1 July 2014
“Sniff books like perfumes and wear books like hats upon your crazy heads.”
As Writing 101 winds down, we appreciate this quirky reminder from writer Ray Bradbury on the importance of reading and writing every day.
Many of my friends love the scent of used bookstores. Scent? I’m not certain that’s the proper term. My definition of scent is a very delicate odor, something that might require a bit of concentration to discern. But a whiff of a bookstore is like none other. Maybe it’s something given off by paper mites, or an acid that is gradually returning the books to the elements from which they came. Trees and used paper products? Well, I’ve walked in a few forests in my time, and I’d rule out trees. But waste paper products? We might be on to something there.
Still, I prowl through the dusty shelves of used bookstores searching for something that I probably wouldn’t recognize if I came across it – a rare publication like the gem Echo refers to in his Name of the Rose.
I no longer have Echo’s book, so I’m unable to disclose, with any accuracy, how this pearl set the stage for the story he created
While the idea is appealing, one always runs the chance of stumbling across an un-gemlike revelation. Something like what occurred after my grandmother spent a decade collecting bits and pieces of a family tree. I was not enlighten as to whose tree was in question, her’s or Grandpa’s – not that it matters at this late date.
In any case, she labored for years, writing letters, collecting copies of old deeds, photos, wills, birth and death certificates, and whatever else she could find.
She must have sensed that eventually something embarrassing might turn up, because nothing was never shared with anyone except Grandpa. Only by accident did I manage to hear a fragment of their conversation.
It was the winter of 1952. My bedroom, located on the northwest corner of the house, faced the frigid wind that screamed across the north forty. Also, there were two closed doors between me and the fireplace, the only source of heat. I roughed it until a bottle of Rose Hair Tonic belonging to my World War II uncle shattered, leaving the contents standing of its own accord on the window sill, while fragments of glass lay on the floor below. Consequently, I moved to the basement to await the arrival of spring.
Grandpa always occupied an oak rocker and rested his stocking feet on the warm hearth. Grandma employed a bat-winged chair, gripping her current McCall’s.
Assuming that grandpa had dosed off, as he often was at that hour, I’d slipped up the basement steps for a drink of water when I heard Grandma clear her throat. It was not my intention to eavesdrop on their conversation. It just happened.
“Fred,” she began, “in my collection of family tree materials I’ve come across a Caribbean Pirate. I refuse to tarnish our reputation with the likes of this scoundrel. The ten years I’ve invested in this project are wasted.”
“But Willia … ,” he started to say. Before he could continue she tossed her bundle of papers, photos, and letters into the fireplace.
That happened sixty-two years ago and I still wonder who this scoundrel could have been.