I feel the need to boast for a moment. Not like excessively or anything to the point that everyone hates you and wants to throw something at your face. Just a small amount of saying, “Hey, I have this unique, uncanny ability.” We all have them. Sometimes we work to create this talent, and then sometimes it just happens. Mine is the latter. My fiancée, Sally, also has the latter type of skill. She’s able to find ridiculously good deals on nice clothing—all the time. I think the most recent example was that she found some sort of cashmere something-or-other for eighty-one cents. Part of me thinks I might be exaggerating one or two of those details, but then another part of me thinks I’m not exaggerating it at all. That’s just how unreal her talent is. Mine is related to books. For whatever reason I have the ability to find really good books for next to nothing. It happened again today.
Today I was browsing around at different used bookstores’ websites and came across a novel by William Faulkner. I’ve been trying over the past year or so to amass all of his novels, but not just any copies of his novels. I’m looking for hardcover editions that are early printings and in very good (or better) condition. And for really cheap. Obviously you can see the problem there. Sometimes it’s really easy to find such deals on Faulkner’s later novels (like with The Reivers), but it gets much trickier when you’re looking for his earlier works (like with The Hamlet). My goal, for when I’m done with grad school, is to go on a Faulkner binge, the likes of which will be so glorious and densely saturated that by the end of it I’ll have the thickest drawl you’ve ever heard and molasses will just spontaneously ooze from my eyeballs because I will be so Southern. Anyway, this morning I found a hardcover early printing of The Town, the second novel in Faulkner’s Snopes Trilogy. For five dollars. I know . . . I know.
This is not new, though. Allow me to share with you other such victories I’ve had:
- The Bluest Eye, Sula, Song of Solomon, Tar Baby, Beloved, and Jazz by Toni Morrison. All hardcover, all like-new condition novels for a total of twenty dollars.
- Raise High the Roof Beam, Carpenters and Seymour: An Introduction by J. D. Salinger, first edition, hardcover, very good condition, twelve dollars.
- The Crossing by Cormac McCarthy, first edition, hardcover, like-new condition, ten dollars. (Thank you to The Regulator Bookshop in Durham, North Carolina.)
- Requiem for a Nun by William Faulkner, third printing, hardcover, good condition, ten dollars.
- Franny and Zooey by J. D. Salinger, sixth printing, hardcover, very good condition, ten dollars. (I realize that true first editions of Salinger’s stories would be the copies of The New Yorker they appeared in, but even so, it’s hard to find early printings of his stories in book form for a good deal.)
- Native Son by Richard Wright, first edition, hardcover, good condition, eight dollars.
- Men Without Women by Ernest Hemingway, first printing of World Publishing Company edition, good condition, seven dollars. (I should note that these editions of Hemingway’s books are usually being sold for fifty dollars minimum when I find them online. Thank you to Half Price Books in Dallas, Texas.)
- Herzog by Saul Bellow, fourth printing, hardcover, very good condition, two dollars. (Thank you to random antique store in Statesboro, Georgia, that only ever sells Tom Clancy novels.)
- Couples by John Updike, fifth printing, hardcover, very good condition, two dollars. (Thank you to McKay’s in Nashville, Tennessee.)
- The Stories of John Cheever, seventh printing, hardcover, very good condition, one dollar. (Thank you to another random antique store—this one in Savannah, Georgia—that I just happened to go to the day before it was closing its doors forever.)
Oh, and I’m pretty sure I have a signed paperback copy of Derek Walcott’s Omeros that I got for six dollars, too. Why it wasn’t in a case at the used bookstore, I have no idea. I didn’t mind.
What are your uncanny talents? They don’t have to be bargain hunting (even though those were the two examples I used). Just something to where, when it happens to you for the umpteenth time, you friends look at you and (somewhat angrily) exclaim, “How do you keep doing that?”