full circle

August 21st, 2008 | Uncategorized

mr. e, close-up

I got an email from someone today letting me know that Fun Home has been remaindered at Daedalus Books, for the bargain price of $5.98. She meant this kindly, so I could inform my readers. But I couldn’t help thinking of this poem.

I guess I shouldn’t feel too bad. Shakespeare’s there too. So’s the Oxford Atlas of the World, which I’ve been lusting after for 25 years. ($70, down from $175.)

What being remaindered reminds me of most vividly, though, is my favorite Edward Gorey work, The Unstrung Harp, which I’m forever quoting here. When I first received Fun Home hot off the press back in the spring of 2006, I recalled the “extreme and pointless embarrassment” Mr. Earbrass felt upon spying his latest novel in the window of a bookseller’s.

Now I can’t help but think of this scene.


Oddly enough, I made another mention of Angus and the bloaters quite recently, when BDOC1992 commented on my Essential DTWOF post that she had found a copy of one of my old books for sale on medusa.com with the inscription “For Christine. Feel better soon!”

Soon? Christine?

Ahh, the circle of a book’s life.

On a lighter note, another kind reader sent this link to a brilliant exhibit of cartoon skeletons.

54 Responses to “full circle”

  1. michelle says:

    I’m the first commenter? And I rarely post…the pressure. When I saw the title, I heard the phrase, “the book of my enemy has been remaindered…” a word I had to look up when I first read the poem, and now it’s embedded in my memory.
    So I got a smile from this post,and Fun Home is in good company.

  2. kate mck says:

    the cycle of life…

  3. shadocat says:

    I love Edward Gorey. I once had an entire cartoon dream in “Gorey” style, that kept me from going to a funeral the next day.

  4. Ng Yi-Sheng says:

    Oh man… something less Alzheimer’s-esque but equally bewildering happened to me recently. I sent a copy of my book “SQ21” from Singapore to a friend in London, UK. A year later I found it in a literary festival office in Darwin, Australia.


    Maybe the copies I sent out got mixed up?

  5. Wow, Yish. That takes th’cake.

  6. Aunt Soozie says:

    Fantabulous poem. Thanks for the link.

  7. Alex K says:

    I paid full price.

    Several times, in order to give FUN HOME to family and friends.

    And, dammit, I’d do it again. That book is worth more than $5.98.

  8. brian z says:

    I can’t find the text of the damn thing, but there’s a brilliant little sonnet by L.E. Sissman titled “Upon Finding Dying: An Introduction, by L.E. Sissman. Remaindered at 1s.”

  9. Virginia Burton says:

    If it’s any consolation, one of the owners of Daedalus is a lesbian.

  10. Pam I says:

    I just bought a copy of The Unstrung Harp, reminded of it by your earlier post. But the UK/Bloomsbury edition has replaced Gorey’s immaculate hand lettering with type. Why oh why oh why? Really, _why_?
    Now I’ll have to hunt down a secondhand earlier edition. Haven’t I got better things to do?

  11. Ginjoint says:

    Ng, that…blows my mind.

  12. Sonya says:

    Did anyone else notice that Daedalus is listing it under “humor”? I mean, yeah, there are funny *parts*, but I wouldn’t really classify the book as a whole as “humor.” I’m guessing it’s just because it’s a graphic novel, and all comics are automatically “funny” (either that or they are all “for kids.”)

    At that price, though, geez, I might have to buy a few copies to donate to the local library. The people of Duluth need Fun Home! (Even if the city is being stupid and closing down all the branch libraries in an attempt to save money… at least the main library downtown can have a few copies of Fun Home.)

  13. Sonya says:

    Aaaand it’s also listed under “fiction.” Umm…

  14. […] full circle from dykestowatchoutfor.com […]

  15. The Cat Pimp says:

    I purchased Fun Home at Powell’s Books in Portland, OR a week after AB signed it. Guess where Alison was when I was in Portland? Yup. San Francisco. Like two ships that come nowhere near passing in the night.

    Being remaindered simply means that the ravening hordes are ready for the next book.

