Wednesday, September 21, 2005


Who uses it: Booksellers
What it means: A paperback book with its cover ripped off, declared as "destroyed" to the publisher or distributor. Paperbacks are so cheap to produce that it's not worth it for publishers to reimburse booksellers for shipping them back, so bookstores just return the front covers to prove they've destroyed the book.
How to use it: To describe something that's not pretty or salable, but still serves its main purpose. My first car, a 1981 Mercury Lynx that I bought for $500 from a Foreign Service Officer who was leaving the country, was a stripper, at least until it started belching black smoke. (That's a long story, actually, for another time.)

Working at a bookstore does not pay particularly well, but how many jobs let you answer the question, "What did you do today?" with a casual, "Oh, I did strippers"? (Only slightly-related digression: the highlight of my day, about a month ago, was walking into the Augusta Sam Goody's and asking for the latest by The New Pornographers. Which, by the way, is excellent.)

Anyway, it causes me physical pain to throw a book away. Strippers just kill me, even if most of them are crummy books (and yes, I'll say it: most books published ARE crummy books. Do the math). On my shelves are a paperback copy of East of Eden whose front and back covers are duct-taped to the spine; a paperback of Gone with the Wind missing half its last page, with a replacement last page from another edition folded inside the back cover; and the copy of Johnny Tremain I bought used with my own money when I was 11, which fell into swimming pools and kitchen sinks more than once, and whose pages stick together at certain key junctures because of whatever I was eating while I read it.

I'll throw clothes away, and shoes; broken appliances, scratched-up Tupperware, threadbare linens; but not books, not if there's any alternative.

I do give books away, periodically. I brought several bags back to The Mystery Bookstore before I left L.A., thinking they could go back into circulation. I gave at least one back to Out of the Closet, and I distributed a few to friends and relatives. Still, more than 30 boxes of books made the trip across country... and even (I whisper it) a couple of strippers.

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