Saturday, July 01, 2006

Sound Advice From One Bibliophile to Another

A wise man is telling me to stop crying and just pack up my books and take them with me.

There's a lot of wisdom to this. Even if you don't have time to read the entire book, there is something that comforts the soul to have books around. There is something wonderful about the ability to run your fingers along the spines, to glance at familiar titles that remind you of better hours, to pull out a book for a quick re-read of a favorite passage. And there's even something better about having books around to read for the first time around, not just the old favorites.

Truth be told, I was being conservative in my packing only because I'm so uncertain how the next year will work out. It's tough living life one year at a time, never knowing from year to year what you'll be doing or where you'll live next. So as a sort of fall back, I'm leaving a lot at my parent's house. And such insecurity is kind of like setting up a self-fulfilling prophecy for failure. Who knows? Maybe out of 60 students I'll be one of the 15-20 who goes onto the JSD program (not everyone applies). Even if I don't continue on at Liberal College Town Law School, maybe I'll get into a JSD program or fellowship elsewhere. Either way, the goal is to never move back in with my parents again (don't tell them that, they think I'll get a job at a local Suburban Conservative Law School--it took them a bit to understand the whole law teaching thing, give them time and maybe they'll stop telling me to move back to Orange County and stop "running around the country like a horse"). So maybe, since that is the goal, I shouldn't leave so much behind.

I don't care much about my clothes. I mean, it's ridiculous how extensive a wardrobe I'm able to bring with me when I've already given away 1/3 of my closet and am still leaving behind another 1/3 (and 75% of my shoes). That stuff is pretty replaceable, since a quick trip to Banana Republic can replicate almost anything in my closet. But I can't replace my late 19th C edition of The Complete Works of Oscar Wilde. Or my old editions of Emma and The Wasteland and Other Poems. Did I mention my 1916 edition of John Dewey's Democracy and Education? If I move from place to place, year after year, I think I'd still want these with me, rather than at my parent's home. It took a good amount of work to hunt them down in used book stores or through generous friends who happen to visit The Strand.

I have several unread books that I need to read, that for some reason, I haven't read--The Droll Stories of Balzac (another old edition), Bleak House, Tess of the D'urbervilles, Clarissa, Light in August. A ton of books I can't remember well--The Professor's House, The Mayor of Casterbridge, Moby Dick. Then there are my favorite love stories/literary mysteries--Possession, The Map of Love, The Archivist, The Shadow of the Wind. I love Jane Austen. I really, really love Robert Penn Warren. Both I can read over and over again (in addition to Dickens and Cather). I should read more poems from my poetry collections, not just the popular ones that everyone reads. I should re-learn Latin so that I can re-read The Aeneid in Latin again. That was one of the most beautiful experiences of my life.

And did I mention all the books I want to buy? Paul Auster's New York Trilogy, Calvin Trillin's Tummy Trilogy (food/travel), everything by Phillip Roth, Ian MacEwan, and J.M. Coetzee. DId I mention I want to restart my habit of reading by country of author origin, starting with Russia? (I've read a bit of Tolstoy and Doestoevsky, but I really want to read Gogol and Pushkin) Then I want to go to Spain. I've always wanted to go to Spain.

There is so much to read, and only so much shelf space, and only so much time and only so much certainty. But the wise man is right--it is an impoverished life to live without that which you love, that which comfots you late at night, and that which nourishes your mind and soul.

If you can't be with loved ones, at least be with the beloved books that can offer you stories and people to populate the empty space of your loneliness.


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