In one of Lawrence Block's novels about Keller, the hit man, Keller was doing his usual thing, killing folks for money, but this time he revealed his off-work passion, stamp collecting. He talked quite a bit about how one becomes a collector, and then he remarked on a stamp I knew vividly from my youth: “And of course there was the Spanish set honoring Goya. One of the stamps showed his nude portrait of the Duchess of Alba. The painting had caused a stir when first displayed, and, years later, the stamp had proven every bit as stirring to a generation of young male philatelists. Keller remembered owning the stamp decades ago, and scrutinizing it through a pocket magnifier, wishing fervently that the stamp were larger and the glass stronger.”
When I was a mere lad of fourteen, and I was a budding philatelist, I purchased the stamp Keller remembered, "The Naked Maja," a painting by Goya, from one of my stamp dealers. It was a large stamp, maybe an inch and a half long and three quarters high. It was a clean stamp, never used for mailing, and the colors were vibrant. There she was, reclining on her left side on a love seat, left arm raised and resting on her head, legs demurely crossed at the ankles. And she was buck naked. Oh, how the young adrenaline pumped. She was large breasted, voluptuous, a mother earth figure to make a boy’s heart yearn. In Yiddish she would be described as zaftig (juicy, succulent, or in slang, a full-figured, shapely woman). And my mother found her in my collection and threw her away. She never said anything to me, and I was too ashamed to mention its absence, but I knew in my heart she’d tried to keep my virginal eyes clean and pure. Boy, do I wish I still had that stamp. It would probably be worth some money today. But it, along with my basketball medals, is in some never never land of throwaways.