"I hear and I forget; I see and I remember; I write and I understand." - Chinese proverb

Sunday, October 17, 2010


The Book Brownies are at it again.  Brownies or Pixies or Elves, I am never sure which (though I'd like to learn).

Last Saturday I took it in my head that I wanted to read "The House Of Seven Gables" by Nathaniel Hawthorne.  I'd never read it, and it's getting close to Halloween so I figured it was appropriate.  I can see, in my mind's eye, the small paperback edition of this which was amongst many others in our den as my brother and I were growing up.  So I went to my parents' house to look for it.

I don't know what happened to it, but it wasn't there anywhere that I could see.  What did grab my interest was a small grouping of children's classics, hardcover editions published by Doubleday in 1954, given to me by a neighbor when I was a kid.  One of them was "Grimm's Fairy Tales."  I'd just recently been discussing banned books on Facebook -- one of my favorite subjects as a prolific reader and a former Library Technician.  One Facebook Friend brought up the subject of original, non-sanitized-by-Walt-Disney fairy tales and the interestingly brutal stories they often contain.  I thought "I'll grab that Grimm's edition, bring it home and look at it as a possible subject for a blog post."  However, I forgot and walked out without it.

The next day a friend gave me a shopping bag full of books his girlfriend was getting rid of, figuring I'd be a  taker.  Well, you betcha; my dad (another avid reader from childhood on), my neighbor and another close friend plus her daughter would pass these books around and enjoy.  I stood at my little kitchen table pulling them out of the bag.  They were recent titles, lots of James Patterson, Jonathan Kellerman, Patricia Cornwell, Tami Hoag, John Grisham -- you get the drift.  Volume after colorful volume I stacked them on the table, taking a visual inventory...then I pulled the last one out.  Yes, it was the same 1954 Doubleday edition of "Grimm's Fairy Tales."

I called my benefactor immediately and asked her where she'd gotten this volume.  "I haven't a clue," she said, "All I know is that it's been hanging around for years and I guess I thought it was finally time to get rid of it.  Probably something my parents bought for me or my brother when we were kids."  When I told her the story about my having just seen this book the day before on my parents' bookshelf, and me wanting to do a blog post about it, she said "Cosmic."  May very well be.

Another cosmic little event that I am positive is some prearranged fun for the Faeries is the Library Thing.  I am assured by the librarian that this doesn't happen exclusively to me.  Nevertheless it does happen to me an awful lot: I will go to the library on the prowl for something to read, and immediately after I arrive back home there will be a phone call from them advising me that the book I have on reserve has just been returned by someone.  Or that the inter-library loan I requested has just arrived.  "We've gotten very good at this," the librarian told me.  Better and better if you ask me.

Then there was the piece de resistance, the coincidence that was so outstanding that it would be very tough to outdo it.   (Though as you can see, the Little People are trying.)  This happened some years ago and I wrote about it on my other blog, "Careful, Or You'll End Up In My Novel," which I haven't visited in quite some time now, but YOU can.  This encompasses not only time and space, but circumstance and synchronicity (that wonderful term we're all familiar with now after reading "The Celestine Prophecy").

What was it?  Well, when my oldest nephew Robert was born I had high hopes he would be an avid reader, a vocation that is intrinsic in me and has always been so.  At an appropriate age I showed Rob the display of Hardy Boys mysteries that were my brother's (his father's) when he was young (these still reside in my parents' bookshelves also).  A few titles were older editions and a kind of drab tan with an engraved silhouette of Frank and Joe Hardy on the front.  Most, however, were those sky-blue editions with bright, colored illustrations.

Anyway, it was around this time that I happened to pass the Congregational Church in town when it was having its annual rummage sale.  Yes, I went in and of course the  first area I headed for were the second-hand books.  I rummaged ("rummage sale," see?) through the cardboard boxes, looking for an interesting find.  (I once found a dogeared paperback edition of "Fanny Hill," believe it or not, at a church rummage sale.  Jeez.)  Sure enough, there it was, buried, one of those older brown-covered editions of the Hardy Boys series: "The House On The Cliff."  I couldn't remember if we already had that title, but I handed a few coins over to the ladies and bought it.  

I brought it to my mom and dad's to stick on the bookshelf with the other ones to await my nephew's interest.  But before I did that I looked through it.  The name scribbled inside the cover was that of a local kid who was a bit older than me and a bit younger than my brother.  Made sense, I thought; somebody was clearing that house out and donated this to the rummage sale.  Maybe this book had belonged to his dad.

Then I looked a little closer.

There was another name written on the flyleaf in pencil, in "learner's permit" cursive.  It had been crossed out by someone.  But there was no mistaking what it said: "Robert J. Blair the 2nd, Esquire."  Wait -- WHAT??  Then inside on the margins were a few doodles of a hatchet-faced man smoking a pipe -- same doodle I'd seen on many a sheet of scrap paper by the telephone, growing up.   

This was my father's book when he was a child.  Somehow, roughly 50 years after it left my father's hands, it had made it back.  Like I said: time and space and circumstance and a truckload of synchronicity.

Laugh, Faeries and Pixies and Brownies and Elves!  I can hardly wait to see what my next book-related "coincidence" will be.  Or is there no such thing as a coincidence??  You tell ME.

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