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Mr. K's Bookshop

REFLECTIONS No. 1[[wysiwyg_imageupload:197:]]

For three years, I have been looking for 1984. Not just any 1984, but the ninth volume of The Collected Works of George Orwell, the definitive collection of Orwell's work, published in 1997 and out of print for many years. I hunted down the other nineteen editions, but 1984, perhaps the author's most popular and widely read book (next to Animal Farm) eluded me. Until I saw a listing for it two weeks ago on AmazonUK. There it was: "Vol. 9: The Collected Works of George Orwell, 1984." It was selling for a hefty price, which proved to me thatit must be the real McCoy. 

It wasn't. When it arrived, I found it not to be Vol. 9 at all, but simply the American edition – and not even a first, either. There was a cheerful letter enclosed from a man who thanked me for my purchase and said that should I need to contact the company, called EliteDigital, about a problem, I should do so before I gave them an Amazon rating. I e-mailed him about the problem.

Two days later, I got an e-mail back addressed to "Amazon Buyer" (making me sound like a slave trader). A person named Claudia was now writing, explaining that “someone” had sent the wrong book. Would I like the correct one?

What a question! Why would I spend a pile of money to get this book if I didn't want it? I wrote her back and said that and then we had an exchange of two more letters, in which she offered instructions that were either contradictory ("Please keep the book...and send it back") or simply nonsensical (requesting I return the unwanted book to Address A in one case and to Address B in another, even though Addresses A and B were exactly the same.)

The moral of the story? People are strange. It makes me think, if Mr. Kafka had run a bookstore, this is how it would have been. Simply bizarre.

July 10, 2010