Tuesday, April 07, 2009

Striking Used Bookstore Gold

There are books that I want. Then there are books that I really want, books that I must have. Thanks to Amazon.com, I can readily find any book in the world. But I'm cheap. I don't always want to pay those prices for the books I want. There are too many books that I want. And I'm always finding new ones. Not that I'm alone in that respect.

Some of the books that I must have are by my favorite philosopher, Eric Hoffer. They're available, but due to my parsimoniousness, I search estate sales and used books stores for his books. On rare occasions I get lucky. Last week I found a hard cover copy of Working and Thinking on the Waterfront. It was $6.50. To me, that seemed kind of high. It's not in perfect shape. In fact, it's kind of rough around the edges. And somebody underlined some passages in pencil. I hate that. I have friends that take notes in the margins of their books, and one friend in particular who cares even less about the condition of his books, and will actually tear out sections of a book to read while traveling if the book is too thick to be easily carried. That's OK. Those aren't my books.

I'm kind of obsessive, and I like my books to be in perfect shape. My wife has learned to live with it. She claims that I yelled at her one time when she set a glass of wine on a paperback book of mine, but I didn't yell. I merely asked her to move the glass. I've gotten better, and while in the beginning, when my kids were young, I tried to get them to take better care of their books, I was forced to back off. Since then, I've lightened up a bit. I even let my kids read my books - well, most of them.

Because of the condition of the book and the fact that this is just Hoffer's diary for two years of his life, I debated as to the need of spending my hard earned $6.50 . . . plus tax. I knew though, that if I didn't buy it, I would spend all of my waking hours regretting it. So I bought it. And I'm glad I did. Hoffer did some of his thinking in his diary. On page 6 he writes,
The Greeks extracted geometry from surveying, and their philosophy probably received its first impetus from the invention of coinage about 700 B.C. It was but a step from seeing coins as the common denominator of all values to the speculations that the manifold appearance of things is due to different states and arrangements of a fundamental substance.
That was worth the $6.50 plus tax. Then on page 7,
I am often struck by the money-consciousness of many radicals and their skill in business, particularly in real estate. The radicals on the waterfront have left-wing principles and right-wing bank accounts.
And there is lots more.

I read the thing in a couple of days. Like his other books, its short and to the point. His diary entries quickly got to the heart of his day. Besides the random bits of wisdom, the reader learns that Hoffer, in a lot of ways was just a regular guy. He lived alone out of choice, but there was a family that he befriended to the point that their son was his godson. There are frequent references to his visits with them. He had stomach trouble. He was a longshoreman. We learn a little bit about the men he worked with. He felt no need to ramble on about his thoughts or emotions like a self-centered teenager.

This is a beautiful little book. I'm glad I found it. Last summer, I was lucky enough to find a paperback copy of Hoffer's, The Passionate State of Mind, at an estate sale. There was also a copy of The True Believer, which I bought for my sister. I don't think she's read it as she's never offered to argue about it with me.

One more from this book:
Was there ever a utopia which visualized a society free of planning, regulation, and supervision? Utopias are usually visualized by potential planners, organizers, directors, leaders. The envisioned new society is the ideal milieu for bureaucrats.

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At 11:32 PM, Blogger KPOni said...

Oh you and your books, with the amount you read, you'd think you were an intellectual of sorts.

I feel like I should read this Eric Hoffer as you often talk of his writings so fondly.

At 7:33 AM, Blogger Jungle Mom said...

A great find! Glad to see you back blogging again.
I have been without internet for several days, it involved a volcano and I don't make this stuff up!

At 3:29 PM, Blogger Harry said...

I ain't no inter-lek-chu-al. I'm just a guy who likes to read. If I come across another copy of The True Believer, I'll save it for you.

Jungle Mom,
Volcano? The best we can do here are thunderstorms and blizzards. Even the two earthquakes we've had were so minor I thought the vibrations were due to big trucks passing by.

At 1:20 PM, Blogger MightyMom said...

I'm the same way about my books. hubby has had to find other things to use as coasters for his coffee cup!!


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