by way of books: accidental peeks into strangers’ lives

A year ago, I discovered Strand’s Tumblr, a corner of the Internet curated by employees of the 18-mile long used bookstore in New York. People who sell their books to Strand often leave behind pieces of themselves in the books, whether through notes scribbled in the margins or postcards used as bookmarks. Strand finds the best of these and posts them to this sort of online archive with bits and pieces of personal histories.

Take this passage, a boxed paragraph on page 76 of Zora Neale Hurston’s Their Eyes Were Watching God.


At one moment in time, a person was reading this book, and whatever infrastructure determined her sense of self, and whatever thoughts crossed her mind that day, and whatever emotion she felt while reading this passage, caused her to pause, grab a pen and make not of these words. I want to know what images she had in her head when she read this passage–I want to know which person she was picturing as she drew this wavy blue line.

Sunday evenings are meant for scrolling and reading, so I’ve collected some tidbits of insights into others’ lives.

Underlined dialogue from The Assistant by Bernard Malamud, page 97:


And here’s an underlined passage from Chekhov, Five Plays, page 29:


Photographs are sometimes left behind in the books’ pages…

…As are postcards with sweet notes.

This postcard was found in A Happy Death by Albert Camus.  “Remembering how I felt that day on the plane back from Paris….Set me at ease with my fears. Forever & ever, Ronny”

I hope Ronny found contentment in Miami Beach.

Strand also posts weird and fascinating books that are sold to them, like Interesting Origins of English Words…

…or This Noble Flame: An Anthology of a Hungarian Newspaper in America.

Here’s another that might catch the interest of any fellow: a promotional pamphlet for the New York Times in 1969.

So there you have it. Your annual update on Strand, from Kasia Redux to you. Go to their website for more. And–perhaps this is more a note to myself than my readers, but so it goes–slow down a bit. It’s Sunday evening, and pausing life is all right.


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