Linkadelica


Multiple Bibliomaniacs

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One of the best things about scouting for treasures in thrift shops is that I never know what I’ll stumble upon next or what strange and unexpected paths I may follow as a result of my finds.  Over the years I’ve found $1000 in the sleeve of an old all-weather coat (many years and several moves after I bought it), two first U.S. printings of Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone, and the copy of local writer Amy Krouse Rosenthal’s Encyclopedia of an Ordinary Life that led me to become a Supremely Excellent Judge on her Beckoning of Lovely project.  And so it goes.   Although theoretically I am working when I’m scouting books, it does not feel like work to me.  When I pick up a book that has been rebound in a nondescript tan library binding and see it’s a copy of Shock Values by John Waters, I flip it open to the title page, where I hit paydirt (click to enlarge):

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This made my (very hot and sweaty) day, partly because I knew I could get a few bucks for this book, but largely because John Waters is one of my heroes and Shock Values happens to be one of my favorite books of all time.  Not only does Waters have an endless supply of great stories to tell, but he also delivers them with self-deprecating humor, joie de vivre, and panache befitting a man with a pencil moustache.   More than almost any other book I’ve ever read, Shock Value serves as an inspirational tale for overachieving misfits.   In a society deliberately engineered to instill and positively reinforce conformity, one simply cannot overestimate the importance of witnessing the journey someone who paid no attention whatsoever to what he was “supposed” to do, but instead followed his own deepest creative urges to make a movie of a hot tranny mess eating dogshit.   Not only has Pink Flamingos made back its $10,000.00 budget many times over, but then John Waters got paid all over again to write about making it.  Is this a great world, or what?

I knew I should sell this book, but I was tempted to keep it because it had personal meaning for me and would fit so nicely into my collection, if not my groaning shelves.  Looking at the book more closely, I saw it had come from the Morris Library at Southern Illinois University Carbondale.   Via my tour of the Columbia College library for a class, I understood what sorts of books were most likely to disappear from university libraries.  This is just the sort of thing that gives hipsters a bad name, because when I looked up the book’s call number in the SUI online catalog, I found there had been two copies cataloged but both were now listed as missing.   Since I had been so torn as to what to do with this book, it was almost a relief to have the decision taken out of my hands.  As an MLIS I could not sell or keep a book I knew was stolen from a library, so I contacted Carbondale to see if they wanted Shock Value for their Special Collections.

I could see there was a gift inscription, but at first glance I thought it said “To Fred, Love From John Waters.   I assumed this Fred was the culprit who had filched it from SIU, but when I showed it to a friend, he pointed out that it looked more like “To Fred, Love Irwin,” with the signature in a different handwriting altogether.  Fred was hence exonerated, and now all fingers pointed to Irwin as the culprit.  I couldn’t help wondering what had happened to make the book land in a resale shop.  Perhaps Irwin and Fred had been romantically involved and had such a bitter breakup that Fred couldn’t stand to see Irwin’s name ever again in his life.  Perhaps Fred had a conscience and simply could not enjoy possessing a book that didn’t belong to him.  Perhaps Fred was no longer among the living, in which case I am very sorry.  Clearly this was not Fred’s fault, unless he put Irwin up to it.

I am picking on Irwin because it is fun, but these things sometimes pass through many hands and someone else altogether may have originally removed it from the Morris Library.   The best thing about this story is that in in true nonconformist fashion, Shock Value took an unconventional and roundabout path and and came out somewhat the better for it.   I don’t approve of taking things from libraries and I doubt the John Waters of now would approve of it either, but I know the book well enough to know that Irwin may have read this passage, from page 49:

I supported myself by selling diet pills and shoplifting.  My specialty was a Navy surplus store, popular with all the tourists in town.  I’d go into the store dressed in shorts and a T-shirt and put on layers of clothes without hiding anything and go apply for a job dressed in the stolen clothes.  The manager never expected that anyone would have the nerve to shoplift and apply for a jobat the same time.  We got so chummy that I almost got the job, which really panicked me.

Morris Library Rare Book Librarian Melissa Hubbard has assured me they would be delighted to have Shock Value back and would house it in Special Collections, where folks can hopefully absorb some of its gloriously filthy essence for generations to come.  I am equally delighted to have played a part in returning it, and I am publishing this story first and foremost in support of my belief that anything can happen.  I would also like to take this opportunity to remind folks that it’s not very nice to steal library materials.  If you really pay attention to Shock Value, John Waters says he quit shoplifting when he started worrying about theaters pocketing his receipts.   Being on the up-and-up seems to have worked for him, as he hasn’t done too badly for himself.