May 172010

Warning:  The following post contains traumatic and emotionally harrowing details.  Not for the faint of heart.

I lost my copy of James Salter’s short story collection, Last Night, and it’s torn a hole into the depth of my soul. On a flight to Northern California for the weekend, I was reading the collection and happily marking up several stories as I went. Only after arriving at my hotel did I realize that the book was not in my luggage.  I must have left it in the little seat pocket on the plane.

I hate losing books!  I feel like a piece of me has been ripped away and is out there floating around the skies right now, on some Virgin American 737-300.  I spent several hours marking up this book and writing notes in the margins and now those thoughts, those connections, are gone.

To demonstrate the profound emotional trauma of this experience, I offer the following evidence:  This is the third book I’ve lost.  My first lost book was Crime and Punishment (also a heavily marked copy). I lost this about 8 years ago and have yet to recover.  (One wonders if they have therapy for this affliction?)   Then, about 4 years ago, I lost my copy of J.M. Coetzee’s The Master of Petersburg…this one in the San Diego airport.  And now Salter.  Seriously, these losses stay with me.   My only comfort, my only hope, is that these three lost books have found new, gentle homes.  I beseech the universe that some lonely traveller has stumbled upon these lost books and is reading them.   I need to imagine someone curled up by a fire with a Salter story, perhaps with a glass of single malt Scotch, a snoring dog at his (or her) feet, rain lashing against the roof.  Only this fantasy will help me get to sleep tonight.

—Richard Farrell

  4 Responses to “A Fantasy for Lost Books”

  1. Oh, hell, to wake up in the morning and be reminded of my own multiple traumas! Thanks, Rich.

    My worst losses:

    1) My favourite ever Schaeffer fountain pen–I couldn’t write for two years. I still dream of the first draft of “Dog Attempts to Drown Man in Saskatoon” written in the sunny breakfast room at Clark Blaise’s house with that fountain pen.

    2) Feb 1998 my car was broken into in Montreal and someone stole my current novel notebook–the novel has since to be resurrected.

    3) I forget what winter residency, 1999, I think–but I came home and the heat had gone off in the house. I got the furnace running and stupidly went to sleep only to be awakened by something like the sound of Niagara Falls. Boxes of books LOST! Sentimentally, I still have my copy of Mansfield Park, all rippled and the notes blurry–unreadable.

    Horrific times.

  2. Did you take Crime and Punishment on a camping trip? (See BG’s story)

  3. Ah, the interconnectedness of Numero Cinq.

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