Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Hidden Treasures

After mentioning Barbara Hambly's Ishmael, a superb example of fan fiction which melded Star Trek and Here Comes the Brides, the theme music for the latter kept running through my head. In order to exorcise it, I had to reread the novel. And as I did so, enjoying the author's handling of two sets of widely disparate characters as well as her skill in inserting characters from other old science fiction and western TV shows in cameo roles and walk-ons, I stumbled across one of the joys of a long standing personal library. I refer of course to the serendipitous bookmark.

The one at the left must have journeyed through several books before coming to rest in Ishmael which was published in 1985. It's a picture of Peregrine Took which I sketched in 1976 while working at Telecredit. Every morning the supervisor would hand each of us a small slip of paper on which she had written the times at which we were to take our breaks. My job consisted of taking phone calls from retailers who would feed me the driver's license number of customers who wished to pay by check. I'd enter the number into my terminal and the company's computer would approve or disapprove the transaction. The whole process seems quaintly old-fashioned now. It was mind numbing work, but I preserved my sanity by doodling whenever the pace slacked off, and many of my sketches ended up as bookmarks in the paperbacks I brought with me to read at lunch. Every now and then I still discover one in a book I'm rereading.

But I find other things too. Many years ago, on April Fools Day, our kids thought it would be a splendid joke to put humorous notes into random books in our library. I don't think they realized how long it would take for their parents to discover them all. I ran across a new one just last week while rereading Daddy-Long-Legs. Judging from the handwriting, it was done by Fillius Major, my eldest. A parental looking spider has a youthful fly in its clutches. "Bedtime for you, young man!" proclaims the dialog balloon. (Obviously, he was writing from personal experience.)

Holy cards are so commonly found in our books that I suspect they breed between the pages. Some are the funeral cards of relatives, and I try to say a prayer for the repose of that person's soul whenever I find his or her card in a book. But a few, discovered in church parking lots or inside used books I'd bought, belong to complete strangers. I try to say a prayer for them too -- because, after all, there are no strangers in the Communion of Saints.

And every now and then, in the most unexpected volumes, I find little notes written in my late husband's spidery hand: random jottings, to-do lists, sweet messages from the past.


Sherwood said...

I am hideously behind today, but I wanted to say how much I loved this post. I never left postcards in things, but I was always thrilled to find little signs of readers, especially in old books.

mrsdarwin said...

I'd love to see the spider and fly artwork!

Catholic Bibliophagist said...


Yes, that's one of the things I love about buying used books.


Mrs. Darwin,

I'll see what I can do.