I think I have mentioned from time to time that we READ the things we find written in books. It’s a matter of marketing. A long note from the author can have a positive impact on the price, particularly if it is a note “with content”. A note from George Washington is one thing, but a note saying something like “Here’s the book you let me borrow. I read it in the boat while crossing the Delaware” could mean comfortable retirement. (Especially if I’m caught with the quill pen I used to write it.)
So you may want to LOOK at your books before you send them in. I assume you shake out all the hundred dollars bills and pornographic pictures (anyhow, I haven’t found any, lately) but do you consider the inscriptions? The diet book in which Aunt Booney wrote, “Dear Boomps: Hope this helps. I told your mother not to let you order from the menu when you were a child.” might niot come back to haunt you, but are you certain that everyone who knew your Aunt Booney called you Boomps is dead? Are you sure you wouldn’t just as soon KEEP that book inscribed by a friend who reminisces about certain things you did to mislead voters from the other party when you were working on the Hubert Humphrey campaign in ’68. (Especially as you’re telling people you just turned fifty.)
And did you mean to give us this copy of Marel Proust’s The Past Recaptured? It’s a well-worn paperback, with a page or two loose, so it has seen plenty of reading. I don’t know whether it was read by Dexter or Cindy Lou, or by both of you. It meant a lot to somebody. However did you give it up, for one thing? And why, after a mere thirty-five years? And what, for the sake of all that’s pretty, is the rest of the story?
Cindy Lou liked the book, the last volume of Proust’s masterwork A la recherche du temps perdu. Did Dexter care as much? Did he read it? Did he read the inscription?
Cindy Lou, you see, has written:
“Sweetheart: if for a moment memory can charge us, like the sleeping ivory tower when at last hit by a flash of lightening, awakening our sleeping dragons, hungry, lonely, and irresolate, if those moments can form for us a simple truth, cheerful, impractical, and brusque—the face of a busy and sublime godess—we have captured all the sublime texture of life.” (The spelling is all Cindy Lou’s.) She follows this with a couple of paragraphs of reading instructions: which sections of which parts of the novel to read.
I assume that if Dexter could read Proust, he could make it through that, but that’s a big if. And what happened next, Dexter? I did not see a receipt with these, and so do not know whether it was donated by Dexter, by Cindy Lou, or by an innocent third party. Did Dexter treasure the book forever, letting it come to us only ass part of an estate? Did he immediately think “This one is absolutely crazy” and give the book back, to be kept by Cindy Lou, either as a treasure of her younger days, or as a puzzle (I’m sure I knew what this all meant when I wrote it), or both? Did some other person pick up the book in some little coffee shop where Cindy Lou and Dexter left it behind, being too wrapped up into their discussion of the eternal essence of things and the meaning of being, if being even had a meaning?
I kind of envision that third person just kind of hanging onto the book, looking into it from time to time, and thinking, “I WILL read this one day, but until I understand this inscription in the front, I can see I’m just not ready.”
If you’re out there, Dexter, and have an answer, send me an email. Cindy Lou, try to keep it down to a tweet.