Or Thoughts in Front of a Bookshelf
I like my books.
They aren’t particular about the company they keep. The big ones don’t look down on the small ones. The oversize ones recline gracefully, like some ancient staute of Buddha, when the shelf hasn’t enough headroom.
They are a heterogeneous lot. Some look like tramps, all scuffed and rough from the road, other are dressed as if for the opera, shining jackets and impeccable silhouettes, but they all stick together.
My books are cordial. Even complete series don’t frown on an intruder in their midst.
My books are a stoic lot too. Although very few are on the military subjects, they know how to maintain formation, keep a stiff spine and toe the edge of the shelf.
My books are eager to share all they have. Here it all is, they say, I’m an open book, take me, read me, bookmark me, or leave me to gather dust, it’s all right I don’t mind. Nor are they jealous of one another. No whispering on the shelves – read me read me, you’ve read that one twice already.
My books are patient and long-suffering. Some wait for years in boxes in the attic, but not a trace of bitterness shows when they find their way to bookshelves again.
My books never get exasperated with me when I don’t understand. They’re happy to run over it again, as many times as I need.
And if I forget my page, they never scold me.
In a society of so many books full of such wonderful wisdom and wit, isn’t it a shame we didn’t think to keep a little more on hand for ourselves?
The other day, during a brief and filling pilgrimage to that twin-archèd temple of cholestoral, on the platter was an ad for the MacDonald’s nutritional guidebook, destined for kids, to help them acquire proper eating habits. Uh, hold on, isn’t something fundamentally wrong here? This is like wolves editing a “Compleat Guide to Nutritious Grazing” for sheep. (So I rushed home to re-read “Fast Food Nation” (by Eric Schlosser/Penguin) as quick as I could to burn off those extra carbs.)
Attempted, the other day, to get a couple of books from the university library here in Neuchâtel.
Alas, the only books that really interest me (my tastes have remained unchanged since infancy, I far prefer books with pictures*) are in the Art History section, and these are not allowed out.
So here we go again… already I must mail order art materials, buy most of my books over the net, now I have to rely on other means to borrow books…
By the way, books are etymologically intriguing – ever notice that we borrow books from a library and not a “bookery”? (Sorry, focus, John, focus…)
I ran into this problem in the past, and was asked to prove I was doing “serious” work in order to get an exception. The profession of illustrator was not judged to be serious enough. Not SERIOUS enough? “You cretinous numbskull!” I yelled, “what do you mean not SERIOUS?!? I studied three arduous years to get my useless diploma; I’ll bet your parents read you phone books and dictionaries when you were a kid!” I didn’t actually say that. I probably said something shamefully timorous like “Thank you for your time kind and serious sir, for deigning to tell me I might as well get a job serving at McDonalds.” No, it’s unlikely I said that either. I probably mumbled something unintelligible and hung up (softly) and went off to mope in a corner.
Had we run into similar reticence in Wellington while designing the movies, Middle-Earth would have been a rather bare place indeed…
(Sorry about that, I mean why could anybody but me care less what books I can take out or not, but I am sorely vexed. So vexed in fact that I just ordered them over the net at just over one-half the price they would be at the local bookshop and in just under one-quarter the time… )
* This sets me up with no end of problems in those libraries where you have to request books via a card catalogue. How the devil am I supposed to know if the book is any good until I’ve seen the pictures? I get more dirty looks than my share in bookshops too. How am I supposed to know if I want to buy it until I can see inside? “Shrink” wrap must refer to the feeling I get when I ask the exasperated seller to unwrap yet another book…
ON THE DRAWING BOARD
Speaking of books… that’s what I am up to now.
“The Abandoned City” is by the French author Claude Clément. I started it ages and ages ago, and then somehow got sidetracked in a film project and am now back, determined this time to finish it.
It’ll be published this autumn.
Sometimes panic bookshopping in airports can yield pleasant surprises. Picked up “The Well of Lost Plots” by Jasper Fforde (no, I didn’t misspell that, it has two “f”s). And shortly afterwords, “The Eyre Affair” and “Lost in a Good Book”, the first two in what must be by now a series of sorts. Anyone who is either brave or foolhardy enough to call his heroine Thursday Next DESERVES to be read.
Oscar will be coming Sunday to bring Gandalf. Watch this space!