From 1992 to 1998 I worked at a large independent bookstore. Mostly I worked in the store room. They started me on paperback literature which was a mess. My task was to alphabetize and stack the books such that they could easily be found in the event of a request, or simply for re-stocking the sales shelves. Following this I went to the hardcover fiction room. Mostly this room consisted of what are called “Hypermoderns,” in the book trade. These are hardcover best sellers with flashily designed dust jackets. The owner had too many of this kind of book. He still does now, he’s moved books of this type to the basement of the now-adjoining building next door. They sit untouched, as in a tomb. Some shelves have the same books lined up in the same alphabetical order as in the 1990s.
I remember at one point when I was working I found a first edition of Forest Gump. The book was published a while before it was adapted for film and so the external design was unlike the movie’s promotional materials. I brought it upstairs and it was sold, I believe for about 500 dollars. Sometimes when I was supposed to be working, I would instead read a book off the shelves. One favorite was a mass market paperback titled IQ 83. The author was Arthur Herzog who wrote a bunch of disaster novels that were in turn given cinematic treatment by Irwin Allen. This book though never made it to the screen. The blurb on the front cover read “A DNA DISASTER UNLEASHES A MIND-SHRINKING STORM ON EVERY MAN, WOMAN AND CHILD IN AMERICA!” The story was that a germ warfare experiment gets out of control and releases a plague, which turns the infected people stupid. Mostly it’s the story of the scientist as he tries to come up wth a cure as his brain capacity diminishes. There are parts where he is watching on TV the chaos created as afflicted people raid liquor and porn shops. I never read the whole thing but I am familiar with the stand out chapters, all of which I read repeatedly while on the clock.
In a milk crate in this hard cover fiction room was a tattered copy of Baudelaire’s collection of poems Les Fleurs du Mal. Its stitched binding and front cover were falling apart, but it contained some striking illustrations. After a long while I purchased both this copy of Les Fleurs du Mal and IQ 86 very cheaply. One was damaged, the other had little re-sale value. When I got it home I snipped the strings holding the binding of Les Fleurs du Mal and extracted the illustrations. Sleeves for comic books, which I had also purchased at the bookstore held these pages for more than 2 decades.
Earlier tonight I started watching Fantastic Planet, the animated French science fiction movie. It’s not bad, it kind of reminds me of a science fiction short story of the type that would appear in the small format science fiction magazines, later to be compiled in Dangerous Visions or some other anthology. The style in which the animation is drawn in this film reminded me of the illustrator who created these pictures. Up until less than an hour ago I didn’t know his name, Mario Labocetta. I think he toned his style down a bit so as not to overshadow the work of the author, because some of his other pieces as I am seeing in google image search are quite a bit more interesting. Still, these remind me of the things I was able to find besides stacking product in that stock room and they may be going back up on one of the walls in my apartment as I work my way through and re-organize my living space during my current spell of unemployment. Hopefully I will finish doing this before I am working again full-time.