Wednesday, February 6, 2013

Someone's Domestic History Tucked Inside a Book

I've been reading Farewell, Dorothy Parker by Ellen Meister, about a timid, famous film critic guided to improve her life by the ghost of Dorothy Parker, who lives inside a guestbook signed by the entire Algonquin Round Table. When it's open, she can eat and drink and opine like the rest of us, the latter only the way Parker can.

I like the central conceit, Violet is worth watching grow a little from the beginning, and I should read the rest, being that I have three ghost-related novels in mind, and I should see how Meister plays with Parker being a ghost. But I think I've seen all of it at the beginning, when Violet feels Parker's spirit in her, and later inadvertently swipes the famous guestbook while at the Algonquin Hotel. Plus, I'm on page 92 and the story still hasn't moved much. I see that it's 301 pages, and I'm not sure I want to see it through. And when Meister presents quirks in characters, it feels like she's saying, in parentheses, "LOOK! THEY'RE QUIRKY!", with more exclamation points than that. Maybe I've already decided to move on, but I want to give it a few more pages. It's an advanced reading copy I bought from a seller at (it comes out on the 21st), and therefore I paid a little more for it, but I'm not going to continue read it simply because I spent more.

I've picked out my next book if it comes to that: Sex Sleep Eat Drink Dream: A Day in the Life of Your Body by Jennifer Ackerman. I'm curious about so much in the world, not so much about how bodies work, but this one has followed me for a while. Tracing one's body processes through an entire day sounds appealing to my mind.

Tucked inside the early pages of this book was a sheet of ads and coupons for Woolite and Endust. On the other side, ads and coupons for Bic multi-purpose lighters and Purell. Before looking at the back, I thought the person who might have read this book before me, or long before me, might have been a domestic sort. Perhaps they had these coupons already and used this extra sheet as a bookmark, as seemed to be its obvious purpose. Or maybe these were just coupons they don't use, so it should have some use another way. As long as the words are there and all the pages are there, and it's not marked up so badly, I don't mind finding things like these coupons tucked in books. It shows me that someone else read this book, that I'm part of a chain of readers who has read this book, and will read this book. The most noticeable evidence I received of someone having read a book before me was when I checked out a large-print hardcover edition of Whispering Rock by Robyn Carr, the third in the Virgin River series not long after we moved here, and it smelled like a chain smoker. I couldn't get through it because of that, and returned it the next week. That's evidence I can live without.

But little pieces of paper, lists, coupons, notes, some markings, such as passages underlined in pencil in this book, I like all of it. I get a bigger sense of a book's existence, how far it's come, which is one of countless benefits of libraries. Books are meant to be read, and little things like that show that they are. I appreciate that the most whenever I find a sheet of coupons or markings or whatever other kind of evidence.