Last week I was sitting in a taco restaurant thinking about a favorite book of mine, The Fortress of Solitude by Jonathan Lethem. I read this book a number of years ago, and haven’t seen it since either my wife left it on a train, or I placed it into storage. I honestly don’t remember which. I thought about various parts of the book, and how I wouldn’t mind reading it again if only I knew where it was. I finished lunch, and was walking home when on the corner of Hoyt & Pacific Streets, propped up against a street light I see a book. It’s the back of the book, but the colors and photo look awfully familiar. I stop and pick it up, and sure enough it is a copy of The Fortress of Solitude in near perfect condition. Two thoughts ran through my head at that moment; first, that I should play the lotto more often. Second, I realized that many of the books I’d accumulated over my years living in Brooklyn had been found in this way, or by other similar means.
Fast forward to Tuesday of this week. I’m walking up Wyckoff Street thinking about a time last fall that I found a small library’s-worth of books on the steps of a house. After sifting through some questionable titles, I walked away with a couple John LeCarre George Smiley novels; The Secret Pilgrim, & Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy. As I am enjoying this memory, I look across the street to see yet again a selection of books lined up against an iron fence. (Again, need to think about playing the lotto.)
This time, I managed to pick up two Walker Percy novels, The Moviegoer, & The Second Coming. I had read The Last Gentleman by Mr. Percy, and had been looking forward to reading some of his other works. Fantastic!
One of the (still) great things about living in my neighborhood of Brooklyn is that this happens more often than not. I have collected many books in this way. Sometimes independent books stores will set out advanced copies of books that they can’t resell which is how I got my copies of Dead Wake, The Great and Calamitous Tale of Johan Thoms, & Singapore Noir. Recently we were at the library on Eastern Parkway utilizing their passport office (hidden gem) where I picked up Michael Chabon’s Telegraph Avenue off a rack of free to take books. And when I finish reading them, I can contribute to others’ libraries by putting some of the finished books back out on my own stoop. Until then, however they will occupy a spot on my bedside table waiting to be read and looking good in the process.