what makes a book small?

Friday, August 7, 2015

It's been some time since I wrote that fifth memoir, Ghosts in the Garden—a meditation on the two years I spent walking Chanticleer (in Wayne, PA). I was at a crossroads. Middle aged. Not sure. Pondering my purpose.

Published by New World Library, this slender book, about a well-loved but entirely local garden (every garden is an entirely local garden), went on to be reviewed in papers across the country (I could not have guessed that) and to be translated (this was an even bigger surprise) in South Korea. It sold out of its original modest printing of 5,000 copies and was never reprinted.

Done. Gone. Another Kephartian exercise, by most standards, in the small.

And yet. Every now and then the book returns to my life. This past week it did, in the form of this photograph—a South Korean garden lover who had read the translation in her country (she holds it in her left hand) and come here, to Wayne, PA, to find the garden with her husband.

A book brought a reader across the ocean to a garden.

What makes a book small? What makes a book big? I wish we never had to ask that question. I wish that we'd stop quantifying authors by sales or prizes and take solace in stories about individual readers who allowed a book to prompt a journey.

One book. One reader. One garden. One sunny day. One surprising photograph. Two smiles on two faces.

Thank you, BJ, for sending that smile my way.


Kelly Simmons said...

love this moment. and the coining of 'kephartian' --

bermudaonion said...

What a wonderful story!

Alice said...

I love this post, Beth. I'd love to hear more about what does and doesn't make a book small.

BJ said...

Beth, thank you so very much for sharing your blog. Just two of the many spectacular benefits of working at Chanticleer are the people I meet and the gardens I cherish! Chanticleer has indeed been my haven as well. Your book and the garden are constant joys to treasure....
With a Smile,
BJ Johnson

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