Thursday, July 29, 2004
Books, books, books
$1000 in books. How could I resist? Like elementalmuse I cannot understand anyone who spends $250K on clothes in a year, but I could happily spend (and read) that much on books. One of my favorite quotes is one I heard many years ago: I budget my money very carefully. First I buy books and with whatever is left over I buy food. Is it any wonder I am on every second-hand and first-hand bookseller's e-mail lists? Like Powell's Books?
Powell's is running an essay contest about your most memorable moment with a book (or books) in the last ten years to celebrate their tenth anniversary. I couldn't resist . . . obviously.
I am surrounded by books. I sleep with books. I work with books. I live with books. No matter how often I have moved in the past ten years (and I have moved a lot) books and I gravitate toward each other like comets toward the sun. I'm not sure whether I am the comet or the sun, but the attraction is irresistible.
Every time I vow to pare down my reading collection, and give away, box up, or sell books, I am struck by moments of joy, fury, excitement, horror, anxiety, the full gamut of emotions, all of which have come from private moments with books. I carry them in my bag, sometimes two at a time, to keep me company at restaurants in strange towns, hotel rooms on the road, or just for moments when I am drawn to an idyllic spot under a tree by a stream or some sun-struck spot at a weathered and aged rest stop picnic table.
Husbands and lovers have disappointed me, but never books. Even bad books have their moments of surprise, a sudden burst of brilliance in an otherwise dull trip. Each moment with a book is memorable, but the most memorable moments are those in the company of a new book or revisiting an old friend and discovering something previously missed. Such is the case with Lawrence Grobel and Helen Fielding.
"Endangered Species" by Lawrence Grobel was a peek into the thoughts and whys of writers like Saul Bellow, J. P. Donleavy, Norman Mailer, and so many other writers among whom I had yet to spend more than fleeting education-forced moments. I chose the book to read about Alex Haley and Ray Bradbury and was irresistibly attracted to the unread pages where I found new universes to explore, and a whole new crop of books to buy even though I promised myself I would keep things simple and patronize the library more often. High on Grobel's intriguing and wonderful interviews, I decided to eat less and buy more books--not a difficult choice.
More recently--this morning in fact--while re-reading "Bridget Jones: The Edge of Reason" by Helen Fielding I broke into gales of laughter. Fielding had taken yet another book out of my reach, re-writing Jane Austen's "Persuasion". She beat me to the punch again. If I am not careful, she will steal "Mansfield Park" for Bridget Jones's adventures and I will be forced to find something new to write about and another book I must have.
Grobel and Fielding, and so many other writers, have shown me the errors of my ways. Books and authors I was forced to read in school take on new glimmer, a shimmering comet's tail that draws me onward into undiscovered country, providing me with more memorable moments and more companions for idyllic spots along the road or just because I cannot resist the gravitational force of a book I have not read or one I must own to read again and again like a comet drawn through a solar system of words and images and writers I have known and have yet to discover.
Are you game? I can stand the competition.