If you’ve at all recovered from the fabulous book cover to No End to the Way, it’s time to take your eyes the edge of reality with this gorgeous item. I found it yesterday evening in Any Amount of Books and my heart beat fast. I don’t know the author, but they had another of its novels (‘Transmission Error’) and I grabbed that too.
I was terribly excited because this is the second in a trilogy of which I adored the final instalment – I’m working my way through them anti-clockwise. The third one was The Probability Pad, a pulp sci-fi comedy adventure about three stoners in 1960s Haight Ashbury repelling an invasion by telepathic slime (one of many fun things being the three stoners are the trilogy’s authors). The opening novel, The Butterfly Kid, still eludes me. Which I actually find rather exciting.
Of course, I broke my unbreakable, no excuses rule about no new books. In fact, I planned on buying more new books this year, just fewer secondhand ones. The books at home are double-shelved, they’re in shoe boxes and piles. I’ve been good. When I began this blog I was reading, not buying. It was no longer fun to have lots of books. They looked like the massed empty bottles of an alcoholic. (Unfortunately, they were still full and unopened.) I went from bad to good habits, and I’ve come full circle. And it’s a tough habit to kick.
It wouldn’t happen if I was like my friend Steve. Steve’s a big reader but he’s only just overcoming an intolerance for secondhand books. More often than not, I’m turned off by new books. That feels like shopping. I like treasure hunting, riffling, rummaging, digging, sifting, lifting that last thing to peer underneath it, on your knees... I like all of that too much.
It was fatal living in a town with bunches of bookshops (never mind charity shops). These are the places the forgotten inhabit, like survivors of an interstellar war, living on in caves, stealing up to the surface now and then for food – glimpsed one lonely morning in a outlying town. When I worked in Hove, I had an hour’s lunch break exactly (customer service, no flexi-time), precisely enough for a quick march to George Street and a decent browse in Oxfam Books. It reached the point where I’d hide new purchases from Jon when I came home in the evening.
Bangor was easier, though it still had two second-hand bookshops and three charity shops, and I was alone in the town for two months while Jon was working in Miami. One day, I found Nigel Kneale’s Tomato Cain for 30p in Barnardos. One day, one of the bookshops closed down. Every book on sale was reduced to £1. Every book. Each one represents an experiment, a fliration, a game. Some of them are things you’ve been looking for, like The Unicorn Girl. Sometimes things you can’t resist, like The Probability Pad.
It’s been a slightly stressful week, so this was a nice bolt of random happenstance. But I do wonder what exactly I’m doing when I’m feeding this addiction, chasing the uncorn (rather than dragon). Am I exploring? Hunting? Investigating? Am I being nostalgic – or am I living in a dream of tomorrow, the bright day (dark with nasty weather outside, but all the houselights are on) when we settle on the sofa, sip a cup of tea, and slip past the flyleaf to begin the real treasure hunt...