Saturday, December 15, 2007

Farewell to the Book Baron

Though not as famous as Acres of Books, its Long Beach counterpart, The Book Baron in Anaheim was one of the most impressive used-book stores in the US. (Neither of these were quite in the same league as Portland's Powell's City of Books or Denver's Tattered Cover, though; those are world-class institutions.) Alas, as of this Sunday, The Baron will be closing its doors permanently.

This has been preceded by weeks of sales, with prices gradually dropping. When we went a few days ago, the prices on hardbacks and collectibles were:

$100.00 or more-Your Price $10.00
$50.00-$99.99-Your Price $6.00
$15.00-$49.99-Your Price $3.00
$14.99 or less Your Price $1.00

So we came home laden with 53 novels and I'm not sure how many works of nonfiction. Some of those novels are hardback replacements for disintegrating paperbacks, so it isn't as bad as it sounds (wouldn't you trade up to a hardback for $1?); but the fact remains that the last thing we need is more books stuffed into our house. We're out of shelf space as it is. When we moved into this house six years ago, we came laden with 158 boxes of books. I shudder to think how many boxes-worth we have now.

Most of the books are nice, clean copies, but a few have the scribbles of former owners on the first page. Inside a copy of A Maggot, John Fowles' most peculiar novel, is the following inscription:

Nigel Wright
1985-86
England
(LONDON)

I'm not sure what this means. Either Mr. Wright had a tragically short life and extraordinarily precocious reading habits, or he was an excessively slow reader. Or began the book on New Year's Eve. Or perhaps he purchased the book on the installment plan? In any case, it would be interesting to know how the book made its way from (LONDON) to Anaheim, California, the home of Disneyland. (And, no, Mr. Wright didn't visit LONDON from Anaheim and bring the book back with him. Mr. Wright is clearly from the UK. The US may be the Land of the Free, but we still have our laws, and one of them is that no one is ever named 'Nigel.')

Another fine inscription is on Anthony Burgess' famous 'eschatological spy novel' Tremor of Intent:

Pearl Steele July 8-71
Read Oct 31-71
Dull Very for spy story

Sorry, Anthony--everybody's a critic. Now, I think it's a bit odd to write brief reviews inside of a book, but I think it's even odder to read a novel on Halloween. You'd think someone with a a Hollywood name like "Pearl Steele" would have a costume party to attend.

I'm afraid I'm going to have to go back to The Baron again this weekend. During the closing two days of the sale, prices are:

ALL BOOKS $1.00 each
ALL Mass Market Paperbacks-$.10 each

Though I resent the suggestion that mass-market paperbacks aren't "books", those prices are hard to pass up. This time I'm giving preference to the ones with odd inscriptions.

12 comments:

Rob in Denver said...

Tattered Cover is a world-class institution. Alas, it has no used books... at least not in the seven-plus years I've been in the Queen City of the West.

I go load up on stuff at the Denver Public Library's annual book sale: $3 for hardcovers and $.50 for paperbacks. Or, load up a box they provide with as much as will fit and still close the top... all for $15.

It's a shame the store is closing. It sounds like it's a favorite, David.

Rob in Denver

David Isaak said...

Really? I thought TC was like Powell's with used and and new both. But, then, it's been a thousand years since I last visited.

The library sale sounds great--especially the "all the books you can fit" gig.

We went back to The Baron today and came back with yet more books. Mint novels in collector covers for a buck. Heartbreaking, really.

May said...

I usually do not find much difference between spending $15 or $20 for a book but the bookstore sale you mention gives away stuff almost for free. Only, in my case, I should add an intercontinental flight ticket...

David Isaak said...

Hi, May--

Yeah, $1 a book means you pick up anything that looks interesting--what's the downside?

On the other hand, you'd have to add in not only that air ticket, but also all the excess baggage charges on the trip back...

May said...

David, you are a wise man (and your logical thinking is the background of all your posts).
No downside in buying books for $1.

As regards excess baggage, one never knows. I once flew out from Los Angeles to London and the guy at the British Airways check-in asked me if I wanted to travel in business class (I had a cheap economy class ticket). I accepted, only he should let my girl-friend travel with me. It turned out that a couple who had paid for two seats in business had trouble finding their places. Anything can happen.

Morgan Dempsey said...

"Alas, as of this Sunday, The Baron will be closing its doors permanently."

I grew up in Orange County. I didn't know this. That makes me really sad. I loved The Book Baron.

David Isaak said...

Hi, May--

Yes, anything can happen. Though the possible states really begin to clump as we get up out of the subatomic level.

Still, that's a healthy attitude!

David Isaak said...

Hi, Morgan

Thanks for dropping through. And sorry to be the one to tell you.

May said...

David,
you don't have kids yet, do you?

David Isaak said...

Kids? Moi?

Nope. We made that decision long ago (snip snip). We discovered that if you really want to hang out with kids, they aren't hard to borrow. And you only have to borrow the ones you like. And then you can give them back. And we're so much cooler than their parents! (Face it--when you're growing up, ANYbody is cooler than your parents.)

I'd be a terrible parent, and that's what makes me okay to hang with.

Not having kids is one of the things that makes it easier for me to stay so immature. Not that I don't have to keep working at it...

May said...

(smile) That's true, you can borrow them and give them back at the end of the day. But my own boys, flesh of my flesh, have something special that I recognize in them every time I look at them. I still cannot believe that such a miracle could happen - the making of a human being.

You know why I asked out of the blue?
Because you are a wonderful "father" when you relate to young people.

Jake Jesson said...

Holy crap - why didn't I catch up on your blog when I was within a hundred miles of Long Beach? Now I just feel plain bad for my selfish impulse to exult in the demise of a good thing.

Ah well.

By the way, I generally prefer used books that have something interesting written in them. Unless it's a graphic novel, in which case I won't buy it. (Almost every, if not every, book I've ever bought new was a graphic novel.)