It seems 1936 was a very good year for books

When I was in my 20’s and sick in bed there were two books I always read “Little Women” and “Gone With The Wind”.  Why? Because it was easy to just flip through the pages and read the best and favorite parts without having to concentrate too much.

I still have those books, one seems to have once belonged to Mildred Browning and the other belonged to my father.

Now here is the interesting thing – the “Gone with the Wind” was my father’s, and like the Shakespeare, was published in 1936. My father was 21 in 1936 and it seems he was on a book buying binge.

When I opened the book, for the first time in years, I saw that my father had put his name and address on the inside. I have nothing with my father’s handwriting on it and it took me aback when I saw it.

The book is in sad shape and I know I shall never read it again.

But, like the Shakespeare, it shall stay on my shelf for sentimental reasons – I have so little of my father’s – to see his handwriting – it touched me.

More old books

Growing up, all the books in the house were my father’s.  My mother was not a reader. Certainly as we kids learned to read we had our own books but they were children’s books. I actually don’t remember having books of my own until I was 8 or so.  When I was 4, and could print my name, I got my first library card.

When I was 11 my father signed me up for the children’s Book of the Month Club. That didn’t last long because my father got all pissed that they were sending “baby” books. By the time I was 11 I was reading at high school level (in 6th grade my reading level was 10.6). The only reason I knew I was 11 is because I still have two books from that time – “The Shy Stegosaurus of Cricket Creek” and “The Garden Under the Sea”  and someone wrote my name and the date on the inside of the books.

I started writing stories when I was 8 or so – we were living in Queens and that’s how I date a lot of things – by where we living. Thing was I didn’t know how to write dialogue. I remember that so vividly. I wrote a story about my toys talking to each other and used the playwriting format for conversations between the narrative – like this –

Rabbit: Blah blah blah
Doggie: blah blah blah

I was familiar with plays because one of my father’s books was “The Complete Works of William Shakespeare”. I think the book weighed more than I did and it had – still has because I still have the book – beautiful illustrations. I loved that book but as smart as I was I couldn’t make heads or tails out of Shakespeare.

Somewhere along the line I found the book “Tales of Shakespeare” by William and Mary Lamb. They put the plays into story form for children. Aha! I would read the story then read the play. I’m sure it took many readings before I made sense of it all but I wound up falling in love with Shakespeare. So yeah, I’m 12 years old devouring the old Bard. (And yes, I am predictable – my favorite play is MacBeth. I actually memorized the whole play and acted out all the parts. I spent most of my youth in my room talking to the mirror.)

This will never leave my possession – too many memories…and yes, I do still refer to it when I need to. It won’t take too much more handling, it’s being held together with scotch tape and love.

So here it is – my father’s copy of “The Complete Works of William Shakespeare” published 1936 by the Garden City Publishing Company (which was a Doubleday subsidiary that re-printed cheaper editions of Doubleday books.)

Books…

I lead a dull and aimless life. I have nothing but time and a few obligations. Frankly I find those few obligations quite onerous, they do beat one down. Lest you think this is going to turn into a whine, be of good cheer, it isn’t.

What have I been doing lately? A lot of reading. I tried to count up how many books I’ve read so far this year and it looks to be about 80. Have they been great literature? No, not by a long shot. Mostly mysteries/murder/detective type books. Mostly series – I’d read a series straight through – some were only 3 books, some 6, one that I am plowing through now is currently at 63 but I’ve already read the last 25 or so as they came out so I’m just catching up on the first in the series dating back to 1995.

Yes, I’ve read a few novels, but I’m really not much into novels except for Elizabeth Strout of course. I’ve reread 2 of hers this year and I’m waiting for her latest to hit the library – I’ll probably be late to that party and wind up 83rd on the waiting list. Yes, I could just buy the book as I’ve bought all her previous ones but it just seems foolish to buy books – especially at this time of my life. Just more stuff to take up space on the shelf. The odd thing about my buying of books these last few years is that I get the book from the library and then buy a copy after I’ve read it. Seems silly.

I periodically clear out the book shelves – what is the point to keeping books I shall never look at again? I’ve got the Harry Potter books in hardcover – I pre-ordered every one of them (oh does anyone remember the excitement and anticipation when the next volume was due to be published?) They take up half a shelf and I look at them and think “Why are they still here? I know I shall never  read them again.

I’ve got a Dell paperback (price 35¢), 4th Dell printing, 1958, of “Bonjour Tristesse” by Francoise Sagan.

The pages are brown with age, and crispy. And the book kinda smells funny. I don’t recall when I bought the book. I was only 12 in 1958 and while I was precocious as all hell when it came to reading material, I can’t think I bought this book then – perhaps a few years later? – I can see myself at 15 buying and reading this book. Which means this little book is 60 years old. I’ve been carting this book around for 60 years! (How many times have I moved in 60 years? Rough count? 19 and that doesn’t include temporary housing where I didn’t have my stuff).

Have I reread this book at any time in the last 60 years? No, not within memory, tho for all I can remember I might have reread it when I was young.

And my question is: Why have I never dumped this book? Why, when I started writing this, was this the first book I went looking for on the shelf? I don’t remember what it is about. Every time I winnow books this one stays. And stays.

Perhaps it’s time I re-read it.  But I can’t. This copy would not survive the handling and I just checked and my local library does not have an ebook copy.

Shall this book live forever on my shelf? Unread. Or rather, un-reread. Shall I ever know what has made me keep it all this years?