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What’s on page 123?

February 22, 2008 | Blogland games,Books

Magpie Musing wants to know what’s on page 123 of the first book within my reach. I’m surrounded by books. I have books on the shelves in front of me. Books in stacks on the floor beside me. Books stacked on top of the shelves. While I’m not actually reading it, the nearest book, however, is one I bought in Norway for the kids, Jostein Gaarder‘s Julemysteriet (The Christmas Mystery).


I have read two of his books Sophie’s World (Sofies verden), which was made into a movie, and The Solitaire Mystery (Kabalmysteriet). Here’s a little diversion from the main topic at hand. It’s a trailer to the movie Sofies verden, which apparently isn’t available in English yet. I guess it’s not so easy to get the Norwegian version either. I haven’t seen it yet, but I’d like to.

I saw Gaarder at some literature festival or other several years ago. I thought it was Bjørnsonfestivalen, but I still have a tote bag from then, and it has Bokbadet På Tur on it. So who knows.

Anyway. Here’s what’s on page 123 of the book that’s closest to me, Julemysteriet by Jostein Gaarder.

— Joda, svarte pappa. — Men det har jo egentlig ingen betydning hva hun het.
Den siste som sa noe før de måtte skynde seg å spise frokost, var Joakim.
— Jeg synes det har ganske stor betydning, sa han. — For ogsÃ¥ damen pÃ¥ bildet het Elisabet.

Pappa doesn’t think it matters what her name is. Joakim, on the other hand, does. He things it matters a lot because the woman in the picture is named Elisabet. 

If you want to know what’s on page 123 of books I’m actually reading, here are a couple of passages.


In the fall of 2004, when the kidnapping started, it became very necessary not to be publicly identified on the streets as a foreigner. I wear a scarf, I wear Iraqi-style clothing. I don’t go with the whole abaya [the traditional full-body garment for Islamic women] because I don’t walk like I’m an Iraqi that’s in an abaya.Liz Sly, Chicago Tribune

That’s from Reporting Iraq: An Oral History of the War by the Journalists who Covered it, edited by Mike Hoyt, John Palattella and the staff of the Columbia Journalism Review.


I kept a blue Magic Marker with me at all times. My favorite tags were “Lady Cupcake, Slob Killer”; “Lady Cupcake, 60’s Killer” (to denote “60’s Killer,” I’d write “60’s” and then mark a giant X over the 60’s); or “Lady Cupcake — Gangsta Ca-rip Cuzzz.” Gangstas also taught me how to make money by “working a store.”

That’s from A Piece of Cake, a memoir by Cupcake Brown, who practices law in San Francisco. I’m almost halfway through her book. I just read about her third pregnancy/second abortion. Her first pregnancy ended in miscarriage brought on by a severe beating by girls in her foster home … when she was 13. That was after turning tricks, a stint in the hospital for alcohol poisoning and running away repeatedly from the abusive foster home, where her biological father put her after her mother died when she was 11.

Even though I will eventually read about her graduating magna cum laude from college without a high-school diploma or certificate of General Educational Development and her other successes, I can’t help feeling she lives with her past as a big part of her present. And that makes sense, I guess. Most of us carry around a part of our 5-year-old, 10-year-old or 15-year-old selves, don’t we? When I was reading The Glass Castle, though, I felt the author was looking back on a much older story from a different time and place. Brown tells her story with such gusto and bravado that it seems she’s not as far away from her past. Two very different perspectives, yet the authors are about the same age. Maybe the difference is that Brown’s past is a big part of her current life because she uses “all of the years of negative experiences, coupled with the positives, to share with others how — even though it seems impossible — the hopes and dreams of anyone really can come true” to speak to others around the country.

I’d love to hear what Brown is reading, but I understand she’s incredibly busy. Oh, what the heck. I’ll tag some of my favorite authors. Let’s just see if they (or their publishers) ever check their incoming links.

If anyone else wants to play, show me what’s on your page 123.

These are the rules.

  1. Pick up the nearest book (of at least 123 pages).
  2. Open the book to page 123.
  3. Find the fifth sentence.
  4. Post the next three sentences.
  5. Tag five people.
Posted by Becky @ 2:47 pm  

3 Responses to “What’s on page 123?”

  1. maggie Says:

    You make me laugh. Never in a million years did I think you were going to post in Norwegian!

  2. Mama Zen Says:

    I’ve been wanting to read A Piece of Cake. I’ve heard it’s fabulous.

  3. MargaretinNJ Says:

    I’m at work (goofing off, yes) and the book on my desk is The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders. Here’s page 123:

    “The manifestations of the disorder [Separation Anxiety] may vary with age. Younger children may not express specific fears of definite threats to parents, home, or themselves. As children get older, worries or fears are often of specific dangers (e.g., kidnapping, mugging).

    Cheerful, huh?

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