“What’s this, Dad?” asked my 8-year-old. He had been reading a Bionicles paperback from the library, a series spun off from a plastic building set manufactured by Lego. For an adult reader, they’re impenetrable, like Blake’s Prophetic Books or the Book of Mormon. Tucked inside was an endorsed check for $120, dated Dec. 12, 2008, and a filled-out deposit slip. Michael, unlike his father, was innocent enough not to briefly contemplate larceny. I found a telephone number matching the name on the slip but instead reached another honest person – same name, different guy. After a little more digging I found the rightful owner and mailed him the check but didn’t have the nerve to ask if he reads Bionicles.
Earlier the same day in the Half-Price Books nearest our neighborhood I had spoken with a couple of clerks about the unliterary objects they find in books. In the spirit of Eugene Henderson’s father, cash is common. Another employee had recently found several thousand dollars in a volume. She called the seller, who claimed the money but didn’t bother to reward the honest clerk. Also commonly found, they told me, are compromising photographs – low-tech homemade porno. “I want to know if the girl in the picture leaves it in the book,” one clerk said, “or the guy who took the picture. And which one gets pissed off.”
I’ve written about book dreck before, and there’s at least one website devoted to it.