Friday night, my good friend KD and I decided to go to the grand opening of the new Prospero’s across from the Uptown Theater in Kansas City. Prospero’s is an awesome, local used bookstore that I love to frequent when I want to feel like a Midtown hipster for the day. They carry all genres and areas of study and I never fail to find something intriguing when I visit.
When we arrived, there were people milling all over, hawking books, playing live music, selling food. It was a veritable circus of a bookstore. And that doesn’t happen that often. KD and I casually roamed the store, checking out the various offerings and chatting with friends. Of course, I instantly fell into the rhythm of my favorite bookstore activity: pointing out every book I have read as I scan the shelves. I can’t speak for others, but that game never gets old for me. Eventually, KD and I decided to make a night of it and hit some other used bookstores in the area. I couldn’t say no to such a fabulous idea!
Another one of my favorite activities when I hit a used bookstore is anxiously searching the shelf for a very specific out-of-print Fantasy book. I have been wanting to read this book for the past 10 years, ever since my freshman year of college when it’s existence was revealed to me. This book is Villains by Necessity by Eve Forward, published in 1995 by Tor Fantasy. I was told that this book explored telling a story from the perspective of the villain as well as the idea of villainy all being a matter of perspective. These are both ideas that I have been enamored with as a writer and a Gothic literature fanatic for a very long time. As you can well imagine, I was ravenous about this book and our outing would give me the perfect opportunity to search for my elusive friend.
Yes, I could have ordered the book from Ebay. I’ve searched for it online numerous times. It’s out there, with a rather limited availability and with varying states of condition. And because it is out of print, the prices for this particular paperback range from $10 – $50, at least in my experiences.
Modern life is so convenient. I could have had this book years ago. All I needed to do was click “Buy it now” or “Add to basket” and then follow through with the transaction. But I just never pulled the trigger. I think I subconsciously made the search for this book a game. I was determined to find it the old-fashioned way, sifting through the stacks of dozens of bookstores and patiently awaiting the day I would strike gold. I knew it would happen eventually.
After an enjoyable dinner, KD and I decided to make a quick stop in at the Half Price Books © store in Overland Park. It was 15 minutes until closing, so we charged right in, each with our own agendas. We parted ways, sometimes calling out interesting finds to one another. KD is a Sci Fi/Comic Book whiz and was off looking for research references for a story he is working on. I was on the hunt for the elusive Eve Forward (and any other interesting treasures that may arise along the way).
Eventually, I made my way to the Sci Fi/Fantasy section and began scanning through the authors, seeking out Ms. Eve Forward. Surprisingly, there were a couple of other people in the bookstore besides us that late in the evening. Feeling the time crunch, I scanned furiously, but couldn’t help pausing when I came across a title I recognized from my fervent Fantasy-reading days—my favorite game echoing in my thoughts as I searched.
As I scanned the shelves, I almost missed it. But upon a second look through, I saw it! There it was! Villains By Necessity, nestled alphabetically right where it should be on a shelf. KD came around the corner as I pulled it off the shelf and shrieked “They have it!” and nearly lost it. The other customers in the store looked at me as if I really had lost it. And then I screeched “I’ve been looking for this book for 10 years!”
I have to tell you, I was as excited about this book as I would have been about winning the Power Ball ®. It was in pristine condition, except for some minor spinal shelf-wear. But no dog-eared pages or spinal creases. It didn’t even look like it had ever been read. And on top of all that, it was priced at a meager $3.48! I had set out on this game 10 years ago and on November 2, 2012, I finally won.
And winning sure feels good, especially having found victory through my own persistence and not thanks to a machine. Sometimes it’s fun to do things on your own, without the assistance and convenience of the Internet. My little victory was that much sweeter because it was by pure luck and perseverance that I came across my book, instead of it being the result of a well-placed Internet search and a convenient click of my mouse button.
Now that I have found my prize, I’m going to have to come up with another Internet-free quest to take its place. Of course, I still always have my favorite game to play in a bookstore. But I need something to search for, some new treasure to find—perhaps another out-of-print book to keep me occupied for the next 10 years or so. Sure a 10-year search sounds like a long time and maybe a little nutty. But it was worth it. That feeling of victorious euphoria at the end of the search is as addictive as a runner’s high and I’m hooked. Even if I don’t get to feel it again until my late 30s, I’ll be ready and waiting.