The good news was that the much-loved Alice Munro had won the 2013 Nobel Prize in Literature. The bad news, for used book dealers around the state, is that the 82-year-old Canadian short-story writer (inset) is popular among collectors so there wasn’t much on their shelves when prospective readers came calling after Thursday’s announcement.
“I had a first American edition of her first book, ‘Dance of the Happy Shades and Other Stories,’ and that sold within a couple of hours. That was it,” says Jim Sarantidis, who runs the West Chesterfield-based Grendel Books. (The book was priced at $85.)
At Grey Matter Books , a high-end used bookshop in Hadley, owner Sam Burton said he had only three or four books by Munro, and they were all gone by noon. “I was caught off-guard,” said Burton. “I thought [the Nobel winner] was going to be [Haruki] Murakami, so I went and bought a nice edition of his to sell. I never have the right book at the right time.”
Kenneth Gloss, owner of the Brattle Book Shop , said it’s hopeless trying to predict literary prize winners. “If you can predict the future, a lottery ticket would be a better bet,” he said. “But, nowadays, when you can get books with a couple of clicks and a credit card, anything that gets people into bookstores is good.”
At Harvard Book Store , which sells primarily new books, head buyer Rachel Cass said she has a decent selection of Munro’s titles and more on the way. “I came in at 7 a.m. so I’d be here when the winner was announced,” she said. “Then I placed a big order of her books.”Mark Shanahan can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @MarkAShanahan. Meredith Goldstein can be reached at email@example.com. Follow her on Twitter @MeredithGoldste.