Tuesday, July 29, 2008

A Note between Pages

Before you donate books to a community book sale, you might want to check to see what is tucked away, unbound, between the pages.

Uncashed checks? Love letters? Poison pen notes?

I mention this because I purchased a dividend when I bought a copy of C.S. Lewis’s “The Abolition of Man” at Sunday’s Hillsdale Book Sale. It yielded a gift note that clearly wasn’t intended for my eyes — or yours. The contents provide a window into a domestic drama worthy of a novel.

Would that C.S. Lewis’s book were equally engaging. The bulk of “The Abolition of Man” is a slog.

But the little three-page, hand-written note that fell out of it had immediate allure. After considerable reflection, I've decided to share its essence. No last names are evident in this note from mother to son, and I won’t divulge first names. The note is dated, but I’ll withhold that as well. Fortunately, I have no idea who the mother and son are. I can safely assume you are equally ignorant of their identities.

To proceed ....

The content of the gift book turns out to be at least partially connected the note’s ultimate message — a mother’s convoluted, pained advice to her son about his romantic liaison and apparent infidelity.

After commenting on the plight of the Ten Commandments in this modern world, she writes, “There is no perfect person with whom to mate.” But she continues, the hope is that “as one struggles on the path of life,” an initially imperfect mate “may become the perfect mate.”

Then she reveals, “It has been hard for me to speak about this as you children grew up as it seemed so hypocritical. I never approved of what I did and hoped you would escape my ways. It has certainly caused more grief and destruction not only to us as a family but to those who held us up as something rather special.”

After that sweeping, intriguing confession of parental regret, the writer lurches off into one heat-seeking piece of advice. “Please do be careful and rethink your affair with XXXX — We must not throw away people, for we throw away ourselves.”

“I love you very much, more dearly than you can imagine. Mom.”

How did mom find out about the affair? Did she have her own family-destroying affair? Did it galvanize an imperfect mate into a perfect one? How did she finally bring herself to write this note? What was her son’s reaction?

Did C.S. Lewis, the Cambridge Christian sage, help?

If the son made it to page 109 of this dense little 121-page book, he would have faced religious fiat and warning. There Lewis, author of “The Chronicles of Narnia,” cites three laws of “Sexual Justice.”

From a Babylonian “List of Sins,” a moral question: “Has he approached his neighbor’s wife?”

From Exodus, “Thou shalt not commit adultery.”

From the Old Norse Volospå, “I saw in Nåsrond (hell) … beguilers of others’ wives.”

I'm left with this question: When I donate the book to the sale next year — as I most certainly will — should the note remain with it? Or should this be the end of the liaison?

Labels: , ,


Blogger ALT said...

Send the note along. It has become part of the book and you are merely the latest interloper.

8:02 AM  
Blogger Rick Seifert said...

"Latest interloper." Have there been others? Are you suggesting that the book and its note have cycled through previous sales?

8:55 AM  

Post a Comment

Subscribe to Post Comments [Atom]

<< Home