Thursday, January 21, 2010

The Best American Short Stories 1981

My copy of BASS 1981 was purchased last year and arrived with several other volumes from Better World Books sometime after my birthday in August. It was in the mass purchase that completed my collection.

The 1981 volume came from BWB but originated from a familiar friend –

Good ‘ol Somers Library (Congratulations on being #30 on Twitter).

Once again, I have to thank them for tightening up their collection and making the decision to discard these books. This book arrived to me in near new condition.

Pristine condition.

Which leads me to ask a series of questions.

It’s hard to imagine that the book was purchased in 1981 or even in 1982. Perhaps it was purchased in the 1990s to replace a missing or stolen copy.

The books’ spine isn’t even broken. Now I’m uncertain when this book was purchased, but the circulation history is pretty low, and that is backed up by the condition of the book.

The first date that this book was checked out was Jul 21, ’94 and the last date was Sep. 7 ’94 (I of course have no idea of the circulation history once a computerized system was implemented).

There was also an Aug. 11, ’94 stamp which leads me to believe that this book was only checked out by one person but renewed twice. Perhaps there was a story or two in the book that was studied.

Did the book only see the outside world for something close to 3 months?

If this book had more than one reader, I would expect to see more physical wear to the book.

There isn’t even any damage to the books base from being pulled out and slid back into a shelf.

The only real damage done to the book was by the sun. The paper dust jacket (covered in a plastic protector) which is yellow has been sun bleached white about 1 inch in from the spine on the front and back of the book due to its position next to a neighboring book. I can only assume that it sat in between the BASS 1980 and 1982. I would also suspect that it had to have some exposure to sunlight because I doubt that the fluorescent lights of the library could have taken the color out of the paper.

Could this book really have just sat on the shelf for 28 years (assuming BWB received it in 2009 and the book was purchased in 1981) with only one reader? Even if it had only two that seems rather low.

Before I post the contents, just take a look at some of the big names contained within.

Walter Abish, Max Apple, Andre Dubus, Alice Munro, Joyce Carol Oates and John Updike.

All those are named on the back of the book!

Could it have been because of the volume’s editor?

I’ve never heard of Hortense Calisher before reading the BASS...but she really has quite a history and had made a name for herself by the time the 1980s hit.

What a mystery.

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