Tuesday, April 26, 2011

That Was Too Close

I woke up at 8:03 in disbelief. 24 minutes ago. It was remarkable for me, because it's difficult to get back to sleep while Dad and Meridith are getting ready for work.

Generally, I need complete silence to sleep, and I got that after they had left, so I sank into what was indeed another world, for about 45 more minutes. Thankfully, it was only temporary, because I don't want that world. Ever.

I'm not sure what the circumstances of the dream were, what I had been doing up until that point, where I had been. Maybe I had been asleep in my room, maybe I had just come home from somewhere. That detail isn't important.

I remember there being dishes in the sink from dinner, and it was my night to do them, so I thanked Meridith for putting it all into the sink, and I told Mom that I would handle it.

I went into my room, and also into total shock. My nightstand was cleared of nearly everything I had on it; my books were neatly stacked around the room, some stacked in the boxes I use as bookshelves, spine side out, but there was one huge distinction: There were far less books.

The only stack that represented what I had had before in humongous stacks was next to my bed, and looked like it was on the verge of teetering like Jenga blocks. It wasn't that I thought I wouldn't be able to find anything that I was shocked, it was that I wasn't given a choice of what I wanted to keep.

Mom and Meridith were still sitting on the couch in the living room, watching TV, after I had taken in that horrific scene, and I rushed right by them into the master bedroom (which has a door leading into the garage) and shook Dad awake, demanding answers. He said, "You don't need that many books." I fairly shouted, "I bought some of those books for research!" And it's true. I have. Right now, there's a three-volume biography of Nixon by Stephen Ambrose in one stack, and another Nixon biography by Conrad Black under my widescreen TV, as well as a book about the creation of the Frost/Nixon interviews, all purchases inspired by my visit to the Nixon Presidential Library and Museum, but now for research as well.

After that scene, I rushed outside to the recycling bins, hoping they hadn't been picked up so I could recover what I knew I needed. Too late. The truck had already been there.

I walked down the street, dazed, looking in other bins, hoping that Dad had also put books in those bins and that the guy operating the recycling truck hadn't been too careful. As I did, a few teenagers put some soda cans in one of the bins and brushed right by me as I rolled one of those empty bins back to the curb. A bin as empty as I was at that moment.

I know I have a lot of books, and that my room is small enough to make those books look big. But you never, never, never tell a bibliophile that he or she has too many books. We know why we have those books. We know that we have a lot. But that is our life, or at least part of our life. We want as many of those pages as possible in a day. I know absolutely that that's the reason I'm here, living this particular life (As for past lives, I don't know, but I've always been mildly curious after watching that scene in Defending Your Life where Albert Brooks and Meryl Streep are at the Past Lives Pavilion), and that I will not give up books or reading for anything.

I also know that I won't keep all the books I have in my room. I have one inviolable rule for my collection, which remains separate from all those stacks of books: I have to have an overwhelming desire for a book to have it in my collection. If I check out a book more than 3 times from the library, I buy a copy for my collection. That happened with a few of my Bukowski books, as well as This Book Will Save Your Life by A.M. Homes. There are the rare exceptions, such as The Library by Sarah Stewart, an illustrated children's book about a devoted reader whose house is so thoroughly stocked with books that it creates some problems, yet she doesn't see them as problems until the end, finds a solution that benefits her community, and then goes on reading for the rest of her life.

I know the stacks of books in that book, because they're mine. This was one title that I chose for Meridith to read to Tigger and Kitty, since she reads to them every morning, and after we had gotten back from the library last Saturday, I took the stack of books I had chosen for them and read all of them, since they interested me in some way, too.

As soon as I finished The Library, I went to abebooks.com, typed in the necessary information (title and author) and bookmarked that page, and looked it up on Amazon and bookmarked that, too, with the intent of buying it, which I did late last week. The Library will be part of my collection because it is me completely.

I probably have a few hundred books in my room. But my collection totals about 40 books. 40 that I will keep. 40 that will move with me when we eventually move. As to the other books, I'm not going to become a bookseller after I'm done with them. I don't intend to become part of the AbeBooks community. Those books probably will end up going to Goodwill if I don't need them in my collection.

Every book in my room is there for a reason. It may end up not being an immediate reason, but it is an eventual reason. I know in that nightmare, Dad was looking to keep the house more organized, but it reminds me that I remain very much annoyed by the manufactured disdain toward education in this country. Being educated and being able to tell a "v" from an "n" is not elitist. This is who I am. Call me whatever you want, but in all my years of reading, I know that I could probably come up with a better insult than you can manage.

Yeah, that last bit is completely incongruous with the rest of my words, but I had to get that out somewhere, and I didn't want to spend an entire entry with it.


  1. I like the theory of if you check out a book more than 3 times you buy it. I may have to try that, as The Hubs has forbidden me from purchasing anymore books. Can you believe it????

  2. Why would he forbid such a thing? Are the books closing in on you both from every room? I could understand a temporary order, but a standing order like that? That's harsh.

    There ought to be some negotiation in a delicate matter like that, like when the books steadily retreat from hanging over the toilet in the bathroom and back down from the TV in the bedroom, then purchases may continue.