All the Gold in China
June 17, 2009
by William P. Meyers

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In March I made my habitual journey to the used book sale at the Senior Center in Gualala. They sell paperbacks there for fifty cents and hardbacks for one dollar; occasionally they charge more for an obviously valuable vintage book. For months there had been nothing new at the sale and I had bought very little. Books come in waves, usually when someone dies or moves away. In April there was a new wave. Someone had been collecting books on China during the 1940’s and 1950’s, along with other works of politics and history. I was tempted to scoop up the entire lot, but that would have cost me fifty or sixty dollars. Instead I bought the three books I was most interested in. I knew from experience that while the readers who descend on that book sale are voracious, they tended to load up on mysteries, thrillers, and romances.

Of the three books I purchased, I read one right away, Tibet During the World War, by Alexander Blakesly. The two others were just sitting on my unread book shelf when I went to the April book sale. As I thought, all or most of the new collection was still there. However, I had brought more money with me, anticipating my needs. I bought seven books from the collection, and I bought some light fiction, bringing my total to ten dollars. I was very pleased with myself. The books were by obscure authors and publishers, yet spoke to the book I was writing and still intend to write, The United States Wars in Asia.

Getting to the point, the dust covers of the books were in varying degrees of disintegration. That there were dust covers for most of the books in the collection indicated it was well cared for, but it was a reading collection, not one that had been carefully preserved in perfect condition. The second book I started reading, Challenge of Red China by Gunther Stein, had a particularly tattered dust cover. The front inside flap was gone, and the back inside flap tore off shortly after I started reading it.

Something possessed me to find a way to preserve the dust jacket. I had mended books before, in my amateur way, with varying results. After some thought I decided to simply glue the remains of the jacket to appropriate paper and thus make a more substantial jacket. It seemed like a simple enough project, with the greatest difficulty being choosing the paper, as nothing was really the ideal size and weight. I ended up pasting together two sheets of eleven by fourteen inch paper from a drawing tablet. I then grabbed a glue stick and covered the unprinted side of the jacket. When I put the jacket on the new paper, however, I discovered that the glue stick was not holding. I checked the stick – it said “removable glue stick.” I could not find a regular glue stick, so I decided to use a paint brush to apply ordinary white paper glue.

As if I were in a Sherlock Holmes mystery or a spy thriller, the application of the glue caused hand writing to appear on parts of the unprinted side of the back inside flap. The only word I could make out clearly and immediately was “gold.”

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