After hooray!, my first thought upon learning that the Rembrandt and Durer prints missing from the Boston Public Library had been found—in the Boston Public Library—was of a sin from my own past: I, you see, once lost a library book.
On the scale of loss established by poet Elizabeth Bishop in “One Art,” that missing copy of Oliver’s Story, Erich Segal’s 1977 sequel to the popular Love Story, ranks more in the range of the lost door key, while the Rembrandt and Durer prints are surely the equivalent of Bishop’s lost continent or, at the very least, the two rivers once held by the poet. Or, literally: Oliver’s Story cost my mother (thanks, Mom!) a fine of no more than $30, while according to the Boston Globe, the Durer is “valued at $600,000” and the Rembrandt “worth up to $30,000.” Mom, you got a bargain!
It’s very likely I enjoyed Oliver’s Story at the time that I read it—I have, after all, always craved sequels like I crave the next potato chip. I don’t, I’m afraid, actually remember what Oliver’s Story is about, aside from the titular Oliver. I certainly don’t remember the first line of Oliver’s Story the way I remember those of the earlier Love Story: “What can you say about a twenty-five year-old girl who died? That she was beautiful. And brilliant. That she loved Mozart and Bach. And the Beatles. And me.” No, it’s not Dickens, but I was a young and impressionable reader when I first encountered Love Story. The tale of the star-crossed Oliver and Jenny made my seventh-grade heart swoon—Oh, that one day I may have a love to tragically lose!—in a way that Sydney Carton and his sacrifice never has.
There were few trips to Kenton County Public Library (Erlanger Branch) after the fine was paid on Oliver’s Story. I couldn’t risk the chance of further disgrace or my mother’s ire, and at that point in my life I preferred my books untouched and odorless anyway. I never found the missing volume. Eventually, my mother and I deduced that it must have fallen off my crowded nightstand into the nearby trash can. Today, I imagine Oliver’s Story slumbering peacefully in a landfill somewhere with a score or more of my missing socks and that pearl earring I lost in high school.
Rest in peace, Oliver, rest in peace.