Saturday, December 20, 2008

In Hindsight, It Makes Perfect Sense

Book with FlowerToday The New York Times is featuring an interesting essay by Henry Allford about strange items found inside books.

"We may never fully understand what prompts people to leave unusual objects inside books. I speak of the slice of fried bacon that the novelist Reynolds Price once found nestled within the pages of a volume in the Duke University library. I speak of the letter that ran: 'Do not write to me as Gail Edwards. They know me as Andrea Smith here,' which the playwright Mark O’Donnell found some years ago in a used paperback. I speak of any of those bizarre objects — scissors, a used Q-tip, a bullet, a baby’s tooth, drugs, pornography and 40 $1,000 bills — that have been discovered by the employees of secondhand bookstores, according to The Wall Street Journal and AbeBooks.com. Mystery surrounds these deposits like darkness."
-- Henry Allford, "You Never Know What You'll Find in a Book"

I am guilty of this rather frequently, although I've never stuffed a pair of scissors or a tooth into a book. (If someone wants to give me forty $1,000 bills, I would be more than happy to find a home for them in one of my books.) Despite a sizable collection of bookmarks, I will often grab whatever is most convenient to mark my place in a book. Usually it's a receipt, a greeting card or a photograph, but occasionally I'll use something a little more unusual or important.

This past summer, my debit card went missing. After a minor identity theft freak-out, I discovered that there were no questionable charges on my account, so I was fairly certain that I had lost the card somewhere in my house. After a thorough search of the house, I had the bank cancel my card and I received a new card a few days later. I figured that the original card would turn up eventually, but I gave it little thought after the hassle of switching my recurring payments over to the new card was completed.

Last week I pulled my copy of The Beekeeper's Apprentice by Laurie R. King from its shelf, and nearly laughed myself silly when my debit card came tumbling out of it. It had been marking one of my favorite passages -- one that I had typed up and sent to a friend over the summer. I frequently keep my wallet by the computer for online purchases, and I suppose I used my debit card as an impromptu bookmark that day.

Note to Self: Next time you lose something, search your books first.

20 comments:

  1. That happened to me with a paycheck! Before I got direct deposit, too! It was a live check and I couldn't find it anywhere and had to have work reissue it. Then when I was moving, I found it tucked in a book on the back of my bookshelf!

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  2. Probably the most interesting thing I found in a used book was a long letter written by a woman who was leaving her husband and had just moved out.

    And I once left $40 in a book I returned to the library, but fortunately realized what I'd done and was able to get it back before the book went back into circulation! Now I don't even put my favourite bookmarks into library books...

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  3. Interesting post. I have used bizarre items to mark a place in a book, usually whatever is close at hand. I find bookmarks inside used books and library books quite regularly. sometimes a lovely one, or a nice piece of ribbon. And I just had a library book in which I found two bookmarks, marking different pages, in the same book. I never run out of bookmarks. lol

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  4. In the book "The Corrections" that I had borrowed from the library when it was brand new, I found a tiny little note. It said "Hi!" with a smiley face.

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  5. That's a great story. I usually use receipts, particularly the ones that print out from the library's self-checkout machine. I love using bookmarks though, but I've also been known to use string, ribbons, and other handy items.

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  6. Ha ha ha ha!
    That sucks. One of my debit cards went mising in the spring...perhaps I'll find it next year in a similar fashion :)

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  7. Hilar! You inspired me to share my story. Here's the link:
    http://presentinglenore.blogspot.com/2008/12/who-is-that-naked-man.html

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  8. Thanks for sharing the link to the NYT article.
    Your story was great and glad to hear that you found your debit card!! A nearby library had posted a collection of different things that they have found that were left in returned library books. It was funny to look through all of the items. There were surgical scissors, reading glasses, combs, napkins,
    straws, toothpicks, and many other things.
    I've found bookmarks, written notes and lists,
    business cards and airplane ticket stubs...no money yet!

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  9. I can totally relate. I just found my missing glasses in a Christmas box packed up from three years ago. LOL
    Also, when my mom passed away, an avid reader also, we found that her way of saving money was to stash $20.00 bills in between the pages of her books tucked away on her shelves. We were finding money for years. Merry Christmas, Happy Holidays :-)

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  10. hehehe! That was funny!! :)
    No I don't do this :)

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  11. gosh...I did it with a paycheck too, like Amy. Had to have it reissued and had to go to direct deposit because the folks in payroll shamed me into it.

    Of course, a few week later I went back to that book and there it was...

    I try to have a lot of bookmarks around now..

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  12. I am the same way.....I have about a bazillion bookmarks and yet I grab whatever is closest to me to use (since I refuse to fold a page corner) and I am amazed how much stuff is stuffed in my books. Mostly bills, LOL.

    I've learned my lesson though to check the pages before sending off a book in the BookMooch program or something like that. (Unless someone out there wants to pay my bills for me!).

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  13. I wonder if that's where my glasses have disappeared to . . .

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  14. Great story, Ruth!
    I will never use any of my cards as bookmarks since I've a short memory!

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  15. I am notorious for leaving money in my books. I was once cleaning out some books from the attic when 25 crisp bills came floating out. Only a week ago I found a $20 in a Neil Gaiman book I hadn't read for over 3 years.

    What I love about working at a library is seeing what other people use for bookmarks. Its usually scraps of paper, but the staff once found the pink slip for a car.

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  16. A debit card?! You're crazy! I usually use scraps of paper, reciepts and photographs. Whatever's handy really. I once lost my paycheck in a library book but managed to get it back :)

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  17. "...a used Q-tip..."

    Oh. My. Gosh. I would have screamed. Probably over the tooth too...lol!

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  18. LOL - I will definitely have to remember that 'hiding place'. I'm sure I've done something similar!

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  19. Hmm, I can't think of anything cool I've ever found in a book! Must frequent the used bookstore more often!

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