Wednesday, August 26, 2009

On Books

Call me nose-in-book. I can’t be without. It is needed oxygen. I love its feel, its heft, the way it lays on my chest when I nap. The transport it offers; the portal on the next page or light bulb. I must remember that phrase. I got it. I got it. I don’t got it but I know it’s there somewhere on the lower left…or was it on the right?

Maybe I am over-compensating for those lost years when I was a bibliophobe.Words were daunting early on. We were given paragraphs to read in the fourth or fifth grade with questions testing our comprehension. The clock was ticking and I remember going blank.

Growing up, something was missing in my house. We had no bookcase, no books. Newspapers, yes; some Life magazines and political pamphlets were always scattered about. Books were texts read for assignment or reference, for information to memorize.

I entered the Oz of books well after my college days; when I was done with rote.Now I could dare approach a book in my own time and give myself over to the author; or maybe not. I could wrestle with the paragraphs, have a lover’s quarrel, then kiss and make up by the last chapter.

About 25 years ago Peggy and I started collecting signed first edition fiction. We loved discovering new authors and following their progress. We loved the dust jackets, the end-paper, the physicality, the hunt. I put this in the past tense because ultimately one runs out of wall.

Now we either buy readers copies or go to libraries. We have bathrooms books and bedside books and the one or two always at hand. At night we read aloud some long-neglected classic or translation or tome that we had separately put off but find approachable as a couple.

Over the years I’ve become discerning; some would say a snob. I have low tolerance for sci-fi, detective novels or even most best-sellers. How -To and spiritual books are not my cuppa. At a certain age one takes a dim view of obese books of any sort unless in the hands of a master. Blow in my ear and take me anywhere.

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