Thursday, February 02, 2006

The Mystery of Books

I have always been amazed by the coincidences experienced with books. It is why I believe there must be a special magic to them. Here are two recent examples:

First Story
I was recently researching libraries to visit in California for one of my research trips this year. I became quite intrigued by the small city of Grass Valley, especially when I discovered an old Carnegie library building is still in use there. My interest was only heightened when I also found another old Carnegie building still in use in nearby Nevada City. Well, going to Grass Valley will extend my trip by a day or two, but I am so interested in what I might find there that I’m going to try and find the time.

Yesterday I was walking outside of the library to get my afternoon coffee when I noticed the library cart of “freebies” was outside the door. I quickly grabbed some old copies of MS. Magazine off the cart (very cool – one even had bell hooks on the cover!). I then saw a used copy of Wallace Stegner’s novel Angle of Repose. I have never read it, but opened it up to take a look. The book fell open to the beginning chapter titled Grass Valley. Of course, I took the book. There must be a reason for this. How often does Grass Valley appear in literature?

Second Story
My good friend wrote me that she just finished her dissertation for her doctorate in psychology. She said that the book she decided to read first, now that she has the time to read freely, is Moby Dick. She has embarked on her journey with Melville and is completely enthralled.

After passing the oral exam for my MA in literature, a professor on my oral exam committee asked what I planned to do next. I replied, “Read Moby Dick.” I have no idea where this thought came from. This was in 1998, so many years ago.

Maybe people think of Moby Dick after completing a major event in their lives?

It doesn’t stop there though, because I was at a library for a meeting a few days after hearing from my friend and saw a large special edition of Moby Dick within a glass case near the meeting room.

Then, this past Sunday evening I was leaving Trader Joes with my weekly groceries when I ran into the former leader of a meditation group I used to go to. He started to talk to me about his concern over young people not taking the time to read books. He asked me if I thought anyone is reading Moby Dick anymore.


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