A couple of years ago, during a visit to the Boston area to spend time with my wife’s sister, we stopped by a branch library in the heart of the downtown area. A book sale was in progress; I guess they were “thinning the shelves” of the less popular titles to make room for books with a broader appeal.
My wife is not very materialistic; she isn’t in the least energized by sales at the mall or at fashion shops. But book sales…like a moth to a flame. I think it’s genetic. Her sister seems to share with her that tendency to worship at the altar of the printed volume. So, when we stopped by that Boston book sale, it wasn’t at all unusual that we left with a number of books to schlep back to Dallas with us.
What was a little unusual was my contribution to the weight gain our luggage experienced. I bought more books than normal that day, though I don’t recall the titles of any of them. In fact, the only one I remember buying is the little hardcover book with the black cloth cover. There was nothing printed on the cover, nor anything inside. No page numbers…nothing.
I fell in love with the book. I fell in love with the pure, uninterrupted blackness of the cloth cover and the pure, uninterrupted creamy whiteness of the book paper. There was something regal about it. Though only eight and three-quarter inches high and six inches wide, it has a presence lacking in a lot of coffee table books I’ve seen. It is a commanding book!
Of course, I bought it. For just one dollar.
I inquired about the book with the librarian. She said she thought it was just a case-bound sample…a book demo.
It could serve as a journal for someone, but not for me. My handwriting is illegible; this book deserves something far better than my scrawl. But I can’t part with it. I can’t give it to anyone else, even someone whose handwriting might be worthy of the book. And I could never sell it; that would be like selling my soul.
To me, it is the book I haven’t written. It is the hundreds of blank pages to which I haven’t contributed. It is a symbol of hope and hopelessness. It is my little black book.