J.P. Jones Plugs Lt. Grubb. (Details below.)
What a difference a year makes! This Saturday morning, as I pulled up at the Greater Philadelphia Expo Center to shop the second annual Philadelphia Book and Paper Expo,the parking lot was full. And so was the hall.Oh, wait a minute. That was the Eastern Pennsylvania Conference of the United Methodist Church (“Making Disciples of Jesus Christ for the Transformation of the World.”) being held in the space adjacent to the book fair. The fair looked more like this.In short, the usual lackluster event, populated by the usual dealers, attended by the usual suspects, competently organized, as usual, by Flamingo Eventz, but just about flatlined as far as energy, imagination, or creativity were concerned. Super Scout Bill Hutchison put it best:“The Rapture came early. This is hell.”
I stole the line to use as a tweet. (Yeah, it’s true. “Follow” me, will you? For that matter, “like” Ten Pound Island on Facebook. I got kids to feed.) But then I got to thinking what a perfectly Twilight Zone-ish kind of hell the Philly book fair could be – the last place you’d expect to spend your life in eternal damnation, but hellish for exactly that reason. In such a hell, as Hutch put it, “The books would keep getting worse.”
So how come the Methodists got such a big crowd? They’re only selling one book.
Ah, well. I got more than one book, but jest barely. Here’s the math of it.
I was on the road for four days, a little over 1000 miles. At an average cost of about $1 per mile on such trips, and figuring to double on anything I bought, I’d have to spend $1000 just to break even on expenses, and cover my cost of goods. Cash flow is the name of the game, friends. My total purchases came to $1220.
I guess I could have stayed home. But then I would have missed my first two days in various Vermont locations including the Rauner Library at Dartmouth, researching John Ledyard’s famous canoe trip, which I hope will be the core of my next book.
After I finished my research I hit the book trail in semi-earnest, stopping at a couple of places in New York, including Fred Rosselot’s house.Fred is a lovely guy, one of the true characters in the business, who’s made a long and successful career out of lumping antiques, house cleanouts, and dumpster diving.Then down to see Bob Langmuir, subject of my book, Hubert’s Freaks. Turned out Bob had sold the Arbus archive, and is now living the life of a country squire in Chadd’s Ford, PA. So happy endings are possible, I guess.
The funnest thing I bought in Philly was a collection of 32 nineteenth century lithos and engravings collected by someone interested in old printing. (Kindly scouted up for me by Dan Gaetta of John Bale Book Co.) This group contained a wonderful image of John Paul Jones shooting Lt. Grubb - a famous episode about which I blogged a few months ago (It has been the subject of many images, but it never actually happened.) - and an even more famous event, the yacht America’s victory in the first America’s Cup race, with a contemporary colored image and an article from Hunt’s Yachting Magazine, 1861. As well as 30 other engravings of George III, John Calhoun, Benedict Arnold, the Constitution defeating the Guerriere, etc., etc… $200 for the lot.
Well, it's been rapturous visiting with you. Next week a piece on archives, then a report on the venerable New Hampshire Book Fair.