I gave an old book to a perfect stranger yesterday, though not a total stranger. He’s a young man who busses tables at a bayside restaurant in Somers Point. A few weeks ago while having lunch with friends, he overheard us discussing our television schedules and heard the words ‘Stephen King’. We were discussing the merits of watching Under the Dome on television, having not read King’s book by the same name.
As it happens this young man had just finished reading one of the many novels that Stephen King published in the late 70’s and again in the 80’s and further more so, sometimes revised or updated as the commercial market dictates. Even though the young man politely inserted himself into our conversation, I was genuinely impressed how effusive he was about Stephen King and just how much he had read and knew about King’s early works.
As he went on about this particular novel, I knew he had read one of the later editions of this piece and, being a fan of Stephen King’s early works, rather than his later, I offered that he probably did not read the edition of the book that I believed began with a better opening chapter and that the initial opening was far more scary than the re-write he probably read and that earlier printing was probably published before he was born. When asked where he picked up this particular book, he explained it was a paperback he borrowed from the library.
I ask you, how much more charming can this get? A seventeen year old kid, with a summer job at the shore, who reads library loaned paperbacks during summer vacation?
As we continued our lunch, I was teased incessantly about being the cougar with a jailbait stalker fan. This young man is the same age as my granddaughter. I have to say, I found him charming and real without some of the obnoxious lack of common social skills I see in some teens his age. But I don’t want to seem like I have a cougar crush here, so I’ll move on to the point of this little story.
My husband, leader of the teasing campaign, says, “don’t you have the original version of that book at home?” I hesitated, because I doubt he pays that close attention to my book collection(s), he’s a big crime and lawyer fiction fan who could be president of the James Patterson fan club and he reads on a Nook. But I respond with the affirmative mentioning, “yes, it’s the copy I found at a flea market, it has the original book club dust jacket. It was the best cover of all the printings and the original opening.” Hubby then graciously says, “Let’s bring it back for him next time we come in.”
Here’s where I get weirded out. While I do collect a relatively odd variety of books - meaning nothing to anyone else, but me, myself and I, often the three most sensible people in my universe- it was a complete surprise to me that my husband would notice something that has been sitting around for more than the last fifteen years.
Over the next couple jaunts to the shore, we forgot the book. At one point in the middle of our work week, my husband reminds me to find the book, so he can put it in the car and we wouldn’t forget it. I do as requested, start to thumb through this book again, like saying goodbye to an old friend. I double check that it is, in fact, the book club edition I remembered reading back in the late 1970’s, and with a sigh and shut it preparing to send it off to appreciative hands.
We noticed this young man again while we were at lunch and asked if he would like the book we brought. He was elated, practically blown away. This is no exaggeration. My older grandkids are not the readers I would like them to be and it was a pleasure to make a teenager so happy at the gift of the book, and an old one at that.
I do not mention the title of the book because later in the day someone asked me if I knew if the book was worth any money. I never considered that a book of contemporary popular horror fiction would be worth anything more than the jacket price or less, depending on the condition of the book. Sooo, what did I do? I Googled it.
What I found is that an autographed edition in pristine condition is worth a considerable amount of money to a collector. This book was in ‘good’ condition, but had someone’s name written on the inside, and it wasn't Stephen King’s and I am not a collector of such things. I want to believe that my ‘new friend’ isn’t either, but what I do know is that the reaction we enjoyed when I passed this book on to him was very gratifying. He was gracious, openly grateful and showed off the book to his co-workers, who were interested, pointing to us, as if we gave him a Christmas gift.
The cougar teasing continued later when my husband asked me how I would respond when my young friend asks me to Prom. I smirked and replied that Carrie would probably be a more interesting prom date.
However, if I ever find that book on eBay or AbeBooks , I will hunt him down like AnnieWilkes and bury him in the Pet Semetary.