Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Story Time

Several years ago, J.G. called me with excitement in her voice. She had run across a copy of Thomas Pynchon's modern classic, Gravity's Rainbow, at a library sale. The book is somewhat scarce and relatively expensive, anywhere from several hundred dollars to a couple of thousand, depending on condition. J.G. got herself a steal, paying just $1 and kindly donating it to my collection of National Book Award winners.

But there's more to the story where that book came from. As I was flipping through its pages, I found the words "Meadowlane Elementary School Library, Melbourne, Fla." handstamped at the bottom of page 13 and also toward the back of the book. It doesn't require a lot of imagination to come up with a plausible explanation, one that sure is fun to ponder.

Here's our theory: someone, the librarian perhaps, must have assumed that, based on the title, Gravity's Rainbow was a science book for young readers and had it ordered. Imagine the reaction when this 760-page baby showed up at the elementary school library when it was first published in the early 1970s. And of all the books! Rainbow is not only massive in size and daunting in scope, it's graphic in content. Charlotte's Web it ain't.

J.G. and I often wonder whether the book ever found its way into circulation, or how long it took for someone to have it removed.

If you have a book with a story behind it, we'd enjoy having you share it with us. A used bookstore that I frequent keeps a bulletin board behind the front counter with snapshots of total strangers, most of them faded with age, that have fallen out of the books they've acquired over the years. Occasionally, paper currency, handwritten notes and receipts come fluttering out of the pages. Have you ever found anything like that inside a book? Have you ever stumbled upon a rare collectible, or one you've been searching years for, at an estate or garage sale? It's your turn to tell us your favorite book stories. C'mon, make our day.


  1. My Husband always stores things inside books, so he can find them again, and so that some day other people can too....the goof is telling me he found the bill to the last supper in a book once, but here comes the real a book he found in London On, there was an ad for a secretarial college from 50 years ago in the same small town....he finds stuff in books all the time, though....

    We have a great time finding our own stash of memories as well. You go to reread a book and come across the receipt for a museum visit on a vacation ten years ago. Fun.

    He also found a cheesy ad for a strip club from the 50's once.

  2. I never find anything more exciting than bookmarks. With all the used books I buy at library sales, I keep hoping to stumble across something better -- like a cache of cash.

    Actually, now that I think about it, I did find a Barry Goldwater campaign flyer in a history book my dad gave me from his library. It was funny in a kitschy ephemera kind of way. But it brought a really big smile to my face to remember the tales my folks told me about being campaign volunteers for Goldwater's 1964 Presidential campaign -- in Berkeley!

  3. That's an interesting idea about purposely leaving behind little crumbs and markers so someone else can find them later, oreneta. And Rose, here's an idea for those bookmarks. The used bookstore I go to turns them into ornaments for the Xmas tree in the front of their store. It's kind of interesting to see all the different colors and varieties that have accumulated over the years.


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