Last fall my brother celebrated his fiftieth year as a picture framer. “Celebrated” is perhaps excessive in a lockdown-depressed economy. More like “observed resignedly.” Ken is two and a half years younger than me. He dropped out of high school and taught himself woodworking, glass-cutting, matting, painting, gilding and the related arts. His apprenticeship was self-administered. He worked for various framing shops in Cleveland until about fifteen years ago when he started his own business, Walken Frame and Art. Walt is his business partner’s first name: Walt + Ken = Walken. Among their clients is the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in Cleveland.
Over the years, Ken has framed some unlikely objects – gall stones, a lab coat, many swords, a gingerbread cookie. Last week, for the first time, he framed a book. The owner is a devout reincarnationist who has devoted a room in his house to his next life, as though it were a pharaoh’s tomb. He is outfitting it with all he deems necessary for a pleasant new incarnation— a postmortem variation on the desert-island parlor game. The book is his favorite.
Naturally, I asked Ken its title. “Flowers in the Attic,” he said, “by V.S. . . . I forget the last name.” “Pritchett?” I asked, with Naipaul as backup. “Yeah, Pritchett.” I thought I knew Pritchett’s work pretty well but didn’t recall that title. Later I looked it up and realized Ken had misremembered the author’s name. Flowers in the Attic is a 1979 Gothic novel by V.C. Andrews, which I had never heard of. De gustibus non est disputandum, over and over again.