In September, the Bancroft Book Club read and enjoyed 'THE MAN WHO LOVED BOOKS TOO MUCH" by Allison Hoover Bartlett
A prize winning journalist (the Crime Journalism award 2008) she has recreated the scenes when she interviewed Gekley a known and much-arrested book thief. She also makes vivid his passion for rare volumes, for putting it over on the owners,or the elite, or those who have what he desires. He has grown up with this bibliophilia in a family that cheered his enterprise when he shoplifted at age 6.
Psyching out the rare booksellers countrywide he stole in city after city, on-line and in person. He was knowledgeable, clever, and did thorough research on the dealers as well as the availability and condition of titles he craved. He was addicted. But was he crazy? He often accepted his two or three month jail terms as a time for reading and being interviewed at length by Bartlett. who has a clear probing style and obviously sensitive to his imbalanced perspective as he became more and more confidential. Her patience matched his.
He may have met his match when a dealer Sanderson in Salt Lake City got on his trail as the "detective' named by the American booksellers Ass'n to look into these expensive heists. In San Francisco he stashed books by the thousands with his father, on a deserted terrain called appropriately Treasure Island. With credit cards receipts stolen at Sak's men's department, he ordered by mail but also arrived in person: presentable, well-spoken and just the reliable gentleman to be hired by a top end store or to be handed a package with a $10,000 first edition!
This was an exciting and tantalizing read and insight into the intelligent mind of a brazen crook who never stole; in his view he "got" a book or he succeeded in" finding" the 17th Cty manuscript...etc. He deserved to have his mania satisfied. Such suavity is unsettling. Could one of us understand desiring objects enough to constantly steal??
In discussion we puzzled over the role of the journalist. At what point, and she does raise the question, should she alert Sanderson (she does) or the police (she doesn't. ) Values are not always definable as right or wrong, we debated.
THE NEXT MEETING IS TUES. OCT 1ST