11/06/2014 08:05 BST | Updated 08/08/2014 06:59 BST

A Little List: Rare Book Trade Thoughts in Gilbert-and-Sullivan Mode

I am getting ready to travel to Rare Book School at the University of Virginia. As a faculty member I teach a summer course there each year. Preparing for this course I end up pondering rare books, antiquarian book dealing, and how libraries deal with the history and artifacts of the second half of the 20th century.

I am getting ready to travel to Rare Book School at the University of Virginia. As a faculty member I teach a summer course there each year. Preparing for this course I end up pondering rare books, antiquarian book dealing, and how libraries deal with the history and artifacts of the second half of the 20th century. With my archive business Boo-Hooray, we organize, describe and sell the ephemeral remains of 20th century subculture, so naturally a lot of discussions take place vis-à-vis trends and tastes and goings-on.

As time continues to munch on us like so many sesame bread sticks, the collecting habits of the younger generation affect the dealer habits of the older. It is always difficult to identify value and worth and historical/cultural significance in the tempora and mores that you yourself were a part of, or aware of, or ignorant of, as they co-existed with your particular inability to step twice into the same stream. As you are stepping in, other waters are ever flowing past you, and the ephemera of your time are as ephemeral. You were an accomplice in throwing stuff away, hence making the stuff ephemeral, or for that matter, an accomplice in making certain books of your time rare as you weren't buying them.

For my generation of collectors (born in the sixties/seventies), the vigor, humors, and passions of the years surrounding our very birth become infused with potency. We feel our skills as players of knock-out ping-pong with Chronos, Ananke, and Mister Kairos is dependent on our ability to recognize and acknowledge significant artifacts of the times and days we are living through, even if we were in diapers at the time. Having just missed out on something due to date of birth, place of birth, or socio-economical-cultural-edumacational surroundings sure brings added MSG to the consumption of cultural goods.

My generation is able to disperse with the usual stratifications of hi- and lo-brow, driving previous generations nuts as their hard-earned accumulated knowledge was nulled and voided during the second half of the 20th century by a new and financially improved great unwashed, namely their very own sons and daughters. What the greatest generation accomplished (and how they de facto saved our collective asses) was busy-bodily taken for granted by the boomers, whose rhetoric laid claims that what they were building was a new society that was an alternative to the old. With 20/20-hindsight one can pop one's monocle yelling "Hooey!" as we remember Mark Williams' words in A Day In The Life:

There was never an alternative society, was there? Because if there was there would have to be an alternative currency, and alternative property laws and so on. The alternative society was a misnomer: there was an alternative culture, but there was never an alternative society.

Some of us spend a lot of time sifting through the cultural residue of all the frantic activity of the second half of the 20th century. When I first saw punk ephemera at the ABAA Antiquarian Book Show a few years back, I remember thinking that someone was trying to finish sewing up an ermine fur by incorporating some alley cat, but by the time the second thought came around I was going "Great! About time!" It actually fit in pretty well; as Punk started happening-what-35-odd years ago, the timeline of the commencing of commerce certainly coincides not-at-all by coinkidink with the similar span in time from the cultural eruption of Dada/Surrealism or, The Beats, or Japanese post-war photography books. Afterwards, the game is on to hardcore selling & collecting & exhibiting and all that.

So, when all else fails, the sons and daughters of the educated middle class revert to Gilbert and Sullivan. Here's a little list of things to collect, or not collect, and some hot air on collecting. It is followed by a version of "I've Got A Little List" by Gilbert and Sullivan from The Mikado for which I'd like to take the opportunity here to apologize in advance.

1. The Over-The-Counter Culture Photobooks

The potency of collecting counter-culture can be counterpointed with its dark twin: collecting over-the-counter culture. As the distance between Madison Avenue and self-start hipster marginalia has become mere inches or seconds, corporations eager to cool-brand will with almost alchemical urgency and intonation seize some of the sharpest minds, wits, or social critics of the Nineties or Noughts and have them mingle with the product they are trying to shove down our collective throats.

