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Posted by on January 3, 2012

2011 was in some ways tough. My grandfather died at the beginning of the year, which was kind of an ugly, protracted process. And then near the end of the year, my mom’s brother Terry also passed away.

Terry and I were friends. When I was a kid I just had this impression of him as kind of an angry mustache, but as an adult I realized we had a lot in common. (No, it was NOT mustaches, thank you very much.) He was a bibliophile, although a much fancier one than I am, in that his book collection came from places like the Antiquarian Book Fair and mine mostly comes from library sales. Still, he had read all kinds of things and was as interested as I am in going into rooms of books and staring at them. We emailed a lot, sometimes about books and sometimes about other things. I was reading some of them today and I wanted to share a few little gems from our correspondence.

On his concerns for my safety:

“Kristen, I hope that you and Gene are doing well and that your apartment is not is jeopardy of collapsing under the weight of books.”

This one came after a list of museum suggestions. It might have been genuine helpfulness, or possibly a cutting remark about my love of animals; Terry was notoriously anti-dog:

“Of course, you being a dog type of person, might enjoy New Art from China at the Saatchi Gallery which has Liu Wie’s “Love it! Bite it! ‘copies’ of classical buildings made from dog chews.” 

On where to find books:

Me: (Being facetious, since obviously what I want is impossible.) “Sometimes I am searching for a English translation of the complete 22 volume set of Cuvier’s Histoire Naturelle des Poissons and it is nowhere to be found and I realize that internet shopping has some real gaps for someone like me.”

Terry: “I can give you a link to buy the Cuvier set of 22 volumes in French for $84,000 or a small set of it in paperback for around $40.”

Me: “Excellent, I’ll take the $84,000 version. Gene and I don’t need to buy an apartment. ”

On the joyous occasion of my upcoming nuptials:

“Honeymoon? Hell, you’ve been living in sin with this guy since puberty.”

On book hoarding, of which we were both guilty:

Terry: “I am sorting books as I go along trying to decide which to keep, which to give away and which to try and sell.”

Me: “I can help you with the books, here is my help: keep them all.”

I miss those emails, in which he was by turns wise and wise-cracking, amused and acerbic. He was an impatient, angry, snobbish, well-read, urbane son-of-a-bitch and I loved him very much. Here’s to you, Uncle.


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