Thursday, September 4, 2008


When I gave Shannon my copy of The New Cookbook for Poor Poets, I replaced it, ordering a used copy online. A few days ago, I received the book in the mail and was delighted that someone had signed it. Not the author, but the original purchasers. The inscription offered me a glimpse into their lives.

It read:

To Tim,

May you have use for this cookbook
one day.


Grandma & Grandpa

Happy 19th birthday

Since the inscription was dated 2-9-87, Tim would be about 40 years old today. I doubt he ever used the cookbook. The pages are free from butter stains and soup drippings. They're immaculate. But I do wonder, did he ever cook?

Some of you may be thinking, who cares? I do. I'm a writer.

Another treasure I found was in a recent purchase from a local used bookstore. It's the kind of store where Doris Day music plays in the background and all the books are laminated. The book I discovered is titled Letters of Flannery O'Connor, The Habit of Being. When I brought the book home, I started to read and noticed a newspaper clipping, tucked midway through the book. The article was a review written in 1979 about the same book which was published the same year.

I could just imagine a woman who fancied herself a bit like Flannery O'Connor. Maybe she'd read A Good Man is Hard to Find. Or maybe like O'Connor, she owned a peacock that pranced around her yard. Or maybe she just awoke one morning, fetched the newspaper from her yard and read it while she sipped her first morning cup of coffee. The review sparked something in her, and she opened her junk drawer, dug out her coupon scissors and cut out the article.

When her cousin Harold called to see if she needed anything in town, she said, "Why yes, I do." She slipped on her navy skirt and crisp white shirt and waited for Harold to pick her up and take her to the bookstore. When she arrived there she was delighted to discover the book displayed in the store window. She bought a copy and when Harold dropped her off, she put on a kettle of water. A new book, she reasoned, deserved a cup of Earl Grey tea.

She became as fascinated as I did upon reading those first letters, but then somewhere around the middle of the book, she grew tireless. Maybe she'd wanted some man to sweep Miss O'Connor off her feet and marry her. And she could tell midway through the book that this just wasn't going to be a part of this story. Something in those letters made her sad. And she tucked the review between the last pages she'd read and never opened the book again.

At least that's what I think happened.

Who cares? I do. I'm a writer.

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