July 3, 2014 by libroshombre
“The Wells Fargo wagon is a-coming” theme from “The Music Man” always resounds in the background as I drive home from the post office with freshly-arrived books. Several verses were required last week when some long-anticipated titles came, all of which I’d tried out at our library before ordering used copies through BookFinder.com. A persistent curiosity about ancient Babylon and the birth of books will be addressed by Paul Kriwaczek’s “Babylon: Mesopotamia and the Birth of Civilization,” and for rainy evening reading, the excellent 1200-page Library of American edition “Raymond Chandler: Stories & Early Novels” is perfect. “1616: The World in Motion” by Thomas Christensen, a beautifully-illustrated, revelatory book that I can lose myself in for long stretches, topped my joy.
Having manybooks already underway, as is my wont, these newcomers must compete with “The Ice Master: The Doomed 1913 Voyage of the Karluk,” a graphic novel, “Scrublands,” by South Africa’s Joe Daly, and the newly-released edition of J.R.R. Tolkien’s translation of “Beowulf,” one of those hoary school assignments that the master of fantasy and scholarship breathed new life into back in the 1920s and then put in a drawer. A copy of “Living to Tell the Tale,” Gabriel Garcia Marquez’s languid autobiography of his Colombian childhood, resides at my bedside for easing into bedtime.
So I felt extra good reading the recent News Miner article titled “Alzheimer’s Delayed Almost a Decade By Cerebral Pursuits.” Author Nicole Ostrow cites a study published recently in the Journal of the American Medical Association that found that “[p]eople genetically prone to Alzheimer’s who went to college, worked in complex fields, and stayed engaged intellectually held off the disease almost a decade longer than others.” There are “currently no effective treatments for Alzheimer’s,” but things like reading and playing music make a huge difference. The Alzheimer’s Association says that 5 million Americans have the disease, and that number is expected to triple by 2050, but “any treatment that could delay the onset of Alzheimer’s by five years would reduce the expected number of patients with the disease in the U.S. by 43 percent in 2050.
My memory’s always been crappy, and an untold number of football-related concussions came my way, so I’m delighted that reading, a favorite pursuit, is good for me, including graphic novels. Reading comics and graphic novels exercises my mind the same as “Beowulf” with the extra stimulation of connecting the artwork to the text. Yesterday’s mail also brought the Carmen Miranda DVD collection that will mainly stimulate two parts of my brain, versus the six areas exercised by reading a Donald Duck comic.
Another News Miner article titled “Rare Stamp Sets Record,” concerned the auctioning of the world’s rarest stamp: the 1856 British Guiana One-Cent Magenta. It went for $9.5 million last week, but for far less in the early 1950s, when Carl Barks wrote “Donald Duck and the Gilded Man” for the Disney empire. Though I thought comic books were behind me, as a reader in college, I happened across a reprint of this duck story. The encounter did several things: I noticed that Donald’s hired by Philo T. Ellic, a play on “philatelic,” or stamp collector, to find the magenta stamp, and that the Mayan ruins the ducks encounter were the correct dimensions and arrangement. Re-reading the story also triggered long-lost, heavily-detailed memories of the day I first saw it. I was about four, and my dad took me to a drug store in Lovington, New Mexico for my asthma medicine and sweetened the event with an orange sherbet cone and that comic book. I recall every aspect of the store, how the dust motes floated in the slanting afternoon sun that fell on the comic book stand, that the cone was cake instead of sugar, and how my father read to me under the courthouse trees in the courthouse across the street, and my first encounter with squirrels.
The One-Cent Magenta stamp may have been worth $9,450,000 less in Carl Barks’ day, but the memory he gave me is beyond value. Although 19th century American humorist Josh Billings noted, “There are lots of people who mistake their imagination for their memory,” maybe that’s not a bad thing.