I was sitting at my desk at my first agency job, typing submission letters on my IBM Selectric for cook books, diet books, military thrillers, romance novels “written” (not really) by celebrity wives of New York real estate tycoons, wondering if it was too late to apply to med school (yes, I was just out of college, and full of myself), when my friend Helen, who sat at the desk ahead of me, turned around and handed me a book.
It was one of those small paperbacks (mass market, as they call it in the publishing trade), as opposed to the larger format paperbacks reserved for reprints of more upscale works of fiction. The cover featured raised gold foil lettering and a lurid magenta infinity sign hovering over what looked like a carved ivory (yes, I too shudder) chess piece, a knight. I rifled the yellowish, minutely printed pages. There were too many of them, almost six hundred. I had a stack of manuscripts to read for my boss. What was Helen trying to do to me?
“Read it,” she said, her enormous blue eyes checking my reflexive snobbery. “It’ll change your life.”