Thursday, February 17, 2011

Patti Was a Crossmaker Vintage Bookseller


So Borders went belly up yesterday and we'd be lying if we weren't experiencing a little bit of schadenfreude. Don't get us wrong, it's incredibly sad that so many people will be out of work because of this, but in the immortal words of our favorite bookstore, "while the loss of jobs to Chicago, and to the United States is saddening, we feel this is a direct result of a book-retailer business model that just does not work."

Wow. Truer words were never e-mailed. Viva vintage and independent booksellers everywhere!

Which brings us to the topic at hand. Like most of America I've been taken with Patti Smith's National Book Award-winning memoir, Just Kids (Thank you Andrew's family!)

I was all ready for the part about drugs, and then the part about finding out your boyfriend (Robert Mapplethorpe) is gay, but what I wasn't ready for is the part about Patti being a vintage book reseller just to make ends meet!

Apparently Patti supported Robert and herself in those early days by, A. working at Scribner's, and B. supplementing her income with some seriously incredible finds. Patti writes, "I found a twenty-six-volume set of the complete Henry James for next to nothing. It was in perfect condition. I knew a customer at Scribner's who would want it. The tissue guards were intact, the gravures fresh-looking, and there was no foxing on the pages. I cleared over one hundred dollars."

Good God, if only it were still 1970! STUDY has toyed with selling vintage books since our first go-round at The Vintage Bazaar, but we never really got into the swing of it because it's damn hard work finding quality books that are still intact. This interview Jonathan Lethem did with Patti for the PEN American Center may explain some of her luck:

I grew up in the 50s when most people in America were getting rid of their old stuff. They didn’t want their grandfather’s or their parents’ stuff. They didn’t want the nice porcelain; they wanted Melmac. They didn’t want these old leather-bound books; they wanted the Reader’s Digest collection. So even as a child I would go to rummage sales or church bazaars and pick out books for pennies, for a quarter. I got a first edition Dickens with a green velvet cover with a tissue guard with a gravure of Dickens. You could get things like that. It has never gone away, my love of the book. The paper, the font, the cloth covers. All of these things are slowly dying out.

I'm writing this to you, Libby and Katherine... Patti could've been a Vintage Bazaar seller. We just missed her by about four decades.