Posted by: Peadar Ban | February 19, 2019

A Cara

A Cara

When I was much, much younger than I am, I read all of the Tarzan books, and John Carter on Mars.  As a matter of fact, the memory of those novels, John Carter and his adventures in far away places with strange sounding names (still a favorite song of mine), were what piqued my interest much later when my current wife wanted me to read the C.S. Lewis Space Trilogy with her.  Memories of the doings on Barsoom,like photos on the wall while planning a trip, or expecting a guest, kept flashing as we read, adding it’s flavor to the dish then in front of me.

It’s amazing the way one thing leads to another after this long.

I was prompted to write this to you after reading a little piece in the current issue of First Things, a journal of much more than whatever its subtitle might be.  The “little piece”, only about three pages and a line or two, is a memory by some fellow of a trip to a bookstore in Blighty, and what he found there…inside the books he was “forced” to buy; a number of volumes of the notebooks of Julien Green, who lived, not long ago, in France.  The article is an interesting story about who must have been an interesting man living a quiet but interesting life; not quite a hermit, not quite a recluse, perhaps a saint, certainly a good listener and maybe attractive enough to gather up a bunch of interesting companions along his quiet way.

But, that’s not what attracted me so much in this short story about a devout and gentle fellow.  No, I was drawn to the few introductory sentences about the visit itself to the bookstore, and the tale, a short one, about the “Adventure of the Green Notebooks”, very nearly a tragedy.

The writer was delighted to find them, the green notebooks, and disappointed there were so many that he could not afford to give them all a ride home with him.  I won’t say my heart ached, but I can say I know the feeling.

I own a Kindle; two in fact, and have put myself in possession of about 200 novels and of all sorts of books, old and relatively new.  The bits and bites they comprise float around “somewhere over my head”, but not on shelves lining the walls, or climbing the stairs where I would have them if I was allowed.  They, the kindles, are nice, and I am writing this on one of them.  But, it replaces one that died all of a sudden just before Christmas, and would look like merde on a shelf or on the wall.  Is true mor!

For my latest birthday a couple of weeks ago my darling wife “surprised” me, sometime in mid-January, with a weekend trip to York, Me., at something I think was called the York Harbor Hotel.  It was so nice of her.  She loves planning surprises like that for both of us.  Anyway, one of the first things I thought of doing .. after NOT going into the ocean .. was to find one, two or a dozen used book stores to wander about in.  We found one, about twenty minutes up Rt. One in Wells, Me. and drove up there on Saturday.

It was almost as cold inside as it was in the parking lot.  And we were the only people inside the place.  But, the books!  I know a person whose book collection is somewhere in the neighborhood of 20,000 volumes.  If I live to be a hundred (another line from a favorite song of mine) I can never hope to compare my latest few volumes scattered here and there in our tiny place with his.  But, I can admire it.  Solomon’s riches were nothing compared… as far as I am concerned.  And, I wonder about Alexandria…

Not too long ago we were lucky enough to spend a tiny amount of time in Florence, and to visit, however briefly, the digs of Lorenzo Medici there.  He was, in addition to everything else, a bookish fellow, and boasted a 20,000 volume library I learned.  It seems a number worth shooting for.  I saw the reading room in his place.  The original, and beautiful, Penn Station, which was modeled I have been told on Caracalla’s baths, was about the same size.  I exaggerate, but at my first glance of Larry’s big room, it reminded me of Penn Station.  The only problem was that it had no soft and cozy chairs, and the reading tables were more like banquet tables.  Well, neither did Penn Station.

Anyway, back to used books.  Mariellen and I wandered around inside for about an hour.  It even had Tarzan, in all of his appearances in print.  I had collected five novels in my wandering, and was going for one of two more when I was reminded ever so gently about where we lived.  I finally put all but one back, a good as new copy of a book I had started about a half century ago but never finished: “The White Lotus”, by John Hersey, a different kind of story “The Man in The High Castle”, but the same theme, both of which have me thinking about Ireland and hell with King Billy and God bless the Pope…

Someday, I will go back there, and just for the fun of it pick up “Tarzan of The Apes“.  I may just sit and hold it for a while.  In any event, it must take its place in line, behind so many others including “The City of God” neglected oh, so long ago in favor of Cliff Notes and The Pinewood Inn.  I wouldn’t have understood then, anyway.

I must not waste too much time, though, there was a “For Sale” sign outside.

PS:  One of the books I almost tearfully had to put back was “Twenty Years A-Growing”, by Maurice O’Sullivan, one of the sweetest books I have ever read.  It alone is worth the trip.

By the way, about two miles south of the bookstore, still on Rte. 1, there is a shopping plaza.  And in that place, on the side a small hill on the right as you enter…away from the mass of stores and supermarkets… is a small red building, a house once upon a time.  It is now the location of a charming little place to stop and enjoy what I thought was a delightful time.  Can’t remember the name, but that shouldn’t surprise you.  I can’t remember yours…or my own.



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