Eureka Found!: Slate Readers’ Inspirational Quests for Obscure Books, Movies, and Dr. Seuss T-Shirts

Slate's Culture Blog
Feb. 17 2011 1:50 PM

Eureka Found!: Slate Readers’ Inspirational Quests for Obscure Books, Movies, and Dr. Seuss T-Shirts

In a recent piece for Slate , I argued that the Internet—for all it's done to make shopping for any imaginable product a breeze—has destroyed the thrill of the treasure hunt. At the end of my essay, I pointed out that "eureka moments," though hard to come by, do still exist. (Just ask the guy who tracked down one of the original sharks from Jaws .) Several commenters, too, submitted stories that confirm it's still possible to find old-fashioned, non-Internet-based consumer excitement.

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Harley Blue Acres wrote beautifully about his hunts for artwork by Rumiko Takahashi . "My favorite sets of color pages," he confided, "will always be the ones that I acquired trolling dusty used bookstores in Osaka and scanning through shelf after shelf of tattered bindings." Hari Seldon, meanwhile, related his travails in locating a bad, obscure Jim Belushi movie in Mexico, and the joy of spotting said DVD in a supermarket near the local cinema.

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Abyannie's big hunt involved a book about unicorns she received as a child, then lost. She didn't know the title or the author's name, so Google wasn't much help in finding it. "I could only remember what the cover looked like," she wrote. "Then, two weeks ago, while thrifting in a Salvation Army about 25 miles from home, there it was. I snapped it up like there was going to be some competition over who got it, even though I was the only person standing there. ... It was so much more fun than finding it on Amazon. Really satisfying. Like I earned the nostalgia it brought with it."

Leslie Dyer searched for her eureka find, a copy of Sky Island by Wizard of Oz author Frank Baum, at bookstores in seven different states. Five years after filling out request cards at shops in St. Paul, she made a rare trip back to that city for a family reunion. While there, the phone rang at her grandmother's home. "The caller turned out to be a woman from [an] antiquarian bookseller who wondered if I was interested in purchasing a copy of Sky Island ," Dyer noted. "It took me a few moments to realize that in 1992 I had listed my grandparents' phone number on my 'special request card.' I hadn't even been in Minnesota for five years and all these years later they called me while I just happened to be there!"

Some commenters haven't been as lucky in their quests, and they could use your help. Kiersten Smith is still searching for a copy of the On Top of Spaghetti album she broke as a kid, and Jonathan Gardner lost his original Lindbergh baby wanted poster (the irony!). Then there's reader "spanish bombs," and his/her quest for a black "Stop Sneetchin'" T-shirt featuring a misappropriated Dr. Seuss Star-Bellied Sneetch . "I don't care that the cultural moment is over," bombs wrote, "I would pay a lot to rock that [shirt]."

Anyone have any leads for Kiersten, Jonathan, or spanish bombs?

Matthew J.X. Malady is Slate’s Good Word columnist. Follow him on Twitter @matthewjxmalady.

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