A Good Book and a Rocking Chair

Somebody my age brought in books last week. This is something of an event around the joint, because most of my donations these days are coming from people older than I am, who are downsizing to move to a smaller place, or younger than I am, and cleaning out the preschool-aimed books for the early reading books.

I know when it’s someone my age because I can pick out the children’s books we all bought from whatever they called the Book Club at the time: Weekly Reader Book Club, TAB Book Club, Scholastic Book Club: most of these books were paperback reprints which Scholastic sold through the program to school children for prices like nineteen cents. They still exist, though the books, um, cost more these days, and the book clubs have been criticized for selling Hannah Montana pencils and Toy Story 3 iPod covers instead of books. And Scholastic has changed a bit, too, since they decided to take a chance on a book about a kid named Harry Potter.

But these classics from the period of my youth, featuring the early work of Norman Bridwell (eventually to be famous for Clifford, the Big Red Dog)), and the perennial work of Patricia Lauber or Mary Stolz, are as compellingly readable as they were when they were new. (Although no one EVER stores them properly: somehow a lot of the pages have turned brown while they were stacked in boxes in the closet.)

It’s also a matter of scads of books from the Nostalgia Book Club, a club which in the 1970s concentrated heavily on the publications of Arlington House and other companies which chose to print books about movies, radio shows, and comic strips of the 30s and 40s. There was a time, friends, when a lot of kids thought there was nothing cooler than black-and-white movies and reruns of The Shadow on cassette or even flexi-disc (see previous blog.) This was in the days before nostalgia was cheapened and watered down by adding books on recent matters like the Dick Van Dyke Show or Bewitched, neither of which is old enough to truly be nostalgia at this point. (I was speaking just yesterday to someone about having seen Star Wars when it was released, and she said something about that being before she was born. I suppose she meant it as a joke.)

There was a smattering of books on current events, too, with nearly the whole cast of one of the major sagas: here was one of Ehlrichman’s books, and two of John Dean’s, and Woodward and Bernstein in hardcover AND paperback, and three bags of books on Richard Nixon, with five books on Spiro Agnew, and….

Somebody my age dropped off books last week. He was coughing a lot; said it was the smoke from all those candles on his cake. I picked up the cane he had dropped, and told his caretaker how to get to Michigan Avenue from here. He needed to get to the Chicago History Museum to be interviewed on life in Old Chicago. 

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