Monday, March 26, 2012

The 2000 Year Old Man Talks Rare Books

by Stephen J. Gertz

At the recent 45th California  International Antiquarian Book Fair, the 2000 Year Old Man, the oldest rare book dealer in the history of the world, exhibited for the first time.

Booktryst had an opportunity to talk to him in the exhibitor hospitality suite.

SJG: Excuse me, Sir, is it true that you're the oldest living rare book dealer in the world?

2000 Year Old Man: Yes, I've been selling rare books since twelve.

SJG: Twelve years old?

2000 YOM: No. 12. The year.

SJG: You started early.

2000 YOM: Six months.

SJG: The year?

2000 YOM: No, age. There was no such thing as childhood when I was a kid. You were born, you were weaned, you went to work. I was an apprentice 2000 years before I went out on my own, in 12. There's a lot to learn.

SJG: So, you're actually 4000 years old?

2000 YOM: Yes, but it creeps-out the chicks so I lie. 2000 years old, they can live with.

SJG: What rare book shop did you serve your apprenticeship in?

2000 YOM: The rare book shop where I served my apprenticeship was Between the Scrolls. It was that or The Scroll Shop LLC, Lux Scrollis, Scroll Hunter's Holiday, or Scrolls R Us. I went with Between the Scrolls.

SJG: Why?

2000 YOM: Lots of action. There was always something going on.

SJG: Tell us about a typical day at Between the Scrolls..

2000 YOM: Oy, you wouldn't believe. Caesar and Cleopatra. Anthony and Cleopatra. Always between the scrolls, making out. No shame. No shame at all.

SJG: Who was the worst?

2000 YOM: Lipschitz and Cleopatra.

SJG: Lipschitz?

2000 YOM: Maximus Gaius Cornelius Murray Lipschitz. The general who became a slave! The slave who became a gladiator! The gladiator who became a dentist with a lucrative, high-end practice catering to the  patrician class! A great book collector, by the way.

SJG: What did he collect?

2000 YOM: Hammurabi first editions. Very heavy reading.

SJG: Deep intellectual content?

2000 YOM: No, two tons. They wrote on rocks in those days. You could get a hernia just turning a page. I once read Tolst-Oy bin Riten's 1782 B.C. classic, War and War, in it's first edition, on polished granite in a fine cuneiform hand, in a contemporary full coral and cobalt Travertine marble binding. A work of art. But heavy. Oy! I tore my rotator cuffs to shreds trying to flip to the index.

SJG: How were they shelved?

2000 YOM: Shelved? There were no shelves. You bought a book, it was delivered by cart, and slaves shlepped it into a pile in a corner of  your living room, next to the Barcolounger.

SJG: Who were your favorite authors in those days?

2000 YOM: Well, you know, there wasn't much to read way back then.

SJG: No?

2000 YOM: Nah. You had grainary reports, accounting ledgers,  royal victory propaganda...Nothing to read at the beach. Feh!

SJG: So, what did you read?

2000 YOM: Trash. I loved reading trash.

SJG: Why did you love reading trash?

2000 YOM: There was no shortage of it. Coffee cups, MacDonald's wrappers, bills, coupons, collection notices, empty cereal boxes, you name it. Where's there's people, there's trash.

2000 YOM: I draw the line at garbage, though. I won't read garbage. Yeccchhh!

SJG: What about later? Who did you read later?

2000 YOM: Oh, there was Pliny -

SJG: - The Younger or Elder?

2000 YOM: Younger, Elder, in between. Plenty o' Pliny. Good and Pliny. Couldn't get enough Pliny.

SJG: Did  you read Agricola?

2000 YOM: Read Agricola? I drank Agricola! It's the perfect beverage. The essence of the cola nut combined with notes of Spring crops. Very refreshing.

SJG: Carbonated?

2000 YOM: Of course, naturally. They threw a little activated carbon in there to purify it. You could die from the water back then.

SJG: Let's get back to your book shop.

2000 YOM: You have a time machine?

SJG: What was the oldest, rarest book you ever bought?

2000 YOM: The oldest, rarest book I ever bought was The Book of Moses.

SJG: First edition?

2000 YOM: Better. Original manuscript with corrections in his own hand.

SJG: I thought there were five books of Moses.

