[“The Wrote and the Writ” – Johnny Flynn]
It’s been a while since I posted. While life, uh, finds a way… Life also, uh, gets in the way (most of the time in the best possible way!). I’m not going to apologize for having one. Besides, this is my therapy and I’ll write if I want to (don’t take my words as too defiant, I missed being here)!
In the past two weeks I road tripped with some baller people, to another country I might add, to see a whole bunch of water obey the laws of gravity. Not only did I see Niagara Falls, I woke up to them outside my hotel window, enjoyed the brewery named for them, ziplined into them, and then took a boat tour of them for good measure. Niagara Falls was the bomb, I highly recommend the experience. Make sure to do it and do it big. Though I have to say I was blown away by the weird, noisy and neon, boardwalk-level-kitsch vibe in the surrounding neighborhood.
Upon returning, I was excited at the prospect of a weekend in Cape May with some of my best friends, only to be unnecessarily struck down by the demon food poisoning. Not to be graphic, but my insides wanted to be friends with the outside world for the better part of 24 hours and it’s really only now, six days later, that I can finally say my body is comfortable with more than the B.R.A.T. diet again. Those few days were no bueno and I do not recommend the experience on any level.
A Love Story, Of Sorts…
ANYWAY, some further “therapy” necessary after the aforementioned respite, I write to you today to expound upon the beauties found in literature, both intentional and unintentional. This is a topic on which I can wax rhapsodic (and likely will for more than just one post) but I will strive as much as possible to adhere to one line of thinking today. It’s just that recently, some thought processes have arisen which have inspired me to pay homage to the the happy place I’ve safely kept close at hand for most of my life.
I lived in books more than I lived anywhere else.
Nothing has ever been a truer statement for me. As I have noted before, I moved 11 times before I turned 18. And those were just the overall entire household moves. Over the years I had significantly more places I called “home,” whether it was for a week or several years. Virginia, California, Virginia, Bermuda, Florida, Texas, Maryland, South Carolina, Italy, Maryland, Maryland: Each housing a unique town (or, as you see, several) in which I lived. However, as much as home may be where the heart is… It’s also the roof you claim. So when you factor in even the temporary locations my family called home, because it was the only roof we could claim (whether it was a hotel or furnished apartment with the military’s version of Fred Flintstone Furniture – rock hard and ancient) the running total of “homes” I have had increases exponentially.
From an early age (though not THAT early because books and I did not initially get a long, surprisingly), books were my constant, my home. Books, words really, are the roof over my heart. I feel I know fictional worlds better than I know my current neighborhood. Hell, I don’t feel it, I KNOW it. Even now, I could navigate the halls of Hogwarts right alongside Fred and George; I lived within the walls of the Château d’If right alongside Edmond Dantes; and I walked the path to Mordor right along with the Fellowship. One of my proudest (and definitely nerdiest) moments was writing an exam paper in college and quoting Pride and Prejudice from memory. Am I painting a clear word picture for you?
Well how about this:
You know those things… Books? I am into them.
I reveled (well, still do) in the luxury of participating in another story for a while because quite often, I found my own hard. Not in a way that has really left me (too) emotionally scarred, just enough to make me kinda interesting sometimes (sarcasm-ish). When lacking in human companionship, books were my friends. They taught me how to interpret the world, and the beautiful thing about that lifelong education is that the world of books is even more vast than our own. Between books, states, and countries, I think it’s safe to say I am not suffering from a limited world view.
Ok, so, we have established that I am what you would call “a fan” of the written word (if we haven’t established that, I am really not sure how much clearer I can be). As such, I am an avid reader who feels it necessary to claim some small ownership over these microcosmic beauties. I thoroughly believe that libraries are a societal necessity but I prefer to own my books. I am not a purist. My books have broken spines, dog-eared pages, highlighted sections, writing in the margins… To me, this makes them more perfect; every tear and mar makes them more inherently mine. Given this propensity to purchase books, it stands to reason that my “dream house” would ostensibly be a used book store.
However, all of this love and devotion does have a dark side. As it turns out, I enjoy owning books even more than I enjoy reading them. I didn’t know I could love anything more than reading books. This is a recent discovery and has left me assessing my current monetary output to storage/ability-to-transport-when-moving ratio. Let’s just say the figures are out of whack. Book hoarding is not conducive to the nomadic lifestyle I have been forced to adopt since college. Yes, I’d like to settle into my own space but circumstances have yet to allow for it, for a variety of reasons.
Though I moved in with my lovely parents in July, I only just this weekend unpacked my six boxes of books which comprised the heaviest and most burdensome (though always worthwhile) aspect of my move. I am not one to sort by author, I sort by my own interpretation of the text. I have a “poetry and plays” shelf, a “to revisit” shelf, a “too big to fit anywhere else” shelf, a “non-fiction” shelf, a “favorites” shelf (about half of which is just works by Neil Gaiman and Christopher Moore), and, I am ashamed to say, THREE “to read” shelves.
I am even more ashamed to say that, when unpacking, I did an audit of these yet-to-be-read books and created a subsection of 16 works that I started but never finished. I have nothing against these works, I just got distracted. The intention has always been to finish them, I just now know I need to make a concerted effort to DO it.
So, the long and short is: no more new books for me until the tally of “to read” works decreases significantly (yeah, right, but I will do my earnest best to stick to this plan).
Yeah, Yeah, It’s the 21st Century, I Know…
I know there are alternatives to pantingly and painfully moving these books, but they aren’t attractive alternatives. I am only judging a book by its cover if that cover is a screen.
Yes, digital books are convenient, but they also lack in personality. They are transient pleasures and I am looking for something a little more substantial to enjoy. Participating in individual worlds aside, the tactile experience of reading a real book is unbeatable. The texture of the cover, the quality of the paper, the scent of the ink, the inherent memory of trees, the soft *crack* sound as you open it for the first time and it bears its secrets to you… It’s not just the story that matters, it’s the entire experience.
Because of the affection I hold for this experience, I’m a used book fanatic who collects vintage books with personal inscriptions. Not only do those dusty, gold-embossed covers open into another fictional world, they open into another reality in the most literal sense.
The prize of my collection, A Tale of Two Cities with the inscription “my darling, I love you” sends chills down my spine as I softly hold the same anatomical part of the book. Someone picked out an entire book to send a message. I dream of such a well-intentioned gift. Neil Gamain (I quote him a lot) has also said that “a book is a dream that you hold in your hands“, and the man who gifted this book wanted the love of his life to know the depth of his love, wanted his love to know and share his dreams. An artist is only as good as his tools so, of course, a spectacular book must be used to convey such a monumental, all encompassing feeling. Love deserves nothing less.
Each used book has such a history written in it, even if there’s no visible strokes of a pen. Whether the book was only used as a beach read or it brought comfort and solace to one human’s entire life, it doesn’t matter, there’s more than just the surface story to a work.
Think On It…
After this verbose ode to literature, I hope you will always gift books and when you do, make sure to inscribe them. In 100 years or so, when paper books are already an anomaly, one weirdo like me will cling to them tighter because of it.
Though never forget to show and say aloud the feelings behind the written words. Never leave a person with a shadow of a doubt as to the depth and breadth of your feelings.
Share your dreams with the world.
Photo: E. Campbell (2017)