I looked up from my corner table in the cafe of Sarasota News and Books just as the couple sitting on the couch prepared to leave. I paid them little notice as they made their way to the front door. A moment later I glanced up and noticed a worn book lying on the coffee table in front of the sofa where they had been seated. A receipt stuck out from the inside cover and yellow sticky notes marked various sections of the book. I grabbed it and ran out the front door, hoping to catch them before they got too far down the street.
“Miss,” I yelled, trying to get the woman’s attention. I yelled louder: “Miss!” As she turned around, I waved the book in the air. “You left this behind.”
“Oh, no, that was left in the bookstore. It’s for anyone who wants it to take,” she yelled back.
I looked down at the sticky note and read: “Pick Me UP! I’m a book crossing the U.S.”
“That would be me,” I yelled, before going back into the bookstore.
The novel is Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen, and the inside flap contains a hand-written note that explains what is happening with the book:
“This book began in the hands of a high school student as a required read for British Literature B, a junior-year English class studying literature from the late 1700’s. This classic novel is now continuing its life of being passed from person to person through Bookcrossing.com. Pick up this book, go to your closest Internet source, and go to Bookcrossing.com to learn more about how you can give life to those books that slowly retire on your bookshelf. Enter the ISBN number above to see where in the world this copy of Pride and Prejudice has traveled. Read reviews, thoughts and more. Enjoy this book and pass it on, for the next reading enthusiast to adopt. Have a great day and a fabulous read!” It was signed “crmarch, August, 2008.”
When I went to the website I discovered that I was only the second person to have the book. It began life in Lafayette, Indiana, just a few short weeks ago. I wonder how it made it to Sarasota? Was crmarch on vacation? Did he/she move here? Needless to say, I am in the midst of reading the novel. The language is stilted and formal, but about what one would expect to find in a book of that era. It is interesting to compare how writing styles have changed over the years. Back then, and even just a few short years ago, it was considered unacceptable to write like we speak. There has been a significant change in that philosophy of late, and most novelists have switched to the more familiar tone, which makes reading this novel seem even more like stepping into a time machine.
I have plans for this book. I am scheduled to attend my first ever writing conference in Richmond, Virginia, in early October. The conference is being held at the Richmond Library and I think that will be an excellent depository for the next unsuspecting reader. It’ll be fun to track its progress around the country and perhaps even the world. We live in amazing times.