Sunday, February 26, 2012

Lost things.

The book that Spencer gave away that caused me to cry tears was The History of Love. The author: Nicole Krauss (wife of Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close's Jonathan Safran Foer). He gave it away because he was supposed to give it away, to our friend Katherine before she left for Canada. But not that copy. Another copy, one that I bought at Shakespeare and Company in Paris, for 5 Euros. Spencer didn't know that the other copy was meaningful to me, that the inside cover had been signed: he believed the Shakespeare stamp and Paris association would mean much more.

How the first copy happened to be signed: My friend from library school tipped me off on a reading that would take place at Boston College, which school is even more regal than Harvard, if it is possible. (For instance, the buildings look like castles.) She couldn't go, but knew I liked the author. On the appropriate day I walked to the school, found the correct space, and sat by myself on the second row. Nicole Krauss read from two books: the one I knew and loved, and the new book that she was still writing, called Great House, before she knew when it would be published—before it was called anything. The second book was about a desk, or more truthfully about the different people who owned the desk or came in contact with it, those who wrote their secrets there, and those who locked them inside. The desk itself was a secret. That book would be published, and I would read it. In fact, it would be the first book I finished reading after a long period of not being able to read or finish anything. It helped me break through to a better time. But the book I love best is about an old man from Poland, who moved to New York as a younger man, and only loved one woman his entire life. He wrote, because at the end of his life, he needed to write, the way he did when he was a child. What did he need to write about at the end of his life? His disappearing and unlocking, but mostly about his one love, and their child that he never knew, who himself had grown up and become a writer. The book is also about a fourteen year old girl named Alma. There is a book within the book that ties the two characters together. It is so beautiful and sweet and sad and meaningful all at the same time.

An English class at Boston College had studied that book in depth, and brought the author there. They filled up a conference/ballroom, then left immediately after, even though she announced that she had time to talk. Their professor was holding their last class meeting then, where they would discuss her speech. It left much fewer people in the room waiting to talk with her, to have her sign their books. I had my copy with me, just in case. I got in line—purposefully last in line—so those behind me would not be ushering me forward. When it was my turn, I asked if she would take a picture with me. "Of course." And however sappy this is, I also told her she was my favorite living author, and the only living author of any of my five favorite books. She asked me who the other authors were, the other books. Tolstoy's Anna Karenina, St. Exuperuy's Little Prince, Kierkegaard's Works of Love, and Dostoevsky's The Idiot. She told me that the first of those two books are referenced in her own. I told her I knew and loved those references. Because there was no one behind me, I asked her who her favorite authors were, her favorite books. Because she had time, she told me. In fact, she more than told me. She wrote them down, on a piece of paper she asked for from her assistant. After scribbling for a few moments, she explained that she prefers Australian and Polish writers, as opposed to American ones. She placed the reading list in my hand. I placed it in my book. Some soon time after I opened the book to find her list, to examine it. The paper was gone. I looked through every single page. Still nowhere. I searched my room, by bag, my bookshelf. It never turned up, even when I packed everything I owned and moved to the opposite side of the country. I only remember one recommendation from that small scrap of paper, because it was also mentioned in her book. It is called The Street of the Crocodiles. While I am glad to remember it, I am sad to have forgotten the others, to have lost the others. This first loss was enough to crack my heart. The second loss, the book itself, is too much disappearing.

From that day:

From another Boston day, about a year later in which C, E, and I met her husband:


an illdressed foolishwise said...

love this.
love them.
jonathan safran foer signed an autograph "to emily" for me and i have if framed by my books-- one of my most precious treasures. it's always so great to read your blog, rachel. you are such a dear.

Rachel Hunt said...

thank you, emily. you are a kind one.

I'm still bummed I didn't have time in my 36 hour vegas visit to visit you. hopefully that will be remediated soon.

Jacob said...

This is a tragic and beautiful story. I am sad to hear that you lost one of your books. I get overly attached to all my books, let alone a signed copy. I can feel your pain of being seperated.

meg said...

I can't believe that spencer did that - oh man. who did he give it to??! I think you should try and find it in the lost DI piles someday.