NFSATTs & TWIYS or The Third Room

In the 1980's, while living and studying in England, I became acquainted with a revolutionary little guide called "In Quest of the Perfect Book. The Antiquarian Bookshop Catalogue & Directory" by Driffield, who went only by that one name. In Driffieldian geometry roads were line segments connecting bookshops. He claimed to have personally visited, or tried to visit - shops that failed to be open when they should have been particularly annoyed him - virtually every bookshop in Great Britain. He developed in the first and subsequent editions of his guide a telegraphic method of distilling the essence of bookshops and their owners into a pair or so of lines. Etgow was easy to get on with, netgow its opposite, and so on. My personal favorite was farts - follows around recommending the stock.

As Driffield knew full well, all used bookshops have three rooms: the first room is open to everyone, the next one only some are allowed in, and a third that nobody gets to see. Into the third room go books that one needs to do further research on (usually an excuse) or that can't be priced (a variant of the preceding and also usually an excuse) or are just plain too hard to let go of (usually the real reason). At some point, an awful lot of our books seemed to be taking up residence in the third room.

Since visitors could not see our third room anymore than an adult could see Peter Pan - we are talking after all about a New York City apartment - this occasionally resulted in difficulties. I turned to the Driffieldian worldview for guidance. Two acronyms of my own coinage seemed to cover most of the books in that Neverneverland between being ours and becoming someone else's. One large category was nfsatts - not for sale at this time. The other, with an optional dismissive hand gesture, was twiys - those wouldn't interest you.

These categories were and are somewhat elastic. Books have been known to emerge from nfsatt state only to revert to it. Other nfsatts have become twiys, and even vice versa. And as for twiys, perhaps some of them would really interest nobody.