Friday, 9 March 2012

Little love affairs

The lives they’ve led, these books in the second-hand stores. There was, last year, a book by a writer I know and in it the writer had handwritten a fulsome dedication to a certain other writer, full of gratitude and praise for that other writer’s help and inspiration, taking up a whole page – and the book was clearly unread and here it was, abandoned.

Also last year, in another shop, a book with a handwritten dedication to a local creative writing teacher by one of the young writers that person had taught – more generous praise, more abandonment.

(As for printed dedications, when a selected or collected poems comes out it can be interesting, in a gossipy kind of way, to compare the individual poem dedications in the original collections with those in the later book.)

Last week someone bought one of my own poetry books in a second-hand store, and he’s forwarded the letter and postcard he found inside it – written in 1996 by me to the person I was sending this and two other books to. Dear Y – I’ve no idea where you now are, I haven’t seen or heard of you for years, but next time you offload a few books, maybe check what’s inside them first. Maybe even dispose of those things in an environmentally friendly way, as these days we get told to do. It’s a small world.

Oh, I think I’ve found a new (to me) writer Who Could Be Important – one of those who seems to be interested in the same kind of material as myself but who shows that I don’t have to write in the kind of way I seem stuck with, there are other ways. This is liberating. But I’m not going to name names. It could all go wrong.


KEB said...

There was a little spate of poetry volumes in my local Mind shop a couple of years ago, all bearing exactly these sorts of letters inside, addressed to a well-known poetry editor. One of them even said, 'I am sending a review copy separately, this is a personal copy for you, to say thank you for all your support over the years as you published these poems'. Left in the book. What a swine. I bought the when I found them in the shop, and one or two I didn't buy but quietly took the letters out. What a swine.

KEB said...

Oops! Said swine twice. Well it was clearly heartfelt.

Then again there was the time when, clearing the loft of my then-partner's mother, we had to get rid of literally mountains of books his father - famous, but not as a writer - had been given, by fans, colleagues, hosts at events, over decades... Think of the inscriptions! Naming no names, and they weren't anything you could or would sell, and his father had been dead for some years and we just needed to clear the attic. It was my rather shocking idea. We spent half a day ripping all those pages out and filling boxes with newly-anonymous books, which then filled the entire back of an estate car and then some. All the fans probably dead now too, the BBC tie-in books and self-published novels and everything else you can imagine, up to & including a glossy shiny hardback complete illustrated Beatrix Potter. Sad too, of course. And there were many more not disposed of, in case this sounds heartless - a few of which I now own.

charles said...

Yes. Reader writer lover spy. There's the personal and intimate and there's the less so. Readers (sometimes not even readers, simply buyers) who queue to have their copies signed by the author: I don't understand this, I really don't. Some spurious claim to a personal relationship? (There's a lovely Alan Bennett story, of course there is, printed in one of his introductions I think. Man approaches the signing desk, Bennett asks if he should inscribe to the man himself, or another name. What results is this: 'To [female name]. Sorry about last night. Promise it won't happen again. Alan Bennett.')

KEB said...

Ah, that's brilliant.

Mase Escasi said...

It's as much about the process of, er, 'letting go' as a form of heedless abandonment, isn't it? Some people collect books purely on the basis of these dedications. It's all metempsychosis. And then... nothing. A few remains.

charles said...

Not sure about the metemp-etc,but agree about the letting go. You adore and learn from certain others and this process is fluid, continuing, with casualties as well as survivors, and these dedication pages can be a record of the casualties.