The Way Home

I flip through Harry Mathews’ The Way Home. (A book I bought three years ago at City Lights Bookstore on the first evening of my first real business trip. Victoria and I skipped our Silicon Valley hotel’s social hour, in favor of a good Italian meal in North Beach and the requisite stops at City Lights and Vesuvius.) I stop on the last page of The Orchard and read the final paragraph. I notice something hiding deep in the crease between the pages, along the book’s spine. I dig inside and pull out a narrow strip of paper. The phrase “Complimentary Bookmark” is printed in tiny red letters across both, followed by words to the same effect in French, German, and Spanish. (The words are about half the width of the bookmark. The top two-thirds of the same words are repeated just below the first line, cut off at the edge of the paper. This allows the manufacturer to cut several strips out of one sheet of paper without having to line up the text carefully – as long as the strip is cut at the correct width, an uninterrupted line of the text will appear.) The pliability of the strip betrays the fact that there’s a strip of metal embedded inside. It is a once-magnetized theft prevention device, half-heartedly disguised as a bookmark.

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