24 October, 2010

Found: Book Inscriptions

Having recently received a full-on shipment of all my belongings from my lost home in Michigan, I took several days to pour over the contents of a lifetime's worth of boxes full of old yearbooks, childhood toys, embarrassing and heart-melting photo albums, trinkets, mixed tapes, love letters and most wonderfully of all-- the books. The books from the vestiges of my entire life.

But one of the most profound discoveries what what lay inside the books-- most often on the inner cover, sometimes on the title page: the inscriptions.

Isn't it amazing how book inscriptions can really mark and capture a moment in life so profoundly? Something so seemingly innocent and off-the-cuff can become a flag-in-the-ground kind of marker post of one's life. This was given to me on my 18th birthday, one thinks. I remember the way his eyes looked when he handed this to me. He loved me once, one recalls. Or, best of all, Oh, how I had nearly forgotten that...

Below, are a few of my favo(u)rites. Important, amusing, moving, or milestones.   

What are some of your best ever inscriptions?

And one for you.

Dear Reader,


Our Town by Thornton Wilder
"On August 17, 1999, This book was read by Alexandra 'Al' (she is a wonderful girl) to Jay (an ignorant boy) and she and it changed his life."

Illuminations by Walter Benjamin
14 May, 2010
"Dear Al, On the occasion of the lovely outing, one of my favorite essay collections. In particular 'Unpacking my Library' is one of the great love letters to books as emotionally endowed objects that I know. Love G." 
Tiger at the Gates by Jean Giradoux
March 1999

"My lovely Al,
Idolatry has always been funny to me. Idolatry in myself is the heartiest of all. This play is funny to me because I see myself in it. I see our best friends and most admired people in it. All of these make it a gem that I hope you'll value too. Giradoux. How can you go wrong? Truth. Love. Truth of not-love. All these, sparklingly present in the pages ahead. I think of you too when I read this. Thank you for the smiles and smirks you'll have turning the pages. I can see them. They make me happy. Mostly because they're shared. Celebrate love. Covet humor. Live truth. And please, enjoy this addition to your library and soul. 
Wrapped in love, 

The Ballet Russes  by Vicente Garcia-Marquez
12 October, 1990

"To Alexandra with all my profound love and affection, Vincente"

"To Alexandra, Nice fifth position. 
With all my love, 
Tatiana Raboushenskya"

Honey & Salt by Carl Sandburg
June 2003
"To Alexandra, may the little white bird always fly home to you , and nestle you under its wing. Everything, B" 

Routines by Lawrence Ferlinghetti
3 July 2001
"Happy Birthday Al! Today we celebrate your 18 years of LIFE! You have given us such joy, thank you. .. Love, 'Jom' & 'Jad'"

The World Doesn't End by Charles Simic
June 2001
"To my love, In memory of a beautiful Spring morning, and a secret rendezvous by the lake. Yours, JNF"

Acting by Richard Boleslavsky
3 July 1998

"To Alex on her very important birthday July 3, 1998! Constantin Stanislavsky founded the Moscow Arts Theatre in 1898-- one of his favorite pupils was Ricahrd Boleslavsky; this man came to the U.S (with Michael Chekhov, Maria Ouspenskaya, and Stanislavsky himself) in the 1930's and the Moscow Art Theatre played a series of plays in New York. They stayed on and started 'school' to teach the Russian philosophy of acting, amount their students was Valentine Windt who became professor of theatre at University of Michigan and who taught acting classes and directed shows. Lucy Chase and I studied with him for many years. This book was one of our text books and a favorite! So we are direct philosophical descendants of Stanislavsky and Boleslavsky! And you, my dear, are following right in the line of descent.
Happy Birthday,
LC and JB Stephenson"

Ex Libris by Anne Fadiman
 2 March 2009
"To Al Silber-- the writer, from L: her common reader"

Eloise: The Complete Collection by Kay Thompson
5 May 2002
"Alexandra, my truest of lovers... Love, as described by Sophocles is like the ice held fast in the fist of a child. I will hold on to you forever, and if you melt, I can drink a case of you and still be on my feet. Always, M"

and, my most treasured inscription,

The Museum at Purgatory by Nick Bantock
May 2008

"To Alexandra. Whose talent is matched only by her warmth and hunger for truth. May you stay forever young. N"


  1. Wow, I think you're really blessed to have so many smart people who cherish your friendship enough to write such nice inscriptions! We all know you're talented but only a person of character could rate such friends.

  2. Though I am now what Anne Fadiman would call a courtly lover of books, when I was little there was NOTHING I wouldn't do to the front page of a book - I was particularly fond of stamping giant florid stamps of my initials (or the initial I really wanted to have, which was A for Anne - this was at the height of my Anne Frank/Anne Shirley/Anna Leonowens obsession)...that, and sparkly unicorn stickers.



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