Friday, October 5, 2012

The Banquet on Which We Feed

A big part of the fun, adventure and excitement that comes from buying used books from the general public is finding patterns. When a person brings in a bag, box or dresser drawer full of books, you can see a lot about a person: her life, her interests, the fads she's casting off. Or even more interesting, you can see a portrait of a couple, or a mother-daughter pair, or whatever configuration of people run errands together. Concurrently, over the course of a busy week of buying, strange patterns can emerge on a grander scale. Some weeks it will seem like a lot of people unloaded books on Buddhism, or classical liberalism, or like last week, a lot of cool finds relating to Patti Smith, one of the most IMPORTANT ARTISTS OF OUR TIME.

Hyperbole is annoying, and with Ms. Smith in particular, the titles are a bit silly. At first she was the mother of punk rock, and as she grows older she becomes the great grandmother of punk (as she quipped on The Colbert Report). But it is undeniable what a great musician she continues to be, and through reading both her memoir and her volumes of poetry, what a gifted, crystal clear and heartbreakingly beautiful observer and writer she is as well.

from Woolgathering
So what did we haul in the UBC? There's a copy of Just Kids, the memoir of her days with photographer Robert Mapplethorpe in the New York of the 70s, which reads like a scrappy künstlerroman and touchstone for an important time in the history of modern and post-modern American art. Photography, poetry, music. Poverty. Makin' it. Losing. Loving. It's all here. Johnny Depp loved it. Critics loved it. Booksellers loved it. Your book club will love it.

Furthermore, in the wake of her successful memoir, New Directions published an earlier book of Smith's, Woolgathering a sort of memoir written in vignettes. Beautiful little scraps of memories from her childhood and reflections on growing up accompanied by beautiful, fascinating photographs.

And finally, we acquired a copy of Seventh Heaven, collecting Smith's fan fiction of the hit WB family drama. Or, perhaps on further inspection it's a rare collection of her poetry printed in the 70s, as raw and real and punchy as her best lyrics. Snatch it up, it's a collector's item.

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