Skip to main content

To Peregrine With Love

One of my favorite things is finding knickknacks tucked into books. This is one reason why accumulating used books are such a pleasure: one may discover photos of chubby faced children and mothers with bad haircuts and uneven tans, or American Airline ticket stubs, or a receipt from a bookshop in Berlin, or a post-it, or article cut out of the paper. One becomes aware of the inter-connectedness of all people, but of readers in particular. One remembers that reading is a solitary but not isolated encounter – though being singular in discovering or experiencing them, one is linked to those who have read, those who are reading (I felt kinship thinking of members of the New Yorker staff who read 2666 in the month of January, knowing I had so recently participated in that book), and those who have yet to read a particular work.

Tucked into a copy of Rainer Maria Rilke’s Letters to a Young Poet I found a letter. In the spirit of my coworker, Jon, who reprinted a letter he recently came across, I will share it.

“Peregrine –
Hope you have a good Christmas. Miss you. The bulbs are paperwhite narcissus, easy to grow. They’ll bloom in January. Just set the bulbs upright, put in a lighted place, and water occasionally. I didn’t know what to get you – hope you like what I picked. Thinking of you – Elizabeth. The bow got squished, just fluff it up a bit. Sorry.
- And when night falls, who knows, perhaps I’ll find I’ve spent all day given to you…”

The book is dedicated to “Peregrine – Only you put me out of pure solitude. Elizabeth.” I wonder where these people are today, and why this book is on my shelf, not Peregrine’s. Did they split apart, sending this little book off as debris? What a magnificent name Peregrine is. I didn’t know people were named that anywhere but in works by Tolkien and Iris Murdoch. Here’s to finding – and leaving - more love letters in books.

Comments

Popular posts from this blog

The Private Life of the Diary

I’ve kept a diary since I was twelve. While I composed nearly illegible autobiographical scratchings in my first years of primary school at my teachers’ request, it wasn’t until I was on the brink of becoming a teenager that I felt I needed a more permanent arrangement. I suspect it had to do with reading The Diary of Anne Frank. My diary’s function has changed over the years – it once had a name (having discovered that Zoe was the Greek word for life, I thought my choice extremely clever), and I used to like my diaries in a variety of shapes and sizes, spangled with glitter, ruled with wide lines, shackled with locks and keys. For at least eight years my diary was the space in which to vent my feelings, and offered some form of therapeutic comfort. This meant it was largely about boys and is, as a result, very tedious to reread. But while the function of my journal has changed, each volume has been a solution to the manic desire to scribble. As I discovered reading Anne Frank, each e…

Cassandra at the Wedding - Dorothy Baker

The perfect airplane read for a person en route to a wedding, this tautly written 1962 novel about a woman falling apart, coming home to her family’s ranch to derail her twin sister’s wedding. That’s the summary – but obviously it’s about so much more: about the nature of love and obsession, about identity and the self.

Cassandra Edwards, named for the doomed wailer at the gates of Troy, is a student at Berkley, an “Existentialist-Zen-Marxist, Freudian branch. Deviation, rather.” The reader is fully aware from the beginning that Cassandra feels antagonistically about the wedding – she anticipates duties of “tak[ing] over the bouquet while [Judith] received the ring, through the nose or on the finger, wherever she chose to receive it…” She purposefully gets the groom’s name wrong. She plans to stage a “last-minute rescue.”

The isolated family ranch the Edwards family as a self-sufficient unit – emotionally and intellectually. Her alcoholic father, a retired skeptical philosopher who act…

Blast-beruffled plumes

I’ve returned to Minnesota to find it transformed into a Brueghel painting.



Our hunters are gone north or even south, wherever there are more deer. This has been a bad year for deer, threatened by the cold of last year’s polar vortex and the high population of coyotes, which now carry a bounty on their heads.

So, while it’s still autumn in England (I’ve been assured), winter has come. The nights are long, the wreaths are out. I’ve been reading restlessly – Robert Walser and GB Shaw. But some nights, Thomas Hardy feels just right for November melancholia. Here’s ‘A Darkling Thrush’:

I leant upon a coppice gate
When Frost was spectre-grey,
And Winter's dregs made desolate
The weakening eye of day.
The tangled bine-stems scored the sky
Like strings of broken lyres,
And all mankind that haunted nigh
Had sought their household fires.

The land's sharp features seemed to be
The Century's corpse outleant,
His crypt the cloudy canopy,
Th…