The other day I was pretending to be a writer.
I say pretending because there was no actual writing going on. It was my day off and the only thing on the agenda was writing, but nevertheless very little writing was happening.
Instead, I found myself falling down one of those pleasant little rabbit holes of procrastination one sometimes finds oneself in during times of fogginess. I was looking to get a book from the library– perhaps the Star Wars novelizations. I've never read these books, the first of which was published under George Lucas' name despite being written by Alan Dean Foster. I thought they might provide some clues to the embryonic developments of the movies as they were all published before the final versions of the films were in cinemas and, in fact, before the Hollywood blockbuster machine was exercising complete totalitarian control of their intellectual property.
It occurred to me that, since the films had been edited numerous times, the books might also have received similar treatment and that sent me searching to see if the library had any first edition copies.
They didn't, but they had a vintage copy of the Star Wars Storybook.
Now, this isn't that extraordinary. My library growing up had the Star Wars Storybook. I read it several times along with a junior making of book that I found riveting in my formative years.
However, when I say it isn't extraordinary, isn't it just a little bit?
This book, intended to capitalize on the popularity of a film franchise, was published in haste and sent out across the country. Who knows how many copies were printed? A lot no doubt. But that was 40 years ago. One copy, purchased by a librarian with the title of "procurement officer" or "new book acquisition", it has remained on the shelf for that whole time.
I wonder how many people have checked it out? How many kids have held it, wiped snot on it, stared with benign interest or slack jawed amazement at the photos and illustrations of laser swords in outer space.
There's a kind of everyday amazing in mass communications. It's hard to grasp, easy to romanticize, and impossible to escape. We are living in a nostalgia culture where our own personal pasts dictate a lot about how we live our present lives– and whether or not we check out Star Wars Storybooks from the library.