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GENESIS

Several years ago, I visited a local thrift store, as I was wont to do in the scant minutes remaining before the pub opened. I scan the shelves of the book annex for potential nuggets and pause at the "Newly Arrived" bookshelf by the doorway upon my exit. Or entrance, if I'd have noticed it when I walked in. Same doorway, two different names. It's a conundrum, much like one book on that bookshelf: the one lacking a title on the spine and cover.

That's the one I grab and, after flipping through it, know deep within my heart I must own it. I toss my approximate recollection of four bits towards the counterperson and hustle home with a new Mystery, which is now being made known to you. May you revel in it as I have.

 THE BOOK

Black 6"x9" hardcover unlined journal, approximately 200 pages. No markings. Everything is preserved remarkably well. There's what appears to be a red wine stain on the inside back cover which bled into the facing Gerber coupon. Or vice versa. In any event, I probably did that, so I'm not counting it as a clue to the Mystery.

It smells musty, and the edges of the pages, when put together, exude that tawny color of Age that all books do as they survive. Except those holy books edged in gold leaf--those can fuck all the way off.

Inside, a collection of 55 poems is hand printed on every recto page. After #55, the remaining book is blank. EXCEPT: towards the back, I find a small clump of what appears to be very fine, blond hair jammed in between two pages. Whether it was put there on purpose or not is beyond my capacity to discern.

The ink used appears to be from a 1971-era black ballpoint pen. Free flow, no need for excessive pressure, and no clumping. That's a pretty good pen. And pen hand. The author of this book has experience writing on paper. Even, androgynous strokes and no mistakes. The printing leans to the left, which may suggest the author was a southpaw. Or not, I'm not a handwriting analysis expert.

Folded inside the back cover are several items of interest:

  1. Completed California Psychological Inventory profile for female subject (in pencil). Opposite side (for male) left blank.

  2. Legal-size yellow lined paper with handwritten evaluation of #1, above (also in pencil).

  3. Collection of vintage Gerber artwork/consumer ad campaign with coupons in yummy early-Seventies style.

 THE MYSTERY

Sooo...who wrote this? Under what conditions? My god, man, this was 1971. My memory of that year is hazy at best, so theirs can't be any too good, either. Is "Michael" the title and subject of the book, as I deduce, or is he the author? The book is dedicated to Beverly; is she the intended recipient or is it merely a Casey Kasem-like long distance dedication? Why the CPI and Gerber stuff?

I have my theories. The fun, however, lies in reading this collection and imagining what went on in the author's world at that time to prompt the construction of this tome with its written and included contents. A lover was jilted and/or ignored, that's reasonably clear. A pregnancy may or may not have been involved. Poetry--at times possibly bordering on greatness (what do I know? I'm an Ogden Nash and Russell Edson fan)--is manifested on paper.

It's up to you to make your own conclusions and work on the mystery yourself. I have published all the clues I have available, but am truly sorry I cannot convey that musty "old book smell" on these pages to deepen the excitement of this particular treasure trove. It's the smell of history, heartbreak, and adventure. Enjoy.

 

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