Sunday, October 9, 2016

A new meaning for the phrase, BOOK TOUR

Yesterday I found myself doing the mental equivalent of pacing . . . trying to find something to entertain myself on a rainy afternoon devoid of any plans. I thought about cleaning a closet--ugh. Making cookies? Nah. I considered pulling out my watercolors to fiddle with them, or really fiddling on my violin. Maybe I should take a walk in the rain? Nothing appealed, and I had nothing to read, either, having just finished two non-fiction works I'd been simultaneously working on. I ended up writing yesterday's blog post.

Later when I entered my office, I had to cluck at myself. Nothing to read? Who am I kidding? These are just some of books I have chosen to keep (they made it through the first downsizing six years ago and some periodic purges, as well). Why do I think I have nothing to read? If I don't intend to reread any of these books, why am I keeping them? To loan to others? To burden my children when I'm gone? I began to look at their titles.

My grandfather's books, such as The First Year of the War by Edward A. Pollard (published 1863), provide an emotional conduit to a man I never really knew but have enormous respect for. Thomas Wolfe's You Can't Go Home Again connects me to my emotionally wrought sixteen-year-old self, and my volume of Sherlock Holmes stories links me to the junior-high girl who felt entirely grown up as she discussed the plots with her father. My two-volume music encyclopedia takes me back to the fifteen-year-old musician who eschewed the frivolous silliness of wanna-be debutantes in order to practice with her piano quintet pals every weekend. Finding The Boys and Their Mother by Keith Jennison hilarious when I read it in my thirties connected me with my deceased parents in a new and wonderful way. (I'd thought it stupid when I was sixteen and my folks were reading it aloud to each other). The volume of S.N. Behrman plays makes me remember my sophomore year at U.W. with my passion for theatre and the boy playing opposite me in a scene from "Biography." Wallace Stegner's Crossing to Safety articulates a reality that Jay and I lived through at Marquette. The list goes on . . .

Perhaps the books line my office solely to remind me who I am in 2016. I'm not just an old woman who complains about driving in the dark and wears sensible shoes. I'm not just dabbler or opinionated elder. Nor am I just a grandmother or widow or do-gooder. Maybe when I'm bored next time I will sit down, open a book, and reacquaint myself with one of my former selves. It's been a long journey and perhaps it's time to let the books remind me of its highlights and low-spots, as well.  

1 comment:

Lucy Hart said...

I love this essay, Sallie. How wonderful to take an historical tour through your bookcase. I, too, have a collection of old books I hate to part with. Imagine still holding on to a paper back book of Paul Goodman's "Growing Up Absurd" with my 23 year old notes in the margins. It really should go in the trash, but it would be like erasing my history.