The Two Dollar Book Bin

On the somewhat damp sidewalk in front of a Twice Sold Tales, a local chain used bookstore outlet in Seattle on lower Queen Ann, a store front that used to house Titlewave Books and a reading series named The New Reading Series at Titlewave where I used to sit mum in the small regularly attending Sunday audience in the mid-1990s and listen to great local writers such as Stacey Levine, Dan Raphael, Willie Smith, Anna Mockler, Ron Dakron, Belle Randall, I found a copy of my first book, The Remains of River Names, in the $2.00 bin filed next to a thick guide to Microsoft Access 97. It does not bode well to be filed next to a guide to a nearly ten year old edition of computer software.

The Titlewave Reading Series, curated by Doug Nufer and for a time by Greg Burkman opened with music, usually a single acoustic musician including throat singers, bass players, a folk singer who wailed once that he was “Go’n to Bellingham to build a bridge.” Unlike the numerous open-mics in the city, the bookstore was quite except for the chimes outside that rattled in the breeze coming up from Elliott Bay. And so prose readers uncomfortable with reading could read their work. In any case, the bookstore was sold, a new one has appeared, and the reading series is now long gone and on my thirty-forth birthday on the damp curb I found a discarded copy of my first book, retail, $22.95, for two bucks.

My first reaction was a bit of shock that my book was this old (I’ve experienced no shock over my own age) that it hade made it into a cheap bin. It’s a small press book and so there are a limited number of copies in the world. Even so, I’ve managed to inspire even more limited demand for the book. After the initial horror of finding the book in the bargain bin, I picked it up. I needed a copy. I gave my last copy away over a year ago. And that copy had been chewed on my father’s dog. This copy, however, was in excellent condition. And was only two dollars. I looked for some more copies. And was then disappointed that it was the only one.

I checked inside for a signature. I’ve bought copies before that had been signed. For a time I thought if I signed them, then the bookstore couldn’t return them. So at every bookstore I did a reading at, I signed as many as I could. I spent an hour at a book festival once signing as many copies as I could, even though only one copy sold. Luckily this book was unsigned. I dread the day I find a copy signed, “Dear Henrico, my best friend—“
Despite my now low value, I wondered if I could haggle, and get it down to some fifty cents. A posted sign, however, answered my question. No Haggling. All Sales Final.

It was of moderate consolation when I bought the book that clerk shook her head. “What was this doing in there. This is a book by a local author. There is always a demand for this book. Someone is going to get in trouble.” And so I got a modicum of esteem back and was able to save twenty dollars and ninety-five cents on myself.


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