Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Traveling in imagination

When I was a kid my Dad would take me to used bookstores in Albuquerque. There we would find all kinds of treasures, and I think that's why I love used bookstores to this day. The treasures I found there always led to more trips, to adventures and traveling in faraway places. I would sit for hours reading those sometimes musty, yellow-paged books, curled up in a leather chair, perhaps with music on 33 1/3 LP records on my hi-fidelity player in the background.  Tommy Dorsey's "Moonlight in Vermont," or "Ports of Call" and others would add mysterious moods to the spell of the words on the pages. My imagination would travel the rivers and roads and jungles.
Two of my favorite authors, and I collected as many of their books as I could, were Edgar Rice Burroughs, who imagined and wrote Tarzan of the Apes and all the other Tarzan books, and James Oliver Curwood, and his stories of the great north of Canada and Mounties and wildlife..

Many of the books were first edition, back when you could find them in bookstores. I think I had a first edition of Tarzan of the Apes but lost it. Looking it up on abe.com these days, I see it's worth thousands of dollars. My son Travis has that collection now.

I still have many of the Curwood books, and recently picked up The Flaming forest, first edition, 1921. I never knew much about Curwood, but now that we have the internet I've found he was the highest paid writer of his day. It may not be literature, but his writing is great narrative, and the kind that can provoke your imagination and make you want to travel.

My copy doesn't have this dustcover, but the illustration is one of four tantalizing peices of art in the book. I was bored and needed something to read, and soon I was caught in the current. With Curwood's books, you want a map of the Canadian north to follow the characters as they travel down rivers like the Slave, the Yellowknife, the McKenzie, or through the Great Slave Lake. You look them up on the map and wonder, and Curwood helps fill your mind with wanderlust.

And then there are Curwood's titles: The Grizzly King, Kazan, Sgt. Steele of the Royal Mounted, The River's End, Gods Country and the woman, Nomads of the North, and others.

Ready to travel yet?

10 comments:

  1. I love used bookstores too! Have you been to the Larry McMurtry one in Archer City, TX? My History of the Book class took a field trip there years ago. It takes up about a block and includes different buildings with countless books. You could spend DAYS there and still not cover it all!

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  2. My Grandad used to take me to used book stores ALL the time! He is a math genious and collects old math books and goes through them to find the errors! He's awesome:)

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  3. That sounds like fun I am thinking of my newest adventure will be to visit a bookstore.

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  4. I love old books! Sometimes I just walk back and forth in front to my bookshelf, grabbing books and reading my favorite exerts I have tagged with post its. BUT my favorite thing to do is pick up the very few old books I own, open them and smell the spine. Such a wonderfully nostalgic feeling. And its free!

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  5. When I was younger, my Mom and I would go to bookstores when we had the house to ourselves. We don't do that anymore cause we just can't, but because of that not only do I have a FANTASTIC relationship with my mother, but I LOVE to read!

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  6. My 24 year old son loves used bookstores! He finds all kinds of stuff in them. Blame his grandfather (my dad) for that...he was a WWII vet and told Jeff all these stories, so that's what he's looking for when he goes into a used bookstore...WWII era books and stuff.

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  7. Another used bookstore fan here. Had one in the mall where I grew up, and I'd head over there when my mom went into boring Kmart. I'd pick up DragonLance books for a dollar! (hey, I was 13...) Last month I hit Half Price Books on May in North OKC for the first time, and it is great. Picked up a Bradbury hardcover for $3 (btw Dr Clark, you are Elias Culpepper from "Somewhere a Band is Playing"), Ender's Game (excellent entry level sci-fi) for $2, and World War Z (realistic look at zombie outbreak) for $5. I really like that place.

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  8. I love old books. I have quite a collection and cherish them. They're all currently being stored in my late Grandma's old trunk that I keep at my parents house. But soon I hope to have a home where I trust roommates and they'll be displayed on a bookcase. :) I did lots of traveling in my imagination as a youth, but mine started with R.L. Stein books! Not the best of quality, but I would read like 3 per day! :)

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  9. I loved R.L. Stein too Okie Sample! I love the smell of books period. The library is like my safe haven. I was always the fat kid when I was younger (shocker). I never wanted to play outside. The most physical activity I would engage in was walking to the library to get more books!

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