I have coined a phrase:
“When the muse knocks, you have to get up and answer the door.”
By which I mean:
Inspiration lurks everywhere, arms folded, tapping her foot, waiting for you to take notice.
Like at the Homer Public Library Plant and Book Sale. Happens twice a year. Library sells books taken out of circulation cheap, along with plants donated by the public. I volunteer for cleanup the Sunday after, which includes the gutting exercise of culling from what remains and sorting them into, 1, keepers to repopulate the sales shelf as it empties, and 2, (gulp) the dump.
Which was where I stumbled across this little gem.
Okay, the spine is broken and the pages are dogeared and I get why it was headed for the circular file, but just look at this thing.
There’s a daily diary (duh) and Daily Expenses and a list of Fixed and Moveable Holidays and a calendar with the phases of the moon and a list of eclipses and fifty pages of theater seat maps and of course a ton of advertisements which would be how Wanamaker would have underwritten the cost of the diary. This one in particular jumped out at me.
Ship News would have been essential to the kind of businessperson who carried a Wanamaker Diary, and then I thought, so would a businessperson like Tetisheri in Alexandria. Google is all very well but how convenient would it have been to be able to pick up a bound volume of papyrus in 47 BC and find the calendar (old Egyptian and new Roman). Or a seat map of the Odeon Theater. Or a bookseller for Tetisheri to talk to about the theft and illegal sale of rare books.
This ad for bibles from the Oxford University Press is the closest thing to a bookseller to be found in this diary, the worst thing I can say about it. There is even an index of “Business Cards” in the back, with all the advertisers listed alphabetically, which is how I found that ad. The ads on the endpapers run from Union Suits-“Don’t Say Underwear/Say Munsingwear!” to Lingerie-“Now — Extra Sizes in All.” I’m sure just like today in magazines and program guides those endpaper ads were the most expensive real estate between those red covers.
I’m feeling this sudden urge to write something set in New York City in 1921…
Author and founder of Storyknife.org.