books

Finding the Elusive Book

Adi_Holzer_Werksverzeichnis_262.jpg
Adi Holzer, “The Unicorn”, Noah Zyklus, 1975, via Wikimedia.

I found a unicorn once. It was in a library of all places. Strange. I’ve always imagined that unicorns live in archaic forests covered in mist and moss. But, no. This unicorn spent its days in a small town in Ohio.

I didn’t even recognize it as a unicorn at first. It was simply another book that someone had written in that I had to erase. It was a collection of poetry written by a woman whose name I didn’t recognize, and someone had scrawled all over it. Lines covered page after page. Jauntily drawn stars sat next to certain passages. All of the writing had been done in pencil, which meant that I would be able to erase the graffiti and make the book almost like new. But all of the writing had been done in pencil, which meant that I had to spend time cleaning it up. I could have ignored pen and given up the book as a lost cause. But pencil. I had to address pencil.

So I erased the writing in the book, and as I erased, I read. Then I discovered that this book was my unicorn.

I loved the poetry. I loved everything about it. The cadence. The subjects. The ambiance. The book contained everything that makes me light up. In retrospect, this makes perfect sense. The author was a woman named Else Lasker-Schüler, and she was a German-Jewish poet who published the bulk of her work between 1902-1943. When I found her book with its rather flamboyant title of Your Diamond Dreams Cut Open My Arteries, I was reading a lot of poetry written by Lasker-Schüler’s contemporaries. I knew the people and places she referenced, and that made the verses all the better.

But no matter how much I loved the book it wasn’t mine to keep. It was tempting to abscond with it and spend the rest of my days in hiding, but I never would have forgiven myself for stealing from a library. So I left the book behind. I left the book behind even when I moved several hundred miles away to start another library job. After all, surely I would be able to find the book and purchase a copy of my own.

Then I discovered the terrible truth; the book couldn’t be bought.

Not for a reasonable price anyhow. Not then. In fact, I just checked Amazon’s page for the book, and a single used copy is for sale for the lovely, little price of $9,029.00. I was not going to pay that much money for a single book.

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Screenshot from Amazon, 7/13/17.

I tried to find other collections of Lasker-Schüler’s poetry, but the ones I tracked down weren’t quite right. At 317 pages, Your Diamond Dreams is the most comprehensive English language version of Lasker-Schüler’s poetry. Pretending otherwise is foolish and can only end in heartbreak.

So Your Diamond Dreams became my unicorn, the mythical creature that I searched for in every used bookstore, every library sale, every secondhand shop. I never found it. I eventually abandoned all hope of tracking down a reasonably priced copy of the book. Of course that is when the miracle happened.

The miracle happened to be my mother.

One Christmas she handed me a bland looking box, and in it, was my book. I didn’t cry when I received it, but my eyes definitely pricked.

Now Your Diamond Dreams is safe and sound, and I can flip through its pages whenever I please. And really, that is all that I ever wanted.

— — —

Good news for anyone who decides they want to read Your Diamond Dreams! As of 7/13/17, the Strand in New York is selling a copy of it for $20, which is a much more reasonable price than $9,000.

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22 thoughts on “Finding the Elusive Book

  1. My unicorn was The Little Bookroom by Eleanor Farjeon. I have probably read it almost a hundred times. I checked it out from the library 27 times, and copied my favorite poems into a school notebook. Finally the children’s librarian wrote my name in pencil in the back of the book. A few years later, it was indeed discarded and they called me asking if I still wanted to buy the book. For a mere 10 cents it was mine! I still know which date stamps come from my checkouts (hint: almost all of them). I’m not sure why this particular book enthralled me so much, but now Canadians can read it for free and it’s been reprinted and is fairly easy to get.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. So glad your unicorn came home. Though I’m making up stories about how your mother found it – imagining a woman who loves her daughter sneaking into the library after hours, haunting the aisles with a tiny penlight.

    Liked by 1 person

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