I was mucking about on Facebook, like you do, and Allegiance: A New Musical had posted this photo:
Which speaks to me in so many ways because it is EXACTLY how I feel walking into a library or a bookstore.
There’s magic there, magic of paper and print, ideas and realities woven into words and all of them there, just sitting there, waiting to be unlocked by the simple act of pulling a book off a shelf and opening it.
I literally have no memory of a time before I was able to read. Books were education and information and wonder and escape, consolation for being the never-chosen. I always told myself I’d rather read than play some pointless game anyway, the fact I hadn’t been invited — and that I assumed they’d say no if I asked, so I usually didn’t — making it smack a bit of sour grapes, but still true enough for all that. And it’s always been this way; I once went to a bookstore with a friend so she could check on a special order, and when she came back five minutes later (truly, she was only gone a few minutes), I had a stack of books a foot and a half thick in one arm and was seriously considering another two or three to add, and my friend looked at me with wonder and said, “Syd, you scare me sometimes. Impress me, but scare me.” As I recall, I just grinned and picked up another.
But I never took a count of my books. Tried to, more than once, but it generally devolved into, “Oh, THERE that is, I’ve been wanting to re-read that…” or something like it. Yes, I re-read books. I know people who say once they’ve read a book, what’s the point of reading it again — but would you say that about your friends? That having one visit with them meant you didn’t ever need, or want, another? That’s what re-reading is to me, visiting old friends, deepening the relationship, learning something I’d missed the first time (or three), savoring the anticipation almost as much as that of opening a new book for the first time.
It’s no lie to say I love to read. And when I lost my house, I had books on shelves, double-stacked; books on tables to a height of two or three feet, leaned against each other for stability; books in the living room and office and dining room and bedroom. I had, if I recall correctly, 39 linear feet of shelf space in my home office, and as I say, some of the shelves were stacked double, and the paperbacks even tripled up.
And when I started packing — left far too late, because ye gods, where the bloody hell to start? — I understood, at least in part, just how long my life had been falling apart. Because there was dust, sharp and bitter, on lots of my books, dust thick enough to shame me for neglecting these my friends (and to make me wonder, with similar shame, how I might have neglected my flesh-and-blood friends, but that’s another blog). And there was damage, because the bookshelves had open backs, being the largest but least expensive I could get from Ikea, and I had some very athletic cats who enjoyed mysteriously appearing on the very top shelf, just under the ceiling, after having clawed their way up the back of the bookshelves — clawed their way up through my books.
It was physically painful to see, and thinking about it still hurts, not just the loss but the neglect, the way it shows me what I was up against in my own nature without even realizing it.
And now, I have a few books, because I simply cannot be without. I just can’t. Yes, there’s Project Gutenberg, and Google Books, and I do have a couple of libraries within reach, but I can’t go to the library in the middle of the night when I can’t sleep, or stop off on the way to work. I admit the usefulness of e-readers and tablets and such, and I understand the need to conserve trees, I really truly do, but books are, and have always been, a multisensory experience for me. They will pry my paper books out of my cold dead fingers.
Because they are magic, and we all need magic in our lives.
Read any good books lately? 😉