David Mason on Starting and Starving in the Book Trade

Mason, David. “A Tale of Illusion, Delusion and Mystery: Booksellers and Librarians.” Descant 91 26:4 (Winter 1995): 15-37.

What really occurs is this: one buys books (without really having any idea if they are books that anyone wants) until one has a few thousand, rents an office or store and settles in to starve to death. This melancholy truth allows me to use here one of my favourite anecdotes, the one about the bookseller who wins a million in the lottery and when someone inquires what he intends to do with the winnings, he answers “Oh I don’t know, I guess I’ll just go on selling books until it’s all gone.” Booksellers laugh the loudest at this joke, always with a touch of sadness. My father didn’t laugh.

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