They ain't going to be neutering the talent either: those are methods of yore. Nowadays the opposite is the norm: a truly irreverent, iconoclastic, and often morally questionable presentation of a mainstream consumer product is working the marketplace. This has been going on for a while now. Sometimes the result is masterful work of sublime beauty and restraint, like Ryan McGinley's Balenciaga catalogue, or Robert Frank's work for Commes de Garçons a few years back. Sometimes it results in some of the most immediately eyeball-pleasing art photography executed by pretty much anybody in the last decade or so: the absolute summit of Terry Richardson's work was showcased in a series of throwaway look-books he made for middlebrow fashion brand Sisley ten to fifteen years ago. These become even more of an accomplishment when set in contrast to his recent "artistic" signed/limited books that unanimously fall flat.

2. Short-Run Pop

Short-run pop culture books sometimes reach a level of significance that truly give them legs way beyond their print run, rapid remaindering, and pulpification. These books are fascinating for the vulture-connoisseur-collector of the 20th century popular and cultural narrative. Books on fashion, popular music, popular art, and societal substrata started to show up all over the place in the late Seventies, and continue their ephemeral flux to this day. They seem to me at the very core of how we come to understand the underpinnings, streamings, and brou-hah-hah of the late 20th century popular and cultural narrative, and also how we are to misunderstand it. Intended as overnight cash-ins, attempting to exploit trends as they unfolded, these books were usually written by publishing world insiders for a quickie book-buck. Contradictory as it may seem, they often add important depth of knowledge to a topic. The author, just by being there at the time - taking notes and paying attention - captures immensely satisfying historical detail for posterity.

These now very rare books become absolutely core to how we understand the baby

steps of significant subculture movements. Cheaply printed, geared as much towards

a supermarket check-out line as a book shop, they have not only survived in limited numbers, but the copies that have survived have done so outside of the usual hunting grounds of the antiquarian book trade. Certainly, most book dealers nowadays have an eBay automatic search list the length of your arm, but so do fanatical collectors of any given subculture; so some of these books, once identified as desirable can become quite

expensive, and even more so when a certain book gains traction as being especially desirable. Hopeful booksellers will always price something in a nosebleed manner if there aren't any other copies on the main antiquarian bookselling site ABE.

And naturally, nostalgic boomers and X-ers will pay a premium for a book about their favorite band or subculture, especially if it coincided with the year they lost their virginity.

3. Inside/Outside of Academia

Can't say that I've snacked on any books of cultural commentary published in the last decade or two that have any of the umami (or MSG) provided by Peter York's Style Wars or Nik Cohn's Today There Are No Gentlemen. There are however a smattering of self-published little post-indie rock think/thunk/plink/plunk vanity projects that fascinate me as I, as a collector, attempt to organize disparate strands of the popular and the profane within the stretch of years that embrace the youth-man years of my mortal coil. I think it is rather clear that punk, post-punk, skateboarding, and hip hop attracted quite a few fertile minds during the last two decades of the 20th century. And naturally, as they (we) grow older, we (they) will spend brain-time contextualizing youthful creativity in the bigger picture. This sometimes leads to confusing disasters of academic cluelessness, and also in nostalgic tirades of picturesque gee-wasn't-it-great, but it always leads to a greater understanding of a subculture, a movement, or a set of aesthetic choices when these kind of publications are gathered and studied in a substantial bunching. This certainly applies to the myriad of short-lived websites that pop up and wither like so many chiaroscuro daffodils on the endless wasteland of internet actuality.

4. ABE vs. The Old-Fashioned Catalogue

Between the Bookfinder, ABE, and Bibliofind search engines, one thinks that one should be able to score any/all obscurities not on the antiquarian bookseller radar, no?

Well: Heck no. Consumer guidance is inching its way to kingmanship, and the very bookseller catalogue that some think is trucking its way to obsolescence, is considered by hang-loose hang-low-style collectors and dealers as more important than ever. The catalogue description, and what said book is listed adjacently, tells punters whether they want the book or not, just like it has done for the last several centuries, and as in times of book-collecting yore, the credibility of the dealer as offering up interesting titles in a catalogue within certain parameters means that the customer has a rudimentary built-in trust re: the taste of the dealer. Then the book dealer falls on his/her sword as the punter with fevered immediacy searches the book online to see if he/she can find it at a better price.