2000 YOM: There were but Moe only wrote the first one.

SJG: Really?

2000 YOM: Sure. He started the second, got a bad case of writer's cramp and that was that. You try writing with a stick. If he had a nice Bic pen, another story altogether but there you go.

SJG: Who wrote the others?

2000 YOM: Well, aside from Moe there was Larry, Curly, Shemp, and Joe.

SJG: The Stooges?

2000 YOM: Stooges of the Lord, to you. Don't be a wisenheimer.

SJG: What did it sell for?

2000 YOM: I haven't offered it until now. I've kept it in a vault since I bought it.

SJG: When did you buy it?

2000 YOM: I bought it in 452. A rich collector needed a little quick cash to get out of Rome before Attila the Hun showed up.

SJG: How much are you asking?

2000 YOM: 100 million dollars.

SJG: That's a lot of money.

2000 YOM: But free shipping and passes to Disneyland included!

SJG: What, if you don't mind my asking, did you pay for it back then?

2000 YOM: Back then I paid 500,000 shekels.

SJG: What's that in today's dollars?

2000 YOM: $17.50.

SJG: My goodness, that's not very much money for the original manuscript to the first book of the greatest work ever written, one that's influenced millions and millions and millions of people since it first came out.

2000 YOM: I could of done better. If I'd known it was going to be such a great big huge success I could have gotten it direct from Moe for practically nothing.  It was originally rejected by  all the publishers;  too many begats, not enough sex and violence. He never thought it would catch on. I could have gotten his desk, too. A robe. Who knew? I could kick myself.

By the way, who do you have to shtup to get a piece o' rugelach around here? They got pretzels up the keister, nuts, candy, some kind of mystery canapé but not a single prune rugelach.

SJG: Did you have any celebrity clients?

2000 YOM: Oh, yes, yes, yes, indeed, of course, I had many, many celebrity clients.

SJG: Who was your most interesting celebrity client?

2000 YOM: My most interesting celebrity client was King Solomon.

SJG: The King Solomon?

2000 YOM: There was another one? First time he came in, he was with a real geszunta moid, a very healthy maiden, if you know what I mean. Zaftig. Such a punim. He says, "I'm King Solomon." I couldn't believe it.

My wife says, "Right, and I'm the Queen of Sheba."

And the gezunta moid says to her, "No, I am. Really."

SJG: Wow, that must have really been  something.

2000 YOM: Oh, boy! You don't know the half of it. They both wanted the same book.

SJG: What book was that?

2000 YOM: When Bad Hittites Happen To Good Hebrews. A cautionary tale with a message.

SJG: What happened?

2000 YOM: They were fighting over it. Finally, I took an axe, chopped the book in two, and gave them each half.

"You should be so wise," Sheba said to Sol.

SJG: Speaking of wisdom, why, after all these years, are you only now exhibiting at an antiquarian book fair"

2000 YOM: I saw the sign outside, Antiquarian Book Fair. I figured,  I  sell books; who's more antiquarian than me? I'm the most antiquarian bookseller you'll ever meet.

SJG: You certainly are, Sir. 4000 years old.

2000 YOM: Shhhh! Keep it down. I got my eye on that chick over there. She reminds me of one of my ex-girlfriends.

SJG: Who was that?

2000 YOM: The Empress Messalina. I love it when women wear glasses.

SJG: Why is that?

2000 YOM: When they take them off, it sends me.

SJG: Let's not go there.

2000 YOM: Why not? I'm still vital. I'm a very vital guy.

SJG: You're certainly an inspiration, Sir. Do you have any advice for book collectors?

2000 YOM: Yes! My advice to book collectors is to not buy rare books on rocks.

SJG: Do you have something against geology?

2000 YOM: I love geology! Geology's wonderful. It's my favorite of all the ologies. But rare rock books? You could give yourself a rupture. Who needs it? Feh!

Apologies, respect and admiration to Carl Reiner and Mel Brooks, who began as writers and whose early 1960s improv routine for friends at parties developed into a textbook on comedy. Individually and as a team they are American Treasures.

Here's a classic bit:


1 comment:

  1. robert watling jr.March 27, 2012 at 8:45 AM

    Brilliant parody topped by a brilliant clip of the real thing. I could hear their voices as I read it. Thanks.


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