So there’s this person, genetic relative, with a car. She called me this morning to suggest that I fill some bags up with books again. How could I resist the call of musty old paper?
So began the far more frantic and amusing Sunday afternoon at the Lifeline Bookfair. Towards the end of the final day, it becomes a bit of a free-for-all. People fill bags with books for discounted prices (and why is it that you need a $3 secondhand book discounted? I mean, Bookfair prices have remained quite low compared to the increase in retail and secondhand book prices in the last ten years).
I was duped at least twice by hoarders’ piles looking like actual stock. I’m not sure if these people are bibliomanic like me, or just the circling vultures of Ebay hobbyist booksellers, but they don’t usually bother me. It’s all money for a good cause, after all. I was bothered today. I apologised and went to move on, but the hoarder actually engaged me in conversation. As I heaved my grean bag along, he complained that some people had their entire piles taken away. All that hard hoarding work undone! I held my tongue and moved on to another table, but inside I was a little baffled. Surely at a charity fair like this, if you came to get so many books you might bring an accomplice. Or even – and this is done more often than you’d think – asking a volunteer staffer to help you box and secure your bulk purchase. Perhaps he was only talking to me because he saw the fervour of the bookmad in my eyes? If so, I must feel flattered that someone of my own species recognised me for what I am.
Despite the decreasing stock, I picked up a lot. I was mainly scavenging for two friends today, and I brought a good haul for them both. But I also turned up some books and pamphlets on megaliths, Neolithic birth/death iconography, and some smutty and pulpy ‘archaeology’ and ‘forensic’ that I’ll be working through and reviewing here soon enough.
Highlights were the amount of children themselves hoarding clumsy armfuls of books, the announcer trying to discount encyclopedias to a price that would appeal to a society with ready access to wikipedia, and the very satisfied smiles on some vinyl enthusiasts faces. There was a frenzy, but a bookish frenzy. People rushed and apologised politely when their bags brushed up against each other. Awkward smiles were exchanged as two shoppers reached for the same book. Perhaps people who read books simply have more decorum than your average discount shoppers and bargain hunters. Or perhaps in Canberra we just breed docile bibliophiles.
I am wholly exhausted now. Tired and stretched out on our sofa, surrounded by piles of books that I really should get around to sorting and cleaning. But I think first things first, I’m going to start reading.