Saturday, July 21, 2012

Twenty-eight boxes of books.

I transported twenty eight boxes of books when I moved from Massachusetts to Virginia. Not the 12 bottle booze boxes.They were Baker & Taylor, library jobber, boxes; easily twice the volume of  liquor boxes. Once here, I was able to unpack and shelve all of them; my one bedroom apartment in Weymouth  did not have the room.Such is the curse of an inveterate  bibiliophile and packrat. A colleague at my new employer sneered at her father's collection of  books, calling it "macho trophy collecting", like game. I held my tongue.

I did not stop buying books: my employer has excellent book sales, and, for a Southern city, Richmond has decent bookstores. Plus the mom n' pop store at the beach is excellent. Several years into my residence here, it became apparent a weed of the collection would be necessary. First back in the boxes were graduate school titles: esoteric stuff on information theory,outdated selection guides for mid-sized libraries, and similar books. Easy. Then to undergrad and personal interest titles.Science fiction anthologies and novels; most of the Hemingway and Fitzgerald titles; years of the World Radio and Television Handbook; an entire duplicate run of Wodehouse; etc.,and other books which if I wanted to read again, a decent public library would own . I even got rid of my Edmund Spenser. My mistake; we'll get to that in a minute.Not going into the discard boxes were gifts from family and friends; history, ancient,aviation,nautical; books owned by family members; and books I felt I could not do without (Twain; all of Hunter Thompson; Anthony Burgess; Paul Theroux; Pynchon; various editions of Moby Dick; ditto Walden and other Throreau titles; plus English Romantic prose and poetry). My grandfather owned maybe five books; I inherited one. I have several of my father's books as well as several bins of gun books (under the eaves) which he used in his business and to write his book. Very specialized stuff; none went. I donated eight boxes to my local library. I do not want to speculate on their fate.

The other night I thought, "hmmm, nothing to read", an absurd statement in this house; " I will read my Spenser anthology.". Wrong answer, RR: gone. Worse, the local library does not own any Spenser. My employer owns it, but they are 47 miles away. Libraries  have given up the 'core collection', archival concept, and have traded it in for the bookstore model, which to me is the emperor's new clothes. We have to be relevant, reduce runs of shelving to shorter cases that display like a bookstore, blahblahblah.Swell if  you want to concentrate on the NY Times bestseller rubbish; not so great for book dorks like me. There may be an answer, from an unexpected source.

I bought the missus a Nook for our anniversary, set up a wireless network , and she immediately began loading it up (very fast downloads, I must say) for reading on our trip. Very convenient, though there is not a wide selection for nonfiction readers. There are ways around that. An observation on our e-reader. Books, no matter how many pages, all look the same on it (and, presumably, other brands). Which gets me to the physicality of reading. I have a Signet Classics edition from 1960 (cover price .50) of Kidnapped . Nice dense, still white pages, and here it is: the book has a scent. It is a scent which, when I read it (again and again), impels me to snuffle the pages. That scent transports me back to the days of reading under the covers with a flashlight after lights out. The damndest thing....The weight of a book, a real book, is a comfort to me. With an e-reader, Moby Dick has the same heft as the very thin A Coney Island of the Mind. Not always a bad thing:  I can schlepp a bunch of books on e-reader much easier than I can a box of books.

Thursday, July 19, 2012

The days were just packed

Missus and I were recently back in England. Linda saw an ad for a trip to visit English gardens, guided by a local garden expert. She is the avid gardener; I dig as directed. It is a savage hobby, uprooting perfectly happy plants that are not satisfactory, and replacing them . Any excuse to revisit GB will suffice for RR; so we went. I'll supply details in future posts; for today, I will concentrate on what for me was an all too brief high point.

When the trip had been booked, I contacted Lorenzo da Ponte, author of  the "Tone Deaf" blog, whom we met two years ago on a less hectic tour. E-mail serves and volleys commenced; for various reasons there was one opportunity to get together. Little is always better than none, so had to settle for little time.

We got to see LdaP and signora, got to see Hereford cathedral, and spend some quiet time before we had to bustle back to Cheltenham. Lorenzo and missus were very kind to us. I am a curious person, and enjoyed scoping out a portion of L da P's books, and once again was amazed at Mrs. LdaP's reading quantity. Even saw a title for future reference as we say in the library biz: a bio of Pepys which won the Whitbread Prize when it was called the Whitbread prize. Another instance of inspiration from L da P. I thank him and the missus for their hospitality and patience.