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A Pound of Paper: Confessions of a Book Addict Hardcover – December 11, 2003

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

As he stooped over a basket full of stuffed animals at a London flea market, Baxter (Robert de Niro; George Lucas) made a discovery that would change his life forever. It was there, in 1978, that he unearthed a children's book by Graham Greene, called The Little Horse Bus, selling for five pence. He snatched it up, then impulsively purchased another Greene novel and one of Greene's African journals as well. Just like that, a book collector was born. Baxter chronicles his growing obsession with books in a way that's utterly infectious, with sharp wit and self-deprecating humor. He flits across Australia, England, the United States and France in pursuit of the perfect collection, always spurred on by the knowledge that book collectors find treasures in the most unlikely places. In his words, "acquiring [books] meant midnight assignations in seedy corners of London, white-knuckle bidding at auctions, speculative drives across England to cities you'd never seen, and nervous knocking on the doors of strangers that, in all probability, would leave you, a minute later, humiliated and empty-handed on the doorstep a hundred miles from home." He takes gleeful pleasure in underpaying those who are ignorant about the worth of their rare books, but he also holds certain texts sacred (like the uncorrected proofs of two James Bond novels given to him by Kingsley Amis). Baxter's memoir will be of great interest to serious book collectors because so much of the book conveys the insider's perspective, but his narrative is truly amusing and rollicking enough to entice book lovers of all kinds.
Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information, Inc.

From Booklist

There is no small charm to a tale that begins where Baxter grew up, in Middle-of-Nowhere, Australia, and ends in the Paris penthouse above where Sylvia Beach once lived. Bibliographer, biographer, broadcaster, and obsessive book collector, Baxter has lived in London and Los Angeles, married three times, and can't resist a story or a list (the book ends with, among other things, what various folk would take with them if their book collections were afire). Baxter collected Graham Greene (he's quite vibrant on this obsession and its resolution) and reveals that Sarah Michelle Gellar of Buffy fame is one of the new breed of celebrity book collectors. A passion for film (he's written about Spielberg and Kubrick and DeNiro) and a working knowledge of collectible pornography are further nuggets in this sprawling, unedited, but quite engaging memoir. GraceAnne DeCandido
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 432 pages
  • Publisher: Thomas Dunne Books; 1st edition (December 11, 2003)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0312317255
  • ISBN-13: 978-0312317256
  • Product Dimensions: 5.6 x 1.4 x 7.6 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.1 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 3.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (19 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #727,386 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

John Baxter was born in Sydney, Australia, but raised in a small country town called Junee. With little else to do, he went to the movies three times a week for most of his adolescence, which provided an instant education in Hollywood movies with which he was often able to embarrass film celebrities ("You SAW that thing?")
His second interest, however, was science fiction, which he began writing in his late teens. He sold stories to the same British and American magazines as J.G. Ballard and Thomas M. Disch, and in 1966 his first sf novel, THE GOD KILLERS, was published in both the US and Britain. He also edited the first-ever anthologies of Australian science fiction, and wrote the first history of the Australian cinema.
In 1969, he came to Europe, settled in London, and began writing books on the cinema, including a biography of the director Ken Russell, and studies of John Ford, Josef von Sternberg and the gangster and science fiction film genres, and working as an arts journalist for various magazines, and for BBC radio. He also served on the juries of European film festivals.
In 1974 he was invited to become visiting professor at Hollins College in Virginia, USA, where he remained for two years. While in America, he collaborated with Thomas Atkins on THE FIRE CAME BY; THE GREAT SIBERIAN EXPLOSION OF 1908,and wrote a study of director King Vidor, as well as completing two novels, THE HERMES FALL and BIDDING.
Returning to London, he published the technological thriller THE BLACK YACHT. In 1979 he moved to Ireland, and the following year returned to Australia, where he co-scripted the 1988 science fiction film THE TIME GUARDIAN, starring Carrie Fisher and Dean Stockwell. He also wrote and presented three TV series on the cinema, and produced and presented the ABC radio programme BOOKS AND WRITING.
In 1989 he moved to Los Angeles, where he worked as a screenwriter and film journalist. The following year, he met his present wife, Marie-Dominique Montel, and re-located in Paris.
After moving to France, John published biographies of Federico Fellini, Luis Bunuel, Steven Spielberg, Woody Allen, Stanley Kubrick, George Lucas and Robert De Niro, as well as five books of autobiography, A POUND OF PAPER: CONFESSIONS OF A BOOK ADDICT, dealing with his fascination for collecting books, WE'LL ALWAYS HAVE PARIS: SEX AND LOVE IN THE CITY OF LIGHT, of which the SUNDAY TIMES of London wrote "it towers above most recent memoirs of life abroad," IMMOVEABLE FEAST: A PARIS CHRISTMAS, THE MOST BEAUTIFUL WALK IN THE WORLD: A PEDESTRIAN IN PARIS, and THE PERFECT MEAL. IN SEARCH OF THE LOST TASTES OF FRANCE.
John has co-directed the annual Paris Writers Workshop and is a frequent lecturer and public speaker. His hobbies are cooking and book collecting. He has a major collection of modern first editions. When not writing, he can be found prowling the bouquinistes along the Seine or cruising the Internet in search of new acquisitions.

