I have long and often wondered about Peter and books.

For example, I estimated once to someone in a conversation that my brother Peter had probably read 100K books and that he was a “speed reader”. Pure speculation. So I had occasion to tell Peter about my conversation (I went to the source) and he laughed and made his own estimate, somewhere in the thousands, but stared kind of dreamy-eyed, as if he wished he could have read a hundred thousand volumes.

A story he often told, (OK, so I prompted a few times, it was so incredible to me), was how he “proved” to Mom and Dad that he could read and understand most of what he was reading in a newspaper at the age of 4. The story always proceeded to include how proud he was at that age, having his own library card, and swore that he walked the couple blocks to the library and brought home books, BY HIMSELF, at the age of 4. (Oh, sure, anybody could do it at 5, and be motivated to, and keep up the routine for another 60 years, but at 4, Peter?)

Another common thought of mine was: how large was Peter’s own library, at the end and/or through the years?

What were his favorite books? Which ones did he re-read?

I can tell you that Peter once told me that he read the book, (I hope I don’t mangle the spelling), “Goedel, Escher, Bach” (GEB), all the way through, in one sitting, and then read it all the way through, again! Now, I would say, that GEB was one of his favorite books, wouldn’t you?

He also always spoke very highly of Jeffrey Mishlove’s “Roots Of Consciousness”, (1975). I have Peter’s copy here in hands. It is inscribed:

“To Peter Hartman,

Who taught me so much!


Jeffrey Mishlove”

I think one of his verymost, (I’m pretty sure that’s all one word), favoritest (hargh! Peter had so many!) authors was Robert Anton Wilson (RAW), (Peter told me once that Marcy had met or knew RAW in Antioch, (early 1960’s?), do you remember his story, Jed?), as he is mine.

Of course, not that many books survived the fire, or so I think. Peter said once that he didn’t care so much for “things and money”, because he knew he couldn’t take those with him, but that knowledge, ah, knowledge could probably be carried discorporeally.

And he loved to share books. He had a tradition of a “book box”, at least since the early 60’s, which anyone was free to take any of them home and keep. A “freebie” book box. If you visited him at his home, Peter would invariably try to send some book(s) home with you. They were constantly in flow around Peter. Most of them not simply read by Peter, but, I would say, mostly devoured by Peter. In great stacks and by the tonage. In boxes, shelves or backpockets, no book was safe from Peter’s hunger…

Sometimes I wonder how fast Peter read. I picture him flipping through a novel in under an hour, wouldn’t you say, Jed?

Once, he had a stack of books he needed to finish and return the next day. I watched him take the entire stack, maybe 20+ books, into his room that night and he returned them the next day. I asked him if he’d finished them? He said, “some, I read all the way through, and some I heavily perused. The few others came in though my dreams.” He was serious. He believed he could glean essential data from books through osmosis, during sleep.

Did Peter truly have eidetic memory for anything he read? (Did he pass the test of “what’s the 3rd word down on page 23”, or whatever, days after he had even looked at the book? The family story says he did, but I was too young to have direct memory of it.)

I asked him once if he had, or had previously had, eidetic memory for anything he had read, and I think he denied it, although admitting his “retention was high”. I suspect he had a “fantastic” memory when he was a youth, but that 50 years of alcohol dimmed this into a mere “good” memory. I’d like to read feedback on this.

I know Peter bought books, sometimes, when he had virtually no money reserves. Books were very important in Peter’s life, yet, I suspect that he didn’t care much for the actual book itself, but craved the knowledge within, as an addict is driven, to find relief.

I hope you found relief, brother.

One Response to “Books”

  1. Jed

    Just now, I was about to finally post some long-delayed answers here to your questions, but it occurred to me that the answers would make good entries in their own right. So I’ll try and post answers as entries.

    Here’s the first installment: the fate of Peter’s books.


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