I am girding my loins for an adventurous quest.
It is a quest to locate a book containing a short story I remember vaguely yet persistently from childhood. For some reason, more than fifty years later, I am convinced this story had an important influence upon me. I need to find it. I feel compelled to finally understand why it was so impactful, and particularly why it was so impactful to me at that time. Why did it resonate? Did my place in life encourage sympathy for the main character? Maybe the writing was exquisitely visual?
I can’t answer any of these questions because my memory of the book is so incredibly vague, I can’t figure out what it was. I suspect many of us harbor unfulfilled book quests.
For a few years I was employed at Barnes & Noble as a bookseller. Occasionally a customer would approach the information desk with an apologetic yet determined expression.
“Excuse me, I am looking for a book.”
“I would be happy to help you find your book.” I would professionally let my fingers hover over the keyboard of my search-engine equipped computer while maintaining polite eye contact. “What is the title?”
“I’m not sure, but I think it has the word duck in it.”
“Is it a children’s book?”
“Well, I read it several years ago, but I’m pretty sure it was an adult book; maybe science fantasy, or possibly a collection of poems.”
“Do you remember the author?”
“No,” my customer would admit, but then looking suddenly excited would add, “but I’m pretty sure the cover was yellow. And maybe it was a paperback..”
I would go through the few small actions I could take to try to find the mysterious book already knowing I would fail.
I also already knew why the customer was searching. They were seeking meaningful literature from their own personal histories.
Stories give us a chance to see and think about things in new ways, and in the best circumstances, they allow us to think about ourselves in new ways. And sometimes, some few resonating books that we happen upon at exactly our own personal most open-minded moments can be direction changing.
Words presented in just the right combination and cadence, in exactly the right setting at the perfect moment of open-minded thought have the power to help us unexpectedly learn and grow in new ways.
We experience a magical moment. We are suddenly still and silenced while our thoughts and beliefs are unexpectedly opened to new possibilities. This moment often leads us to the famous magical utterance, “Huh, I never thought about it like that!”
I always felt bad for my unsatisfied book-seeking customers. They would leave the bookstore a little more defeated in their ongoing search.
I am looking for a story too. I have been feeling an increasingly strong need to find it. It represents a reading turning point for me; the moment I realized the thought provoking power of a well-told story. My continued persistence proves how resonating a story can be. I have been asking about it casually for years.
But now, I am girding my loins. I am starting my search.
I metaphorically step up to the Information desk.
Excuse me, I’m looking for a story about a man who wanders out of his house one day mistakenly leaving his glasses behind.
Outside he becomes lost in a world made magical due to his lack of vision. He wanders through familiar neighborhoods amazed by what he sees.
I really want to find that book.
I think it had a yellow cover.