The Pumpkin Papers

I was planning on taking the weekend off – watch football, eat chocolate, drink coffee. Just relax and enjoy myself as a way to clear my head. I felt that might get my creative juices flowing again. Then I came across this quote by Orhan Pamuk: “I read a book one day and my whole life was changed.”  Suddenly the mists of recollection rolled in and I was transported to another time and place…Kenitra Morocco 1964, Naval Air Station Kenitra and the base library, where I worked as a part time (sixty-five cents per hour) librarian.  My main job was being an air traffic controller. The library, like air traffic, was often slow and working 24 on/48 off afforded me lots of free time. So what does a librarian do when things are slow? He reads. At the time this was more than a stretch for me – it was a leap. Reading was a chore, something I did because it was a requirement. Remember that high school reading list for college-bound students? It was enough to ensure that most of us never read again.

It was in the Kenitra library that I started reading to learn, to enjoy, and get lost in books. Books could take me anywhere in the world; more importantly, that’s where my love affair for books really began to blossom. I met people who loved to read and had many book-related conversations in the library. It was on one of those slow nights that I came across “The Pumpkin Papers” by Whittaker Chambers, a story about the famous American spy who was instrumental in forming the United Nations, all the while being a spy for the Soviet Union. I had an epiphany from that book: that knowledge is boundless and that the truest knowledge is right at our fingertips…in classic American and English literature, as well as classics from other nations translated into English.

It was then that I read “Atlas Shrugged.” I discovered Henry Miller’s books, then banned in the USA, and – to my amazement – “The Story of O.” In comparison, “50 Shades of Gray” is just a modern rehash. “The Story of O” was written in the 1920s, also by a woman, and is the true classic in the genre.

Like Orhan Pamuk’s, my whole world changed from a book. In a small Moroccan library. Back in the mid-1960s.  Thankfully, it’s never been the same.