Wednesday, September 21, 2011


When finding something to read next, I wouldn't normally gravitate towards rare books. But reading that one book in my last post by Allison Bartlett really got me interested in them. It is true that every book tells a story. Just looking at some of the books on my wall I can associate them with a memory. Catcher in the Rye? Found in the attic of my parents house. My wife suggested I read it. Catch-22? Bought it after I read the first five chapters for my intro to fiction class. Magic Man? It was in the bargain bin right before I was going to walk out of a Borders without buying anything. The list goes on.

But when I found out that Stephen King purposely pulled one of his books out of print, I have to admit, my interest was piqued.

I wasn't outwardly looking for it, but, one day in Woodridge, I stumbled upon a collection in a Goodwill store. The collection was called The Bachman Books. Of course, everyone knows by now that King was writing under another pen name and called himself: Richard Bachman. Inside was the full novels of Roadwork, The Running Man, The Long Walk and...right at the beginning of the book: Rage. The out of print book.

It only cost me 75 cents.

Rage is a slim book, about 169 pages. But packed into those pages is a very disturbing story. Now, look, I know that this is a controversial book and that's why I'm going to warn some people about this book. This book is not for disturbed minds. A smart person can read this book and not be affected. However, if a disturbed individual read's more likely to grease his crazy wheel.

The book starts with Charlie Decker, a troubled teen already facing hard times when he brought a pipe wrench to school and decked a teacher with it. Now, at the start of the book, he's recalling flashbacks of his troubled family life. Later he sets fire to his locker then walks into his homeroom in high school and shoots his algebra teacher. What follows next is a series of surreal discussions, confessions, proclamations, sex education, procrastinations and a fair-fight slap match between two girls who hate each other. Charlie is obsessed with the concept of getting it on. It's very hard to determine what he's talking about but, then again, the book is through Charlie's point of view and in the story he's a very dangerous sociopath who now has a the control of a classroom under his thumb. The group of twenty five students band together to discuss their life, their flaws and their somewhat broken future. Eventually, they all gang up on this one bully named Ted Jones and it is unclear exactly what they did to him but, by the end of it, he's nothing but a drooling, whimpering mess. The book is intense, dangerous, but chocked full of suspense. I'm not saying that it's good but I am saying that my curiosity of it was satisfied and, happily, that book is now closed. It still sits on my shelf. I might read it again someday. But by then it will be with a wistful eye and a shake of the head.

One of the major reasons why Stephen King pulled the book was because one such troubled teen shot a teacher...and they found Rage in his locker.

So now comes the opinion you've probably been wondering about: Was he right in making the book out of print? I would say yes. Knowing a person has imitated a work of fiction to such a degree must weigh pretty heavy. But I believe that he did what he felt he had to do. I mean, how much can you ask of the guy?

My wife has always told me something that has stuck with me. She's said, "Never apologize for your work." And I stand by that. Books will offend, books will pry, books will certainly provoke thought. But the writer's work is to simply write. Separate indivdiuals who cannot give this material the fear and respect it deserves, to just read it and walk away from it, were more disturbed from the get-go.

Monday, September 12, 2011

The Man Who Loved Books Too Much

The Man Who Loved Books Too Much, penned by Allison Hoover Bartlett, paints the portrait of an underground thief known as John Gilkey. Gilkey, raised by a lenient family, does not believe in right or wrong. He believes in winning and losing.

Ms. Bartlett does a fantastic job researching her subject, both man and mystery. It's hard to believe, when I picked this book up at a closing Borders, that I'd be so protective of it. I never want to let it go. The story was so compelling I actually, PURPOSELY, read slowly. Having only 14 chapters, it is a light read.

Gilkey never fails to fascinate. He started stealing rare books in 1999, believing that a man was only as good and as noteworthy if he had a private collection of handsomely rare books. He printed out a list of 100 classic books. He wanted to collect them all. So, on his journey to aquire more books, without paying for them, he concocts schemes and excuses to get his way. First he starts with credit card number receipts, using the number over the phone to a bookdealer and walking in to collect the book later. But from there, his schemes become more elaborate and creative. It just goes to show what man will do, what lengths he will endure, for a good book.

Not only do with get to know the lowly thief, jumping from bookshop to bookshop across america, but we also learn of the man who tracks him down: Ken Sanders. He's a gruff, tough, no room for enough businessman who believes that John Gilkey made off with thousands of dollars, hurting the booksellers. Though we know that he is correct, there is something seductive in turning these pages. I guess we're all trying to find the method in the madness.

Bartlett even outlines book thieves in history, who have actually maimed and killed people, even burning down their houses, to aquire one rare book. Now that's what I call a Bibliomaniac.

Gilkey, never wanting a downside to his life, offers many different ways that the book could end. Like the diligient listener that she is, Bartlett hears him out. All of the concepts sound interesting. He offers to open his own bookshop, write detective novels starring a character similiar to himself, perhaps produce author Bobble heads to give to people who send him books. A man as obsssesd as Gilkey had me hooked from page one.

I give this five out of five stars. Do yourself a favor and read this one slowly. Savor it, becuase it's just that good.