Tuesday, January 26, 2010

flight of fiction

I read a lot of novels -- almost always books that I pick up in thrift shops. I buy them, read them, and immediately donate the copies to another thrift shop unless they qualify for my exclusive shelf of exemplary novels.

Right now, I'm reading The Hours, by Michael Cunningham. The Hours was first published in 1998, and the movie came out in 2002. I haven't seen the movie, and the edition I'm reading is not the one with Streep, Moore, and Kidman on the cover. It's the 2000 edition, touting Cunningham's Pulitzer Prize on the cover.

Why all this detail about the copy I've been holding in my hands? Because between the pages of the book I found the stub of an airline ticket for an afternoon flight from LAX to Houston. The date is February 6 -- year not given but probably between 2000 and 2002.

This is not the first time I've found evidence that one of my used books was first read on a plane. Generally the ticket stub or airport bookstore receipt is somewhere around page 50, where the reader has fallen asleep or lost inerest. What made The Hours different was a slightly dog-eared color photo inserted near the back of the book. It shows three people silhouetted against a very stark, very still sea and sky. To the left of the figures is a tall bare tree, probably four or five times as tall as the tallest person. The foreground is all rocks and mud.

But things keep dropping out from between the pages of The Hours. Here's an unused 33-cent stamp on a page from a USPS stamp book dated 1998.

What does it all mean? Did a person who made a decision about making the movie read part of the book on the plane and give a go-ahead? Or not? And what of the three backlit people on the beach? Is Meryl Streep the one on the right? Shall I rent the DVD and scrutinize it for beach scenes and bare trees?

I read a lot of Nancy Drew mysteries in 5th and 6th grade, and so have an abiding faith that quandaries exist to be explained.

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POSToccupations by Frances Talbott-White is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 United States License