Marking Time

Now, we haven’t had anything so far this year to compare with that copy of Robert F. Kennedy’s book on organized crime and organized labor, which included the owner’s union card AND his FBI ID. And you haven’t sent anything as exciting as that Tarot book we got once with four $50 bills inside. But we have been seeing some interesting bookmarks this winter.

I wonder, sometimes, about all those donations we get in which include a dozen or two books on how to write books. Did the owner ever actually try writing something, or just read about how to do it? This latest collection, however, answered that: the previous owner used her rejection slips as bookmarks. Symbolic, I thought, and rather touching.

More poignant was a book which had a letter from its author inside. The letter was addressed to a prominent reprint house, and noted that this had been the author’s first book, and was still his favorite, and what did they think about bringing it back into print? The book was apparently returned to the author with the letter still inside, for the author has written on the letter, “He said maybe in a few years.”

Those stories were pretty clear, but I wonder about the book with the check in it from, let’s say, John Doe Periwinkle Jr. to John Doe Periwinkle Sr. for $250,000. Maybe you had to be there.

A lot of books come in with, I am happy to say, unused facial tissues, and we get a lot of moist towelettes, also unused, from restaurants. Those little packets are not quite flat enough for bookmarks, in my opinion, but it’s better than the pencils some people use. It does make me wonder where you do your reading.  In the cab on the way to the restaurant? In a chair up front while you wait for your table to be made ready? During dessert? Maybe you always have one of these in your pocket or purse, so you can use it as a bookmark wherever you are. But I like to visualize you trying to keep The Divine Secrets of the Ya-Ya Sisterhood out of the flames from the crepes Suzette.

Those of you who use one square of toilet paper are already telling me where you do your reading. How the heck do you tear one perfect square free while balancing the book in your other hand? No, don’t tell me.

Some bookmarks are notable for the way they disappoint expectations. A distressing number of people take the jacket from a hardback book and use it as a bookmark. I usually sigh, unfold the creased jacket, and fold it back around the book. I tried this recently and found that you had used the jacket from a Simon Schama book as a bookmark in a Danielle Steel novel. And people are ALWAYS tucking postcards into travel books, either as bookmarks or as souvenirs. But what about this guidebook to Tokyo which had four postcards from Rockford, Illinois in it? Did you find the one curio shop in Ginza that stocked Illinois postcards?

The most amazing bookmark this month was one of a pair. A book came in which struck me as perfect for putting on the cart outside the A.C. (Admirable Cache) McClurg Bookstore. I opened it to find I had already priced it. The owner had left inside it a bookmark from that selfsame bookstore and a receipt noting that the previous owner had bought it off the cart.

In 1996. It’s nice to know our catch-and-release project still works.

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