Well, sometimes they can and sometimes they can't. The highest level of delight that the Don Juan of knowledge (and/or the dealer) can reach in this pursuit are the books that come up bupkis on any/all of the search engines. Dare I whisper that some savvy wizened booksellers will buy up all copies available of a book (if it is cheap enough) prior to hyping it? I think this has happened often with rare and obscure photo books and is partly the reason that dealers of recent "rare" photo books are seeing the karmic bottom falling out of their market place at this very moment. In some instances it also happens with toothsome pop culture books, and hey, the dealer needs to make a living, and proprietary knowledge is a tool of the trade.

Some dealers are expert swordsmen, waving their mighty tool or sword or wand or, eh, metaphorical penis around as they turn a 20 dollar book into a 300 dollar book. And some dealers have an artificially inflated sense of their own length and girth, as they will hype books that just will not penetrate the market place or inch open the wallet as they are too flaccid or simply do not arouse.

5. Throwing It All Away Or Not Many Seemed To Want One So We Didn't Make Hardly Any

Zines in micro-editions appeal to me almost notwithstanding the subject: I've recently had the privilege to organize and catalogue Lenny Kaye's collection of science-fiction fanzines. This has given me the opportunity to peruse APAs from the Fifties and Sixties: An APA was where a number of fans around the country, sometimes world, contributed a piece of writing to a a printer/editor, sometimes on stencil, sometimes on paper, to be printed on a mimeograph machine and then distributed as a 'zine to the contributors.

Edition sizes ranged from a dozen to a couple of hundred, and the subjects ranged from sincere discussions of scientific merit in technologically-driven (so called) hard-SF novels to the minutiae of fandom infighting. Sometimes pages are collaged or hand-colored. Sometimes the edition is incomplete cuz who sez what is a complete edition?

An APA editor would run out of a particular contribution, or send out some copies late with an additional contribution that arrived too late for the initial batch. As arbitrary as life itself, or the incompletely assembled soup at a Bushwick hipster restaurant.

There are examples of rock & roll fandom APAs, of radical political APAs, and of avant-garde counter-culture APAs, but these are all extraordinarily scarce. I have come across a few examples, and they can actually be tricky to identify as such even for a seasoned (?) professional (??) such as myself. Sometimes they are a pile of paper stuck in a binder, sometimes they are paper-clipped together, sometimes stapled. And sometimes the APA was only a means to mail out a bunch of pamphlets together, so most rules of bibliography are not happening.

6. The Edition Doesn't Matter

The Penguin Great Ideas series has been blowing my fragile little mind for the last few years. These bite-sized, snacky paperbacks gathering streams of global thought for the last millennia or two are expertly edited, designed, typeset, sequenced etc. resulting in the kind of lack of self-control usually exploited by Mammon and his minions when they advertise potato chips: there is no way, no way that you can buy/read just one. At home, they line up next to my ever-growing collection of Loeb's Classical Library, which are also almost supernaturally well-designed books, and as addictive. These books jump off the shelf at me. They get stuffed into suitcases, brought on journeys and vacations, and (most importantly natch) they get read. Believe you me: there are plenty of unread books at my house, but not many Penguins or Loeb's. Why is that? The proof is indeed in the packaging of the pudding. Buy the people who designed these books a boat. They formally drip of user-friendliness. Anything from the clarity of the typography to the shade of the pale page, to the size of the rectangle to the strength of the binding: So sweet! So snacky! Heavenly, in fact - and when you've binged on a whole bunch of 'em you feel all elated and smart. Rather the opposite of potato chips, then.*

In the yore of my collecting, I wanted handsome editions of great thought around the house, and to a certain extent that has happened. There's some of those handsome leather bindings with that wabi-sabi worn-down veneer of hundreds of scholarly caresses over centuries. But hey: I reach for the Penguin Great Ideas paperbacks way more often, and the Loeb's Classics I'll buy in any dinged up condition and I don't care if the dust jacket is present, and underlinings don't bother me much either! So: the edition does matter, even when it doesn't, as its user-friendliness steers the perusal of the enthusiastic dilettante in his library (me!). I still have my Thomas Browne first editions, on the fancy bookshelf in the living room, but I buy the Penguin Great Ideas paperback of Urn Burial in bulk and distribute them almost as frivolously as I'd distribute Tayto-brand potato crisps to my friends and loved ones.

