In recent years, I’ve tended to do most of my reading while waiting in queues or while travelling. So far, I remain unconvinced by electronic ‘reading devices’, although having the complete works of Shakespeare on my phone does provide useful ‘comfort reading’ when waiting in the bank.
When flying, though, there’s altogether too much time when electronic devices have to be switched off; after all, if I can’t read during take off and landing, how am I supposed to distract myself? So I often read second-hand paperbacks that can simply be abandoned when finished.
Many of them have been picked up in charity shops, so I never quite know what I’ll find inside. I don’t mean the shopping lists, postcards and train tickets that have been used as bookmarks, but the notes that have been made, words underlined, or the dedications on the flyleaf.
I was intrigued by one such dedication last week. Found inside the cover of an ancient Robert Heinlein novel, it read:
Happy V’s Day
Love you & passion & all that.
Yours – K.
Knowing how romantic some of Heinlein’s novels are, Time for the Stars seemed a strange book to have chosen as a Valentine’s gift, but what got me most was the fact that the dedication was written in pencil. Did K want to give Don the chance to remove the evidence, or did she perhaps feel that the permanence of ink was unsuited to her “passion”?
I wondered, too, about the circumstances of the book being sold. Had Don forgotten the inscription was there? Had the sentiments really been ephemeral? Or was Don and now dead and was it his children, grandchildren or the house clearers who simply took a job lot of books to the charity shop?
I’m sure that if I wrote fiction I would be busy sketching out a plotline based on these characters. Instead, I’m now wondering which books I should be deleting the dedications from in case anything happens to me.
Incidentally, the writing was too faded and the paper to yellowed to get a clear photo to illustrate the post. Instead I’ve taken part of the inscription in one of the poetry books my grandfather gave my grandmother on her birthday each year. It is clearly legible over a century later, from which I infer that he had no qualms that his love might not pass the test of time.