Look who I bumped into at The Bookman the other day:
Terri B. Joseph.
I was stunned to say the least. I kept staring at her name, and examined it repeatedly (nearly not believing what I was seeing) to ensure that I was in fact seeing it. I rubbed her name with my left index finger as if doing so, just touching it, could somehow enrich the reality of what I was witnessing: Terri B. Joseph. I got goosebumps holding the book I'd just pulled off the shelf on a whim from the "J" section of fiction (a book not by "Joseph" but about "James"), as unexpected remembrance of Terri Brint Joseph, my advisor at Chapman University -- whom I wasn't expecting to meet inside The Bookman that day since, well, she's been gone for almost a decade now -- sweetly flooded my consciousness in waves.
Terri apparently owned this very copy of Henry James and the Experimental Novel by Sergio Perosa, published in 1983 by The Gotham Library (New York University Press), at some point between nine and twenty-eight years ago, the duration between her death and the book's publication.
What are the odds that I'd grab a book off a used bookstore shelf and discover Terri's signature? Trillion to one, maybe? I'd have better odds finding one of her hard-to-find books she authored on Ezra Pound or of her poetry. Never mind the book was shelved in the wrong section. Should've been housed in Literary Criticism, a section I rarely peruse when I visit The Bookman, simply because I rarely have enough time to scope out the entire store. Never mind too that I typically skip Henry James in the fiction aisle altogether these days as I've pretty much acquired every Henry worth having, except The Reverberators and The Tragic Muse. But that slim book spine -- Henry James and the Experimental Novel -- caught my eye for some reason, and I slid it off the shelf, and opened it, and couldn't believe who I was seeing before I even got to the book's title page. Perhaps it was "Experimental Novel" in the title that, on the surface, lured me, as I've long had a hankering for "experimental" fiction.
Or maybe, if we dig deeper, and we're to believe William H. Gass' assertion from the title of his essay, "The Book as a Container of Consciousness" (collected in Finding a Form), and tweak his premise just a tad, find that the book I pulled off the shelf was itself conscious and knew that it had a personal connection to make with the person standing before it, and therefore somehow communicated its secret message, and willed my consciousness (and forward movement of hand) toward it.
Before anyone suggests this blogger, already a self-acknowledged freak, is also a cosmic kook on the cusp of mental collapse, and begins humming out of tune the theme music from The Twilight Zone in order to perhaps rightly mock his absurd preposterousness, I suggest they recall that uncanny and/or metaphysical incident that occurred in their lives that was way too coincidental to be caused by mere chance, and then consider my story in the mystical context of theirs. I doubt Terri (bless her!) would've been so quick to scoff at me.