I confess: I have been known to buy books the way some people buy crack or shoes. Going back to school did nothing to curb that habit. An excuse to buy books? Don’t mind if I do.
For me, secondhand books are the most dangerous of all. They are often attractively priced, enter the home relatively unnoticed and, once there, almost never arouse suspicion (unlike shiny new books that tend to invite queries like, “You said we were short on cash this week. When did those shiny new copies of Foucault, Sartre, and Heidegger arrive?”
Secondhand paperbacks, and even some hardbacks, are usually easily replaced if needed, and as such, gladly withstand copious quantities of highlighter ink and repeated reading. Bonus if they come with some other poor sap’s notes and underlines already in them. Double bonus for an interesting inscription. Treble bonus for an unexpected bookmark (and when you buy a lot of secondhand books, your chances of winning increase, naturally).
So anyways, to treat myself after graduation last year I went and heard David Sedaris read when he was on tour for Calypso. Mr. Sedaris is well known for how generous he is with his time when it comes to booksignings, so I took along a couple of paperbacks, because why not?
My copy of Me Talk Pretty One Day was practically brand new, so new looking that it was listed as being in Very Good condition on Amazon. I doubt the bookseller even noticed it had two personal notes written on the last two pages.
Apparently, the book was a going-away gift to a coworker from two employees. Why they chose to write their inscriptions at the back of the book, who knows. Maybe to test the recipient?
“I told Jenny you like to read and this is what she picked. If you read it and find this, text us. If we never get a text, we will know you didn’t read it.”
“If you gift it away or burn it or whatever, Marisa and I will be horribly offended. We will know.”
David Sedaris read us his keynote commencement speech from Oberlin’s graduation from the month before, where he received an honorary doctorate (key takeway: write a thank you note when someone does someone nice for you) and it had a subtle dig in it about a new graduate’s certitude that their Ph.D. in Dance History was worthwhile. When it was my turn to have my books signed, I mentioned I had a brand-new Ph.D., joked that it was in Dance History, then said it was in Fashion History, and it was real. I wanted to take up a minimum of his time, and being a new grad, I wanted my book signed to “Dr.” There was a line behind me. Later, I kicked myself. Had I sounded like an arrogant a$$? I was pretty sure I had.
So I wrote him a thank-you letter and he responded by sending me a postcard.
I hope Jon at least texted them.