26 March 2023

Library books and ephemera

Need I tell you of the wonders of library books? Of course not, but I will. They are free (well, but for the modest sums folded into our taxes)! You don't need to give them house room when you are done! Sometimes other people have written bits in the margins (though they aren't supposed to). And sometimes people leave ephemera - a book mark, a ticket stub, a scrap of newspaer, or the checkout receipt if your library system is barcoded and computerized up to the hilt.

I can't remember why, but I recently took Amy Krouse Rosenthal's “Encyclopedia of an Ordinary Life” out of my public library. It's lovely and heartbreaking and inspirational and funny. And its form - an encyclopedia, galloping alphabetically from entry to entry - is charmingly idiosyncratic.

Why heartbreaking? This book was published in 2005, and Rosenthal died in 2017 (at 51). In other words, she *had* died by the time I read this, but she didn't know how soon she was going to die, and how early.


I recognize that everything I do, from my work to going to the movies to raising children to vacuuming, might also be viewed as just one big distraction- Hey, look over here! And now, over here!-from belaboring the real issue at hand: One day I'm going to die. 

It's one thing to say "I'm going to die" - it's another to up and do it.

How funny? Nuns. Or maybe blue jeans. Or even conversations with strangers.

NUN (p. 149)

A friend sat next to a nun on a plane. He asked her what she missed most. "Wearing blue jeans," she replied.

Halfway through my reading, a prior borrower's checkout receipt fell out. It felt like the kind of random synchronicity that Rosenthal would have appreciated.

My curiosity was, of course, piqued. Usually the slips that fall out of library books are just for that single only solitary book - but here was a receipt with FOUR items on it. I looked them all up.

Besides the Rosenthal, the other items were:

I have a soft spot for murder mysteries (even if this one is about space), I recently finished one Geraldine Brooks book, a second of hers is on the to-be-read pile next to my bed, I am quite fond of Little Women, and while I am unlikely to watch a documentary on cave painting, I deeply appreciated the catholic range of the other borrower's library haul of November 2021. And I think Rosenthal would have liked this list as well.