Wednesday, October 24, 2012

On Books

Julia's been on a room-cleaning spree (hey! I'm not complaining!), and somehow she ended up with a bookshelf she didn't need. An empty bookshelf? In this house? Well, that didn't last long.
I had a huge box of books in the garage I'd never unpacked because there was nowhere to put them. At last! I found my lovely copy of Truman Capote's A Christmas Memory and The Thanksgiving Guest. It slips into a cool little box with the photo on front. I love his stories of Buddy and Sook.
We tend to keep things in our books, odd things. Photos, notes, Valentines, locks of hair, money. Well, not money any more. Adam once lost $60 by putting it in a book, so I put a stop to that! In Mr. Capote, I found this, a note from a friend in college, thanking us singers for our hard work, and inviting us to dinner and caroling at his home. Ah -- the days of hand-written notes on paper.
I also uncovered many books of poetry. I adore my poetry books. Here's Faulkner's book of poetry. Faulkner, a poet? Who knew? Nice dust jacket.
And inside the book,
But when you remove the dust jacket and examine the spine, you find that its text is upside down -- reversed from the text in the book. An interesting feature, indicative perhaps of the man himself? No, a printing error, I'm sure.
(Faulkner is a terrible poet, by the way.)
I found my copy of Elisabeth Elliot's biography of Amy Carmichael, such a rich book. She signed it for me. Mrs. Elliot was a huge help and mentor to me (through her books) when I was wrestling to figure out some of the darkest days of my life.
The "new" bookcase is almost full. It now holds my poetry, American literature, and some odds and ends on the bottom shelf. So far.
This bookshelf holds only children's books.
This bookcase in my bedroom holds my very favorites, a wide collection that includes Tolkein, Lewis, Trollope, MFK Fisher, devotional books, MacDonald, authors like Jewett, Gaskell, and Flora Thompson, and many others.
This living room bookshelf contains my British literature, ancient literature, medieval literature,  and most of my anthologies.
Other books are scattered around the house. These shelves also don't hold my music, my cookbooks, things I'm currently reading, any of my kids' books, or Adam's books. He has more than I do.
I post all this because a friend recently vaguely alluded that, because I support the use of ebooks, I might not really have a strong sentimental attachment to print books. This may have been said in jest or sarcasm. Still, I know better; I love my books deeply. And I don't love them because of professional attachment, although I loved teaching literature for many years. But my textbooks aren't on these shelves. And I don't even love the books for their authors; Capote was a nut, I think, Lewis had some oddities in his theology, and I won't even go into how troubled some of our modern authors are. No, I love the books for themselves, for what they contain. I long to live in Cranford or Candleford. MacDonald's stories taught me all I needed to know about magic. Perhaps I've come the closest to loving an author in Mr. Trollope, whose subtleties of voice are so winning.

I used to have more books, but I've given many away, keeping only the ones I don't want to be parted from.

Many things are lost. I bragged to this friend that I had a four-volume set of Kipling, rather old, with swastikas on the spines (before the swastika was a Nazi symbol, of course). Later, I wondered where the books were. In the garage? In a box? At my parents' house? So many of our things are scattered from too many moves, too much loss, illness, unemployment. Where was Mr. Kipling? My brain whispered to me where I'd last seen them:  in a box, sitting in the driveway, sold for $5 at a yard sale when we were rather desperately leaving Statesville, and I'd decided possessions didn't matter when one had no home to put them in. What right had I to keep Mr. Kipling, or Mr. Trollope, or all the fine ladies of literature, when I had no home to protect them in? I was sick of dragging them around the country for 30 years.

So I sold Mr. Kipling and his cool swastikas.

My jesting friend and I were debating the value of ebooks or print books, regarding their safety. Amazon may delete your entire library, but God may take all your print books away with a 15-minute house fire. Now, however, I realize the greatest danger to my books:  me. Books are beautiful depositories of wonder, knowledge, magic, history. They are everything. How tightly we hold them. How we love them. Mr. Kipling, I hope you've found a good home.


  1. I was hoping right to the end that you would find the $60! We are attached to things, we are. But Mr Kipling will be fine!

  2. I totally understand this post. And there's nothing like cracking open a well-loved book and sticking your nose in the center of it....deep breaths. Instant serenity. :)

  3. I love this narrative of your book life, MK.
    Books are so powerful and they quietly and secretly hold meaning for their owners, even when their owners grow very old and forget that their books are old and maybe obsolete. I like hearing people talk about a personal favorite. My favorite copy of The Wind in the Willows is my sister's lovely green cloth edition. It was HER gift and she parted with it out of love for me and my whims and leanings. She said, "See? It smells like mold!" My response, "Delicious!"
    I adore finding leaves in books. I feel so taken care of by MYSELF! Ha ha! Little surprises that indicate some forethought that I don't always have.


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