Encylopedia, lost and found

This post was written by guest blogger Wendy McClure.

Last night I got a chance to talk to Amy Krouse Rosenthal, whose memoir The Encyclopedia of an Ordinary Life comes out this week. The book, which reads sort of like a cross between a memoir and a Schott’s Miscellany, is being placed in random locations all over Chicago, New York, and San Franscisco this week — 150 copies left with a note that begins, “I left this book here intentionally for you to find . . .” Those who find the book are encouraged to write in to the book’s website with their reactions; book finders in the Chicago area are also encouraged to show up at Quimby’s Bookstore on Feburary 1st to share their stories. Sort of like doing a BookCrossing with author participation. I asked her if she worried about books getting damaged or accidentally thrown out (she isn’t), saw one of the laminated “official” ID cards she gives to the friends who are helping her leave the books around, and asked her a few more questions:

Q: So how’s the project going so far?

A: It just started yesterday (January 25th), so there’s not much news yet. But I’ve got people leaving the books all over, and I’ve been leaving some myself. This morning at the airport I tried leaving one of the books on the luggage carousel, but unfortunately the conveyer belt stopped. I did leave one on a luggage cart, and one by a pay phone.

Q: This is a really dumb question, but did you really leave that book in the snowman? [In the short film on her book site, Rosenthal is shown putting one of the books in a plastic bag and building a snowman around it in a public park.]

A: Oh, absolutely. Everything I did in that movie was for real.

Q: At what point in the book process did you get the idea to do this?

A: It emerged at the end, finally. But the idea came in part from the change project I did a couple of years ago, where I’d leave envelopes of loose change in random places, with a note inviting whoever found the money to use it and a self-addressed stamped postcard so they could write me and tell me how they spent it. [See page 55]. And then my editor had an idea to do something with torn-out pages — “sniping,” she called it — to stamp loose pages with an internet address and to leave them on car windshields, stuff like that — and once we started thinking about that we thought, wait, we should leave books around . . .

You can read more about the book here.


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