I have always loved used bookstores, because I love books but I also love a treasure hunt.
At Recollected Books in Jacksonville, I found a children’s book called “Tales of Mr. Pengachoosa” by Caroline Rush, about the fantastical adventures of a talking hamster.
At one of the Anniston public library’s book sales, I found the incredibly entertaining “Dictionary of Slang and Unconventional English” by Eric Partridge, which includes definitions for “fish-gunners,” “jug-bitten” and some words I really shouldn’t repeat.
So it was with great anticipation that I visited the new 2nd & Charles used bookstore in Oxford.
In the back of the store were shelves of deeply discounted used books, all jumbled up, in no particular order.
I was going to have to work to find my treasure.
I scanned shelves filled with thrillers, mysteries, romance novels, self-help books, most by authors I’d never heard of, none of which really interested me.
And then, just as my eyes were about to glaze over, on a shelf down near the floor, I spotted a little book called “Particularly Cats … and Rufus” by Doris Lessing, illustrated by James McMullan.
It was a lovely book. On the front cover was an inviting illustration of cats lounging on a rug in front of a blazing fire. On the back cover was a portrait of a cat with penetrating yellow eyes.
Originally $20, it was marked down to $3 (ka-ching!).
Oh, and it had an inscription!
This is to us. It supposedly has quite a classical reputation. The authoress is of course famous.
1/1994 Syracuse NY (USA)
The inscription was signed with love from someone with bad handwriting. The signature looked like it might start with a J. Jim? Joe? James?
The mysterious J was correct; Doris Lessing is considered one of Britain’s greatest writers.
But who was J? A man who buys a book in order to toast to his wife — but then uses words of practicality rather than romance. A man methodical enough to record not just the date and place, but also the store from whence he purchased the book. A man old enough to use the word “authoress.”
An inventory sticker on the front of the book noted that it had been acquired by the 2nd and Charles store in Dayton, Ohio, in 2012.
I imagined the book sitting on a shelf in Syracuse until the time came for Patsy and J’s children to clear out the house, boxing up the things they didn’t want.
It was the inscription that made me decide to buy the book. That and the cute cats on the cover.
The pages of “Particularly Cats … and Rufus” were pristine, like the book had never been opened.
The first story was a true story, set in South Africa in the 1920s, on the farm where the authoress grew up. The farm had become infested with cats — “cats tame and wild and the stages in between” — about 40 of them, all told. Something had to be done.
The cats were rounded up into a barn, and the author’s father took out his First World War revolver, and …
Oh, Patsy. I can see why you never read this book.
Lisa Davis is Features Editor of The Anniston Star. Contact her at 256-235-3555 or firstname.lastname@example.org.