The theme for this winter, to judge by the television and movie promos, is Time Travel. Now, we have discussed the impossibility of physical travel through time in that blog…oh, right. That won’t be published for another three years. Forget I mentioned it.
Of course, time travel via books is a simpler matter. Authors do their best to pick you up and drop you into another time and place. You can vicariously experience existence as a caveman, an Egyptian priestess, a medieval minstrel, or a Regency buck. If you need a little more help, you can read a time travel book and live vicariously as a twenty-first century commuter accidentally transported into another life as a frontier gunfighter or Gilded Age actress. In fact, there are novels about historical novelists who are transported through time to the era they write about…it gets really involved.
Books provide another, better type of time travel as well. One of my regular customers has noted that while reading certain books, he always tastes a Spam and pickle sandwich. See, he was given these books decades ago to read in the car during family road trips, and his mother always packed these Spam and pickle sandwiches. The book and the sandwich (and the car, and the wind blowing in the little front seat window) are forever connected. He no longer eats Spam and pickle sandwiches, but the Emerald City of Oz is always filled with them. (One feels L. Frank Baum would have been amused.) Another frequent book buyer has admitted that Hercule Poriot smells like apples: she read his adventures first while sitting in an upstairs window, always with an apple to eat.
Reading, therefore, can send you back to two different eras at the same time, a thing mere physical time machines cannot. You can be Dr. Watson in nineteenth century Switzerland and at the same time be the ten year-old stunned at the heroic death of Sherlock Holmes. You can be Sir Nigel battling for the Black Prince and simultaneously be the child pretending not to hear that call to the dinner table. With a little effort, you can also be the slightly younger child opening the wrapping paper around the book on your birthday, and the slightly older child kicking a smaller sibling for spilling the glass of Kool-Aid on your treasured book.
Some lesser objects donated to the Book Fair work the same time travel magic. A large graduation photo defeated virtually every attempt to guess its age. The hairdo and clothes sort of give it away, but people guessed in four different decades. See, everyone who came by recognized it as a high school graduation picture and dated it to whatever decade they personally graduated from high school. The whole attitude of the sitter sent the flying back into their personal past.
If you stop by the A.C. (Antique Cards) McClurg Bookstore, you will see a similar magic time travel token. In conjunction with the Love On Paper exhibit, there is a box of vintage schoolroom Valentines: the kind you bought by the boxful because you had to bring one to each kid in your class. Remember the tissue box with the construction paper hearts: your mailbox? Remember the absolutely wretched puns? (Lettuce be Valentines; you can’t be Beet. You’re a Peach; we’d make a good Pear.)
Of course, maybe it’s just me, pining for the day when my own jokes were new. THAT would take some time travel.