The Globe-Wernicke & Synapses In My BrainSaturday, April 24, 2010
Memory plays such a strange game of surprise with me. I can never remember the name of Leonard Cohen unless I first think of Leonard Bernstein. In my mind these two men, who may have never met, play constant twins and often travel as one within my synapses. The proper botanical names of my plants fade by the end of November yet they come back in earnest by spring. And then I can still remember the complex smell (Player's Navy Cut, whiskey and cologne) of my father's jackets.
It was Friday night that I was ensconced in my bed comfortably reading one of my last book acquisitions, a bargain priced, but beautifully bound Just Enough Liebling – Classic Work By The Legendary New Yorker Writer with Introduction by David Remnick (current editor of the New Yorker).
I was reading The Hounds with Sad Voices (November 16, 1957) when I suddenly got out of bed in a rush and startling Rosemary. I went to one of our 7 stacking lawyer’s bookcases. I could have gone to any of the others but I knew I would find what I was looking for within this particular one. The bookcase in question is to my right as I write this, (see picture here). In it are my best and favourite literary (but not always, so) books. There’s Gore Vidal but Elmore Leonard. There are many Umberto Ecos, and Charles Pallisers, a couple of John Updikes but also the declining-in-popularity (but not in my books) Anthony Burgess. There’s Hemingway but there’s Ogden Nash. There is Don De Lillo and John Cheever but also Brian Moore and Edith Iglauer. There’s one William Golding (To The Ends of The Earth – A Sea Trilogy) but there is also a whole shelf of military non-fiction by the likes of John Keegan that share space with that ultimate war story, Das Boot by Lothar-Gunther Buchleim.
Underneath in the extra tall shelf I keep my airplanes books including a complete collection of the Bill Sweetman's, Sptifire, Lancaster, Phantom and by other authors in the same series that feature the Harrier, the Corsair and the Focke-Wulf Fw-190. One of the best is Jeffrey Etthell's P-38 Lightning with fantastic illustrations by Rikyu Watanabe.
I removed the airplane books and behind I found what I was looking for. It was a little bolted sign in something that looks like late 19th Century Bakelite (did they make a white version, or was there such a thing as early white plastic by then?). The sign reads:
The Globe-Wernicke Co. Ltd.
Office Library Furnishers
Going back upstairs I read to Rosemary:
It all reminded me, sadly, of the illustrations in the thirty-volume-or-so set of Maupassant, bound three-quarter green imitation morocco with gold ornaments on the spine, that had been the chief advertisement of sophistication behind the glass of my parents’ Globe-Wernicke sectional bookcases. In those volumes I sought out my first clues to sex, and to this day I retain a prejudice that gentlemen with curved jet-black mustaches and long-tailed coats are wickeder than others, and that ladies with big behinds and small feet are the most irresistible. I had arrived, at last, in my chosen décor, but sixty years too late. Maupassant was a Norman, and my long liaison with Normandy began with in the Globe-Wernicke mahogany sectional bookcases, and probably in a bad translation.
Just Enough Liebling, Page 217, North Point Press, 2004
I purchased the book case at the end of the 80s. I moved it to where it is today and by then I had all the military and airplane books that fill the bottom shelf. I had seen that Globe-Wernicke sign once. Liebling’s mention of it struck and the synapses in my brain, inexplicably awakened from their age-induced slumber, alerted me to a connection and down the stairs I went to experience a thrill that is still with me.
No More Books