myself as an antique
on antiques roadshow
The time: some years into the future.

The city: San Francisco.

The event: The Antiques Roadshow.

The object: a copy of
the best of

On camera is the owner, a woman—the grandmotherly
type, joined by the appraiser—conservative type in a nice
suit/bow tie combo who speaks with a mild quiver in the
voice as he fondles the book.

Appraiser: tell us about the book and how it passed into
your possession

Owner: it was given to me by my grandmother. The writer
as I understand it had no family. He had a son from whom
he was estranged. He was a close friend of my
grandmother and her family and in his will he left
everything to my grandmother and her brother. So the
book and several boxes of manuscripts and copies of letters
were handed  down from my grandmother to my mother
and when my mother died I came into possession.  Thats
the story.

Appraiser:  Let me say something. When I was contacted
about you--that you were here with this book and told
some of my colleagues who also work as book antiquarians
they  went nuts. They were gibbering like monkeys. And I
was gibbering like a monkey.

He pauses to gather himself. He says: This is the situation.
I know something about the writer. I am an authority. I
have read the books and the letters and every word written
about him.  Outside of a handful of stories and magazine
pieces he was never published during his lifetime. You know
how he died—correct?

Owner: some sort of freak accident I believe.

Appraiser: yes he was playing golf at the Brookside course
in Pasadena and drove the cart off a bridge on the 11th hole
into a cement culvert. It was then, following his death, that
your grandmothers mother—your great grandmother—
decided to get his writings published. At some point she got
a publisher interested in the letters.  So out comes a
volume of the letters—that causes a sensation. Now come
the books—one following the other. They sell like hotcakes.
They go through the roof. It happened quite fast—in a flash.
One day he was unknown, as unknown as you can get and
the next day—a cultural phenomenon. Then its on with the
translations, the biographies, the sale of movie rights, etc,

Owner: Yes I know something of all this.

Appraiser: there was a flavor to the writing—a
humor—offbeat, cynical, twisted—that penetrated deeply in
to the psyche of the country at this time.  He was hailed as
the new Mark Twain.

He pauses and says: your grandmother and her family
must have cashed in big time as a result of all this action.

Owner (excited): Yes—they became rich!

He laughs: Darling--you have no idea. When Jack was 64
he started a website–—shortening of
Buffalo, his home town and  at some point decided to put a
book together adapted from the site. This is that book—
best of  
He printed it himself. It was a
limited edition of 100 copies.  But he never made it to 100
copies. The printing involved a hideous amount of work and
he got to 35 copies and threw in the towel.

He pauses and says: Now the question is: what
happened to those 35 Copies? Only 14 have turned up. Of
all the manuscripts and letters it is the 35 copies of  
best of
that are the most sought after by
collectors. 5 years ago a very fine copy turned up in pristine
condition. I sold it myself—for $14,000.000

Owner: no kidding.

Appraiser: That is correct. (the quiver re-enters his voice)
but this copy you have here is a little different. This book
has never been read. How do we know? Because the book
exists in the original shrink-wrapped packaging!

He struggles to control himself.  He says:
These books were art books. There were 24 color plates
and in view of this, to protect the plates from mishandling
he shrink-wrapped the books.  That’s the story.

He continues: Now for the question we always pose to the
owner: would you care to estimate or take a guess at the
value of the object?

Pause. She thinks, says: $25,000,000

Appraiser: I would say for purposes of insurance—and this
is a conservative guess—at least $40,000,000

Owner: No kidding.

Appraiser: I could get on the phone right now and solicit
an offer for $35,000,000. I guarantee it.

Owner: No. My grandmother would object. She was
sentimental about Jack. Plus I dont need the money.  The
family has made a fortune from Jacks books!

Appraiser: Of course. Thank you for coming to the show
and to bring this wonderful book. Its too cool!
first edition copy of the best of
estimated value: $120,000. (adjusted for inflation)