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Interview

Lifeline Bookfests

Lifeline Bookfests, a nirvana for lovers of secondhand books…

Charities overseas should hold Bookfests. Basically, Bookfests are massive sales of secondhand books donated by the public, funding the charity Lifeline which provides phone counselling and other services. Maybe a charity in a place like New York could hold a Bookfest-style event in some convention centre. Imagine the interesting secondhand books you’d find in a place like that. It might even become a tourism event, like the New York Comic-Con.
Here’s what the Bookfest shall be like in Ipswich, on 5-7 August at the Ipswich Showgrounds, which I’m thinking of travelling to from Brisbane. It shall feature “around 300 tables stocked to the brim with over 80 tonnes of hardcovers and paperbacks of all genres, styles and authors” for as little as $1 each. Some of these books are more than a hundred years old, and many of them make for fascinating, trustworthy reading. It’s weird finding a book that’s survived since 1929, taking it home and finding it’s a page turner, having paid only a buck for it.

The best thing about the Bookfests is finding books you would never otherwise even hear about. And they are interesting and cheap enough to take a chance on. Like the entertainingly self-mocking Portrait in Oil: The autobiography of Nubar Gulbenkian, who was an oil magnate and socialite.
Some other interesting tomes I’ve come across include:
The Masterpiece Library of Short Stories, a multi-volume collection of 1000 short stories, edited by Sir John Hammerton (1871-1949). I have nine of these blue hardback volumes, each one focusing on the short stories of particular countries, and I always look for the rest of the set at Bookfests. There was one story by Balzac that was especially chilling. The French army capture a town in Spain. They decide to execute a local wealthy family. The family fear that it should mean the end of the family line. The French commander says he’ll spare a son from the family on one condition: He must be the one to decapitate everyone else in his family. Gee, thanks.
BR-R-R-!. This paperback was a 1959 anthology of spooky stories. It was edited by Groff Conklin who was noted for his anthologies of science fiction, his first in 1944.
The Pill versus the Springhill Mine Disaster, by Richard Brautigan. Quite often I’ve come across the novels of Richard Brautigan at Bookfests, but this book of poetry was a good find. A great sense of humor and a unique style. Try The Hawkline Monster if you haven’t read any of his novels.
The Imitation of Christ, by Thomas a Kempsis. Composed in medieval times, somewhere between 1418-1427, it’s amazing how relevant this book is to modern life.
My Life and Work by Henry Ford. He said he put as little mark-up on his cars as possible, so workers could afford them, and he made his money by the higher number of sales that resulted. He advises to never float a company, because you have to add the directors’ wages and share dividends to the sales price of your product.
Kwaidan by Lafcadio Hearn. This was a collection of Japanese ghost stories and other folk tales. Often there’ll be a travelling monk in the middle of nowhere in the mountains, about to go to sleep in the rain. Then some stranger invites him back to his hut. The host turns out to be a goblin, or some other demonic entity, and the monk has to think quickly. I daresay Clint Eastwood would like this.
Thomas Wolfe, a Biography, by Elizabeth Nowell, and The Letters of Thomas Wolfe, edited by Elizabeth Nowell. Ms Nowell met Thomas Wolfe in 1929 when she worked as an editor at Wolfe’s publisher, Scribner’s, and she was also an agent who submitted his short stories to magazines. The Letters of Thomas Wolfe includes Wolfe’s missives to his fellow Scribner’s author F. Scott Fitzgerald, and to Scribner’s editor Maxwell Perkins who had to condense thousands of pages of Wolfe’s writing into still quite long novels.
I’ve also found Wolfe’s novels at Bookfests. My favorite is You Can’t Go Home Again, which includes his life as a writer in New York. Of Time and the River, and Look Homeward Angel are other great novels of this North Carolina author. His novels are highly autobiographical, full of life, and his characters have all the mannerisms and individuality of real people, which they usually were.
So, charities around the world, why not start up your own Bookfests.

-copyright Simon Sandall.