When I received an advance printing of my novel, The Lübecker, I examined the volume’s cover, thumbed its pages and placed it, faced-out, into the glass-doored bookcase I inherited from my grandmother. I put the book in front of my great-grandfather’s 1882 Parson’s Handbook of Business and Social Forms, which I adore. The Parson’s shares shelf space with first editions of Tom Sharpe’s Indecent Exposure, The Durrell-Miller Letters 1935-80, and Lawrence Durrell’s The Alexandria Quartet, as well as, a 1969 annotated edition of Swami Nikhilananda’s 1944 translation of The Bhagavad Gita. These are books I wish to keep, not least since bidding for the Durrell would probably start at £2,000. On the shelf above, William Faulkner dominates, but shares space with E. M. Forster, D. H. Lawrence, Aldous Huxley, James Joyce, Walker Percy, Robert Graves and a handful of Hemingways. The two other shelves are home to vagrants like, Seven Icelandic Stories, The Travels of Marco Polo, Bibles and histories. The beautiful little case contains a small portion of my library, which, over the years, has expanded and contracted like Albert Einstein’s universe, although, I’m hearing that his work is marching toward the proof that the universe is just expanding, now. I’ll take it, as, of late, I can’t seem to stop buying books.
The question arises: Does my novel deserve the company of The Alexandria Quartet, The Sound and the Fury, The Hamlet, The Moviegoer, Ulysses, Island, The Plumed Serpent, Howard’s End, A Farewell To Arms and I, Claudius, to name a few of its new companions? That, of course, depends on your reception of the book. But, I believe that placing The Lübecker in front of my great-grandfather’s indispensable Parsen’s, a book that took him through manhood and worldly success, announces that someone in the family found the time to write a book.
Finally, allow me to quote Lawrence Durrell:
And if it should be discovered eventually that I was not entirely successful, I hope that somewhere in an attic a young writer sits and sees in the [Alexandria] Quartet a model for the great novel of our time which he then writes.
I’ll keep The Lübecker in the heirloom case, behind its glass doors, in the event a great-grandchild of mine finds himself or herself sitting in front of it and decides to write “the great novel of our time.” Or, his or her time.
M. J. Joseph
ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Born and raised in Florida, M.J. Joseph maintains membership in the English Goethe Society, the Siegfried Sassoon Society and other literary associations. He is a supporter-member of the Society for the Study of Southern Literature, as well as an Associate of Lincoln Cathedral. Prior to retiring, Joseph enjoyed a lengthy and rewarding career with an industrial firm where he served as CEO and managed the company’s merger with a larger international corporation. He divides his time between Europe and his home on Florida’s northern coast. M.J. Joseph and his wife Ann have two children
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