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A Bibliophile's Dilemma

My taste in reading materials defies definition, and goes far beyond the subject matter or style of the author. In fact, there is no telling what will attract me to any given book.

This isn’t the first time I have written about books; my love of books - books that have inspired me, books that started me on a quest for more info, or a deeper understanding of the subject. I even wrote about my mother’s obsession with banned books , and her insistence that I should read every single title on the banned book list de jour (Yes, we’ve been here before).

I generally lean toward non-fiction and have a particular fondness for show business memoirs, but also for Baseball (players, writers, the Negro Leagues), just about any kind of history, but especially American and English history, Black History, history of show business, Native American history and the Arts. I do admit to a lifelong obsession with Agatha Christie, and over the years have added Margaret Truman, Louise Penny, and Donna deLeon to my list of guilty pleasures. (I wonder if there is any significance to the fact that these outstanding mystery writers are all female?)

Although I usually do not read more than one book at a time, my recent involuntary lockdown (more on that later) called for extreme measures: I had multiple books going at once on various floors of the house:

- The 1619 Project

- personal memoirs: Randy Rainbow, Harvey Fierstein, Billy Crystal

- Lewis & Clark - Feasting and Fasting

- biography of Cool Papa Bell (National Baseball Hall of Famer from the Negro Leagues era)

But just recently, when I received delivery of my current requested library book, the first thing I noticed was that it had dust on the cover! Not the dustcover, the original black cloth cover. How sad is that?

Dust isn’t a particularly unusual state at my house, but it did give me pause as to why this particular book had been so sadly neglected (especially in a public venue), and made me even more eager to read it.

So here was this forlorn shopworn volume that arrived today. Yes, it had been around for awhile (published in 1950), but as books go I didn’t think that was particularly excessive. This book, or at least this volume, was merely unloved. The subject was fairly typical for me: the eternally intriguing Thomas Jefferson. But it was the physical condition of this particular volume that I just couldn’t shake. The author is an American literature icon (John Dos Passos) who was hugely popular when I was growing up. However, I had somehow managed to miss all of his best-sellers, which only added to my curiosity in the current situation. How could all these impressive attributes add up to actual physical dust on the book?!?

And here comes the kicker: I don’t know. This is an interlibrary loan book, and can therefore be traced back to its most recent resting place. But what about before that? I know librarians are a curious lot, but they are also grossly underpaid, and most assuredly have better things to do than help a clueless bibliophile conduct an unanswerable quest.

Perhaps better to just let it go, and add it to my ever-growing list of “what ifs”? and “might have beens”.

*Oh, yes. That “involuntary lockdown” I mentioned earlier, refers to last year’s hip replacement surgery, and is undoubtedly the impetus for blowing off a little steam in this Trail Talk! My apologies to all]



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