I think that the Gods of Books have been watching me again. Or possibly it’s the Book Gods’ mischievous little brother – the one who makes sure that the last copy of the book you desperately want is being held by someone who’s obviously more interested in a long gossip with someone else just as the bus you have to catch pulls up outside. (Or for the motorised reader: the meter you’ve parked at expires, and the Parking Warden is strolling on past the shop windows in the direction of your vehicle, and the person holding the book is still mid-gaggle).
I suppose it’s a consequence of buying quite a few books online, especially from secondhand dealers in other countries. I’ve had a few books arrive in very different condition to that advertised. For the record: I’ve only once had a vendor then refuse to either reimburse me or send me a new copy. One bad out of [a frighteningly large number of] transactions is pretty good. Most of the time they don’t ask me to send the book back either – fortunate, given that the postage cost is usually three or four (or more) times the cost of the book itself.
But there are some books that I’m just obviously not meant to have. There was the book lovingly tracked down for me as a present from a relative, which turned out to have pages 101 – 124 printed three times and pages 125 – 172 completely missing. By the time I discovered this it’d been inscribed, covered, and had spent two months on Mount TBR waiting for me to have that lovely long holiday reading session that I’d looked forward to so much …
Then there was the Case of Rebel Angels, who apparently did side with the devil and wanted nothing whatsoever to do with me. It took three goes over four years to finally get myself a decent copy. The first copy I got took twelve weeks to arrive. And was covered in pen notes, highlighting, scribbles of all sorts – even a damn shopping list! And it was supposedly in Good Used Condition. The seller was very apologetic, but didn’t have another copy. I managed to track down another copy a couple of years after that, and made a point of checking with the seller that there was no writing or damage. And there wasn’t – instead, it had the Marvellous Repeating Pages problem. And, naturally, it was the poems I was most interested in that were missing, and a swathe of stuff that I didn’t much enjoy repeated. But I will concede this much – what book there was, was in pristine condition.
But my third attempt at getting a copy of this book was successful. Although even then it was a bit heavily freighted towards the ironic: I wanted it in time for the class I was planning to run on Formal Poetry. The book arrived the week after the class ran (during Summer School). And then the next two attempts I had at offering that class (now that I have the book) were cancelled. Sigh! Actually I have to confess that I haven’t read this copy cover to cover yet, so there’s still a chance I could be on the lookout for Copy #4 …
And then there was this morning. I got myself a copy of John Hollander’s Rhyme’s Reason a couple of months ago. It’s a gorgeous little book, and has examples of lots of different formal poems that explain in poem form how the poem works. A little gimmicky, maybe. But really useful for teaching purposes. Anyhow, this morning I was hunting for a form I wanted to use in the class I’m currently teaching. Flicked to the index, yes, ok, those pages.
Yes, once again I manage to buy myself a copy of a book that has a big chunk missing. And this time nothing seems to be repeated – they just aren’t there. Straight from page 60 to page 93. And do you want to know the kicker? A friend in the US got it for me, and somehow ended up sending me two copies.
And I gave the other one away.