Submitted October 2017
A few days ago I had the opportunity to meet Forrest at the Collected Works Book Store in Santa Fe. He popped into the store occasionally, unannounced, this week so he could pre-sign all the new books before they were shipped out to the readers. I sat at the table quietly watching as Forrest signed book after book after book. It was a truly organized event between him and the guy who worked there. A carton of 20 books would be carried to the chair beside Forrest where the guy would open the box, set a stack of books on the table to Forrest’s rightside where he could easily slide them one at a time in front of him. Then the signed books would be placed neatly inside the same carton and moved to the back of the store to get ready to be shipped out. Before I knew it, Forrest looked at me and said he was done. I was impressed… he had signed 80 books in what seemed like just a few minutes.
He asked me if I’d like to chat over cups of hot chocolate… yes, I said. From there we drove to Downtown Subscription where they serve the best mugs of hot chocolate in Santa Fe. It was crowded but we found a small empty table in the midst of the mob. During the course of our conversation Forrest suggested I write a review of his new book and send it to Dal to post. I was flattered he asked me and I agreed to do it.
Remember this story, originally titled “Eunice, LA” and posted on Dal’s blog as Scrapbook One Hundred Sixty Nine in March 2017? Many of us know it as the Bingo story. Like many other stories in this new book, slight changes have been made between the original scrapbooks posted on the blog and the revised stories in Once Upon A While. This one really caught my eye…
If you notice, the text / title on this page says RAINY NIGHT BLESSINGS but the chapter title at the top of each page of this chapter says RAINY DAY BLESSINGS. Is this difference in words (between NIGHT and DAY) an accidental mistake or an intentional hint to us searchers? Is this why Forrest told me to mention this picture? I don’t know…
I am not the naturally gifted writer that Forrest is, or Douglas Preston, or Jenny Kile, or Dal. My review of this book is the way I talk… fragmented thoughts along the line of Fenn treasure searchers, not like the prose of the literary masters. There are 184 scrapbooks, 27 Vignettes, and 3 Passages written by Forrest and posted on Dal’s blog. 39 of these were included in this new book Once Upon A While. Even if you’ve read and memorized most of these, I highly recommend you buy or borrow a copy of this book and revisit each of these 39 stories. Forrest added “MY TWO SENSE” at the end of each chapter (with a post mark stamp), often punctuating the story with his wit, humor, and anecdotes, as well as a few updates.
One of those updates is on page 171 in The Bullet Comes Home. I don’t want to spoil the ending so won’t reveal the additional text included in this chapter. But it made me sad… I had the privilege of sitting in The Bullet a couple years ago while Forrest sat in the driver’s seat and explained the details of the mechanics of the car, or lack of mechanics, I should say. Now it’s just a bittersweet moment in my memory. As Forrest so wisely puts it “Once you leave home you can never move back.”
If I still haven’t piqued your interest in this new book, I gotta mention the drawings… all by Forrest and mostly stick figures. He thinks he’s not a good artist.. I think he’s exceptional and each drawing adds to the stories. Notice his turquoise belt buckle on each of the stick figures that are him throughout the book. I thought that alone was clever..
And lastly, in my opinion, this book is visually stunning. I love color… color pictures, color stick drawings, and color backgrounds with the bleeds to the edges. Just leafing through the pages should make a person want to look at each page and eventually read the text. And whoever came up with the idea of putting the page numbers in large font in the center of the margins? For any of you who have ever written a book, or magazine, or maybe a yearbook years ago, you have to appreciate the creative style Susan, Lou, and Forrest captured here. This is one of his best!