  16. Walaka says:

    As long as they let me use graphic books in the English classes I teach, _Fun Home_ will continue to have sales.

    Thanks for a great book, AB.

  17. AndreaC says:

    A happier story:

    When I was a little girl reading Nancy Drews, my mom always told me she had loved Nancy Drew when she was my age, and had always wanted to pass on to me her copies, but Grandma had sold them.

    A couple Christmases ago, my mom got a present from my great aunt, who had found a Nancy Drew book in an antique shop. Inside was my mom’s name in her little kid handwriting.

    It was awesome.

  18. --MC says:

    I’ll let you know if the book turns up in the Joseph R. Hamilton catalog. Get on their mailing list, you’ll never lack for things to dream about owning. They’re already remaindered that Willie and Joe collection from Fantagraphics for like thirty bucks!

  19. NLC says:

    While I can only imagine the feelings that a milestone like this must raise, still we shouldn’t lose heart. Daedalus only lists the hardcover edition as being remaindered. An all-but-inevitable phase in the history of any book in this day and age. But surely it’s going to be a long time before _Fun Home_ itself –softcover, et all– slips out print.

  20. chris says:

    Don’t forget that the first printing sold out lightning-quick, eh? I went to the Amazon signing two years back all anxious that I’d missed out and might never be able to buy a copy.

    IMO the paperback is prettier-looking than the 2nd-ed hardcover which is, I assume, the remainder in question. [checks] Yes. ‘Pears so.

    And Daedalus is Not Bad anyway. For a long time the Aubrey/Maturins were there, and various OEDs, and Peterson field guides, etc. Don’t forget your impoverished fanmasses, o mighty authors. They have to get their hands on yer stuff somehow. And the sad, sad truth is that too many of us don’t even have good book fairies, even if we had adequate libraries (you mean… I have to give it back? In only a month?), and we must acquire personal copies of books by our own sweat, toil, and enforced ramen diets. Books or food, gosh, tough choice. 😉

  21. chris says:

    And, Pam, NOOOOO. How is that even legal? *weeps*

  22. Xena Fan says:

    Don’t worry about it. You got PLENTY of money for the movies rights, right???

  23. Douglas says:

    Remaindering is a normal part of the life cycle of a book, and not a sign of failure at all, except maybe for the person in charge of deciding the size of the print run. If they print a million copies of a Stephen King novel, and 900000 sell, that’s 100000 remaindered copies. Daedalus has about 850 copies of Fun Home. (I know this because I work in a bookstore with a Daedalus account, and … um … we ordered some.) Before remaindering was invented surplus books were turned into paper linings for trunks.

  24. Kate L says:

    Veering wildly off topic, did you ever get the feeling that we’re all just characters A.B. created to populate this blog? Take Kate L … an older character of indeterminate age and even more indeterminate wisdom. Oh, and while I’m here, if (IF) Kansas Governor Kathleen Sebelius is Obama’s vice presidential choice, you might be interested to know that last year she signed an executive order for LGBT rights in state employment. Pretty gutsy in the home state of the Rev. Fred Phelps!

  25. andrewo says:

    Daedalus sometimes gets books very early. They had signed (well, bookplated/signed) fabulous graphic novel, The Arrival, by Shaun Tan while it was still very new. I recommend it highly; a wordless but remarkably eloquent book.

  26. Alex K says:

    @ Kate L: If I were a character created by AB to populate the blog, I’d be witty and insightful and sceptically humourous. (My “Lois” score was high. Learning that was a proud moment.) Maybe I’d even be slender.

    Are you inferring that I’m none of the above? Well spotted.

    I miss learning what Clarice and Jezanna and Mo think of the election campaign…

  27. Sophie in Montreal says:

    It appears we don’t do that remaindering thing with French books. When a publisher decides that the remaining books they printed won’t sell, they have them destroyed. We have a special word for it: “pilonner”, which doesn’t seem to have an English equivalent. If the writer wants to save the books, s/he has to buy them back from the publisher. That’s right: better destroy unsold books than have the writer get them for free. It’s a jungle out there.

