Stories in Cardboard | Newberry

Stories in Cardboard

So I am quietly agog at the donations you have sent for the 2020 Book Fair. Although you are NOT supposed to donate books until after Labor Day, some people simply can’t wait, and the treasures are piling up. We have a coffee mug, one of those annoying jigsaw puzzles which comes in a box that’s two inches by two inches, and our very first copy this year of The Da Vinci Code: without a dust jacket, just to make it ever so much more so. We’re feeling quite at home.

Among other things, you have given us our very first cosplay catalog. For those of you who are not up on these things, “cosplay” is a word deriving from the words “costume” and “play”, and essentially is what WE used to call “playing dress-up”. It is an entire industry based on people dressing up like their favorite characters in cartoons or comic books, and originated, with a lot of the cartoons and comic books, in Japan. This catalog is also from Japan, and is primarily in Japanese, but you can get the general idea from the illustrations and the few words in English. This volume of the series is meant to help you dress up in styles they refer to as “Gothic and Lolita”. I am informed by one of my constant readers that there is a movie called “The Gothic Lolita”, and we have now discussed this about as far as I care to. Anyway, it’s a quiet sign that our Book fair is TRULY a part of the twenty-first century.

You gave us another treasure which some people almost wish you hadn’t. It’s a nice little edition of Dickens’s A Christmas Carol, and it was a gift to May. It says so. “To Dear Little May Stephenson, from her Aunt Lily Lift” (or Luft or Left or something.) It dates from about 1920, and it is worth, if we’re lucky, two dollars. What makes people go “Awww!” over it is the SECOND inscription, “To Betsy, With Love from her Cousin May, March, 1984.” Betsy, we don’t want to criticize, but after thirty-five years, couldn’t you have found some relative you could have inscribed this volume to, relieving us of the strain of continuing the chain? Any of our customers can buy it and fake an inscription from you, but surely your nephew Hollingsworth would have treasured it.

We were just uneasy about a carton labeled “Julie’s Ear Box #1.” There was a great deal of speculation about it. Was it just for the RIGHT ears? Should we wait to open it until we found “Julie’s Ear Box #2”? If Julie was a Star Trek fan, and this was a cosplay item where she kept her Vulcan ears, we would find box #1 useless without #2. Or was this evidence from a serial ear-snatcher: was box #2 already in the hands of the police?

We didn’t even have to open it, really. Turning it to the long side exposed the label “Julie’s earring box #1.” This spoiled the story a BIT, but opened up other questions. It was not that SMALL a box: how many earrings did Julie have? Or did she like really, really huge earrings? Anyway, the box was full of books, so we may never know the full tale.

As I have mentioned hereintofore, it can be very frustrating to receive only the first half of a story, and never know the rest. We had a paperback book come in which, although complete in itself, nonetheless did not give us the ending.

It was a book by, let’s say, not one of the more cheerful authors in American literature. Inside, the previous owner has written a note. I couldn’t quite read her name until I shifted gears a little and realized that the last word was not a name, but the word “Adios”. The entire note was in Spanish, but years of pricing Spanish books (AND a handy volunteer who could help out with the big words) made the translation:

“I am growing more distracted. I cannot find a job which interests me. I don’t have much time left. Farewell.”

So, um, what do you think? Was she writing this note to the person who lent her the book, or was it a note to herself? (There’s no name at the top to suggest an addressee.) Is this just a translation into Spanish of a passage in the book? Was she leaving town, finishing college, or composing the last note she ever wrote? (Maybe it’s just me, but if that had been the case, I would have dated it and signed my name.) If it was a note to someone else, why did this person decide, after thirty some years, to donate the book to us? Just to tantalize and irritate? Inquiring minds want to know.

For myself, since I have other work to do (more people dropping off books in the No Donations period) I have decided that this was Julie’s book, and she was giving literature forever, since her Aunt Betsy wouldn’t give her the family copy of A Christmas Carol, and was taking her earrings to a world where she could cosplay for the rest of her life as a Gothic Lolita Ghost of Christmas Past.

Okay, YOU make up one. Just eleven months before we set up for the 2020 Book Binge.

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