Price: Disdain For Big Bookstores
James Bryce, nineteenth century British politician, diplomat and historian, said “The worth of a book is to be measured by what you can carry away from it.” Bryce was referring to knowledge, ideas and imagination. These are all well and good if you are a card-carrying member of the public library but to the rich, books represent culture, sophistication and a civilized acquisition. Visit homes of the wealthy and you will discover beautiful libraries that prominently display first edition classics bound in leather, steeped in tradition and occasionally encased in glass. To the uninformed it may appear that the rich are voracious readers, but the books are too valuable to read. So they must be great investments, but they mean too much to sell. What then is the rationale for books you can’t open and objects you won’t part with?
Rare books reflect an owner’s interests and measure how stimulating one’s host is without having to engage in conversations that may betray their depth of literary understanding. Guests are expected to unquestionably accept that rare book collections accurately represent an owner’s knowledge and taste. Shelves displaying Twain, Verne, London and Kipling show a sense of adventure that may manifest itself through sailing or drinking tap water while abroad. Libraries housing biographies of NASCAR drivers and paperbacks made into Hollywood films likewise speak volumes about your host. Think of this like perusing your friend’s iPod and finding nothing but Yanni, Vanilla Ice and John Tesh or looking through your boyfriend’s DVD collection and discovering Mariah Carey concerts and Patrick Dempsey films…it says a lot about them; they will never be in charge of entertainment and likely require therapy.
To capitalize on rich people’s love of rare books requires little more than the ability to act impressed with their collection. The trick is to let them do all the talking which will leave them feeling that you are an exceptional conversationalist. Starting their monologue is as simple as saying, “This is an extraordinary collection, which book is your favorite?” By nodding attentively and occasionally interjecting a well-timed “how fascinating”, your host will impart a surface level knowledge of their collected literary works of genius. As a warning, the worst thing you can do in this situation is to flex your own literary muscle as a means to impress. Asking their thoughts on “Hemmingway’s unique ability to convey themes through a succinct writing style that mirrors life” is more likely to result in the sound of crickets than an invitation to join them for an afternoon on the yacht. Likewise, mentioning that your father has collected every copy of Soldier of Fortune magazine published since 1987 is also unlikely to impress and may be perceived as a veiled threat culminating in an introduction to Rambo, their personal protection German Shepherd. Should you make it past the aforementioned hurdles, rare books are outstanding cocktail banter and an opportunity to tantalize and arouse those with literary leanings; little is as stimulating to book lovers as discussing the rising action, climax and denouement of a classic novel. Good luck and Godspeed!