Sunday, April 3, 2016

The Stunted Memory of One Book's Origins

I know that I got this copy of The Memory of Running by Ron McLarty from AbeBooks, but I don't know which seller I bought it from. Possibly Better World Books in Mishawaka, Indiana. Or Thrift Books out of Auburn, Washington. One of those, or another entirely.

This copy's not as special to me as my copy of The Remains of The Day by Kazuo Ishiguro that I bought at a now-sadly-defunct bookstore in downtown Palm Springs called G.W. Books whose owner looked like he lived there. I wanted to be him so badly.

Nor is it as important to me as my hardcover copy of Subways are for Sleeping by Edmund G. Love which I paid $34 for at the Valencia Library, then part of the County of Los Angeles library system, claiming it lost because I wanted to keep it for myself. It had come from the Norwalk branch of the County, but I had carried it with me so often at College of the Canyons, usually reading it in the cafeteria there instead of doing my math homework, that I felt it was mine more than it was Norwalk's.

Yet, this copy of The Memory of Running, which I think has supplanted The Remains of the Day as my favorite novel, has served me well. I think I've had it as long as we've lived in Nevada, about three years and six months now. I first read The Memory of Running in Valencia, checking it out from the Valencia Library, and maybe I bought a copy for my collection there after I had read it. Maybe not. But my rule of thumb, at least back then, was that if I checked out a book more than three times from the library, then I'd buy a copy for my collection. That happened with The Remains of the Day.

This copy of The Memory of Running is browning a bit, and there is a a thick black discount mark at the bottom of the book, along with a dot next to it, probably telling potential buyers how much it will be. But I think there was a price sticker on the back because some of the backing from that is still over the barcode. There's also some gray marks on the pages if you hold the book closed, and I know that's from when I dropped it somewhere. Not a puddle, fortunately, but some dirt somewhere. Accidentally.

I could get some more use out of this book. The spine hasn't worn out yet and all the pages are still intact. But I worry about my favorite books going out of print. Angelina's Bachelors by Brian O'Reilly, for example, published in August 2011 and discovered by me that October, now goes for $20.72 on Amazon. A Year at the Movies by Kevin Murphy, my copy of which is fraying and which I checked off what movies I've seen, fetches $15.99 on Amazon.

Looking through the listings on AbeBooks for Angelina's Bachelors and A Year at the Movies, I find that I can get a new copy Angelina's Bachelors from a seller in Avenel, New Jersey, another in Lewiston, New York, and I can get a new copy of A Year at the Movies from that same seller in Lewiston, New York, another in Powder Springs, Georgia, and a third in Enumclaw, Washington.

This would be nothing new to me. I have two copies of Tales of the City by Armistead Maupin, although they are different editions. However, this would be of the same edition, and why would I need two copies of the same book? For one, these books are among my permanent collection, books that I will keep for the rest of my life, that I will search high and low for replacement copies should I ever need them. These are dear favorites, and Angelina's Bachelors became my mom's favorite book after I got her hooked on it. It seems that she and I share a taste for novels in which people are good to each other, no matter the problems that waylay them.

It doesn't matter where these two books come from if I buy new copies. I have no connection to Washington State, nor to Georgia, though I would love to visit Savannah, Georgia one day. And yet, The Memory of Running is a different case entirely. Deciding that I wanted a new copy to replace my current copy, a cleaner copy that can age more naturally from time and repeated readings, I looked for it on AbeBooks, and stopped dead at one listing I found for it.

It should be known that I desperately want to visit New Orleans one day. I don't think I'll necessarily go into it with wide-eyed idealism, but I feel there are parts of the city that match my soul, the relaxed soul I wish I could have. I look at photos of New Orleans and I feel such a pull toward it. I want to walk those streets. I want to see those balconies. I want to duck into those shops, and some of those bookstores, and have that food which means so much to me, including grits and other things. I want it, and I've read about it, and I've seen some movies that seem to have gotten it right, including Jon Favreau's Chef for the brief time it was there, and I want to fill my soul with it.

So when I found a copy of The Memory of Running residing at Dionysos Books in New Orleans, that was it. That one seller in Lewiston, New York was cheaper, but that didn't matter. I could have a book that spent time in New Orleans! That bookstore operates three miles from the French Quarter, but who cares? It's all New Orleans to me. I can hold it and imagine its place in the city. And maybe one day I'll be able to bring it to New Orleans with me. It's not Walker Percy or John Kennedy Toole or Poppy Z. Brite or Tennessee Williams, but it was there. With it, I can dream.