In the last days of our vacation we had burned through most of the books we had brought and were casting around the cottage (Canadian for lake house) for something else to read. We stumbled across a book called LOON by one A.W. Plumstead. LOON is the story of a young ivy league graduate, who migrated to the northland to study Indian culture and met a bush pilot. But what fascinated us was the book’s provenance. It had been published in gorgeous hardback in 1992 by the Highway Bookshop in Cobalt, Ontario. The price on the jacket cover read $24.95 but whoever had sold it had put on his/her own price tag, boosting the price to $26.70.
This was back when Canadian dollars were worth less than US ones but still by today’s standards that is a lot to pay for a book. And the publishing of LOON was an act of hopefulness in the face of a changing market. In the early nineties, the big publishers were beginning to bet the farm on fewer and fewer titles, hoping for bestsellers. They were letting the smaller sellers go. And this was well before e books.
Today, the Highway Bookshop is out of business. The building is a shuttered reminder beside Route 11.
Instead of LOON, we chose to read a Sue Grafton mystery, “J” IS FOR JUDGEMENT. This too was a throwback, published in 1993. (Apparently, people stopped leaving books at the cottage in the nineties.)
“J” was published by Henry Holt which had been acquired by the German Georg von Holtzbrinck Publishing in 1985. In 1995, Holtzbrinck also gained Macmillan Publishing and folded Holt into Macmillan.
“J” is one of the Kinsey Millhone mysteries of which there are now 24. Grafton is up to “W.” In this one, it was notable, that there were no cell phones. Kinsey kept searching out land lines. Her files were all hard copy. And this was only 20 years ago.
The book did not entirely hold our interest so we did what we do: we began to edit it. (Something else that began to slide in the nineties was editing standards.) One thing that Grafton does (and many of our clients as well) is misuse the word “countless.” Countless means that something cannot be counted because there are too many of them.
It should not be applied to things that can be counted as Grafton does three times:
…all of them married with countless children of their own
…countless shelves lined with ceramic bowls that had been fired but not glazed
There were countless people milling along the sidewalks, all in shorts and tank tops…
It is time to go back to work.