Let’s examine a common book, The Water Is Wide, by Pat Conroy, the 1990 reprint by the Old New York Book Shop Press.
The book was originally published in 1972 by Houghton Mifflin. It was Conroy’s second book. This hardcover with dust jacket examines Conroy’s teaching experiences on Yamacraw Island in South Carolina. The reprint in question is the epitome of a common book.
His stint at teaching poor black kids began right after graduation from The Citadel and just after Conroy had published his first book, The Boo. His teaching career lasted only one year before he was fired for his unconventional teaching methods. Unconventional? He refused to incorporate corporal punishment as a teaching method in a school where poor results were readily accepted by the school’s administration.
Luckily, the experience also resulted in this memoir that is illustrated with photos by William and Paul Keyserling. The original book was the source for the film Conrack.
So, sounds like a good and interesting book, no? Yup. It is, but how is this common book not a common book?
This copy is inscribed by Conroy to his daughter’s teacher:
“To Barbara Mathieu,/Who teaches my beloved daughter,/Susannah, and who has brought gifts/to the teaching profession I only dreamed of/having…you are simply one of the best teachers/I’ve ever known./With deep gratitude and admiration,/Pat Conroy/March 25, 1991.”
An inscription from one teacher to another. Now you’re talking!