What’s Desmond Reading?
Button, Button by Richard Matheson.
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The benignly-neglected online home of writer Desmond Warzel
One of the libraries in my area held its annual book sale fundraiser a couple of weeks ago. I scored twenty books; not bad, but I’ve done better. The SF/fantasy selection was slim pickings as usual (and if I get there more than thirty minutes after they open, some other nerd always beats me to it and swipes everything), but the key is to search every table, because a lot of stuff gets misfiled.
I can usually find something interesting. Last year I found several first printings of Vonnegut paperbacks in near-perfect shape, as well as an immaculate copy of the first paperback printing of Shirley Jackson’s novel We Have Always Lived in the Castle (1963, priced at sixty cents). What happens, I think, is that Granddad, the avid reader, never gets rid of anything, and when his time’s finally up, he’s accumulated an attic’s- or storeroom’s-worth of books, all read once and then laid gently aside. Enter his children and grandchildren; all they want is to empty the house as quickly as possible so they can move in or put it on the market. It doesn’t occur to these regressed-to-the-mean troglodytes even to open the boxes, much less put down their phones and sort through them for something that might grab their attention. Off it all goes to the book sale without a thought. It’s a theory, anyway.
One often finds things tucked inside used books; bookmarks, usually, or innocuous slips of paper pressed into service as bookmarks. In going through my recent acquisitions, though, I found a few I’d classify as unusual.
In a paperback copy of The Husband by Dean Koontz I found a boarding pass for Delta flight 752 from Denver to Atlanta on July 25 (the year is not specified). Congratulations to Louis T. Fantacone for scoring Zone One seating, though I’d have thought Koontz a trifle déclassé for that neighborhood.
In a copy of Fantasy: The Best of 2001 edited by Robert Silverberg and Karen Haber, I found two Mega Millions tickets dating from March 2014. They were purchased via the South Carolina lottery, which means, I believe, that they would have to be redeemed in South Carolina. For a few hundred bucks, it wouldn’t be worth bothering; I’d probably just look up a random Humane Society location in that state
and mail them the tickets as a donation. For a jackpot, though, I’d make the trip. Of course, observant readers will have noted that the tickets are no longer valid, and it’s been well over a year since they could have been redeemed. I checked the numbers anyway; of course I did. They didn’t win. I’m glad of that. I’d shudder to think what I might have done if they had.
I also snagged a paperback edition of Brave New World by Aldous Huxley. Per the copyright page, this edition originates in 1969, but is in its eighteenth printing, which probably places this particular copy sometime in the 1970s. Tucked inside was this photograph:
Handwritten on the back is “Bill Hawkins — Irene / Horner Campground” (as best I can make out, anyway). I doubt googling would do much good; most people of the age they’d be today leave very little trace on the web. I did find one vague, offhand reference to a Horner Campground in New Jersey, but no details were available. Assuming they were a couple, I’d like to think they’re alive and still together. I wouldn’t hold my breath, but on the off-chance anybody does know one or both of these people, point them in the direction of this blog (and ask them what they thought of Brave New World; I haven’t read it yet). And if they’re no longer with us? Well, having someone think and talk about us after we’re gone is the best that most of us can hope for, and they’ve achieved it.
If I had more poetic sensibilities, I could find some higher significance in the convergence of these three objects from such disparate places as Georgia, South Carolina, and New Jersey/wherever; the way they all ended up in a small northwestern Pennsylvania town, and ended up sharing a destiny together in my bag of books. You know, the way Thomas Hardy did with the Titanic and the iceberg. But I can’t. I just think it’s interesting.