Starter for Ten arrived at the store yesterday in a little box of backordered books. I had ordered it at the request of #2 daughter, who had heard about it on the radio or something, so I was of course intending to buy it and ship it right off to her.

However, it has a street date of 1/23, so I can’t buy it (or at least I can’t sell it to myself) till next week.

While of course I always respect street dates and would never think of selling or displaying a book early, I have never felt that I couldn’t read it before the lay-down date, so I am reading it. And yes, I have read the Harry Potter books early, too.

This is a great book. It came out in the UK in 2004 under a different title, so I am not by any means the first person to read it, but I am ahead of the pack. They are making a movie of it, and I have that on my Netflix list of future DVDs.

Now, when #2 daughter told me about this book, I thought “Hmm…. starter, that means hors d’oeuvres in British…” and had been sort of idly speculating on whether it was ten people eating canapes, or appetizers at 10:00. Instead, the “starter” refers to a game show question. It is true that I am not a game show fan, but I find it highly unlikely that the term “starter” is a customary US term regarding game shows. I mean, surely I would recognize it. So it is unclear to me why the perfectly comprehensible British title, A Question of Attraction, was changed to Starter for Ten for the US market.

I feel the same way about the first Harry Potter book, by the way. “The philosopher’s stone” is used in the US just as it is in England, and probably by the same fraction of the population, while “the sorcerer’s stone” means nothing.

Anyway, I was reading this book and enjoying it heartily when a customer came in to the hitherto deserted bookstore. Of course, I quickly tucked the book under the counter. He was a fussy little man, with a sad expression, a bit of a troubled frown, and a generally shabby and pathetic air. He asked me for “blue tick tack tape,” so I showed him both Blue-tak and Mavelous Tape, and he bought a bit of each. He did not smile or make eye contact, but continued to behave as though he had secret sorrows which he was hoping the adhesives might alleviate at least temporarily, but he didn’t hold out much hope.

Then I noticed that he was wearing a hand-knitted scarf. Not well knitted. It was that drop-stitch scarf we were all making a couple of years ago, in muddy variegated yarn. However, the effect on me was striking. I immediately assumed that he had someone taking care of him, someone even who loved him. My husband can look pretty grim sometimes, and yet we know that he is surrounded by people who look after him. I took the man off my “feel sorry for” list right away.

The irrationality of this struck me later. Much later, in fact, as I was dashing across a parking lot in the dark single digit cold with no wooly things on. I happened last night to have two things scheduled at the same time. Fortunately, they were just across the lot from each other, so I ducked out of the first half of one and then raced across in the middle for the second half of the other.

I am not a tragic figure. I am happy and loved. I own several nice wool scarves. And yet there I was, with nothing but a down parka to keep me warm. Was I justified in assuming that the unfortunate man in the store was not unfortunate at all, simply on the basis of his scarf?

Perhaps not.