In the past year, I had the great honor and opportunity to help Afrika Bambaataa with his archive, which is now safely organized, inventoried, and shelved in the rare book vault at Cornell University. Mouth-breathing Bathing Ape-wearing funky-record-fetishizers have with some regularity asked me if there were objects of high-grade commodity fetishization present in the Bambaataa record boxes, and the answer is a resounding yes, but the yes is a different yes than that a record collector would probably hope for, as the records in his collection are snacked almost to oblivion. The wabi-sabi is in plentiful supply here, almost too plentiful as these records bear the battle-scars of the numerous parties they've rocked, and the many crates they jumped out of and dove back into.

This is arguably the most important record collection in the history of hip hop, but it is NOT a record collection as the mouth-breathers know it. The records were the tools of Bam's trade: they'd get scratched (both shwikka-shwukka and as-in gouged), they'd get dirty, they'd get worn out. Sometimes they were replaced, sometimes Bam couldn't find a particular record among his 40,000, so he'd buy a second copy, and somewhere in the practical usage of Bambaataa's awesome record library is contained my feelings for the Loeb's Classics and the Penguin Great Ideas. It sure is fun to collect books, but it is even more fun to use the books for that which they were made. The Penguins and the Loeb's sure are fun to read and to hold, and to collect.

* The exception, naturally, being Tayto Potato Crisps from Ireland. Flann O'Brien ate 'em.

7. Cultural Voyeurism

Skateboard culture, if indeed that is what we should call it, expanded into the arts in the early Nineties: rhe culture was insulated and personality-driven. The famed pro-skaters had signature decks, signature t-shirts, and signature videos/DVDs. The decks were disposable, as a skated deck is a wrecked deck, and the artwork on the boards was often created either by the skaters or by graphic designers/artists within the skateboard community. Most of the artists weren't very good, and most of the art wasn't very good, but as the skateboarders graduated from marijuana to heroin/cocaine, and started noticing that arty and affluent girls paid attention to their enfant-terribleness for a while, but lost interest pretty quickly unless they stepped up with some enfant-artiness, well, a movement it was/is. The first book on this was Beautiful Losers, published in 2004, growing out of the Alleged Gallery scene in New York, but truly with its roots in the London exhibition Dysfunctional in 1995 at the Blue Note Gallery.

I wish I could say that a lot of great art came out of this, but I'd be lying. People good at doodling in black books while sitting around stoned out of their gourd will not be so good, and are not fine artists even if the doodles are done in oil on a oversized canvas 10 to 15 years later when they now are in their late thirties and have rubbed shoulders with older, edgier artists. The art purchase that is based on the swagger of the artist is naturally age-old; possibly the very source of the desire of these punters is totemic, but hey, not here not now. Back in the day (yes, I have a bit of a past on the ol' skateboard, wasn't very good, quit a long time ago, all that) we'd design graphics for shirts, for boards, for stickers, and endlessly try to one-up each other in designs. Very in-fighty, in-jokey, fannish like science-fiction fandom and micro-tribal and anguished like the Situationists. Naturally, as people grow older they try to find meaning in what they wasted/spent their twenties and thirties doing, especially in the bohemian part of town, and applying a fine art narrative to a subculture is all around us in 2014. It can be truly important on a global grassroots level, a la hip hop/street art, and it can be bourgeois titillation like the commerce surrounding the arty end of skateboarding, and the person who claims/pretends they can differentiate between the important and what is solely bourgeois titillation usually works as a curator somewhere in London or Paris.

