July 14th, 2007

Four or Five Crazy Guys

The Great Used Book Coup of 2007

Every time I go to McIntyre & Moore and visit the stacks of used books, I always pass by the Anarchy section (yes, they have one) and take great pains to fight off the irresistible impulse to just go over and take everything out of alphabetical order. Lucky for me I have yet to actually accomplish such a goal, for the task would take just long enough for someone to notice.

I usually hit Mc&Mo or the Harvard Bookstore's used section every payday and grab a few books. Usually at Mc&Mo I go for the Pop Culture and Radio section (that's where I found the collected letters of Fred Allen, for one) and the New England history section (where I got the wonderful book detailing the lives of such notorious Boston politicians as Honey Fitz, James Curley the Rascal King, and Mayor Andrew Peters, who decided to go hang out on his yacht up in Maine during the 1919 Boston Police strike, leaving then-governor Calvin Coolidge to clean things up. Coolidge did such a good job at cleaning things up that he found himself running mate to Warren G. Harding in the next election. But I digress. Bigtime.) There is also one tiny little half-shelf on wheels that Mc&Mo calls the "Humor" section, and that is where on Friday I scored the greatest coup ever: A copy of The Firesign Theatre's Big Mystery Joke Book in absolute freakin' pris-teen condition for $6.50.

Holy Fudd!

This book, this book shouldn't exist anymore! I didn't realize there were copies of this out there still, much less in such a nice condition! Whoever Kim Dulin was (as inscribed on the inside front cover) he or she did a marvelous job of keeping the book and now I certainly hope I can do the same.

The Big Mystery Joke Book is a 1974 publication and companion to the Firesign Theatre's Big Book of Plays, both containing fun Firesign pictures and written pieces as well as the scripts to their albums. Both are also now long out-of-print. The BBoP (of which I have one copy, purchased in Crummy Condition and barely read, as the pages are falling out because the spine has already peeled off) contains the scripts to I Think We're All Bozos on This Bus and Don't Crush That Dwarf, Hand Me The Pliers, as well as How Can You Be In Two Places At Once (When You're Not Anywhere At All?) -- but not the Nick Danger episode on the Other Side.

The Big Mystery Joke Book contains that Nick Danger episode ("Case 666", or "Cut 'em off at the past!") as well as Hemlock Stones and the Giant Rat of Sumatra and some of Waiting For The Electrician (Or Someone Like Him), most notably Temporarily Humboldt County ("Oh, and by the way -- Domini, domini, domini, you're all Catholics now") as well as Le Trente-Huit Cunegonde, which I will obligingly listen to when it comes around on the album. It doesn't include W.C. Fields Forever, though.

Also in the book is the reading from the Book of Punter as heard in the beginning of Dear Friends, the episode of Young Guy, Motor Detective and The Adventures of Mark Time. It's incredible. Everything that wasn't in the Big Book of Plays is in here. And it's in beautiful condition, and it's mine all mine. I want to hug the book but it's paperback.

Oh, sure, I also bought a history of Sid Caesar and Imogene Coca's Your Show of Shows variety program (NBC's first live 90-minute Saturday night comedy show) as well as a biography of Mack Sennett and the Keystone Studios, and an awesome set of New York City and Broadway memoirs written by Helen Hayes and Anita Loos, thus making this my best Mc&Mo haul ever.

But I consider the Big Mystery Joke Book to be the best score ever scored in a used bookstore by Mr. Spatch, and that includes the first-edition Will Rogers autobiography and the pocket-sized 1961 Playboy Party Jokes book (with LeRoy Neiman's "Femlin" caricature cavorting amidst businessmen-and-secretary jokes, so risque back then but so tame by today's standards.) I don't usually like to brag about my books but wowie wow wow, am I ever a happy camper today.

Now I just want a copy of The Big Book of Plays in the same condition.