Lonely place, the keyboard. Oh, now that it’s attached to a computer, I could click myself to Facebook or eBay and bustle with the teeming millions. But the business of confronting a blank page in Word is much the same as in the typewriter era. There’s a sense of accomplishment when you finally do splash letters across the blank space, but even then, it’s hard to know whether you’ve accomplished anything.
I’m not really sitting here feeling sorry for myself (I reserve that for later in the evening, especially if I forgot to refill the ice cube trays). I’m thinking of the boxes of battered novels I’ve been seeing from people’s attics. I still run across books I’ve never seen, novels by authors whose names are completely new to me, though they wrote their book sixty years ago and I have seen more than a million books come out of boxes in 25 years.
Once I wrote about a collection of old yearbooks (which I am reminded by at least one volunteer every year are the most worthless wastes of space at the Book Fair.) At one point in the story, the hero whipped a yearbook off the shelf and held it open for a whippersnapper, saying, “Here! Editor of the student paper. Do you know who this kid grew up to be?”
“No,” said the whippersnapper.
“Me neither. But at the time, he thought he was going to be the next Richard Harding Davis.”
“Never mind. He convinced himself he was going to be the best thing that happened to the newspaper business since movable type. And it didn’t work out that way. He may never have known that enthusiasm or those dreams again. But here they are, under the dust in this old book. As long as a copy remains, his dreams and his story have not died.”
The whippersnapper sniffed and moved off, unconvinced. But that is why the books go out on tables at the Book Fair, every drab dusty bestseller of thirty years ago, every dry theological tome of a century gone by, every blasted book that FINALLY has the TRUE FACTS about some subject nobody thinks about now. As long as a copy is out there somewhere, that author’s work was not wasted. As long as one person could be convinced to chance a dollar on a mystery by Mary Plum or a romance by Peggy Gaddis or a military study by Basil Liddell-Hart, it’s worth putting out the old books.
Come and see. Seventeen days to go.