the longer, less convenient path versus online efficiency simply for how it feels and connects us to people.
But I don’t want to go there. Instead, I’d rather stay with the celebration and share a few books that came into my library because I had a community bookstore in my neighborhood. Indeed, for many of those beginning years as a new collector, after a Saturday of errands, I would stop by Acorn Bookshop to browse. The anticipation was exhilarating, the lingering among book stacks pure bliss. It was my escape, my happy place, lost in a store packed to the walls and ceiling with old books, much like the vast library of out-of-print literature in The Shadow of the Wind, where the young Daniel finds the most rare book in the world. Granted, my Saturday browsing got me in a lot of trouble with my budget, but oh the excitement that came from it, and the joy now of having those first editions in my library. I am sad to see this beloved bookshop shut its door.
Above are just a few of the books I brought home from Acorn Bookshop. A note about one of them — Bless the Beasts & Children. It’s the advanced reading copy (ARC) of this 1970 novel, signed by the author. When I saw it for sale at Acorn, I thought I’d pass out from delighted shock. My family vacationed for many summers on a lake in Ontario, Canada, when I was a little girl, at a place called Chippewa Lodge. There we met David and Jeanne Replogle and their five young sons. David Replogle, a vice president in New York City at the publishing house Doubleday & Company, brought book manuscripts and ARCs with him to read on the those summer vacations, and he shared them with my mother, an avid reader. That was how I came to read Bless the Beasts & Children before it was published. You can imagine how magical it felt to find this ARC at Acorn Bookshop many decades later.