A retired couple visited our book shop in Stratford, Ontario, on August 8th, and the husband enquired as to whether I had any Leonard Cohen books, or were they out of print. I assured him that Leonard Cohen's books were very much in print. In fact, I told him I had noticed a reprint trade paper edition of his first book, Let Us Compare Mythologies, in a window display of Fanfare Bookstore, one of the fine independent Stratford booksellers. (For the collector out there, the original publication, a McGill University Poetry Series Chapbook, is now worth a great deal in dollar terms. Though that is insignificant when compared with its poetic value.) I showed him my one remaining Leonard Cohen book, a selection of his poetry published by McClelland and Stewart . He had it already.
I have a hard time keeping Leonard Cohen books on the shelf. That is a good thing. A poet with perennial interest and appeal for both old and young is quite something. But Leonard Cohen is quite something. I wish I could avail myself of the phone and order a mixed box of Leonard Cohen's works but that is retail. I am in the second-hand trade. For me it is hunt and gather and hope for the best. A few weeks ago, a younger couple was in browsing. I recognized them as I do all my annual customers, with a touch of uncertainty. (Aging memory files take a bit longer to process when your customers only visit once a year. Such is the tourist town.) They had noticed a few works by Cohen a year ago but had not bought them. Of course they had been sold. That's the second-hand book trade, buy it when you see it. And today I put my last Leonard Cohen book in the window beside the selected correspondence of Jack McClelland, and yes, a woman came in and bought it like she had been expecting it to be there all the time. And tonight as I did a search for Leonard Cohen on the Internet, I discover he is in Berlin for special concert events August 11-13, 2006.
August 8th is the eighth day of the eighth month, and the number 8 is one of the important numbers in Buddhism, and Leonard Cohen is well known for his interest in that spiritual path. Hey, it makes you think.
My first customer should never fear that Cohen's books will be out of print. And with sites such as Project Gutenberg, which provide full-text on-line edtions for free viewing, there is a future cushion of internet immortality. Out of print books, what I call O.O.P.s, will become Perpetual In Prints, or P.I.P.s
And so life goes on.