Friday, February 04, 2011

The Joke is on Me


The other day my son and I were talking about books. He keeps about a dozen books going at the same time. One is T. E. Lawrence's original manuscript, The Seven Pillars of Wisdom. Yesterday, I had to be in Shreveport for the day, with several hours to kill. After pancakes at George's Grill, I found a place with a few shelves of used books for sale. I was impressed, as they had a selection of books that real readers read, not the usual fare one finds in these places. One that caught my interest was a nice hardbound, modestly-priced Revolt in the Desert, the abridged (and sanitized) version of Lawrence's The Seven Pillars of Wisdom. I already have both versions, but thought my son would like it. The previous owner, obviously a great admirer of Lawrence, had scribbled notes throughout--even outlining major points from the book. A folded article on Lawrence was stuck between the pages. I like that sort of thing. But what really caught my interest was the inscription on the frontispiece: To my good and humble friend and protege, __. ___. Muellenkamp. T. E. Lawrence. I have never been one to collect books just because they were signed by the author. (We do have a signed To Kill a Mockingbird, no mean feat considering the reclusive nature of Harper Lee. A 2005 birthday present from our son to his mother, she claims it will be what she grabs as she runs out the door if the house catches fire.) I had to realize, however, that this was a pretty incredible deal for the price. And so I walked out with it, as well as a history, The Kingdom of Armenia. And yet, in the back of my mind, something was gnawing at me. I looked at the book again, and there it was. This particular volume was published in 2004. T. E. Lawrence died in 1935. I laughed out loud at myself. I had not exactly succumbed to the spirit of greed--for I did not make the purchase based on the monetary appreciation an overlooked signed edition would have--but I would have to admit that the spirit of acquisitiveness was undoubtedly at work. We do things for funny reasons sometimes. I am glad I have the book, though, for it is a Muellenkamp. I am curious to know more of this strange man and the strange world in which he lived that would cause him to forge a signature 70 years after the author's death.

3 comments:

elizabeth said...

that's too funny... sometimes you just have to laugh about these things...

August said...

Wow! You go from the ether of the internet to a place that's an easy walk from my house! Disconcerting.

John said...

August,
I live about 100 miles west of Shreveport. I drive an odd make of vehicle which means I take it to the nearest dealership for all service, in this case, Shreveport. They give me a loaner while they work on my truck, and I spend that time looking around the city. I really like Shreveport, and my favorite areas are the neighborhoods either side of King's Highway, between Youree and I-49. So, George's Grill is a natural for me, and exactly the type of place I like to hang out. The servicing took longer than expected, so I also ate at the funky blue-and-white Greek place on Youree Drive. Unlike nearly every other trip to Shreveport, I did not stop by Herby K's.