Dog-eared hauls

Dog-eared hauls: a series on second-hand books

Dog-eared hauls, conceived as a series of show-and-tell articles, captures some of the wonder and delight that comes from exploring second-hand book stores and leafing through the unusual books to be found there.

Obscure esoterica, obsolete scholarship, yesteryear’s pamphlets of the utopian imagination, poetic ravings from the far side of the canon, self-published novels whose entire print runs would (and did in fact) fit in a shoe box, cookbooks espousing the culinary aesthetics of the eighties – anything goes, as long as it’s the sort of thing that seems to leap off the shelf with ferocious oddness.

Some wild books photographed in their natural habitat. (Wilson Street, Sydney)

What makes such finds so special is often the sense of disconnect they inspire. Their intended audience has long disappeared, dispersed, may in some cases never have existed outside of the imagination of a hopeful young publisher investing his college fund, yet the words come through loud and clear. It’s like turning on the radio and capturing a transmission from the 1950s that through some nebular cosmic interference has been projected into the present. There is a haunted quality to them…

Poring over, say, Bible Object Lessons for Boys and Girls, Practical Astral Projection or The Book of Garnishes, one may find the imagination running wild. What kind of person would have written such a thing? Who might have bought this book, read it, proudly displayed it as a mark of good taste? Through what procession of circumstances did it end up here, on this shelf, to be leafed through by me?

Dog-eared hauls takes these questions as the departure point for a series of playful meditations upon the life of ageing books. It explores the historical situations in which they were created, and takes the reader on a tour through their yellowing pages. It serves as a homage to the gracefully, and sometimes less gracefully deteriorating cultural artifacts that line the walls of second-hand bookstores, those underappreciated palaces of forgotten lore that always seem to be on the verge of going out of business.

Let us descend into the Cesspool where discarded words rot and bubble into new life!


The first installment of Dog-eared hauls will be published later this week. Make sure you don’t miss it by signing up to our newsletter, the Cesspoolean.


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