Friday, January 1, 2016

Library Card Revisited

Last March I posted an entry about some old library book cards that I'd purchased on Etsy. The books were all from the Oliver Wendell Holmes Library at Phillips Academy, a prep school in Andover, Mass.

Now reader El Jefe has pointed out something I'd missed: One of the cards, for the book Eight Famous Plays by August Strindberg (shown above), was checked out April 20, 1973, by one P. Sellars and again on Sept. 23, 1974, by Peter Sellars — clearly the same person, judging by the handwriting.

That would appear to be the contemporary theater director Peter Sellars, who, sure enough, graduated from Phillips Academy in 1975. Fascinating to see that he twice took out a book of plays by Strindberg, an experimental Swedish playwright. "Heady reading for a 16- or 17-year-old," says El Jefe, "and quite possibly a formative experience for his future career." Indeed.

This also means I now have an object with Peter Sellars's signature — a celebrity autograph, so to speak (assuming one considers Sellars to be a celebrity, which he is in certain circles). I'm still sorting out how I feel about that. On the one hand, I admit that it's fun to suddenly realize that I have a document with a semi-famous person's signature. On the other hand, one of the underlying points of Permanent Record is that "normal" people have their own stories to tell, no fame or notoriety required. Sellars is interesting, but all the other students who checked out the Strindberg book, and whose names are listed on the card along with Sellars's, are in some ways more interesting because of their relative anonymity. Who were they? What have they ended up doing with their lives? Did this book affect them in any way? All questions worth pondering.

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