8. I Won't Pay For Punk Records

Rare punk records are priced in the thousands of dollars. The prices are motivated by reputation, not by relative scarcity: The desirability can be compared to artists' editions by known-name entities: Warhol or Banksy prints, or the kind of luxury consumer goods where supply/demand is carefully managed: Hermés handbags, limited edition sneakers, haute couture clothes. The object in question is usually available for purchase if you have enough money, and the records with the most lionized reputation will change hands for substantial sums notwithstanding consistent availability in the marketplace. In addition, there is also a worship of obscurity that is necessitated by how everything anyone ever did anywhere is easily accessible in digital form.

This, in a way, mimics the early years of modern firsts collecting (pre-interwebs) where canonic titles could be sold for big bucks in every given region, and where the clever dealer who had stocked up on a bunch of copies of an in-demand title could sell it over and over if he kept his mouth shut. Nowadays, that way of funding a summer house has gone the way of the passenger pigeon. There will be a vast number of copies of any/most/some modern firsts on the Advanced Book Exchange website, and as Tom C. pointed out, the copy that sells is the cheapest or the one in best condition. Naturally, this also resonates among dealers/collectors of rare punk, where God's own copy (in Mint Plus condition, the one that resided in the Platonic world of ideas i.e. God's record collection) will fetch an astronomical sum since rare punk collectors who are often out of shape want their record collection to be as buffed as possible.

9. Too Rare!

There's plenty of great stuff out there that isn't that expensive: It might be too obscure, not written about, not branded with tastemaker cool, for whatever reason, and sometimes it is also inexpensive because it is too damn rare! Dealers aren't all-knowing, and (throwing black kettle at a brick in a glass house) neither are collectors. Too rare!

10. Porno: Art innit?

Novelty culture has taken over antiquarian book selling. Not completely, but to a great deal. Naturally, this can be blamed on ABE and Bookfinder and eBay and all that. When modern firsts collecting - the Beanie Babies of rare books - commenced, an ultra-premium had to be paid for condition. The mintiest of mint became the most expensive, and the mintiest part had to be the dust jacket. Naturally, baby boomers came up with this folly: The same people who will pay the equivalent cost of a Viking six-burner stove for a perfect copy of Sgt. Pepper will shell out beaucoup loot for a brand spankin' new-looking copy of, oh, eh, Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance. There aren't that many customers who desire a perfect copy of Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance anymore, and my guess is that whence the boomers die off, there won't be any. A diminishing market. Accordingly, nowadays dealers pursue novelties, edginess, the seemingly unique, or the antiquarian impulse-buy. There is a hell of a lot of porn and smut being peddled by trendy antiquarian booksellers: It is easy to understand why. The materials can be bought for cheap (usually on eBay), and they can in this sad world of faux-edgy mass-market art pretense, in a landscape reigned by Richard Prince and Warhol (not to mention their bourgeoisie dilettante customers) and may be profitably sold. Porn artifacts can easily be provided with an aestheticized veneer of arty edge/edgy art by logorrhea-riffic salesman hype. It is an easy antiquarian sleight of hands: If the porn is nested between some Burroughs and Ed Ruscha, then it is no longer simply a utilitarian tool for some tool to spank his tool, but a commentary on the event-horizon façade of the late 20th century consumer as Pop Artist.

Or so I read in booksellers' PDFs.

11. Personal Cool: A Fiction

Cultural movements that have arrived or been usurped by the cool-branding of the mass market will see their ephemeral remains fetishized and commodified by antiquarian book sellers. This is good for the dealer, as only rudimentary squeaky balloon noises of knowledgeable connoisseurship need to be provided. Any punk artifact or emblematic object of early skateboard culture can sold as a rarity as the objective of the customer is usually derived from a desire to contextualize themselves with said movement. Sort of like how successful American 19th century industrialists would have fictitious ancestral portraits painted while they waited.

12. Wait a minute! This photocopy isn't old!

Original photocopies, taste the phrase. Artificial strawberry? MSG? What does it matter if a photocopy of a document is 40 years old or ten years old? Well: It does matter, and all is quagmire. Photocopies are a method of printing, as is inkjet printing and now I am starting to inch towards thinking that so is the circuit board of a hard drive. A means of storing thought in duplication. I have handled thousands of photocopies, and can usually identify what is an original and what is a later copy through paper-feel, ink lucidity, or dare-I-say how the object vibes. What Philip K. Dick called "historiocity" is most definitely a part of the process. You can sense the living, breathing history that surrounded a particular object, its time and its place. This is pure mumbo-jumbo, naturally, but when it comes to easily forgeable objects, by golly this system works for me. Provenance is key, what the photocopy was found adjacent to, but also the feel of the thing. It all ties itself into a knot and disappears into a puff of grayish smoke when only a later photocopy of an original photocopy is what has survived...

