Sunday, December 21, 2014

The dream of a bibliophile

The library is a massive domed building of wood and brick, located on the Kansas prairie many miles away from any other structure.

I have come to this place because I know that this library carries a copy of THE book, the one I have sought for many years. No, not the Bible. Not any religious text. It is simply THE book, the one that makes all other books superfluous. I've always told myself that I am one of the few people capable of finding this work and reading it.

The library is a marvelous maze, filled with shelves and desks made of beautifully carved and polished wood. And the books! No other library has such books. Splendid oversize volumes with illustrations by artists I have never heard of before. Biographies of amazing individuals whose names were previously unfamiliar to me. Books of mystery. Mystery after mystery. It is all mesmerizing.

This library seems to carry the entire culture (and popular culture) of some rich and wonderful parallel Earth. One can lose oneself forever in these books.

But then I remember: Somewhere in this library, in a room at the center of the maze, is THE book. The shadows are lengthening; the sky outside is turning gold. Closing time will come soon.

So I wander further into the maze. Around every corner, there are more books. These new discoveries are even more entrancing than the ones in the preceding rooms.

Another test. Well, it wouldn't do any harm to linger here a bit... And linger I do, until I can summon the willpower to go forward again.

Finally, I find it: The great room at the center, the one that contains THE book.

My goal. I'm here. I'm about to enter the room....

A librarian taps my shoulder.

Closing time. You have to go.

I must have lost track of the time. Just one more minute...?

No. You have to go RIGHT NOW.

An instant later, I am being being driven away in a car. (Driven by whom? I don't know.) I am looking back at the great wooden dome as it catches the last golden rays of sunlight. You can came back, I tell myself. On your next visit, you won't be distracted. You'll go straight to the room at the center.

But this is a lie. One visits this library only once.

I have had this dream many times, in many forms. In one variant, the library was a small used bookstore in a rural location -- a bookstore that somehow contained dozens of rooms, and of course the place closed just before I could reach the room in the back. On another occasion, I was lost in a dream version of the Library of Congress -- a vast, cavernous complex that ran underneath much of the east coast (and which bore no resemblance to the real Library of Congress).

The dream, in all of its variations, needs no interpretation, since the metaphor is obvious. Or so I thought until recently. I now think that this fable can be viewed more than one way.

The obvious interpretation: The library's holdings are a trap -- a seemingly infinite number of gaudy diversions, hypnotically fascinating but ultimately useless. Those other books exist for the sole purpose of keeping most members of the human race from reaching the room with THE book.

The second interpretation: We have no proof of THE book's existence. As far as anyone knows, THE book is just a myth. The reader who becomes obsessed with this myth commits a great crime against himself (or herself), because time is precious, and the building closes earlier than most people realize. Wouldn't it be better to spend every possible moment with the beautiful and enchanting holdings of the world's most marvelous library? Why waste one minute chasing something that probably does not exist?

Those two interpretations are the two ways of living life.
And then:
Joseph, if you're talking about a real, specific book (circa 1964), I'm on the case, but so far: nothing. In the meantime, thanks for mentioning libraries. In a movie script I wrote last year, on spec, for my bigshot director friend (you know who), the heroes were librarians. In 1980, I worked at Doheny library at USC. (I'm sure you know the place. It subbed for U.C. Berkeley in a lovely dissolve shot in "The Graduate.") My departnment processed book and manuscript donations. I once held in my hands the actual set-design sketches for the silent, expressionist masterpiece "The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari." In those days, I was a larcenous scalawag, but I knew it would be sacrilege to pocket those drawings. Carry on, Sherlock.
That's a great post, Mr. C.!
I wish I had a dollar for every hour I have spent in a library. And ten cents for each hour I have spent browsing the internet, searching.... searching, for something I know not what. But when I find it, I know I will be in a state of bliss, intoxicated as it were, with an over-abundace of more useless information!


I submitted this post using a Wifi connection here at a library. LOL!
TJ, the book you're talking about is not THE book. (All others: I'm making cryptic reference to a vanished JFK assassination book that TJ and I have discussed offline. 1965, not 1964.) Turns out there are two libraries in this country that have copies of that book. One of them -- in Oregon -- will make a scan, for a price. I'm very poor (what with the season and all) so the copying must wait a while.

Ivan: I loved that Borges story when I first read it -- god, so many years ago....

Joseph, I'm pretty sure that if you drink two bottles of cheap wine and a six-pack of cheap beer at night you will not have such troubling dreams. Glad that I could help.

Very cool, Joseph. Borges was the first thing I thought of, too! Well, except for the two times I've been locked in a library after it closed. The first time I was in fourth or fifth grade, and wandered away from my brother's scout meeting to reread my favorite book, The Owl Service. The second time, much later on, I can't remember what so mesmerized me, but I went unnoticed and had no clue of the hour till the lights went out.
How interesting. In many of my dreams I'm searching for something, but never a book that I remember. In the time you become sidetracked examining all the other fascinating books, are you reading them?... actually turning and examining pages of text for meaning? I have read that humans do not read in their dreams. That one way to determine if you are in a dream state, is to read a headline, or a line of text, and then look back at it a second time to see if it still reads the same.

