Here are a couple reasons why you should never, ever miss your local public library book sale.
On the left is a first-edition “The Monkey Wrench Gang” by everyone’s favorite misanthropic desert bard, Ed Abbey. On the right is a collection of stories by Havilah Babcock, one of the best writers to ever grace Field & Stream‘s pages.
The copy of “The Monkey Wrench Gang” is quite a find for a couple of reasons: One, of all Abbey’s books only “Desert Solitaire” has had a greater impact on the modern environmental/conservation movement. Two: first editions of Abbey’s books are very rare, very collectable and this one is worth more than a lot of the guns in my safe. I paid fifty cents for it.
And lest you discount Abbey as one of those “tree-huggin’ environmentalists” consider this: he wrote the introduction to the 1984 re-issue of Vance Bourjaily’s “The Unnatural Enemy: Essays on Hunting.” And we all know that Vance Bourjaily’s son is a pretty fair hunter himself.
While the Babcock book has little to no collector value, it possesses loads of intrinsic historical value for those of us who cherish the rapidly-disappearing tradition of sporting literature.
It seems strange in today’s world of blogs, tweets, texting, IM’s, and 100-word feature stories, but writers used to be able to write, to tell a story. And people used to read them.
Havilah Babcock was way before my time (and I’m no spring chicken anymore) so the only real chance someone of my generation (or the ones immediately prior and after) has of discovering his work is through books like this.
Most of them last one print run, and they’re gone, scattered here and there. So those of us who seek out their words must haunt the used book stores, the garages sales and the public library cull sales. And every now and then we get lucky.
Try book hunting some time. The season never closes, there’s no limit and while what you bag can’t be eaten, it can certainly give you sustenance.