What to do? This happens often in modern archiving. As an example, I came across a set of very important oral histories that only survived as photocopies done in a the 1990s of the original 1970s documents. Howdya sell those and how much for? asks rare bookseller guy. I gave 'em away for free to the appropriate institution and kept a back-up copy if someone else needed them.

13. What next: Archival fun in the age of disposable historical documentation

Libraries are now storing old hard drives, old laptops, old desktop computers, floppy discs and diskettes and oh boy. Every tried opening a ten year old Protools file?

An old design file from one of the first generations of Photoshop? A new line of specialist work is mushrooming where companies charge several up-the-wazoos to employ forensic science in making old correspondence or notes by a noted writer again accessible. As soon as the forensic computer scientist has conjured up the thought-content, it is then stored on a brand-spankin' new 2014 format on a spank-brandin' new 2014 hard drive which naturally some future forensic computer scientist will be paid lots to recover a decade or two from now.

Yummy tail sez the ourobouros.

14. I Stood Next To Hendrix On A Bus

As members of the Sixties generation inch toward death it seems that they do, in fact, fear the reaper. Boy do they fear the reaper, they aren't that sure that they'll be able to fly and considering the divorce rate of their generation, they sure won't be together with their designated Romeo/Juliet for eternity unless it is their third Romeo or fourth Juliet or such. Death, death, death, scary scary death. Oh what to do if your generation shopped everyday at an existential concept store called Perpetually 21? Well: You can always write a memoir. Contextualize your version of those heady times with the well-known swells you at some point rubbed shoulders with. If they are of the Hendrix-Beatles-Warhol-Stones-ilk, the likelihood for you to get published is pretty good!

Here's where it gets weird, funny, and absurd: These books are quite important for us to develop an understanding of a time or a movement. Kind of like how when you read a whole bunch of oral histories about the same chain of events reveals not only contradictions, but also brings an Occam's Razor-style clarity to the student of what seems to have actually happened and what it means. The self-important aging hippie memoir is often truly juicy as well, both in the sense of titillating the prurient reader with lurid tidbits, and in revealing actualities that the mass-market megastar biographies would edit out, providing a picture that moves a bit more in the direction of the complete.

15. When We're Young And When We're Old

I am a member of a club for antiquarian book collectors in New York City. A very old club, full of very old people. I attend their events on occasion, and have had the chance to observe successful professional (and weird) people in their Seventies and Eighties hover around exhibitions of rare old books. People who have nothing left to prove, and who make everyday choices based on a narrowing slice of remaining time. This makes me think of learning, of being, and of curiosity. I think curiosity does not kill any hepcat, or hep-kittie. I think it extends life more than kale stapled onto yoga served with an Omega-3 chaser. I also think that later in life, knowledge becomes a multi-directional reward. We accumulate knowledge and store it in our brain, and this is fun and interesting. But the dissemination of said knowledge is truly how and when the endorphins kick in. I remember mentors and consumer guides from my teens and twenties. As you fellers know, there was no internet back then and the actual hunter/gatherer process of finding interesting/illuminating/inspiring dream-stuffs was a cumbersome and convoluted process, and there is no way in heck that the person nurtured on the teat of internet can understand how tricky it was to locate JG Ballard paperbacks or books on the Roman Stoics or 45s by Iggy and the Stooges, or comical Victorian cat illustrations back in the day.

