Old Paperbacks Never Die. . .They Just Tell Stories
By Marilyn Browning , February 2022
In a black recycling bag on the way to the library, I suddenly realized I had become so unpopular that it had been years since I had been taken out by friends.
Now here I was being trundled off to a book sale with fellow authors, put in bins to be pushed and manhandled by the bargain hunting public. No royalties here. My spine was killing me.
I found myself placed on a table next to a book by Judy Gill, a local romance author. She purred and rubbed my back for me but nothing seemed to help my growing dread of anonymity amongst the hundreds of writers who began appearing on the tables.
Then the logging poet, Peter Trower, wedged his spine between me and Judy and announced with male arrogance that he had just written a book about love and that he couldn't understand for the life of him why HE was at a book sale.
I saw the bodice ripper cover on his new novel and was worried, as close as we were, that I might start resembling the woman on that cover. Luckily, with another thwarted inspection of my pages, I was put in another spot on the table.
As the day progressed, old acquaintances put their hands out to me in recognition. Then they moved on when they realized that I hadn't said anything new in years. I was being put down again and again by former avid admirers.
A small child glanced at me quizzically and was swiftly turned away by their parent.
I had become a myth and not quite trusted anymore.
The men, who used to fear me, now snickered when they looked at me.
The occasional blowsy matron type would turn to me in remembrance of juvenile and hopeful questions from the 1960's but then turn away in sad resignation.
From library book sale patron to library book sale patron, I was perused, passed on and put down. An anachronism in the crowd.
When I looked around the room, I saw that I was not alone, others were being ostracized and pushed aside.
June Callwood was sulking in the corner. Rosemary Brown was all but forgotten by the side door. Marilyn French was piled knee high by the last table.
A ragtag dogeared group of abandoned feminist paperbacks, read, relished and retired, we started to crowd together. Not yet old enough to be collectible but still a remembered embarrassment of our times.
And then someone started to play Jim Christy’s poetry CD in the background. The words flew towards us like dust mites.
"The glue pot, the end of the line, terminal avenue."
Our covers no longer had "the young simper but replaced by the smirk of a certain age".
We were all slowly moving out of retired professional women's bookcases and into the maelstrom of library book sales and Salvation Army back walls.
Then a hand came through the heap of discarded paperbacks and lifted me up from the pile, lifted me up into the light once again, brushed off my ripped and ravaged title page and said, "Look, grandma, it's one of your old books."
I felt the old stirring in my spine, the power once more floating from the written word into the mind of a young and malleable reader.
Perhaps the Library Book Sale is not such a bad place to be taken after all.