Friday, October 01, 2010


Nearly ten years ago, a woman I knew through work gave me a book to read.  I didn't know her very well.  I did know she was a reader and we would occasionally talk about books.  One day, she told me she was reading a novel called Half in Love by Justin Cartwright.  I knew very little about him but she always seemed to have exquisite taste in books so I knew it would be worthwhile to look into reading him.  I often saw remaindered copies of his novel Masai Dreaming for sale but had never picked one up.  Maybe a week later I saw her again and she let me borrow her copy, an English edition of the book.  I don't think it was ever published in the US.

Half in Love is about a British MP who is recuperating from being stabbed in the neck at a soccer match when he finds himself dealing with the fallout of a sex scandal (he had an affair with an actress).  It was an excellent novel but that is not why it made such an strong impression on me.  What did my head in is that this woman had given me a novel about a man with a scar on his neck.  I have a giant scar on the back of my neck.  There's no concealing it, no way to not notice it - especially since I have a shaved head.  It seemed a coincidence of great significance.  What it meant, I had no clue.  But someone's first choice of book to give to me, a man with a giant scar on his neck, was an excellent novel about a man with a scar on his neck.  Baffling.  Astonishing.  Meaningful?  I had no clue and it never seemed like a subject I could ask follow up questions about.  We talked about the book some when I returned it but the giant scar in the room was never mentioned.  It's hard to convey the impact this coincidence had on me though I can't articulate any more of what it meant.  What's worse is that I always mock people who relate to characters in books (and openly admit it or delight in it).

After Half in Love, I set out to find more Justin Cartwright.  And I've since acquired several of his other novels and whenever he has a new book I always order a UK first edition.  But until a few days ago, I had never seen another copy of Half in Love.  (I know they are for sale via the internet but that's no fun.)  While out shopping for books on urban sociology I stumbled across an autographed first edition of my scar book.  Now I have my own copy.

Most people do not ask how I got the scar.  Every so often, someone will.  If it is a stranger,  I will sometimes lie and tell them I was stabbed at a soccer match a long time ago.

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