In the vast sorting machinery that is New York City, The Strand's dollar rack is one of the exhaust vents, a place where excess information is discarded.

February 19th, 2014, 2pm

The Strand dollar racks on the corner of Broadway and 12th Street is simply one of my favorite places in the world. In the sorting machinery of New York City, the dollar rack is one of the exhaust vents, a place where excess information is discarded.

I sort through the racks often. Much of what ends up there is a sort of anonymous garbage, books that came and went with no notice from the world at large. Self published cookbooks, auction catalogs, outdated spiral bound reference books, anything no one wants or needs.

But then there are also old friends in hard times. Every time I visit the racks I see, for example, the Penguin paperback editions of any and all of Robertson Davies. During a sweltering hot and cash strapped summer, I went through the 48¢ bin of mass market paperbacks frequently, looking for classics and killing time. I’d never heard of Robertson Davies, but liked the pop art-ish Penguin covers and picked one called “The Fifth Business.”

I stayed up all night reading the strange, dreamlike story of family feuds and bohemian life in a Canada I’d never before encountered and indeed perhaps never actually existed. Next day I returned to the rack for the next book in the trilogy.

Though I happily discovered Robertson Davies in the moldering mass market bins by the Strand dumpster, I always feel a bit sad when I inevitably spot yet another book by this once popular and now little read author in the shabby skid row of the Strand’s dollar racks.

Ragini, Charlie, Sanna, Christine and 13 others said thanks.

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Nelson Harst

Rare book dealer, medium artist. @nelsonharst

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