Nine Letters: Writer Who Cuts Light Like a Thanksgiving Turkey?

As I suspect is true for many book people, I've always loved the New York Times crossword. I'm not as good as, say, the solvers in the documentary Wordplay, but I do the puzzle every day - even if Friday's and Saturday's sometimes remain half-finished (for non-crossword types, the NYT puzzle grows progressively harder as the week goes on). The puzzle is part of my daily routine, as is checking in (when I'm finished or simply stumped) with the aptly-titled blog Rex Parker Does the NYT Crossword Puzzle. The site is the work of Michael Sharp (Rex Parker is a pseudonym) and every day he posts the completed crossword along with his (often extensive) commentary.

There are many reasons why I enjoy the site (not the least of which is that we're both roughly the same age and have taught - I formerly, he currently - college literature). Sharp writes with humor ("I am the 44th Greatest Crossword Puzzle Solver In The Universe!") and insight. He approaches crosswords from an aesthetic point-of-view which belies his literary background and has deepened my own appreciation for the form. But for Fine Books and Collections readers, perhaps the best reason to like Sharp is that he's not simply a reader and word aficionado, he's a collector. Sharp's other blog, Pop Sensations, is dedicated to his collection of vintage pulp paperbacks and offers commentary lively enough to match the lurid cover images he posts.

All of which is a rather lengthy prelude to this charming anecdote Sharp included at the end of today's Rex Parker post, a story which serves as a welcome reminder that sometimes condition isn't the only thing:

Last night, I was reading "Fat" by Raymond Carver in a used paperback edition of "Will You Please Be Quiet, Please?" that I got at a book sale a while back. Carver was my idol as a (very) young man, and I hadn't read him in ages, so I was excited to revisit his stories, especially "Fat," which stuck in my mind like few others. As I read, the pages came loose and fell neatly out of the book, but I didn't think anything of it - after all, it was a used book that I got for virtually nothing. When I finished the story, I flipped the small stack of loose pages over and noticed, for the very first time, the following inscription: "For Pat Wilcox, with my thanks for being here tonight, Ray. Carver 11/10/81" I discover that I own a signed Carver only because the book literally falls apart in my hands. It was tragic and magical all at the same time. Next to his signature, Carver has underlined the date, and just below that, he's written my favorite part of the whole inscription: "Binghamton!" What's weird - Carver would have been here (Binghamton, where I live) visiting, among others, the novelist John Gardner, who taught here for many years. Gardner would die in a motorcycle accident less than a year after Carver's visit.

Since it's already fallen out of the book, I think I'm going to frame that inscribed title page and put it right underneath the framed Ali signature from 1971 that's addressed to me and my mom. 

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