16. The Birth of the Uncool

Not only cultural signifiers of cool, but also the cultural signifiers of uncool are desired. Silicon Valley and Big City corporate digital bohemia is getting increasingly obsessed with its own roots, so the paper trail of late 20th century nerd-dom is becoming sought after. This also relates to how nerd-dom has become a signifier of cool in the 21st century, and how Mister and Miss Popularity increasingly surround themselves with cultural signifiers of nerd-culture to feel cool. So books are cool, libraries are cool, and (egad) even librarians are cool. But is this a pyrrhic victory for us nerds? The rare book trade is full of perennial outsiders, of aging goths, aging punks, of people whose identity always was outside of mainstream norms. The internet has changed all that through how cultural buoyancy has become a parallel strand of luxury consumption alongside the usual Prada/Range Rover/William Morris wallpaper stuff. Micro-tribal consumer statements are everywhere, and people Instagram photographs of what they eat, what they buy, what they wear, what they read, and what they don't read. Especially the latter. Books one doesn't read, but which indicate your personal refinement and status are everywhere, in meatspace as well as online. Every Ralph Lauren and J. Crew shop has piles of coffee table books on art, photography, and lifestyle, and those pretentious Penguin paperback coffee mugs are everywhere. There are numerous pantheons of cultural coolness and cultural cool uncoolness, as showing people who we are through what we consume seems to permeate our lives.

As life goes on, I on occasion cross paths with people from my adolescent years - doesn't everybody. I see Mister Popularity, who peaked in life at, say, 21, and I see Miss Wallflower who has accomplished more and more amazing things for every consecutive decade. There's a Mister Wallflower who peaked at 21 and a Miss Popularity who is ruling her realm, so the system is not a system. Happy, communicative, and social former outsider weirdos are not uncommon, nor are people who have taken their outsider weirdo-ness and turned it into a profession. Hi everybody!

What I think is happening with the web is at worst that the hyper-fragmentation of thought leads to an imposition of cultural gravitas to the signifiers of identity we stumbled upon during adolescence. Sometimes that is a good thing, sometimes it is a truly terrible state of things. But here, cue us librarians, book dealers, curators, special collections custodians, and archivists. Collecting and organizing the ephemeral remains of subcultures, counter-cultures, alternative cultures is of increasing importance, as those are our foundations of identity in a life that is increasingly spectacular in the society-of-the-spectacle sense.

17. With Apologies to Gilbert & Sullivan:

As some day it may happen that a victim must be found,

I've got a little list -- I've got a little list

Of customers and dealers who might well be underground,

And who never would be missed -- who never would be missed!

There's the pestilential nuisances who deal in modern firsts --

A business that was well to do until that bubble burst --

All children's book purveyors who speak in whispers and are fat --

And when they issue catalogues they write about their cat --

And internet book dealers who on selling, net insist --

They'd none of 'em be missed -- they'd none of 'em be missed!


He's got 'em on the list -- he's got 'em on the list;

And they'll none of 'em be missed -- they'll none of 'em be missed.

There's the counter-culture dealer, who dabbles in the arts,

And the high-end pornographist -- I've got him on the list!

And the people who hound book fair isles like a blancmange of warts,

They never would be missed -- they never would be missed!

Then the idiot who praises, with enthusiastic force,

All booksellers from yesteryear, and the price back then of course;

And the lady from the provinces, in clothes from Game of Thrones,

Who "doesn't think that she collects, but likes Neil Gaiman's tomes";

And that saddening anomaly, the steampunk novelist --

I don't think he'd be missed -- I'm sure he'd not he missed!


We've got 'em on the list -- we've got them on the list;

And I don't think they'll be missed -- I'm sure they'll not be missed!

And that Nisi Prius nuisance, who just gives me the blues,

The book-blog humorist -- I've got him on the list!

All punky fellows, hipster-nerds, and dandies with tattoos --

They'd none of 'em be missed -- they'd none of 'em be missed.

And apologetic salesmen, sniveling about the asking price

Such as -- What d'ye call him -- Thing'em-bob, and likewise -- Never-mind,

And 'St-- 'st-- 'st-- and What's-his-name, and also You-know-who --

The task of filling up the blanks I'd rather leave to you.

But it really doesn't matter whom you put upon the list,

For they'd none of 'em be missed -- they'd none of 'em be missed!


You may put 'em on the list -- you may put 'em on the list;

And they'll none of 'em be missed -- they'll none of 'em be missed