Saturday, September 25, 2004

Delmore Schwartz and Sewing Machines...

I am an occasional seller of books. Mostly I buy and rarely sell. When I do part with a book , it is usually by means of the internet. And curiously enough, most of my selling is to people far away. Of the one hundred - fifty books offered for sale, I have sold about a third ...most to such exotic places as Malta, Sydney, Hong Kong and Hoboken. It's nice to know that my books rate in foriegn capitals, but the frustration is that I never get to meet my customers face to face.

So it was a pleasent surprise last weekend when a fellow a few miles away ordered one of my books . I immediately offered to hand deliver it. Here, at last, was a chance to meet one of my customers.

The book itself was an unusual one...Summer Knowledge... by the gifted and sad American poet, Delmore Schwartz. The customer mentioned that he is a Schwartz collecter. All the more reason to meet him. How many people in this world collect Delmore? I thought this highly unusal and even a bit peculiar...but who am I, an obsessive collector of S. J. Perelman , to criticize?

I showed up to the customer's apartment, a dingy place in the shadow of huge power lines and fifty feet away from the north- south highway. But inside his neat apartment the highway and power lines became as distant as Afganistan. His Schwart-iana was carefully arranged on the top shelp of a beautiful oak bookcase, and wonder of wonders, artfully scattered about the rooms of his small apartment were a bevy of antique sewing machines. Singers to be precise.

I never knew that old Singers from the Twnties, Thirties, and Forties could be so graceful. But grace was only part of it. According to my host, perfectly calibrated as well. "Look at this honey" he said reverently as he genly flicked a bit of dust of of a Model 128 Serial No. EA630687 model from 1937. "To this day, nothing straight-stiches better..." His voice lowered with emotion.

(To give you an idea of the beauty of these machines... )

All because I hand delivered Summer Knowledge, I had the chance to help a Delmore Schwartz man complete his collection. And I was able to admire some beautiful and graceful Singers.