Wednesday, February 11, 2009

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.

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