Susan Heller: The Road to Retirement with a Detour
- by Susan Heller
Introduction by Bruce McKinney
Some people have the book bug and Susan is one of them. She had been a book dealer for some fifty years. Over those years she has raised children, built a business, lost a loving husband and found another relationship late in life. Many years ago, struggling to close her book business and sell her home, we met and discussed her predicament and I wrote about her.
In time she disposed of some 20,000 of her books while keeping some high spots, autograph material and art. She said she wanted to keep a stake in the game. And she has. Years ago she met Gerry and he has become the detail man that manages their life on eBay.
A few months ago she mentioned her interest in Marvin Getman’s new show in Brooklyn. They had the desire to exhibit but also 160 years of lived-life between them, enough to trace their combined age back to the administration of James Buchanan. Thinking it through they decided they could make the two-day [each way] trip from Ohio so she could “do a show” once more. “I’m looking to seeing old friends” and no doubt they are looking forward to seeing her.
The following is a piece she submitted to RBM.
The Road To Retirement With A Detour
By Susan Heller
Fifteen years ago, newly widowed with some 20,000 books and a large house, my friend Bruce McKinney urged me to sell the books, sell the house, move to an apartment and find a boyfriend. I took his advice with a few exceptions. I kept some of the more enticing material and found a friend – not exactly a boy, now 84. However, I got a prize with my “boy”. He turned out to like my ephemera and types with non-arthritic fingers each day sending well-researched items to Ebay and jump starts my every day with a smile and an “I love you”. However that is not the point of this essay. My point is that a wonderful opportunity came for me to consider sending out to the world anything among my paper collectibles I was not going to read or hang on my walls. This opportunity is The Brooklyn Rare Book, Art, Photo & Design Fair, September 19th & 20th and we’ll be exhibiting.
I had been reading the ABAA chatline [as a former member] on how efficient and enjoyable Marvin Getman's Shadow Shows are, so when the announcement came that he was doing the Brooklyn Fair, I jumped on the bandwagon. Good thing I did, as it filled up quickly many months before his deadline. Now I'm authenticating, researching and pricing all those enticing items that didn't get away in my major sell off. A little out of practice, I'm sure some prospective buyers will be gleeful in getting away with a bargain and others will say, “Did she go into outer space to arrive at this price?” but it's all part of the game and I look forward to seeing some old friends, new characters and beautiful material.
How can I entice other dealers, collectors, scholars and novices to be attracted to our material at this fair? I'm hoping to quicken their heartbeats with artwork, autographs and ephemera that have been shelf bound for years. Among the art work are 25 signed drawings of Lynd Ward, 5 of Willy Crumbo, several prints from the Cleveland Print Club, some enticing collages of philosophy and music by Audra Skiodas, a Kessler photograph of and signed by Norma Talmadge and original water colors of illustrators of children's books. Autographed works includes Einstein, Steinbeck, Queen Victoria, Margaret Mitchell, Tenzing Norkay, Charles Lindbergh, Mussolini, Ghandi, and for variety - June Havoc (Gypsy Rose Lee's younger sister) to Walter Winchell, many film stars, directors and composers plus many others in many fields. Books signed by John Steinbeck, Madame Chiang Kai-shek, Ernie Pyle, H.L. Menken, Thomas Alva Edison, Vincent Minelli, Willa Cather, Maya Angelou, etc. A front page of The Philadelphia Inquirer, Nov. 6, 1968 with the headline “Nixon, Humphrey In See-Saw Battle” signed by Ronald Reagan, Hubert and Muriel Humphrey, Eugene McCarthy, George McGovern, Richard Schweiker and others. Ephemera are contained in notebooks devoted to world and political leaders, scientists, Afro-American material (including an autograph of Muhammad Ali) and for levity, original cartoon and comic drawings. Some of Gerry's (man friend) offerings includes the first edition, first printing of Walt Whitman's first novel, Franklin Evans as printed in The New World and the first appearance of Edgar Alan Poe's Pit and the Pendulum appearing in The Gift; A Christmas and New Year's Present for 1843 (1842). And the piece de resistance for all book lovers – Helene Hanff's 84 Charing Cross Road and The Duchess of Bloomsbury Street, both warmly inscribed by Hanff offered with 2 typed signed letters and 2 handwritten notes from Hanff, plus a program and tickets for the premier performance of the film 84 Charing Cross Road and 4 additional enclosed articles by and about Hanff. I almost wish I were on the buying, instead of the selling, side of this. And so goes “retirement”.
Thank you Bruce, Marv, old friends and new!
Catch up with Susan at email@example.com