A personal diary keeping people abreast of what I am working on writing-wise.

Thursday, September 04, 2008


There is an apartment complex on the street between my house and Joëlle's where someone is always throwing away boxes of book. I dutifully check whenever I pass, though I don't think I've ever taken anything home.

Until yesterday, when on my first pass I found a 1957 first printing paperback of the screenplay for The Bachelor Party, written by the great Paddy Chayefsky. I also took a spiral-bound cookbook of recipes for Adventist doctors, whatever the hell that means. I thought Andy, who is a chef, would get a kick out of it.

On my way back, however, I looked again, and this time noticed a large hardcover book, a little worse for wear, called For Member's Only. The cover jacket was gone, and its lack of imagery is probably why I had not paid attention to it prior, and someone else had picked over the the other books in between my first and second passing, putting this one front and center. I read the title again. Peter Arno's For Members Only.

Peter Arno!

Peter Arno is one of the legendary New Yorker cartoonists, and a quick flip through the pages revealed that this was a collection of full-size black-and-white drawings. What a find!

I have no idea if the 1935 publication date shown here on the title page is the actual publication date of this particular edition. If there is a publishing indicia, it has been covered up. One of the owners has gone through every blank page in the book and added another Arno cartoon, pasted in to make it so the book features gags from cover to cover.

Some of these are a little risque, almost looking like Playboy cartoons. The second one here has a tagline of "Tallyho, godammit!"

More interesting to discover on further examination is that this book has a personal history to it. The inside front cover and first page are covered in personal notes that look like well wishes on, quite possibly, the day of somebody's wedding.

There is no indication for sure of what kind of event this was. A lot of people signed their names and also their addresses, and from the places listed, it semes that this book has stayed in Portland all this time. There is one man who signs the book and calls himself the "Flower Girl - Ha! Ha!!" and there are also people who wish the intended owner well on a trip and say to hurry back. One woman says, "May all of your troubles be little ones!" The underlining it hers, I believe intended to mean children. On the other hand, there are also notes like "Good luck to the beginning of a successful career" and "All the luck in the world to a swell person." Only one person, then?

My favorites, though, range from the amusingly chaste Kitty Halsted saying, "Come back soon. Will miss you like H---!!" (Quel scandal!) to the inexplicable "Malcolm Waltman, alias (God only knows, and he's worried)." A couple more include "I was counterfeit, I couldn't pass" and "Thanks for the education, and you know what I mean (?)" with the question mark and all.

And the poet: "Hey there! - Barney" Who is this one-named Barney?

Page 2 and 3 have a pasted cartoon and another list of names, respectively.

That list of names has a small heading in the upper right corner for "50th Anniversary." Is this 50 years since the initial signage? Quite possible, given that the first register is all in pencil and very fancy fountain-pen-like ink lines, and the second list is obviously ballpoint. It also is a list written by one person and includes in the lower right two names of people who called rather than attended, including a Pat Smith from England.

I have reason to believe this book was not abandoned where I found it by anyone connected to the original owners, as there is a pencilled-in "2.75" in the upper right corner of the inside front cover, amidst all the names, that Portland residents will easily recognize as the price marker from Powell's Books. The Chayefsky came from Powell's, too, and it looks like the price tag on the back says 2007 (if I am reading their code correctly) for when the store acquired it. It also has a pencil price inside, $4.50.

Thus, the true history of this book will likely never be known by me, all I have are the clues here. I once thought about writing a story about the world travels of my favorite suit, which was actually made for a Mr. R.A. Fisher in Hong Kong, according the labels in the jacket. What a fascinating thing to imagine, how it went from there to Portland, Oregon, possibly over several decades. One could do the same with this Peter Arno book. Who was it for, why did they get it, and what brought it out of its storage spot 50 years later? It's been beaten, possibly water soaked, soiled, and abandoned first to a bookstore and then on the street. For what reasons, and where does it go now?

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All text (c) 2008 Jamie S. Rich


Anonymous said...

That's a pretty awesome find and story.


Sarah Grace McCandless said...

That book is gorgeous. In unrelated news, I just figured out how to use Google Reader. Welcome to the future, SG! Anyhoo my point is I'm now equipped to stay more current with my blog reading, including yours. :)

Colin Matthew (TheBookPirate.com) said...

That Members Only book sounds pretty cool. Not for the book itself but for all the written messages inside it. I now want to stalk this house you speak of.

Chynna Clugston Flores said...

You're becoming an antique scavenger too! That is a GREAT find. I'm totally jealous, especially since the illos are so wonderful. You know we've been collecting people's discarded family photos over the last several years, all stuff from the 1960's and earlier, some even to the 1880's. They would otherwise be going to the dump, so Jon rescues what he can. Some of them are pretty great. I wish I knew who they all were and their stories, but again it's something I'll never get the pleasure to know. Sometimes guessing is fun, but I bet the truth is a lot more interesting, even if it's depressing in the end.