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

29 of 30 people found the following review helpful By W. C HALL VINE VOICE on January 4, 2004
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
This is a engaging, entertaining memoir by a true book lover. The leisurely, slightly discursive way in which John Baxter unfolds his life story led me into imagining I had struck up a conversation with him in a musty second-hand book shop; and found his story so entertaining that I invited him across the street to a dark, smoky pub to continue the tale over several tall pints of lager.

Baxter grew up in Australia, and has since called London, Los Angeles and Paris home. He's been a broadcaster, novelist, biographer and film critic. The one constant thread in this far-ranging life has been his love of books. As a young adult, he became obsessed with science fiction. While living in London, he stumbled on a rare copy of a Graham Greene children's book, which served as the basis for a Greene collection he spent several years building.

In this book, he celebrates some of the most memorable people he's encountered along the way, including book runner Martin Stone (A book runner makes his living, if you can call it that, by buying and reselling books from flea markets, thrift stores and the like); and several literary greats, including Kingsley Amis, Ray Bradbury and Harry Harrison. He also explores collectors of erotica, the difference between Paris and London bookshops, skewers the ignorance of many eBay sellers, and has a grand good time through it all. The closing scene, where he brings all the books he owns together in one place for the first time in his life, had a special resonance for's something I dream of in my own life. For book lovers everywhere.--William C. Hall
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23 of 26 people found the following review helpful By Harriet Klausner #1 HALL OF FAME on November 26, 2003
Format: Hardcover
Though I do not believe in censorship, books like A POUND OF PAPER: CONFESSIONS OF A BOOK ADDICT need to be hidden from family members. Bibliophiles know the affinity that film biographer John Baxter shares with us. Though not chasing around the world like Mr. Baxter has, book lovers will comprehend the need to hit the obscure bookstore whether on a business trip or a vacation. Going to Europe includes visits to the neighborhood bookstores of Athens and Rome (Greece and Italy not Georgia) as key to the itinerary.
Book lovers can commiserate with Mr. Baxter as everyone thinks you're a nut whether one grows up in rural Australia or the urban Bronx. Mr. Baxter provides a bit of book history beyond just the printing press invention and gives insight into proofs and galleys, and limited editions. He also goes into depth of what havoc and destruction the Information Age via the Internet has had on bookstores including the global yard sale of eBay. Though he adds other personal non-book elements of his life, it is his love for the printed media that will hook readers like me whose house displays the destruction of several rain forests (it is hard to be an environmentalist in my abode). Clearly for book hoarders though film addicts might try a spin as Mr. Baxter is part of that community too.
Harriet Klausner
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14 of 16 people found the following review helpful By Timothy Haugh VINE VOICE on August 18, 2004
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I am a book collector and I enjoy my passion very much. Many people would say I'm obsessed but it only takes a book like this one to remind myself that I'm in the minor leagues.

Part memoir and part peek into the world of book collecting, Baxter tells of his youth in the wilds of Australia where, like many of us, he delved into the world of comic book and science fiction collecting. He matured along the way with an interest in Graham Greene before dumping that collection and moving onto other literary interests.

And he did not stay in the wilds of Australia forever. He travelled and made his way up in the world of film and publishing. Baxter has had the fortune as a film critic, writer and collector to meet a number of interesting people, from the writers he collected to eccentric bookmen like Martin Stone. The book has a definite British flavor, though Baxter has made some forays into the United States. Still, any book collector will see things he recognizes in Baxter's experiences and, in some cases, things we wished we could have experienced ourselves.

Let's face it, a person with a passion for book collecting will feel some jealousy when reading of some of Baxter's finds and encounters. Unfortunately, most of us do not have the means and/or opportunity to do some of the things Baxter has done. But this does not totally diminish the fun in seeing how he was able to come to have the experiences he had and it makes for a great read for anyone interested in books.
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11 of 13 people found the following review helpful By Bill Marsano on February 23, 2004
Format: Hardcover
By Bill Marsano. The very first thing you should know is that this is a book about collecting, not just book collecting. Collecting--the determined search for specific objects on a given theme--is pretty much the same kind of mania for all collectors, whether they're after vintage cars, rare stamps and coins or--as in this case--books, and whether the treasure they seeks are top dollar or bottom. Every kind of collecting develops its own little cultures and subcultures, its side streets and back alleys, its characters loved or hated or legendary. And, of course, its litany of heart-lifting successes and heart-breaking failures. So if you collect (as distinct from accumulate) or if you know a collector, this book is a definite buy.
John Baxter's collecting, which began with science fiction, made him into a short-story writer then a scriptwriter then a novelist and a teacher. He begins his trek in a desolate tank town in Australia, where things start slowly, but he soon moves on--and ups the pace and tension--to London, the U.S. (East Coast and West) and finally Paris. The whole journey runs along like a thrill ride as you join Baxter in a series of adventures and misadventures with his assortment of bookstruck ne-er-do-wells and genial lowlifes.
There are only pluses to this book. Plenty of amusing incidents and anecdotes, lots of inside information about book collecting (appplicable to collecting in general) and to top it all off, superb writing. Baxter writes vivid, imaginative, entertaining prose. He is a delight to read.--Bill Marsano is an award-winning travel writer, an editor and a desultory book collector.
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