Strictly Stock | Page 11 | Newberry

Strictly Stock

Maybe it’s a test. I wonder whether I’m passing. Somehow the discovery that somebody invented a tool which is half ballpoint pen and half screwdriver sort of set the tone for the week. (Maybe there was originally a cap, but now, to make the pen point come out, you have to jam your thumb down on the blade of the screwdriver.)

We have had a nice load of books dealing with Asian culture and art: novels, histories, political treatises, and so forth. One of the books is autographed by Lin Yutang, who wrote a number of bestsellers, both here and in China, and still takes up a goodly amount of space every year at the Book Fair. (All his children wrote books, too, as did his wife.) I never found out for sure, but I think a healthy chunk of his personal library was given to us a few years back.

Last year, we had this massive collection of books about Napoleon Bonaparte. We are apparently going to follow that up in 2014 with not one but two collections of books on the Napoleonic Period, though both these collections are a bit more Royalist. There are plenty of books on Louis XIV and plenty more on Louis XVI and Marie Antoinette. So far I have seen next to nothing about my favorite merry monarch, Louis XV. (As I recall, the historians feel he may well have had the brains to run the country, but his peeps told him they didn’t need his help and why didn’t he just go outside and play?)

But I have never seen so many books about Louis XVII, who technically became King of France when he was eight years old, after his parents were beheaded. He technically died two years later, and though the cause of death is still debated, the people who go around testing relics for DNA say he definitely died when the Revolutionary Government said he did.

But there was no DNA testing way back when, so Louis XVII, or the Lost Dauphin, as he was popularly known, was the Anastasia of his day. A number of men came out of the woodwork once the Revolution had passed, and Napoleon was out of the way, and Louis XVIII had died from general lack of interest. (Louis XVIII showed no great energy in trying to find or memorialize his predecessor; obviously, if Louis XVII was still alive, Louis XVIII would lose his Roman numeral and became just a regular Joe…though not Joe Louis.) All these Louis XVII wannabes had their supporters, who wrote books which inspired other people to write books. So we have a number of stories of the life and adventures of somebody whose life and adventures probably came to an end in 1795.

More than a dozen boxes arrived of genealogical material, much of which is useful and much of which was moldy. The most fascinating reading were some Newberry handouts which dated from the summer of the first Book Fair, which was what? Ten years ago, Daylight Savings Time? Oh, right: thirtieth Book Fair and all—I remember. There were fourteen parking lots “within easy walking distance” of the Newberry. The Book Fair volunteers sorted and priced books for eight hours a week, and the reading rooms were open twelve and a half hours a day.

I don’t miss that, gyros sundae. If the building was open that long nowadays, I’d be writing receipts for book donations from dawn to midnight. It’s not that I mind the receipts; it’s just that I never remember about the screwdriver until I’ve pressed my thumb down on the pen.

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