My friend Rod catalogs every book he reads . He takes notes and systematically files them away . His house if full of bookshelves . Each book of his is clean and precisely placed . Many of them are plays . Rod likes to read plays and classics and historical stuff . Rod reads . He’s read more books than I ever will , and I’m an endless reader .
Ada and I have a tons of books . A ton of them were in boxes in the garage . We don’t have the shelf space in the house . So I decided a couple of years ago to get rid of many of my books .
I had a collection of history books on various topics , each carefully chosen by me at some time or another during the last twenty or thirty years , and saved . They were worth saving ; good books . But Ada and I have no room for them . So they lounged around in boxes in our garage , bored , no doubt , and languishing like the old movie studio contract stars put on hold by the moguls for one transgression or another or to keep them out of the hands of competing studios , of no use to anyone , waiting for a moment to shine .
So I decided , finally , to free them from their sequestration , to end their ostracism from the reading world , to face the reality that I would never have a use for them again . It was an admission on my part hard coming . But , heh , it is what it is .
I sifted through them one by one , re-boxed them , and loaded up my car with the boxes . Like orphans left at the church door , I left them behind the Sierra Madre library Box after box of books were stacked next to the donations door , mostly history-related , and I slunk off home to get a few more boxes of not-so-history related volumes . These less valued waifs would be placed with the Arcadia Public Library . They would probably be shelved soon enough in the library bookstore and they ,thus, might well find a new and loving home .
Sierra Madre Library held a silent auction recently to raise some funds . They auctioned a few chosen books . Ada successfully bid on a large collection of Annie Leibovitz photographs . One of my books was there , too , in the auction . It was a book about American Presidents , a large tome but not especially well written , I thought . Almost mediocre . I don’t know how much it brought in , if anything . But it was interesting that it had been chosen for the auction . I was secretly proud of the book , considering its lack of brilliance , that it nevertheless had been chosen . We all do our best within our limitations and are not often, if ever , rewarded and put on display to be gawked-over . Ah , would that it were we could all be celebrities , just for a fantasy moment , to have our worth recognized amid and despite our every day mundanity ! Just for a moment , to be freed from our boxes and to associate with celebrities for awhile .
Arcadia public Library has a shelf with books on sale for 25 cents . I’ve bought a few mysteries from there , good looking books in mint condition . I bought another one a few days ago called Rock Springs by Richard Ford . It’s a collection of stories . When I began reading the book ……………………..
Well , I looked over the Contents page . The first story that I chose to read was the last one in the book . As I read page after page I began to get that Deja Vu feeling . I was re-living an experience I’d had long ago . I didn’t remember how the story ends , but I knew the story . In fact , the first time that I had bought the book , decades ago , I had looked over the contents page , too , and chosen the last story to read first . Yeah , it had been my book . It was one of the ones that I had donated to the library during the time of the great book purge that had happened in my garage . Rock Springs had , apparently , not fared so well over the last couple of years . It may have done time in the library bookstore but found no home . Unwanted over all this time it had eventually landed on the 25 cent rack .
My tastes have not changed , though , I suppose , since I bought , albeit unknowingly , the same book again . The realization of it came crashing down later , of course . Mark it down to ” senior moment ” if you want , but there is more to it than that . What that might be I may not be sure .
Is the world so small that our discarded books come to revisit our bookshelves again , sneaking back in so easily ? The arrogance of it all , not even a need for subterfuge , for camoflage , they jump back onto the shelf . Well , to be truthful , they were not ever on the shelf for long , if at all , but instead had been summarily sentenced to a long term in the garage . Is it payback , then ? A bookish revenge ? Will this become my future : re reading , and the re reading only slowing dawning on me and taunting me , and then another re reading , and another, of things else ? Rod Serling , anyone ?
My friend Rod , not Serling , had the right idea , I guess , when he began writing notes on what he’s read . At least when he re reads something he knows in advance that that is just what he is doing , that he hasn’t been hoodwinked by a , presumably , resentful and vengeful ex-con book ; or perhaps , worse , a book so psychologically socialized to a boxed garage existence that the learned dependence on returning to the garage is impossibly deep seated and possibly insurmountable .