BOOKS are rotting in a chain joint called Public Storage, in the Bronx, New York, in a building that at one time stowed meat. Don’t think it doesn’t smell. I pay money every month for a spot of space on cold cement floor, next to nearly identical spots set apart only by a number on a door or a wacky lock. The spots are divided like shower stalls, with absurdly thin steel doors that do not reach the ceiling, so if you stand on the chair that someone abandoned in a dusty corner, you’ll see what your neighbor has deemed worth saving: shit.
3,000 miles away, I imagine my boxes and boxes of books, my shit in a holding pen, lonely and forced to make friends with the cockroaches feeding off food that is almost certainly stuck on a great number of pages, leftovers from a most excellent diet of coffee, beer, and burritos. The books used to live with me in my apartment in Washington Heights and we were very happy together, but then I had two weeks to get across the country, and dreamed of being one of those people that stopped hoarding. The ending is predictable. I damn well can’t ditch my books.
Ever been to the little dive shop Westsider Books on Broadway? They know how to cram. They double shelf like they’re stuffing a turkey and their employees are so cool and friendly, that if you’re a New Yorker, you just want to listen to them talk to other people. One time I had to hide upstairs, just so I could hear two employees and one customer argue about the graphic novel Maus. I love bookshelf crams and Westsider Books holds it down.
Or what about all the authors I discovered at the Strand? The Strand is big, but don’t think because they’re big you don’t have to hunt. You do. You’ve got to frequent the so-called 18 miles as often as possible because you never know what in the hell they might have. One time I got a book from 1889, which I bought because the pages were decaying and falling apart at the slightest touch. I liked that it still existed. It was fiction! It was Balzac. Or what about all the Irish histories I found there sitting on the shelf, waiting for someone to check out the inside? Without the Strand, I wouldn’t have F.S.L Lyons or J.C. Beckett, authors I have yet to see on the tidy shelves of the textbook store on 5th Avenue that carries more Tim Pat Coogan than you’ll ever need.
I have books from New York, even Brooklyn, Washington D.C., Pennsylvania, San Francisco, Austin, Portland, Tucson—all over the country. So many books and bookstore experiences that I cannot replace. I thought about selling these books, or giving them away, or at least all the ones I’ve read. But I’d rather keep my shitty little paperback from 1975 than pawn it off on your ass for a lousy $2 bucks. I’d rather not pawn it at all. Frankly, I don’t trust you spill coffee the way I do. So my books are rotting in storage, waiting to unite with the books I managed to media mail (which is another story) and waiting to meet their new brothers and sisters. Which, by the way, is a totally idiotic way to refer to books. But book hoarding? That is true.
Cairn Press staffer J.H. is responsible for this indulgent spam post. J.C. and J.T. ask that J.H. spills coffee on fewer submissions. We might use our initials, sometimes, so that the kind and curious will visit our website for less dubious information. Our TITLES page, for example, will be updated soon. Get ready.