read: 29 July 2009
Really mixed feelings about this one. The story itself is interesting. It’s actually about TWO men who love books, one is a rare book dealer and one is a rare book theif. The story concerns the times where their lives cross. The author has personal conversations with both of them, often, over many years. The dealer is more likeable (to me) than the thief, but the author seems sort of entranced with both of them. This is where the story sort of falls apart, to me. She’s so interested in getting the scoop from the thief that she gets into the classic reporter’s dilemma, knowing the guy is continuing to steal books and sort of shrugging in a “what can you do?” way
Personally I felt that she didn’t do more about the thief’s thievery because she knew she didn’t have a story if he went to jail and stayed there. The guy stole hundreds of credit card numbers that he used to purchase rare books from dealers sight unseen and then would have an accomplice go pick them up or sometimes go get the books himself. He left a trail of credit card fraud and ill will among rare book dealers (I was hoping for more about libraries, but there’s not much of that in this book). It was sort of neat to understand how he did this, but very frustrating to get to the end of the book and realize he was still doing it and seemed like he’d continue to do it. Maybe my frustration got in the way of me appreciating this book more. There is a lot of interesting side discussion with rare book dealers and the police, and a little about the books themselves. Upshot: the author injects herself into this story too much for my personal tastes and since I didn’t ultimately find her insights that interesting, I didn’t like the book as much as I might have.
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