USED AND RARE by Lawrence Goldstone


Travels in the Book World
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 The Goldstones (Lawrence: Rights, 1992; Nancy: Mommy and the Murder, 1995; etc.) offer a sprightly paced travelogue that records their education in literary connoisseurship. Their interest in rare books began innocently enough when they challenged themselves to limit spending on birthday gifts for each other. Nancy walked into a Lenox, Mass., bookstore in search of a hardcover copy of War and Peace and discovered instead the large, arcane world of out-of-print books. With the discovery in Boston, weeks later, of a $40 first-edition of B. Traven's novel The Night Visitor, they were hooked. At a book fair the Goldstones are stunned to encounter a $50,000 1914 first edition Tarzan, by Edgar Rice Burroughs. ``Fifty thousand dollars for Tarzan? Could it be that somehow Tarzan was great literature and we didn't know it?'' Through visiting all the best stores, attending fairs and auctions, and perusing catalogues, the Goldstones learn to read the dealers' idiosyncrasies and the terminology of the trade, and gain a perspective on the idea that the business of rare books is, after all, a business: Demand drives prices, and (as with antiques and other collectibles) what has value is whatever collectors want. (Soon they plop down several hundreds for a two-volume first edition of Bleak House.) In the manner of good travel writing, the authors' descriptions are evocative, their storytelling compassionate--and frequently hilarious. (``How did you find us?'' complains a midtown Manhattan rare-book dealer when the Goldstones arrive on his doorstep. ``We control our advertising very carefully.'') And to their bedazzlement, they encounter some real gems, the ``one of a kind,'' the ``utterly and completely irreplaceable.'' In the end, the authors concede, there is satisfaction to be found in more mundane discoveries, too. A sort of Year in Provence for book lovers: an entertaining armchair introduction to an esoteric but captivating subject.

Pub Date: May 15th, 1997
ISBN: 0-312-15682-0
Page count: 211pp
Publisher: Dunne/St. Martin's
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15th, 1997


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