Sunday, March 11, 2012

Lost and Found: A Book Miracle

Sometime during the midst of my pregnancy-related hiatus, I had a small gift conferred on me, via a friend, by the Goddess of Books and Reading. (Is there such a god/goddess? If not, there should be.) There's a long-established used bookstore in my town called the Bookworm that's quite popular among the local literati. I often bring in a load of books that I no longer read frequently enough to warrant space on my shelves, and rack up a bunch of credit that I usually put toward paperback beach reads before vacation every summer. A few years ago, I brought in some books from my young adult collection. I still read a lot of young adult books- The Pushcart War and The Westing Game are two of my favorites- but there were some that I decided to let go in the name of spring cleaning.

Well, imagine my surprise several weeks ago when a friend- the director of my husband's Big Band, actually- sent my husband home with a copy of this book:

I opened the inside cover, and here's what it said:

For those of you who don't know, Markowitz is my maiden name, and this is NOT my current handwriting. I wrote that when I was about ten or eleven years old.

Let me add something more:

1. I NEVER write my name in books. EVER. I didn't then, and I don't now. I've always felt like books belong to the reading universe, not to me specifically, and should be leant and borrowed freely. Thus, no personal ownership, and certainly no name labels.

2. I also never wrote cute sayings in books. Except for this one time. You see, "If this book should ever roam, box its ears and send it home" is a direct quote from the book itself. In Daddy Long Legs, the main character, Judy, finds an old book (I think it may have been Treasure Island) with that inscription in it, and the name "Jervis Pendleton," who is her roommate's uncle and a future romantic interest. I'm guessing here, because I was only ten, but I think I liked the book so much that I thought it would honor the author by putting that inscription inside the book cover.

Of course, when I sold it to the Bookworm, I had completely forgotten my name was in it. I never expected to have this or any other book returned to me, ever. But it was a delightful surprise. So thanks, Goddess of Books and Reading (I really need to find another title for her) and thanks, Dave, for passing the book along! It was a tiny little miracle during a time when a lot of things felt uncertain in my life.

And in case you were wondering, it is an excellent book. Jean Webster, the author, was educated at Vassar College, another local institution, in the early 1900s. The book consists solely of letters, a device that has become popular in YA literature again lately, except with emails, texts, tweets and Facebook updates. The letters are a correspondence between Judy and her mysterious benefactor, a trustee at the orphanage she lived in for her entire childhood, who decided to anonymously sponsor her to go to college. Judy's voice is spirited, lighthearted and intelligent, and it's fun to read along with her as she experiences a new world as a college coed with a great appreciation for the freedoms she did not have at the orphanage.

To close, a question: How many of you write your name in your books?


  1. When you give out beauty, it returns to you magnified (in your case, at a time of needed comforting). You must get much beauty returned to you!

  2. I remember that handwriting! (it has filled many a shared Markowitz-Stelman notebook). So happy you're back blogging, I love it! I don't think I've read this book, maybe I'll borrow it sometime? As for name-writing in books, I think I've done it once or twice. Amazing this came back to you!