from “Bound & Stitched”
When you’re on a nonfiction reading streak, you somehow don’t question it. For me it started with Margalit Fox’s The Riddle of the Labyrinth. I was fascinated by Fox’s resuscitation of Alice Kober, the little-known linguist who laid the painstaking groundwork for the decipherment of Linear B. Margalit Fox’s vocation is the “rescuing of lost souls” like Kober, as lead obituary writer for The New York Times.
That’s an occupation I’ve harbored as secret desire, and in my own way I practiced it, when I exhumed stories of the household staff who once worked for Emily Dickinson. At this moment, though, with my small tower of nonfiction deliciously perched on the round copper table in the living room, I was the one who needed to get lost. I demanded rescue from souls going missing. I picked up Labyrinth and was happily captured from page one.
“Allan” I said when he walked in on Sunday morning with his book bag slung over his bony right shoulder. He stood on my living room rug in his stocking feet, his army-green t-shirt hanging loose from his shoulders like drying laundry pinned to a line. “Well, then” he said, smiling in that slant way that meant what have you got new, his hand out, palm up, urging me to say more or put a book in it….
He eyed my stack of books, most of them covered by thin cellophane with which the library wraps its cloth-bound books. These were titles I couldn’t hang onto if I grew attached. I liked it that way. The anonymous sharing. Turning a page to find the slipped in photograph of a Bulgarian man in traditional hat, slightly blurry, or the previous reader’s check-out list topped by The Merry Misogynist by Colin Coterill. “How could you?” I thought, speaking to my predecessor. “And the new J. K. Rowling,” I said reprovingly. I scolded in my head, but I was excited by these traces of someone else in “my books.” I suppose it was much the same way men felt at the baths, before the city closed them down, when bodies were shared, anonymously, and traces lingered from someone else’s pleasure….
To the question of books after death, “Bound & Stitched” says yes.