    My character: French, bisexual, disappointed with polyamory, back to single bliss, in love with her girlcat. Wishes the rest of North America could vote in US elections. Visits the DTWOF blog _every_single_day_.

  28. Sonya says:

    Ha, I’m just the opposite in that I think of the DTWOF characters as real, flesh-and-blood people. A few weeks ago I found myself thinking, “Geez, I wonder what Sparrow’s up to. I haven’t heard from her in a while… oh, wait, yeah.”

  29. Olivier says:

    It’s a scandal that publishers won’t keep a book available for more than 2 years. I realize it’s probably just the hardcopy that is being remaindered and that the paperback edition will likely have a longer career but, still… What’s wrong with that industry?

    Oh yes, I know: it’s the same self-important and conceited misers who insist on super-luxurious digs in Manhattan (some on Park Av., no less), as if they were Goldman Sachs, yet are legendary for their shameful salaries and general poor working conditions. That industry stinks.

  30. dzieger says:

    Sonya – My wife and I just had a discussion like that, wondering what was up with the various characters. We were having that cliched conversation about how fast our kids and our various friends’ kids were growing up; then my wife asked, without any sense of changing the subject, “How old’s Raffi now?” The conversation segued seamlessly into what was happening with A.B.’s various characters when we heard from them last.

    We haven’t lost touch with reality — we also discussed the upcoming anthology; but it frightens me that this behavior is really only one standard deviation on the sanity bell curve from those old ladies who write letters to TV soap opera characters.

    I fear that by the time A.B. gets back to producing the strip, we’re all going to be completely certifiable…

  31. Redondo Steve says:

    I’m with Alex K – bought several full-price copies to give as gifts (as many as I could afford). So be of good cheer, the remaindered copies will be snatched up by types like us, who can now give even more people a taste of your work. Woohoo! If I had the money, I’d put a copy in every hotel room, right on top of the Gideons’ Bibles.

  32. Feminista says:

    Speaking of remainders–A group of mostly baby boomer writers formed a rock band in the 90s: The Rock Bottom Remainders. Members have included Dave Barry,Barbara Kingsolver,Stephen King,Amy Tan,and others. Nearly all the members were shy and bookish in their teen years,so they have a great time getting to rock out at last.

    Has anyone heard them play?

  33. d/f/ says:

    mmm…. book lust. this is why we like you, AB.

  34. d/f/ says:

    Ok, I just went back and read the discussion, and the poem (hilarious)!

    I must say, I had a vague idea of what remaindering is, but w/ entirely different associations. To me it just met that, like everything else in this too-fast culture where everything from shoes to lifestyles is considered dated in 1.5 seconds flat, my ability to wait was being rewarded.

    Some of my happiest discoveries, including those of some favorite authors, were made in the remainder piles at Dog-Eared Books in the Mission.

    It just meant I could occassionally actually afford a nice, hardcovered book.

    I didn’t realize that the author wasn’t getting anything from these; my understanding was that authors only get like a quarter or so in royalties from each individual book sale, so at $4 a sale – and after the contract’s signed – I figured the publisher was selling at or around cost price and/or taking the hit. (Well, maybe I didn’t think about it that much. But I have heard from my writer friends that they make very little from royalties, though numbers are important to potential publishers and the size of the next contract.)

    Anyway, congratualations, AB, on passing so thoroughly into the culture. It just means that the fifth trip to the fridge finally filled the stomach, so the chickadies patiently waiting now get fed.

  35. Alex K says:

    @Sophie in Montreal: “pilonner” = “pulp”.

    My understanding of the forces that in the USA drive books out of print is that, not surprisingly, they are economic. Unsold inventory attracts taxation at rates that make it cheaper to destroy books than to keep and, slowly, to sell them.

    Surely some reader will expand on this to give appropriate detail, or, if I’m wrong, will correct me…

  36. Sophie in Montreal says:

    Thanks Alex. A new word in the morning. Yum.

  37. --MC says:

    Feminista: I haven’t heard them play, not even while finding this Youtube link for you — this computer doesn’t have a sound card. I’ll view it again on Monday and see how it sounds. I hope they’re OK. Rock Bottom Remainders:


    I miss the strip today. I can hear Mo railing about Joe Biden.

