28 May 2023

A literary burglary

Not long before Christmas 1987 I read a review of Evan Eisenberg's new book The Recording Angel and resolved to look out for it. It is just the sort of book I like, a deep and insightful history of recorded music.

This was before instant online ordering and speedy delivery of books, before you could read a new book on your Kindle a few minutes after reading a review.

I was living in Toowoomba, a provincial city where there were a couple of good bookshops, but I would also look forward to browsing the bigger bookshops in Brisbane now and then.

This was not a bestseller, it probably appealed to a limited demographic, and my feeling was that I probably wouldn't come across it locally.

So, I would look out for The Recording Angel, but it was more likely to show up in one of the Brisbane bookshops like The American Bookstore.

A couple of days after Christmas Day I went into a local second-hand bookshop and looked through the old paperbacks with their bent covers and yellowed pages. 

In amongst them I found The Recording Angel, fresh and unopened. As a second-hand bookseller would classify it, As New.

I was astounded - no - I was spooked by how unlikely and coincidental it was, but I contained myself and took it to the cash register. 

Later I thought that it must have been an unwanted Christmas gift. Pretty quick to get down to the second-hand bookshop so soon after Christmas Day, but maybe they were desperate.
I got the Internet at home 11 years later, in 1998, and some time after that I saw a forum comment about The Recording Angel by a woman from the Toowoomba area. That was coincidental itself, on the Worldwide Web.

She had bought a copy of the book when it first came out, but it had been stolen during a burglary, swooped up with some other things before she had time to read it.

I replied to her comment and told her the story and yes, it had been in late 1987. She agreed the timing was right. I offered to give her my (her?) copy but she declined.

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