Once upon a time there were books. Hard angled, sharp cornered rectangles with slivers in between. Slippery inked characters ran the page black and white. No color was necessary for pictures made of letters.
The books were complicated. Happy, but conflicted. Arrogant with the self aggrandizement that can only come from small sizes, the books had something to say.
“The History of Mankind”. Medical journals devoted to all aspects of the chest. The hunger of a whale.
“Don’t forget,” they all seemed to say. “I’m still here.”
Books went into shelves and then several cases. Crammed together with no structure, The Most Beautiful Woman in Town sat next to Lonesome Dove, stale Atlantic covers and Allure magazine. Too many words clanged against one another.
“This is too dusty a life these days,” McCall could be heard complaining.
“Have you tried page whitener?” Beauty magazines were shoved to the back.
The direction was unclear. There were words of self help. “Don’t think: Just Do.” mixed with fairy tale warnings, “always listen to your mother-in-law.”
When the book cases were full, they were kept in kitchen cabinets. Out went the dishware. Out went the pans. Words stayed in cramped spaces and roll-out drawers for silver.
When the kitchen was taken over, books piled under the bed. The sneaky books took to hiding. Narcotics Anonymous. How To Be Single. Ipod for Dummies. Quieter, but ever present, there they stayed. All the books. Softly chattering throughout an apartment worth of sentences.
Once upon a time there was not enough space. With every story came inches lost. Ingested into the head, they moved from the physical sphere to the mental and when it was time to go, they came with. Boxes of characters in square structured places. All books find a home.
So much intellectual history is just being thrown out because no one will bother to scan and save scholarly books – admittedly a slow manual process. A few are being saved but most will be irrecoverably lost. With very few exceptions, university libraries don’t want donations of old scholarly books. Public libraries often don’t want anything ‘deep’ or serious, at all – if it doesn’t circulate, it won’t get shelf space. Thrillers and political intrigue? Bring ’em on !
Yeah, I feel like the world lost so much before the advent of digitization and archiving technologies. But we certainly hope we stem the loss, and eventually eliminate all loss of literature. When I was growing up in Nigeria, books were worth almost more than gold. For better or worse, books and reading helped shape the person I am today.
There should be a place where these “intellectually precious but commercially worthless” books can be donated. I would donate mine to my local university library (GMU) but there’s no guarantee they’ll be kept.
I love this… and so do my (many) books!
Sounds like what I would do if I ran out of bookshelves.
I actually read that twice, the whole thing.
…still nothing like holding a book in hand, turning pager, highlighter and pen at ready, smelling the paper, like an old love coming to visit…
COVID-19. National elections. Wildfires. Riots. Now, we must relocate to be nearer family. ‘All’ our precious books jumped into boxes for a sad and end-foreboding trip to Goodwill; second hand bookstores are no more; neighbors, friends and family do not read; price of passage for the number of books was prohibitive. Secretly, I placed some old classics, a few diversionary novels from favored writers and a few I knew my wife hated to part with into large and nondescript boxes; placed the boxes with cartons of clothes, family history artifacts, and legal records. They will travel, willing or not. One snowy evening we will discover those boxes in ourt new home and rejoice.
yes you will rejoice and reflect….thanks for your share
Glad someone else shares my love of books 🙂
So curious, humankind’s idolization of print on paper. As if the possession of a single copy is the only record the composition ever existed.The obituary and headstone of the stories, words, data, facts, numbers, dates, places and people, myths and merriment, fantasies and folklore. The hope of immortality for the author or authors. The Dead Sea Scrolls of the Gutenberg Age.
Indeed, what spell, what hold have they on us? It’s as if all knowledge and creativity and history and sociology and humanity and medicine will vanish from the universe if these runes are not respected and retained. We will again be dumb as apes, huddle around the fire, drag our mates home by the hair. War with clubs.
It’s just a good thing we didn’t feel the same way back when it took two rocks to write a short list for Moses. A good thing we forgot our attachments to petroglyphs. The Rosetta stone.
And cave paintings!
My house would collapse if I tried to cram all that upstairs in my library.
As it is there are more books than I can fit on the shelves…
Nourishing poem. Digesting literature. In substantive words.
Really great. For the love of books.
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