Buying Back the Past
And some are sales: MDF Michael Rosenthal and I occasionally put up stuff from the back of my closet. We unloaded a Mike Oldfield vinyl test pressing of "Ommadawn" (the sequel album to "Tubular Bells") for almost $800!!! to a European vinyl collector. Never mind that you can only play these tests a few times, this guy wanted it... Also a Jefferson Airplane flight bag (labels did very little in the way of merch back in the day, and this was cool, but really now, WHAT was I going to do with it?) and Grace Slick's gold shoes that she wore on the cover of the January '69 ish of Jazz & Pop...I believe we made $500 there...some other test pressings and rare releases.
We haven't sold anything for a while, but I'm doing a huge clearout and we should be putting things up again soon...and then I can buy more stuff!
Recently, though, I have been reacquiring childhood books I once owned that went missing decades since. Nothing rare or expensive, just stuff I remember fondly from fifty years ago, when I was a little sixth-grader hitting the library or buying 35-cent paperbacks through something called the Teen-Age Book Club at school. The books were long gone, and yet they stayed in my head all these years.
So, through the miracle and wonder that is online, I have been buying back these tiny pieces of my childhood. And it's been fascinating to read these again and wonder, and ponder, how important they seemed to me at ten and how different they seem now at sixty.
Back then, every word and mood seemed colossally freighted. I would read scenes of a first date in San Francisco's Chinatown, say, in a book called "Fifteen" by Beverly Cleary, and they would seem so impactful with their descriptions of something as trivial as eating shrimp roll for the first time. To me, who had never done anything of the sort, it was HUGE. And evocative.
Same with a charming book called "The Blueberry Muffin," about a teenage college hopeful helping her aunt to open up a teashop in rural Connecticut, or "The Mooncusser", a sort of mystery about a younger girl and her friends in a fishing village on the New England coast.
My big score, separately assembled, was a six-book hardcover collection I loved, called Teen-age Mystery Classics. I left them at my parents' home when I went off to college and thought myself too grand for them, and those original ones somehow got tossed out over the years, which annoyed me. So when I thought to track them down online, I went for it.
The books were all good, but one was terrific: "Thunderbolt House," by Howard Pease. It was set in 1905-6 San Francisco, when a Stockton family inherits their wealthy uncle's mansion on Nob Hill, along with jewels and a fantastic library of rare books, including Poe's fabled "Tamerlane". And of course there's a big mystery and scandal, and then the earthquake... There were fine descriptions of the house and its contents and the habits and mores of the time---and some regrettably racist stuff about the Chinese, unfortunately, since the book was written in the 40's, and so there's a lot of "Chinee velly good boy in 'Melica" crapola. But on the whole it's a great read.
I remembered this book so well and so fondly that I told MDF Mary about it one day, and she let out a shriek, she KNEW that book, she had READ that book, but had forgotten its name and hadn't been able to track it down. This is a woman, I must add, who has gathered unto herself ALL the 90-odd books written by Albert Payson Terhune (the "Lad: A Dog" collie guy) except I believe one...
Anyway, she was delighted to discover it again, and so was I, and we both said how amazing we should both have read it and loved it...further evidence that we were separated at birth, albeit eighteen years apart...
And a charming series about a pony called Windy Foot and the Vermont farm family that owned him, LOVED those. And "The Golden Horseshoe" by Elizabeth Coatsworth, about a Virginia plantation owner's daughter by his Native American second wife, Shadow-of-Trees Anglicized into Mistress Honor Stafford, the niece of Powhatan, wonderful book that my then-best friend Michele Cottler turned me onto in I think 1957, and that gave me a glorious sense of summer vistas and forests and mountains I had never seen. And another teen mystery, "Mystery Walks the Campus", which kind of colored my ideas of college for quite a while.
There were the classics, of course: "The Jungle Book" and "Kim", the impact of which upon my writing style is reverberating still, like a huge shivering bell; "The Wind in the Willows", again with those magic moments (Mole and Ratty eating fried ham in Badger's underground home; their trek home through the winter night and Mole's return to his old burrow); "Lassie Come-Home" and the Black Stallion books. Many I still owned, but some I had to buy anew. Hey, maybe some of them even ARE my old copies...it could happen.
I still have a few more to track down, most notably one about a Welsh princess, the daughter of Caradoc, who with the rest of the royal family were captured by Claudius, I think, and taken to Rome, where they were converted to Roman-ness and Christianity and some of them even became saints. But it's very rare and expensive and I haven't seen it around much lately. Still, I am resolved!
None of these books is great literature, but all are extremely well-written, well-told stories. And as I say, the imprint on me was deep. The smallest detail made impressions on me that I still remember today. Now, of course, I read them from a different place and masses more experience. But it's sweet to look back at what young Patricia found so interesting that it stayed with her all these years, and what maybe were her first really formative writing impressions.
And I have eBay and bookfinder.com to thank for it. Kneel before the power of the Internet!