Thursday, January 4, 2007

Frank, I have your books.

Yesterday while I was rooting through the books with my family (bibliomania is hereditary) at the Bins, I chanced upon a load of nineteenth and early twentieth theology/history/philosophy/language books. I wasn't that interested in acquiring them for myself (my shelves are groaning as it is) but I thought that there might be a passing chance that El Cab would like them. So I picked about 20 from the pile that might be interesting. When I finally got around to telling him about it, he begged me to return the first thing in the morning and grab everything.

Dutifully, I returned today. I arrived when the Bins opened, usually something I avoid, because the swarms of feeding dealers usually freaks me out. Shopping shouldn't be a blood sport and I prefer the mellow afternoon. Fortunately, the dealers weren't going after the old philo books, so I jumped into the fray, and as soon as they found out what I was looking for, the books started flying my way. One of the dealers, a chubby 20-something with facial piercings and crayon red hair mentioned that most of the books I was looking for came from Frank. Another dealer, a man in a tattered hoodie, said that Frank had been dumping books here for the past month and that most of them ended up in the dumpster at the end of the day. "If you dig," he said, "you'll find them in the bottom." And dig I did, six grocery bags full. "He must have been a Presbyterian," he added, "judging by all these commentaries in German."

As I dug through the piles, a fuzzy picture began to form in my head. He loved languages, judging by all the German and French text books and dictionaries. There were even some in Japanese. He was a Christian. He loved the Classics. He was probably educated. Most of all, he was a bibliomaniac.

I thought he must be dead. Dumping an entire library, a lifetime's worth of book-collecting, that would be something heirs would do. It was sad, thinking about how he had lovingly acquired all these books, only to have them end up in the Bins, one last stop before they became landfill.

I came home and I googled Frank. I didn't find an obituary, so he is alive (Frank, if you are reading this, hello, and let me know if you want your books back). I found a few things about him, mostly in alumni newsletters, that confirmed our deductions. He graduated from South Pasadena High School in 1937. He was a founding member of a Presbyterian church in southern California in 1941. He was on the Masters of Divinity track at Princeton in 1944. I am not sure what interrupted his studies, but looking at the year, perhaps it was the war. He was married to Mrs Frank. I found a book he reviewed in 1956, in a scholastic journal that I don't have access to. In 2002, there was a notice that he was in a nursing home in Pebble Beach. That was the last word.

I am not sure what he did for a living, if he had any children, or if he was a good man. I feel like a snoop. Did I violate his privacy? I hope this isn't the only legacy he leaves-- a bunch of tattered and moldy books in the bottom of the pile at the Bins. Perhaps it isn't such a bad fate for books, they are now sitting in a more dignified setting (my room) awaiting whatever fate El Cab metes out.


Fritz said...

And today, many of our legacies are just ephemeral electronic text in blogs that will never be pawed by curious and thoughtful women fifty years from now. There's something sad about that I think, so I'll go buy something to get my mind off of it.

Camille said...

Fritz, that sounds like an excellent idea! Now, where did I put that credit card?

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