Would you be interested in emailing or calling me? I could provide you my email and/or phone number in a follow up comment that you can decline to approve (for my privacy's sake, since you have moderate the comments). I am willing to foot the bill and take care of the costs for having the library in Oregon make a copy of the book, we can discuss the details in email or you can call me. Once I have the library make a copy (or two), I will share it with you and send you a copy. I am happy and willing to help a fellow NDD (New Deal Democrat) like myself.
Jay, I's like very much to accept your kind offer as a Christmas present.

There's really no need for secrecy here. The book I'm looking for is called "The Plot to Kill JFK," 1965, by one David M. Warren. The book is now of the utmost rarity. I've never met anyone who owns a copy -- and I've met a few specialist collectors.

The book was published by a very sleazy paperback publishing house out of Chicago called Novel Books, which went out of business in the 1970s. Novel Books (which had a number of other imprints) published mostly soft-core porn and may have been linked to the mob.

My interest in this work comes down to these three points:

1. David Warren is a pseudonym. There is a rumor that the real author was convicted Watergate burglar E. Howard Hunt, who, as you may know, published a number of sleazy spy novels in the 1960s, which were written under various pseudonyms. His son's name was David.

2. There is another rumor that the novel contains the names of then-active CIA officers -- names that would not have been known to the general public.

3. Art Ford -- the columnist and radio personality who starred in the "Art Ford's Jazz Party" video clip embedded a few posts down -- was a researcher into the assassination, although he kept his interest in the case very hush-hush. He was told by a source that "The Plot to Kill JFK" contained important information about what really happened.

There's more, including links to the bizarre Kerry Thornley and to a very shady character who is still alive and living in Florida.

I should stress that I do NOT know whether there is any truth to rumors 1 and 2, although Ford's interest in the book is verifiable. It seems to me that the first step in establishing authorship would be to get hold of the text itself.

I do know that the CIA and FBI did take some interest in this book. That's a long story.

Perhaps the only library copy may be found in the library of Oregon State University. I've already communicated with them. Given the rarity of the work, and the fact that copyright has expired, they have agreed to make scans of the work for .25 cents a page. If you write to me at the Yandex address above, I can give you the name and email address of the person to contact.

If they make scans, they should be able to send them directly to you via email. (The modern scanning machines in libraries are pretty wonderful!) If they send the email to you, you can send a copy to me.

Hell -- why not put the whole thing online?

One more thing: The book was a "twofer" -- a bizarre arrangement that isn't used nowadays. Basically, there's a completely unrelated novella called "Summer of Want" (by a female author) sharing covers with "The Plot to Kill JFK." We need only the part about JFK, plus the covers and indicia and so forth. That should be only about 70 pages; no need to pay for more.

I am not under the delusion that this small, strange book will solve the case. In fact, I would not be at all surprised if the whole thing turns out to be a red herring. But -- well, you know how it is. When a mystery gets hold of you, you want to pursue it.

Thanks again!
Joseph, did you notice OSU copy was donated from the personal library of Linus Pauling? It turns out that they have a folder of material related to the JFK assassination at the library that came from Pauling. See:
je -- thanks for this. I did notice the Pauling connection to that copy of that book, and thought it weird. Pauling didn't seem the kind of guy to buy and keep sleazy novels. Now I have a better idea of his interest.

I'll drop the other shoe. Novel books (which had all sorts of alternative names, as did other sleazy publishers) put out only one other (allegedly) serious book: "Oswald" by Kerry Thornley, the pseudo-hippie arch-conservative libertarian who knew Oswald in the Marines. This book was also published in 1965 and is not to be confused with "The Idle Warriors," written by Thornley before the assassination. I am told that "Oswald" is a lone-nut book written from a straight Ayn Rand perspective: The big enemy is "collectivism," and all of the other Randroid buzz words are there.

Now, in 1967, a strange JFK buff named A. Edward Horsey started touting "The Plot to Kill JFK" as THE solution to the crime. He claimed to have tracked down the CIA agents named in the novel. And he sent his findings directly to the FBI, which set off a whole chain of events that I am just starting to learn.

Thing is, other JFK researchers came to distrust Horsey, because his antics were really suspicious. For one thing, he would call people pretending to be someone else. He would "do" the voices of other, more famous researchers in order to get information from various people.

And Horsey appears to have been close to, and trusted by, only one other person: Kerry Thornley!

Horsey is still alive. I tried to track him. He's in Florida and -- on paper -- operates two religious institutions, in conjunction with about a half-dozen other people. Using Google Earth, I checked the addresses for these churches, and found them to be normal suburban houses.

Kinda seems like maybe this guy is a con artist, eh wot?

At any rate, Horsey may have been the one who brought that book to the attention of Linus Pauling and Art Ford, two well-known people who had "secret" lives as JFK assassination researchers.
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