Tuesday, January 18, 2005

Buying paper
One of the first blog sites that I’ll hitch onto each morning is Whisky Prajer. Aside from the usual good-natured view of life that flows through his entries, there’s usually a remark that may be written in passing that sticks with me for most of the day. Or longer. In the January 17th entry, Mr. WP is continuing his countdown of the Top Ten Delights of California.
A very quirky and, therefore, interesting list is this.
#4 on the roll call is titled "Bookshop Santa Cruz/Recycle Books San Jose". While describing 4 bookstores that he particularly likes, he throws off this comment.
"What this (buying used hardbacks @ a bargain!) usually requires, of course, is an extra suitcase holding only books."

An extra suitcase.

Addictions come in two categories.
1) Socially Unacceptable.
2) Socially Acceptable.

By "socially", I refer to the general popular view of a country. Something socially acceptable in NYC may not be acceptable in the rest of the USA, where the Fun Police is on full Bush indoctrinated notice.
Category #1 usually is also legally unacceptable, although the country within which you are practicing said addiction will determine its legality.

Luckily, trudging around the USA with a suitcase of books is still considered socially acceptable, although I’d stay away north of Mississipi, Alabama, & Georgia. Slapping a "No Child Left Behind" sticker on the luggage wouldn’t hurt in these dark times.

Even Mr. Nick Hornby chimes in positively on book accretion. From his latest book, " Polysyllabic Spree", a short accumulation of his essays from the magazine, "The Believer", I quote:

"...all the books we own, both read and unread, are the fullest expression of self we have at our disposal...and...with each passing year, and with each whimsical purchase, our libraries become more and more able to articulate who we are, whether we read the books or not."
From her book, "So Many Books", Gabriel Zaid notes that "the truly cultured are capable of owning thousands of unread books without losing their composure or their desire for more."

What has obviously not been addressed in this blog entry nor in Mr. WP's, from an acceptance point of view, is the spousal acceptance. What's good for the gander may not be good for the goose. I've read Mr. WP's entry many times and I did not come upon any mention of his comely wife. And how do I know she is a lovely creature? Why, there's no mention of her reaction to a suitcase of books. She must be totally on board with this manner & quantity of book procurement. For introverts especially, social acceptance carries no weight when compared with that of the spouse. And don't all spouses carry their weight better when they're balancing 4-5 books under each arm?

Incredible - every time I see you quote your friend Mr. Hornby, it's as if he's speaking directly to me, gently assuring me my assumed faults are in fact virtues!

My lovely wife is indeed generous to allow me this indulgence. She, too, collects books that don't get read, but on a much smaller scale. Her ratio of books purchased to books read would probably be 5 to 3. But while this might be my monthly quota (when I'm particularly disciplined in my self-restraint) it's her yearly quota (her job, unfortunately, placing its own demands on her reading time).

You were also right to point out some time back that my assembled P-38 sits in a box in the basement for a reason: any prominent display of it would never fly (ahem) with my wife! As for the books, she might well stage an intervention the day I have to swallow a fistful of Robaxacet and beg her to apply the Tiger Balm to my tortured back, due to the loads I witlessly embrace at the bookstore counter.
Mr. Hornby's writings are almost as useful as the Bible; he has a bit for most situations and (fortunately) in no piece of writing is anyone beset by locusts or getting stoned (well, the latter in the literal sense).
My daughter posed a cosmic question to me a few months ago.
"Why are we here?"
Rather than answering her in a Biblical or Darwinian way, I opted (read that chickened out) and said the following.
We are water carriers. We take in water from a spring, a faucet, a glass. We then carry it around for a while and then we drop it off, through sweat or human waste disposal.
"Yech!!", she said. And I agreed.

You've given me a better idea...

We are all book carriers. We collect, buy, and/or steal books in one place. We then drop them off in our house, a bus stop, a friend's house, another book store. We are a conduit of knowledge and beauty.
That sounds more noble.
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