Family, Films, and Fallacy

Letter From South Carolina

There's something about a book sale. The blood quickens, the nostrils flare, the eyes narrow. Anyway, it's for a good cause. The "Friends of the Library" are putting it on, and somewhere among those one hundred thousand used books is at least one of value. The doors open and in we rush. Almost at once, I've got my hands on an 1891 edition of Men of Iron, written and illustrated by Howard Pyle. I flip through it and deliberate a solid minute before deciding not to spend two whole dollars. The book dealer coming behind me snatches it up.

"You know that's a hundred-dollar book?" he asks with just a tiny hint of triumph.

"Sure," I answer. "I always throw a few scraps to you dealers."

"What else have you got?" he asks.

"One of Kael's early commentaries." I press my remaining book to my chest, shielding it with both arms. "Only four were printed, and the Vatican has the other three."

Easy come. Easy go. I passed up a valuable classic by my beloved Howard Pyle and went home with a paperback edition of Deeper into Movies by Pauline Kael. The loss wasn't total. Once upon a time, I admired Pauline Kael. I even subscribed to the New Yorker just to read her movie reviews. And she resigned from the magazine immediately after that and worked for director Robert Altman until my subscription...

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