  38. Donna says:

    @Sophie in Montreal:

    “If the writer wants to save the books, s/he has to buy them back from the publisher. That’s right: better destroy unsold books than have the writer get them for free.”

    What’s the rationale for the writer being allowed to buy them vs. stores who resell them? Is the idea based on some sort of ideal to venerate the artist, i.e., remaindered books would insult the work itself?

  39. Sophie in Montreal says:

    No remaindering. Either sell them full-price in regular bookstores, keep them in a warehouse or destroy the books. I don’t know why. I tell you, it’s ze jungle out zere.

  40. Ellen O. says:

    About 10 years ago, my publisher went out of business and gave me the option of buying my remaining 500 books (3 titles) for one dollar each plus shipping. Otherwise she was going to toss the books in a dumpster. I bought all of them. I don’t know if there were even a business at the time that wanted books of lesbian satire (The Butches of Madison County was one of them.) All to say, remaindering is not always an alternative to pulping.

    I sold 150 copies through Amazon over the two years but after Bush got into office in 2000 and I discovered that Amazon supported the Repulicans, I stopped doing business with them. I haven’t put much effort into advertising them since (busy with grad school, new jobs and buying a house)though I sometimes donate them to silent auctions.

    There are doznes of cheap, used copies of them available over the internet; how does one compete with the discount version of one’s self?

    Meanwhile, my writing has changed drastically; they feel like relics from centuries ago.

  41. Suz says:

    I can see remaindering rather than pulping. The stuff’s already printed; why sink more money into these same volumes? Still, it must suck to see that done to your work.

    Longish article on graphic novels in the Washington Post today. Written by a man and IIRC aside from Marjane Satrapi, all the writers he covered were men. No surprise from the WaPo, but a bit disappointing.

  42. Neil Hornick says:

    Re the Clive James poem. You might be interested to know that my copy of ‘The Book of My Enemy’, the collection in which it appears, was itself remaindered! I’ve retained the ‘Remaindered’ sticker on the jacket, which keeps the book intact as a splendid objet trouve.

    I have just read and much appreciated ‘Fun Home’, my first acquaintance with your work outside newspaper reviews.

    Neil Hornick (Literary Editor & Consultant, London)

  43. Jess says:

    My mom got a copy signed for me!
    I’m going to preorder The Essential DTWOF for her.

  44. Jess says:


    My mom got a copy signed for me!
    I’m going to preorder The Essential DTWOF for her.

  45. --MC says:


    Here’s Mr Earbrass’s entry at the Invisible Library blog.

  46. Shannon says:

    It’s ok…one of mine’s on sale at Amazon right now for some ridiculous price and it’s been out for less than a year.

  47. Ellen O. says:

    Shannon, what’s the name of your book?


  48. Pam I says:

    @ MC, love the invisible books. There is a handy pile on the nightstands of DTWOF-land, listed in Cast Biographies. What’s the name of Sydney’s sabbatical project?

  49. M says:

    Talk about full circle… the custodian of the Invisible Library is a coworker of mine! How bizarre.

  50. Elaine Caldwell says:

    Always thrilled to find another fan of EG. Here in New York (and most every other city in the US), thrift shops are the final resting place for most unwanted books. Charity shops to you Brits. T’other day in my fave thrift, I came across two author-inscribed books — Russell Banks and Laura Lippman. Write on, folks!

  51. BDOC1992 says:

    what bliss. to have been the small stone cast into the great intertextual lake sending ripples of Goreyness. “Heavens, how dashing! cried the people in the dinghy, . . ”

    [The Object Lesson, certainly a frozen seascape favorite]

  52. Suzanne Simpson says:

    Has anyone mentioned how appropriate it is that Fun Home, with its Daedalus theme, is remaindered there?

  53. Maggie says:

    I work in a bookstore (in fact, I’m there right now) and next to the remaindered “Fun Home” are two little books by Edward Gorey. Don’t fret. Your book is also being used in three classes, and that’s only from the professors who ordered their books here. Hotcakes, Alison, hotcakes! And only some of those hotcakes are on sale.