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And Another Thing: Saying no to Friends of Library sale is nearly impossible

By: Susan Rushton
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What a pleasure to have books leaping into my arms. I had crossed off one more item on my list last Wednesday, my primary day for crossing off items on a list. I do that on my days off. Doesn’t everyone? Don’t you use your day off to get things done you don’t have time to do the rest of the week? I’d gone to the library and talked to people and returned books (and got some, of course). No time to dawdle, though, still more items on that list. But the Friends of the Library had a book sale, and I just couldn’t say no. Even with all those errands I had to run (get bird seed, go to the gym, pick up the cleaning, stop by the bank, write this column, make a salad for a meeting, GO to the meeting, etc., etc.), I eased slowly through the FOL book-sale room and accepted the books that leaped into my arms. Here’s a book, here’s another, here are the videos, the magazines, the children’s — lovely, isn’t this nice, la la la... but (pant, pant, pant) I had all those tasks! Places to go! A heartbeat to elevate! I felt so guilty just standing still in front of the video kiosk, thumbing through the titles. So wrong not to scurry back out to the pickup and on to my next thing. But there’s Tony Bennett on the speakers in the background, people murmuring greetings to Fred as she took their money and chatted with them. I breathed in air I was sharing with other book lovers and lo, in that moment I felt sanity returning. This was right, I thought. I was right to take and embrace these moments of pleasure. That’s the point of the book sale annex, after all, in addition to raising money for the Library. It’s there to make people happy. And it certainly did its job. At least it did for me. It’s a fabulous thing to stand surrounded by books, all ready for me to discover them. I got out of there with three books and three videos. The videos: “A Streetcar Named Desire,” “Lawrence of Arabia,” and the English movie “Brief Encounter.” The books: I bought my second copy of “All I Really Need to Know I Learned in Kindergarten.” I had it once, and thought I didn’t want it anymore, so I got rid of it. Careless of me. This copy may even be the one I gave away. I’ve heard about Marion Zimmer Bradley’s “The Mists of Avalon” for decades, and I glommed onto it when I saw it. I have no idea when I’ll read this story of the Arthurian legend from a woman’s point of view. The problem, you understand, is that now that I have it, I have plenty of time to get to it ... so I won’t. I’ll read all the library books I take out first. And I bought a new one, “The Mistress of the Art of Death,” by Ariana Franklin. Well, new for me is a relative term. It was published last year. Adelia is a doctor in medieval England, and as she investigates the murders of children, she must conceal her identity or be accused of being a witch. A feminist whodunit for the Middle Ages. Speaking of books published last year, I received some news last week about the number of new titles that appeared in 2007. We hear — I include you in this, since it isn’t a secret — constant wails about the waning popularity of books, moans that nobody’s reading anymore. Certainly we hear about bookstores closing faster than Wal-Marts appear. Yet in the face of this bookstore shortage and the rumors of rising illiteracy, it turns out that 276,649 new titles were published in the United States last year — 2,233 more (more, did you hear?) than the year before. These are hard-copy titles, new stories, ordinary, old-fashioned books that enjoy regular, old-fashioned print runs. These are astonishing numbers. Even as naysayers howl that print is dead, authors keep writing, and publishers keep publishing. Of course we’ve heard rumors about publishing on demand, books that the big boys have no interest in dealing with because they figure the audience is too small, or the author is too unknown. Those numbers also give one pause: last year saw 134,773 “on demand” titles appear for sale — and that’s only in this country, and only in 2007. These figures are from Bowker, the company that prints the annual “Books in Print.” The news of this yearly jungle of titles, the rush-hour traffic jam of titles out there is terrific. Friends of the Library will never run out of books to sell! Susan Rushton’s column appears every other Sunday in the Auburn Journal. Her e-mail address is Rushton@cebridge.net.