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Q

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– I am a dinosaur from the old school of bookselling. I left the mail order business when it became electronic. I knew that I didn’t want to operate that way. Now I visit & sell to dealers. Prior to the internet there was a great deal of loyalty from customers. Book dealers would take a loss just to please their customers because there was an intimate relationship between the sellers & the buyers. There is no such thing as loyalty anymore. – “Q” On a cold gray January day in 2004, Ray Dworczyk walked into my bookstore and left behind two blue plastic bags filled with books…the point being he wanted me to purchase them. He visited me daily for a week, long enough for me to find out he’s known as Mr. “Q”, which of course, designates “quality.” He’s been around longer than most local book dealers, driving his old beater stacked high with books and other oddities.When he parks on Water St. parallel to my business, passerby’s stop, stare, and sometimes even point at his loaded car. At age 78, Q is, as we say in the biz, a “picker”, i.e., he who haunts various thrift shops, garage sales, and other venues in search of books available for a small sum. The savings pass through the marketing chain, ending up in the hands of those who are short on bucks but big on the written word. Q represents that pre-Internet endangered species who (despite the rather demeaning “picker” tag) represent a broad spectrum of knowledge and skill. Q remembers himself as a tall, skinny, timid kid, who was early-on the best reader in his class. Books became his passion but he didn’t, as you might imagine, grow up in a home populated with readers. In fact, no one in his Mitchell Street area home emphasized literature. He’s still living in the area he grew up in (mostly Polish neighbors back then), and yes, he attended Pulaski High School, then the Milwaukee State Teachers College where he studied history and art. It didn’t take him long to realize that making art and writing short stories wasn’t going to bring in much money. He began to think about selling quality books instead. Afterall, he already had 50 quality tomes in his trove and was deep into AB Bookman’s Weekly (Antiquarian Bookman’s) – the young bookseller’s bible of the ’50s. He scoured every article about rare books of that era, an era when you could still find great books to buy and sell. Finding those books is getting harder for Q, who guesses maybe 70% of the best out there are hidden away by dealers waiting to sell them online. Q’s fingertips perhaps yearn for the feeling of raised lettering. Along the way in his long career, Q has some tales to tell. Take the one about the collector of Western Americana who used to call often and buy what Q had gathered. Eventually, Q queried the chap, asking him if he knew that “McMurtry guy who wrote Westerns.” You guessed right if you’re thinking it was McMurtry himself on the other end of the line. Then there’s the one about the time Q was drinking brews in a local tavern, with his buddy Charlie. Q had toted along a large volume, a valuable volume, about aboriginal tattoos that also contained beautiful stone lithograph illustrations. As the evening wore on and on, the two were eventually kicked out when a fight erupted. Alas, the book was left behind, and when Q returned to reclaim his treasure, it was gone. Despite this prize lost, Q still treasures the thought of Charlie and all those beers and lies they told. ( It is really tough to find beautiful antiquarian books anymore. The great typographers are dead. Anyone who isn’t a big box bookstore is what I would call an “endangered species”- which is unfortunate. This has always been a pretty conservative town. Much of my business was done in New York and the West Coast. Bookselling is vital to the health of a city. I hope that the small guys can survive. “Q“)
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