Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Magic Fingers

These little ladies above introduced me to a strange term....

Finger-spitzengefühl? Ever heard of it? Apparently it's this elusive quality rare book collectors may develop - or just naturally have - that leads them to finding jaw dropper books like Live and Let Die by Ian Fleming - first edition/first printing which just sold for $5095 for instance, or even to discover secrets about authors few of us have ever known. The two women above had it. They described it as, "a tingling of the fingertips (which) becomes an electrical current of suspense, excitement, recognition. In an artificially controlled voice, one of us calls to the other, 'Look! This may be something."

Leona Rostenberg and Madeleine Stern spent their whole adult lives following the finger-spitzengefuhl and they discovered such gems as the fact that Louisa May Alcott was not only writing virtuous novels such as Little Women, she was also publishing under the pseudonym, A.M. Barnard. Under this name she published what was called "blood and thunder" stories about juicy topics such as, feminism, transvestitism and hash smoking. I bet the fingers were tingling when they found this out.

After I read their book, I became a bit obsessive. I thought for awhile that I had found a $20 000 Hemingway. But the more I learned the more I realized how impossible the odds are and how great the learning curve is. What I have discovered is how much I love the look of my favourite books on my bookshelf, and just how beautiful old books are. What was an obsession has now mellowed into something softer. I have become sort of romantically involved with the covers of books and the fact that each book holds a small universe of imagination within that I can pull off the shelf at any time and sit with while I drink my coffee.

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