report from the front – england/silverman

Something happened recently that gave me a nervous breakdown. Some say it was a panic attack, but maybe it was months of built up tension and stress finally exploding.

A dealer we know wanted to buy a whole bunch of our books. We needed the money because we were in tight financial spot. Of course we said yes to the deal as it was good deal for both parties. He bought walls of books and we didn’t have to get into a serious legal fight to pay off a big debt. Everyone was happy.

I started breathing hard when my partner and I went upstairs to discuss it. He said, “Honey; you’ve got to stop breathing like that.” I tried but I felt like I’d been hit by a bus. I kept telling myself, we have to do it, if I want to keep doing this, I have to let these books go. I had a complete meltdown. I sank into the cushy chair on the second floor and cried, and then I cried again, and after that I cried some more. I cried for about three or four hours, I’m not even sure, I lost track of time.

I couldn’t move out the chair. I had used up a whole box of tissues. The bookseller’s wife came up and held my hand. Richard came up and gave me several hugs. I called my boyfriend on the phone and he was no help, he’s too damn practical. David, one of my best friends, who’s been acting as our clerk, came up and tried to crack jokes with me. David called another one of our friends, Paul, a mortician, adept at a handling the grief-stricken (as I certainly was) in his job. He came upstairs after he got off work and made me take some Tylenol. I had cried so hard and so much that I had given myself a stress headache.

Eventually, The bookseller and his wife left, and David had to go home, and Paul and Richard took me up the street to the local pub for dinner. I knew I was supposed to be happy, but I was heartbroken and very sad and frustrated about selling these books.

Isn’t always what we booksellers joke about when we’re at fairs? That we’d be glad to sell the whole set up and not have anything to take home but the books that we’ve purchased at the fair? If that really happened (I only know one dealer who actually really did this at the Akron Bookfair) We’re supposed to be happy that we now have ‘a pocket full of money’ – as someone said to me when I told them about this experience. Another friend, a retailer who owns the ladies clothing shop up the street said “isn’t that what you have the books for? to sell?” “Well, yes,” I said “but somehow it’s easier when they go in small stacks and not complete walls all at once.” how would we react?

from Aimee England @ Volume I Books

Collectors have anxiety attacks, too.

Aimee, I feel your pain. And I’d have added this as a comment to your post except that my circumstance is sorta’ different and has its own unique considerations.

For those who haven’t been paying attention, I collect oriental rug books (and magazines and auction catalogs and the occasional tasty bit of ephemera) – probably about 1,000 of them. I’ve had special bookcases with glass door and extra-sturdy shelves to bear the weight of these big, dense things – five, so far. I’ve even used the e-mail address “” for the past decade to remind people of my collecting obsession. This is all by way of testifying to how seriously I’ve taken my collecting.

That said, a couple months ago I stumbled on a newspaper story about a very successful local rug dealer who just bought an old mansion in the Prairie Avenue historic district here in Chicago. Prairie Avenue was where the rich people (Armours, McCormicks, and the like) lived in Victorian times before the migration to the near north side/Gold Coast neighborhood. Apparently he really did a great job at restoring it and was now living in it.

I know the guy pretty well, having done some advertising and p.r. for him in the past. One of the things I know about him is that he has made tentative efforts toward accumulating a library of rug books. I’ve even helped him find a thing or two. But he still doesn’t have anywhere near what he (or any of the people he’d hope to impress with them) might consider a “library”.

That’s when the thought occurred to me to offer to sell my collection to him. I mean, he’s got the interest and the space and the money. And I’m semi-retired and could use a big influx of cash to put in the retirement portfolio…not that it’s really necessary.

And that’s when the hyperventilating started. What would I do with all the vacant space? Where would I go to look up stuff? The books are in my office where I spend about 10 hours a day surrounded by them: what would I look at when I stared off? Oh, yeah, and there’s that issue of what would be left to define myself if “rug book collector” were suddenly subtracted from my resume?

{{pause until I resume normal breathing}}

See? Even the rhetorical questions get me panicky.

So I decided I’d put off making the offer for a while. I’ll let his relatively empty library weigh on him for a year or two, let his desperation build, wait until he’s frantic. Then, maybe, just maybe, I’ll be ready.



Jerry Silverman, Chicago, IL

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