I am, by nature, very curious and can lose myself while reading. However, I am always reading several things at once, and I can vary my selection wildly in a given sitting. Today, I moved from poetry to philosophy to essays, picking up Thomas Merton, Christian Wiman, William Bronk, Roland Barthes, Georg Trakl, and William Gass. Between books, I read older essays online, including a great one by John Yau on Christopher Middleton at the Brooklyn Rail from 2010. However, the only reason I was reading this specific essay was the fact that I became interested in the editor/translator (Middleton) of the Trakl collection, a small, gorgeous green book from 1968.
Sometimes, I find notes in these books after searching for them or happening upon them in used bookstores. The notes can sometimes refer to small stories in themselves, pointing to emotional and psychological connections or just seemingly mysterious notes jotted by strangers. The note below, found in the Merton book, is almost not a note at all. It is simply hotel notepad paper with a phone number of a woman named Rebeca.
Mysterious only due to the lack of any context, this note does provide a place to seek out for the curious. Hotel Mora does look beautiful, situated right next to a botanical gardens and a few yards from the Atocha Station of John Ashbery’s poem from his second collection, The Tennis Court Oath (1962), and Ben Lerner’s novel of the same name (2011).
Some of the notes I find are more fleshed out with references and names that are recognizeable. Take the one I found within the pages of William Bronk‘s Life Supports. It is written on stationary with the title of some oddly titled journal (that doesn’t sound like it’s real…and there is no finding it on the internet), Corona Mundi: International Journal of Comparative Mysticism, Visionary Poetics & Conceptual Book Arts. The journal calls Maine home, which is interesting to me only that it reminds me of Stephen King. It is dated as originating during May 1996 and refers to the poet, Joel Oppenheimer. Apparently, after Oppenheimer died, his library was up for sale. That would have been a pretty amazing collection, and the Bronk title was only a small element of the whole. The note seems like a friend sharing a nice find with another.
Not all of the books I acquire have these little details tucked within their pages, but I am always happy to find one. I don’t discard these small treasures. They become part of the book’s hidden story, the continuing tale of its owners as it travels from reader to reader. The book becomes kind of a communication device/time machine that allows each new owner to discover something new about another place at another time. I’m thankful that “Greg” in the note above “passed ’em on” to eventually end up at Chamblin’s Bookmine in Jacksonville, Florida.