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July 14th, 2007


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05:40 am - 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.

(12 comments | Leave a comment)

Comments:


[User Picture]
From:off_coloratura
Date:July 14th, 2007 12:06 pm (UTC)
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They're both on Amazon, although Big Book of Plays is $48.

I want them both now. Curse you for informing me of their existence.
[User Picture]
From:kizlj
Date:July 14th, 2007 02:56 pm (UTC)
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AbeBooks.com has a few for better prices.

Which does not negate the awesomeness of finding it in the wild. that's what makes book coups *memorable.* My best was a pristine US first edition of Honey from a Weed for $10. used-bookstore surprises are awesome :)
[User Picture]
From:derspatchel
Date:July 14th, 2007 03:31 pm (UTC)
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Which does not negate the awesomeness of finding it in the wild. that's what makes book coups *memorable.*

Eggs-ackly! The Internet has, I fear, taken a lot of the fun out of used book hunting. I like being at the mercy of the stacks and almost never go in actively looking for a title. I don't go in saying "I want this, this, and that". Instead, I'm saying "Whaddya got?" I will say the Internet has, in the past, hipped me to something I didn't know existed (the sequel to The War Between the Pitiful Teachers and the Splendid Kids, f'rinstance) but what really does it for me is the thrill of The Find. I didn't know Helen Hayes and Anita Loos had collaborated on a set of theatre memoirs; now I do and I'm glad I can read it.

And $48 is just a wee bit higher than what I paid online for the Big Book of Plays in Crummy Condition a few years back, so finding a gorgeous copy of what I consider to be an even rarer book for typical used bookstore prices, just sittin' there on a little rolling half-shelf waiting for someone to have a moment of serendipity, is a coup in itself.
[User Picture]
From:kizlj
Date:July 14th, 2007 03:47 pm (UTC)
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finding a gorgeous copy of what I consider to be an even rarer book for typical used bookstore prices, just sittin' there on a little rolling half-shelf waiting for someone to have a moment of serendipity, is a coup in itself.

precisely. and it's way cheaper and in way better condition than you could have gotten online!
[User Picture]
From:mmcirvin
Date:July 14th, 2007 12:37 pm (UTC)
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I got an incredible deal on a near-pristine copy of Misner, Thorne and Wheeler's Gravitation at Mc&Mo back when they were somewhere else. That is the general relativity textbook that is the thickness of a city Yellow Pages.

[User Picture]
From:cheezdanish
Date:July 14th, 2007 01:23 pm (UTC)
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You can't fool me! That's a pickle!
[User Picture]
From:sanspoof
Date:July 14th, 2007 02:46 pm (UTC)
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Oh my christ, you lucky bastard! That's really excellent.

(Why don't I have an FST avatar? I'm a fool.)
[User Picture]
From:coconuthead
Date:July 14th, 2007 02:52 pm (UTC)

hey corn! now we can make tortillas!

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Ohhhh you lucky slob!
[User Picture]
From:mikester
Date:July 14th, 2007 04:08 pm (UTC)

"This chinchilla is entirely synthetic!"

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I managed to score a Mystery Joke Book for dirt cheap a while back, but not nearly in the condition that yours is. And I found a Big Book of Plays that I got in trade. I'm so glad I didn't have to resort to paying insane auction/online prices for these...though they'd be worth every penny!
[User Picture]
From:brak55
Date:July 14th, 2007 04:49 pm (UTC)
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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

It's interesting how TV on Saturday night has changed so drasticly. I remember it in the 70's when things like Mary Tyler Moore, Bob Newhart, Carol Burnette, etc. were all on. Every one was a big hit in its day. Now, it's filled with repeats and cast-offs.
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From:prog
Date:July 15th, 2007 12:01 am (UTC)
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I love the "humor" cart!! It's also a dumping ground for divers comix n graphic novels that pass their way, and I too have scored many strange and wonderful things from it.
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From:semer
Date:July 15th, 2007 06:48 am (UTC)
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I thought there was something fishy about the butler. Probably a Pisces, working for scale...

I love how I never realize other people like these strange things that my dad got me into when I was a kid. Perhaps mostly because NO ONE my age does... heh... sigh.

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