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11 July 2007

"This one goes out to the one I love."

In the Living Room, Toronto, ON, 11-Jul-07

"This one goes out
to the one I've left

Things I saw on Gawker this afternoon:

Reading into the past.

It's a bit heartbreaking to find inscribed books in thrift stores or giveaway boxes on the sidewalk. It's also highly intriguing; one has to wonder what circumstances led to these books being discarded. Inscriptions are usually notes from one person to another, so it seems safe to assume that most of these books were once gifts. Of course, many of the other donated or trashed items were once gifts as well, so why do inscribed books deserve a higher degree of sentimentality? What gives them more value than other gifts -- the fact that the greeting card is permanently attached?

Sometimes books simply must go. After all, we can't hang on to every little thing forever! Yet not every inscribed book found by a rummaging stranger can be a simple case of someone going minimal, with no hard feelings. There must be some instances in which the book's giver and receiver had a real falling out; or, perhaps, the giver died and the receiver found it too difficult to keep the book around. In either situation, the book is too strong a reminder of days gone by.

A few months ago, PF and I found an inscribed book at a monolithic chain bookstore in a downtown mall. It was a guide for fathers-to-be that I'd seen before in a bathroom belonging to the brother of a friend; the copy that we held was not the same one that I'd seen, as evidenced by the names in the inscription. Mazal Tov!, the giver had written in closing, in blue pen, accented by a hand-drawn Star of David. On the cover was a sticker that discounted the price of the book by 50 percent, which outraged PF. "How could they put this back on sale?" he asked, as he prepared to bring the book to a cash register and demand that it be removed from the shelf for good. It's strange that a bookstore would resell a personalized item, but what hit us so hard was this sense of sadness, that the decision to return this particular book was not a happy or easy one. I imagined many depressing scenarios, from a rift between the giver and receiver to a miscarriage forcing the formerly expectant father to get rid of a now unnecessary guide. All guesses drew the same conclusion: the book was too strong a reminder.

"Maybe the guy just needed the money he'd get from returning this book," PF suggested, referring to the receiver, or maybe even a giver with somewhat late second thoughts.

"Yeah," I agreed, "or maybe the pregnant couple already had a copy of it." Why shouldn't this be the reason for the return?

PF handed me the book and I placed it back on the shelf. These logical explanations soothed us, as if we needed closure, too.

TRACK LISTING: R.E.M., "The One I Love"

[NOTE: The image above is the cover photo of an album we have of prints we've found abandoned in various places, like junk shops and the middle of the street.]

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