A friend told me recently about a huge encyclopedia that rested dangerously on a shelf in his childhood home.  Must have weighed twenty pounds, he says.  We didn’t have a big encyclopedia in our house; however we did have a set which, if I recall, was called “The Book of Knowledge.”  I think about 12 fairly hefty volumes.  I suspect that either my mother or father got sold by a traveling salesman at some point, probably paid a couple of shillings a month for it. My guess is my mother bought it with some thought about it helping me with my school work.  A larf that was.  My father would have assumed he knew everything in it. As far as I know, never cracked a  volume.   What he didn’t know he made up and I’d believe it until I learned otherwise. I don’t remember doing much with the set, other than dropping one on the odd bug.

One set of books that did interest me was about the life and doings of Casanova.  No doubt my father had picked that up on one of his used stuff buying trips for his shop.  Lots of descriptions of shifts, bodices, chemises and such (never discovered what a chemise was other than that they were frequently removed.

To my later dismay I recalled a fairly large book of colored cartoon-like drawings of old fashion golf games and players in checkered sweaters and plus-fours.  I wasn’t much interested in it. I think my father traded it for god-knows-what.  Years later, I saw probably five or six pages of the drawings, clearly removed from a copy of the book, in a fancy gift shop window in Princeton. Each page was priced at $240.

Also in the house was one of the 200 or so copies of the “Seven Pillars of Wisdom” that Lawrence himself had published.  It had photos of the major characters in his story. After I saw the movie I was amazed by how much the actors resembled the people  themselves.  Alec Guiness, e.g. was a dead ringer for Faisal.  Lawrence could have been O’Toole’s twin. I’m sure the book, wherever it is, is worth a small fortune.  For all his self-appraisal of polymathic brilliance, it’s clear in retrospect that, with respect, my father didn’t know his arse from his elbow.  And it would have been beneath him to look into anything.

Not surprisingly, when he died, there were no books, salacious or heroic. My inheritance consisted of his Remington electric razor.  I shaved him with it as he lay dying in the hospital.  His last words to me were something like, “I won’t be needing that again. You can have it.”   Thanks, Dad