Wednesday, July 22, 2015

Letter to a Future Lover: Marginalia, Errata, Secrets, Inscriptions, and Other Ephemera Found in Libraries by Ander Monson | Book Review

Letter to a Future Lover: Marginalia, Errata, Secrets, Inscriptions, and Other Ephemera Found in Libraries
(Isn't that a pretty cover ?  However, when you look at it much more closely, you notice that the marks don't mean anything.  It's not like you read the uncovered letters to get a different message.  Just random marks on a page.)

Letter to a Future Lover's cover promises marginalia, errata, secrets, inscriptions, and ephemera found in libraries.  I was totally expecting funny stories from librarians across the nation about the oddball things left in library books.  I've even heard tell that someone in my own library system found an honest-to-goodness cooked piece of bacon pressed in a library book.  Bacon.  As a bookmark.  Maybe it's urban legend, but that's the type of stuff I was expecting.

Instead, Letter to a Future Lover is a collection of essays by Ander Monson, each inspired by something that he found in a library somewhere.  Maybe I wasn't paying close enough attention, but I don't think the premise was explained at the beginning of the book.  It is, however, explained at the end:  the author spent time visiting libraries, and he'd find some odd book or quote or periodical and would write an essay on a 6"x9" card and leave the essay in the book.  So he was, in effect, creating ephemera himself.

This might be an interesting premise, except that each essay was very personal to the author's experiences and style of writing.  Many of the essays had me shaking my head and wondering what the point was.  For example, there's an essay about an errata card that he found in a book.  I also think errata cards are interesting.  But then, randomly, there's a paragraph and a half (out of only six paragraphs total) on Saran Wrap.  I also enjoy "fun facts," so I might have enjoyed learning that Saran Wrap was originally developed for military use, except that I really wanted to learn about errata.

And this is not the only time this happens.  Take this paragraph from an essay about a book with worn binding, and pages falling free:  "The smell of milling barley comes from somewhere--not from here:  we don't grow it here, I'm sure--so from memory, maybe, a new grain dream like the sort I've been having on my low-carb, wheat-free "Primal Blueprint" diet in which I have increasingly come to want to be chain-fucked by varieties of Doritos I haven't ever seen before on earth:  Cheesegasm; Doppler Rush; Tastes Like Stacy, Maybe; Sudden Memory Extreme; Everything Will Now Taste Bland All Week; Evanescent Orange; Molesting Double Gloucester; Defibrillator for Your Cheating Heart; Recombination of Already Existing Flavors; Leftover Whatever; Extreme Squeal; Taco Chump/Champion; the American South; So Much for Your Mouth.  You know the kind.  It's new.  It's Huge.  It pairs--not well--with wine."  -"Dear Maggie, Unbinding"

I do apologize; I don't enjoy writing entirely downer reviews, but this book just takes the cake!  I really was trying hard to find some positives to balance the negatives until I got to this line in the second-to-last essay:

"It's true I stole this page from special collections."

Be still, my librarian heart.  *takes deep calming breaths*

*I checked out my copy of Letter to a Future Lover from my local library.  Then I returned it, without adding marginalia or ephemera, or stealing part or all of the book.

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