Chapter 355 “Wonder and Lust. Over and Over Again.”

My participation in last weekend’s 2009 California International Antiquarian Book Fair actually began last week, before the fair opened to the public. On Wednesday, I drove over to Mr. Z’s shop in Alameda to help pack boxes of books to bring to the fair. At lunch time, we left the shop and headed to a bookseller open house at Peter Howard’s Berkeley shop, Serendipity Books. Held before the San Francisco ABAA Fair every other year, this open house features fine books, fine food, and fine wine. And did I mention the fine book-sellers who were in attendance? I felt positively regal eating roast suckling pig for lunch (the platter even had the pig’s head complete with an apple in its mouth!) and then wandering the aisles in search of great books. I knew a few of the booksellers in attendance and got to meet a few new ones as well. I did my best not display my usual shy behavior.

One of the many signs on a wall in the store had a picture of lovely old books and the caption above the picture read, “Wonder and lust. Over and over again.” That pretty much sums up my reaction to the amazing quantity of books at Serendipity. There were treasures on every floor-to-ceiling bookshelf, gems on the second floor balcony, and undiscovered rewards at the bottom of bags (filled with books) that lined the aisles. Serendipity is every bibliophile’s dream of a great book hunt.

Thursday was fair set-up day. The day before the fair opens, this is when the dealers arrive with all of their books and book cases and set up for the fair. More importantly, this is the day when many dealers scout out and purchase books from one another. Since I am not (yet) a member of the ABAA, I could not attend the fair on Thursday to help Mr. Z. set up. Only ABAA booksellers can be admitted during this time. I could only work for Mr. Z during the hours the fair is open to the public. Though I was sorry that Mr. Z would have to carry in the boxes of books by himself that day, I used the time to drive into the City and have dinner with my fellow bookseller and friend Jeanne Jarzombek of The Book Prowler. We had a great time, dining at a small, delightful San Francisco restaurant called Rue LePic and drinking to Mr. Z and any of the other ABAA booksellers who were lugging in their boxes without help. I then spent the night in San Francisco so I’d be ready to help for the Friday afternoon opening of the fair. (Thanks, Jeanne!)

As Thursday night came to an end, I counted my blessings. I am lucky to live in the area where the largest book fair in the world is held. Two years into this business, I am lucky to know a few booksellers well enough to call them friends and to be able to meet them in lovely bookish settings like Serendipity or to share a meal together. I am lucky to be able to help Mr. Z. at this fair. It has given me good experience and also given me a chance to evaluate ABAA booksellers and fairs and to consider whether I think eventually applying for membership (must be in business at least four years, I think)is the right thing for me.

I’m blogging from the road tonight, so please excuse the lack of links to the other booksellers and places mentioned in the post. (Remember when I told you Tom and Huck had the week off school this week? That’s the reason for the road trip. More to come on that, later.) I’ll end the pre-fair story here, but you’ll be hearing all about the opening night of the fair tomorrow.

See you in the stacks!

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