Once a year the local Hospital Auxiliary has a used book sale. They take over the town ice arena and for five days put on a book sale of immense proportions. Every inch of the hockey area floor is covered in tables of books. Close to 70,000 by this years estimate. They raise close to a million dollars for the hospital, which is city owned. I love this sale. I am a bibliophile by anyone’s description and I go to the sale several times to scour the tables for treasures. Most are priced at a dollar or two which makes it easy to come home with a box of them. This year is no different. What is different this year is that I am finding I’m allergic to old books. I’ve lived most of my life without having allergy problems but as I age I find that changing. Old books often smell of mildew and other smells I can’t describe. I love the smell of paper, of sticking my nose into the pages of breathing deeply in. It is a smell of age, of life and love, a smell of wisdom and knowledge. I love it. But this year, it doesn’t love me back.
There’s a revolt going on in my head. Ever since I brought the first of my finds into the house my sinuses have been in chaos. That’s it, they said. We’re not taking it any more. This is too much and we’re fighting back. And fight back they have. My head has been blocked up like someone filled it with cement. And then all at once it decides to soften up and leave. Sneezing, blowing and running like an open tap on a sink, with watery, itchy eyes. And then, miraculously, it stops and plugs up again. I’m trying to decide which torture is worse. What fresh hell is this, I wonder when I sense a change up there. And then it attacks, like a defeated army giving one last heroic surge before they die. Except they don’t die. They fall back and rally again. And again.
This is particularly disheartening because I love old books. I have books on a huge variety of subjects and learning for the sake of learning has become a big hobby over the years. Politics, religion, philosophy, travel, geography, I love it all. I can’t get enough. But the books are killing me. Turning me into a quivering mass of dull headed tissue unable to move. As I write this there seems to be a truce taking place. The armies are quiet for the moment as if they’re in negotiation or something. Either that or they’re plotting the next big foray maybe with new found weapons of destruction. I’ll take it, whatever it is, but I’m afraid of what comes next. Who knows, maybe they’ll decide the war is won and they’ll slink off to wherever snot goes when it’s not trying to kill you. One can only hope.
This years finds are mostly philosophy. Plato, Karl Marx, Montaigne and the like. There’s one called, “The Sex Lives Of Cannibals” by J. Martin Troost, which is not actually about cannibals or they’re love lives. And one about classical music. If I continue to breathe, they should keep me busy for quite a while. As it stands, this is the outcome I’m hoping for.