First Editions

$10,000 for a first edition book? Think about it. Or a million.

I was chatting with a friend last night, about how I’d searched for months for a reasonably-priced, first edition copy of Gone with the Wind (Margaret Mitchell) for a dear friend’s birthday. The conversation turned to a list of books for which we’d pay the $10,000 that was the going rate for the best of the aforementioned first editions. $10,000 is a lot of money. Before I came up with a single title, I had to wonder, what would motivate me to spend that kind of cash on a book for myself?

There is no chance that I can recall all of the hundreds and hundreds I’ve read, so I did the obvious, and limited the mental search to the books I that really stick to my grey matter. Then I considered WHY they stick. Some resonate with me even today because they were disturbing. Books like Brave New World (Aldous Huxley) and 1984 (George Orwell), while brilliantly written, left me horribly depressed. No, while I appreciate their genius, I wouldn’t want to spend $10K on something that stuck in that way.

Then I considered those books that would be considered cliché. Any work by Shakespeare, or Poe, or Hawthorne. All wonderful works of literature, but none that meant something visceral to me. It had to mean something bigger than the book itself.

After distilling the list down to a dozen of my favorites, I realized that the one that resonated the most was Anne Rice’s Interview with the Vampire. I know it’s not considered classic literature, but it was the first book I read strictly for my own pleasure; it was the first book given to me by my mother, a voracious reader of all things macabre; and it was the first hard back I owned. Sadly, in the many moves from home to home, I no longer have it.

I was thirteen when first I read it. Of course, I didn’t know then that I lacked the maturity to really understand what I was reading, but I loved the imagery and the escape I experienced. I read it again at twenty, and by that time, much had changed in my life. My perspective was naturally wider. I had felt some of the things she described. I had loved. I had most definitely lost. Finally, I read it again in my thirties, when I knew better who I was. I felt vast differences in how I perceived the story and its details. I enjoyed the imagery more and better understood the passion in the relationships.

So, Interview with a Vampire is a kind of timeline for me. It’s the only book I’ve read in different decades of my life. I have a sentimental attachment to it because it introduced me to the idea that falling into a book, by myself, was a richly pleasurable experience. I’ve been addicted to the written word ever since the first time I heard the pages whisper apart in my hands.

So, if I had $10K to spend on a first edition book, Interview would be mine. What would yours be?



Shifting weight in the old rocker under a tattered manta, wrapping it tighter. Cold, the uncomfortable intruder.

I wish I were a girl again, half-savage and hardy, and free. The pages were so heavy with time that no whisper remained as she closed the cover. Worn, fraying, faded.


Setting the old book on the low table, she threw off the manta and reluctantly set her woollened feet on the floor, scarred and grooved, groaning and squeaking. The leathers protested as the rockers bore all her weight for the moment she took to stand.

Deep, noisy breath broke the stillness as a smile forced its way up from her belly, her arms stretched to their full length. Another deep breath and the footfall accelerated in ernest. Cold, the ultimate motivator.

The lamp sat quietly on the old oak sideboard, rust pock-marked the bright red enamel of its curves. A kaleidoscope of colors swirled in the glass, burned in over decades. It seemed that there was never enough paraffin to keep the old thing burning brightly. She turned the cap gently, and filled the reservoir counting to five, squinting as the fumes rose, strong and sharp. Full for now. Nearly gone were the ridges of the tiny regulator’s wheel, but the movement was smooth and with a shhhhh the flame once again burned high enough to flood warm, yellow light into every corner of the room.

Back to the quiet corner, only just a few quick steps, she grinned widely as she sat, wrapped again in her still brightly colored manta, picking up the new book. Lighter with time, but thick with images crafted from words woven into brilliant, wildly colored tapestries. New, gifted to her by hearts and minds so rich with their own words.

She opened, listening for the whisper as the pages popped to life. Page 1.