Saturday, March 25, 2017

Old Friends

When packing for a move, as I've done several times in the last few years and am again now, I  mentally struggle when it comes to the library I've accumulated. A representative list follows.

  • Parting the Waters
  • The Rise of Modern China
  • Travels with Charlie
  • Writing the Blockbuster Novel
  • Japanese Death Poems
  • Phaedo
  • History of the Peloponnesian War
  • Better Than Sex
  • Bagombo Snuff Box
  • The Prophet
  • One Hundred Philosophers
  • Ambivalent Zen
  • On the Origin of the Species
  • The Politics
  • Our Dreaming Mind
  • A Walk in the Woods
  • Lord of the Rings
  • If Beale Street Could Talk
  • The Elements of Style
  • The Portable Jack Kerouac
  • Underboss
  • A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius
  • Bending the Blues (harmonica, not depression)
  • Understanding Art
  • Astronomy Encyclopedia
  • The Blank Slate
  • The Canterbury Tales
  • The Bluest Eye
  • The Portable Nietzsche
  • African-American Writers
  • How Stuff Works
  • Social Media ROI
  • Deutsches Literaturlesebuch
  • Reinventing You
  • International Politics
  • Stolen Legacy
  • American Sniper
  • Selected Poems of Rainer Maria Rilke
  • Peace (Ghandi)
  • God's Politics
  • A History of South Africa
  • America (John Stewart)
  • Earth (John Stewart)
  • Of Mice and Men
  • The Tiananmen Papers
  • The Golden Age of Black Nationalism
  • Writer's Guide to Police Procedurals
  • Lies and the Lying Liars Who Tell Them

Twenty-one banker's boxes and counting.

For each I can name where and when I purchased the book, from whom I received it as a gift, why I insist on hanging onto it, and in most cases, my lingering memory of the core theme/plot/argument.

I can even list the three dozen books I loaned to people and never saw again.

As an aside, I was gifted American Psycho soon after its publication. I read it, loved it and shared it with a friend/coworker. That friend stopped talking to me and never returned the book. I bought a new copy. Read it again. Loved it even more. Loaned it to a friend. That person stopped talking to me and never returned the book. Repeat three more times. I haven't bought another copy since.

[Then the movie hit the theaters. Ugh.]

I disenjoy losing friends bigly. It's a terrible, terrible thing. Sorry. I digress.

Will I read all or any of these books again? Honestly, I won't in many cases.

Have they been useful for reference purposes? On occasion.

Does there exist some emotional attachment, some stirring of my brain's pleasure centers, reminiscing/drawing forth fond memories? Absolutely.

My books = my friends. I feel comfortable when they surround me, when their jackets bark quips, quotes and plot lines and unexpected conclusions or life-changing insights at me as I scan them unconsciously in the periphery while going about my day.

The same, of course, applies to actual humanoid friends. We revisit memories, or I discover new details that add to the richness that is each of your individual stories every day.

But I'm not presently in the process of packing you all up into boxes. Firstly, that would be weird. Secondly, possibly criminal.

Do books serve a secret, latent pack-ratty trait that runs through my family? I do part with a dozen or so each year, but that makes not a dent in the stacks. I'm not talking "Finding Forrester"-level stacks, but definitely more than I need to cling to in any healthy or realistic "I'll read you again someday, old friend," way. 
While I miss the old days of packing light, I think I'll keep them around a little while longer.

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