Sunday, January 06, 2008

Mystery Mark

A bookmark mystery fell into my lap -- literally -- over the weekend. While I was cleaning out a closet, I decided to trash a lot of old military paperwork I've lugged around for the last thirty years. While sorting through paystubs, I found a couple of old tourist pamphlets. When I opened one, this fell out:

It's a 1-5/8" X 7" bookmark for Book Works, a book shop I used to hang out at in Pacific Grove when I was stationed in California. On the back is a lovely little letter, written by a polite fellow named Tom:

Shannon -- I have marked a few points of personal interest herein, however I encourage you to explore a bit through all the galleries. My home address is below. Please do drop me a line once you have made an excursion or two. I am glad of the chance of pointing a fellow art-lover in the direction of local culture. Please write! Glad I met you! -- Tom

I didn't know a Shannon in those days, and my Tom lived in L.A. at the time, so they're not friends of mine. Odds are that I found it in a used book I bought and tucked it away, intending to write to Tom, who included his full name and address on the bookmark for Shannon. Likely I got my orders soon after that, started packing to go and in the rush forgot about it. It's been mixed in with my DOD paperwork ever since.

Tom probably doesn't live at this address any longer (he's not listed in the white pages, anyway.) Still, I'm going to write a letter and see if he is, and let him know what became of his bookmark (and apologize for taking thirty years to let him know.) Maybe Shannon will write back and finish the story.

What do you do when you find stuff like this in books?


  1. Anonymous2:16 PM

    Th only thing I've ever found was picture of two naked people in a non fiction book. Not a pleasant surprise, I tore it up and threw it away.

    I have left a book mark I got from an author in a library book though and forgot to take it out when I returned it. I went back found the book in the shelf but the book mark was gone.

  2. Anonymous2:22 PM

    Book Works still exists, by the way, and is still an excellent little independent bookstore/coffee shop, although the coffee shop side gets more attention these days than it once did.

  3. Anonymous3:32 PM

    I treasure items like that, especially when the penmanship is nicer than my own (not that mine is anything to brag about). When I receive/buy used books, sometimes I buy the ones with writing in them because it's a meta of someone's interaction with the book. So not only am I having a dialogue with the work and the author, I am also having a dialogue with this mystery reader. It's like having an internal book club or something, having that insight into another's reaction to the work.

  4. I think there is a plot idea for someone to use. I find lots of old postcards, photos and books tend to make me think about the amount of stories that are out there.

    This doesn't mean I'm that great with coming up with ideas for myself to write about though. I find it still a challenge.

  5. Honestly?
    I tend to leave them where I found them.
    For whatever reason, they seem part of the book to me.

  6. I keep it and wonder what to do with it. :)

  7. Sadly, I've never found anything that cool in any of my books. I think when things like that happen, they're really interesting! I'd probably write back and let him know.

  8. An interesting post. I think your doing the right thing by writing Tom. And if he is still living at that address, he'll probably be very pleased that his note meant something to someone...even if they didn't know him personally.
    Yes, I've found mystery stuff in used books too. I cannot tell you how many times I've mailed people back their passports, bills and even a licence a time or two. I've found letters a few times but none with addresses so the I havent been able to contact anyone. But one letter was a love letter that was very touching. A man named Jerry who was desperate to convince a lady named Lisa to marry him instead of someone else who's name wasn't mentioned. I always wonder how that turned out and hope that Jerry won the lady's hand.

  9. I picked up a used copy of Perestroika and found an inscription in Russian with a signature.

    You wouldn't believe how much I scoured the internet to see what Gorbachev's autograph looked like.

  10. Why is it that I only ever find cheetoe fingerprints and squashed bugs? (hmmm...must try buying more elevated genres...)

  11. I use charity shops for out of print books here in the UK, and quite often find receipts and torn out pieces of paper being used as bookmarks.
    we are a strange race, but there is still an aversion from turning the corners over on pages.
    Yesterday there was a hand written receipt from a town about 20 miles away for leather horse tackle. About 10 yrs old, but Miss E M Banningford might appear in a story one day.
    On a horse of course.
    LOL Ray-Anne

  12. My all-time favourite find was a program booklet for the 1945 film Our Vines Have Tender Grapes, starring Edward G. Robinson, Margaret O'Brien, Frances Gifford and Agnes Moorehead, in a vintage book of fairytales.

    I also found a list of night duty pharmacies from 1976 in a paperback copy of The House on the Strand by Daphne du Maurier.

    Finally, in a slim paperback of Virginia Woolf's A Room of One's Own I found two tickets for a theatre play based on the essay as well as a program leaflet and a review clipped from a newspaper.


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