Saturday, March 15, 2008

Did the Books Come?

A little bit of nostalgia today. 1957 nostalgia. School nostalgia.

Each month the Weekly Reader would include more than the stale and predigested news, cute animal picture, lame (but funny to a 4th grader) riddle, A 10-clue crossword puzzle, and the always annoying vocabulary exercises. There was an insert for the book club. The book club was a big deal.

The club featured new books for sale. These books were far better than the musty volumes in the school library. The school library seemed to have 76 copies of Treasure Island and little else. Library books were traveling petri dishes. They seldom had a jacket. They were often restored and covered with the stuff that must have inspired truck bed lining. The corner of each page was stained with suppers past.

Did I mention that the book club books were new? Newly printed and new in the sense that they were topical. They also had pictures on the cover. The "Books for Boys" section sported covers featuring robots, army guys, cars, baseball players, and sometimes even a TV cowboy.

It was easy to get book money. A dollar could get you 3 or 4 books and parents were eager to support your education. I'd have my money in the next day. It was about the only thing I'd have in on time. The teacher would set a deadline and finally send away for our books on that same day. About a week or two later we would ask about the book order. We would ask daily, if not hourly. Finally the books were in. Oddly, they seemed to always show up Friday afternoon about an hour before dismissal.

A big part of the thrill of getting the books was smelling them. The aroma of newly pressed pulp and its inks - aah! The books had sharp corners and were pressed into a tight brick. The most satisfying part of the ritual was breaking open the cover and writing my name on the inside. The book was mine! (Not only that, there were probably ten or eleven "Roy Rogers and The Lost Ranch" copies floating around and a war could be fought over an unidentified copy being misplaced.)

Before I get too Jean Shepherd on you, just let me say that I capture just a bit of this magic when I order from Amazon. Books are back in my life and I couldn't be happier

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