A visit to the bookstore, 1979

Reading Time: 2 minutes
“Sunset in Southbury, Connecticut, January 4, 2022.” By Howard Fielding. Offered under Creative Commons license CC BY-NC-ND 4.0.

Continuing my journey through the journal of a young writer — me — of 44 years ago, I found this excerpt from an unsuccessful trip to Philadelphia to say goodbye to some close friends from my law school years. I never did find them, but I did find the next best thing: A bookstore!

But the trip into the city was not a total failure, for I visited Dalton’s and found this volume, the Chicago Manual of Style, and A Practical Style Guide for Authors and Editors, all to set me on pace for the new year.

Howard W. Fielding, “Journal,” 4 January 1979

The volume in question is my second blank book with a green faux leather binding. As a recent Dartmouth alumnus, green was my trademark color. More interesting, though, was my choice of reading material. Today would-be writers would be scouting the competition or studying their heroes. I was buying stylebooks.

Worse yet, as I revealed in future entries, I was reading them cover to cover.

Stylebooks are hardly page-turners, but I developed quite a collection in those early years, and over my career. I was trying to prepare myself for a career in publishing, either books or magazines, should the whole writing thing not work out. From the following paragraphs:

Felt knd of funny about traveling today. Also had a feeling my term as a writer will be pretty short — probably only as long as it takes me to admit I have no talent and weak ideas.

Had some ideas about a reviews magazine, where I and two film critics — Tom and Larry — could put out a monthly on what’s happening on the town. That, perhaps, for another time.

ibid.

Tsk. Mr. Style put himself first in listing three names. It should have been “Tom, Larry, and I…” although that would have required recasting the sentence to show that they were the film critics and I was not. My cousin Tom is an entertaining writer who entered a lifelong career leading a youth organization. Larry you’ve already met — the budding novelist who became a lawyer but never lost his interest in entertainment writing.

And then there was me. A couple of years later, I did write for a short-lived New England Entertainment Digest, aka NEED. For me, “some other time” came a little sooner than for the others.

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