You Should Collect

The Globe & Mail recently ran an article about Michael Torosian and his Lumiere Press. Online commenters (photo above of one caught in action; source unknown) being one of the lowest forms of (arguably) sentient life, as a rule we ignore their existence, but in this case our eyes happened across their blather. It was no surprise that their theme was the predictable "how can us regular folks afford books like this?" Profiles of painters, weavers, sculptors etc. never seem to generate this immediate & singular focus on the price of their works, but books do. They're just commodities, one no different than the next. A price that reflects the materials, craft and labor involved is elitist.

The Globe & Mail commenters also perpetuate the fallacy that book collectors are necessarily rolling in extra cash. Most of the people we know of who collect books are just working stiffs who make choices and sacrifices to obtain the books they have. As Gertrude Stein told Hemingway in Paris, if you don't eat out too often, and buy second-hand clothes, you'll have money to buy art and books.

And so, in the hope of recruiting a few from the hordes who think book collecting is only for the likes of Nelson Rockefeller and Montgomery Burns, some suggestions on where to jump in. Really good and interesting book collections often are the result not of capital resources but time, effort and creativity. It's easy to buy modern firsts or signed copies (and in this day & age, anyone who "collects" contemporary books that aren't signed is wasting their money); what's more interesting is figuring out something that people don't value or care about, but which will be of interest in the future. Our suggestion for an inexpensive collection in a field full of cheap pickings: pop-up and activity books (also, apparently, known as "feelies"). Some of the most inventive design and packaging work is being done here, but the books' interactivity (and usual focus toward a younger audience) often results in comparatively short lives. Just like the volvelle in George Wither's book.

A few examples: The Murder at Wayne Mansion, a sort-of comic containing various clues and items to help the reader join Batman in sleuthing. This kind of crime dossier was popular in the '30s. Dennis Wheatley did a few, including Murder Off Miami. No surprise that we were introduced to them by Barbara Hodgson, who has a couple of cool ones.

The Lady Gaga paper doll book. Just don't punch out any of the designer outfits. Or buy two copies, one to play with & one to shelve.

Recent tours through the bargain & discount sections of several local bookstores turned up a number of candidates for this kind of collecting, all priced under $10. So, the next time you hear someone whine about the price of a book, ask them when they last actually bought a book.