"Life's but a walking shadow, a poor player that struts and frets his hour upon the stage and then is heard no more. It is a tale told by an idiot, full of sound and fury, signifying nothing."

Sunday, April 27, 2008

Moving Mountains

Mountains of books, that is.

I'm so weary of it.

At least, after so many years of moving the same books, I've finally a) gotten a good grasp of what's worth keeping; b) lost any sentimentality in regards to keeping a book I enjoyed, but will never read again; and c) accepted that a book I've told myself I'll read 'someday' will obviously not get read.

I got rid of four more bags (big ones) of books today.

My library is growing sparse, but very special, holding mostly books that I have read over and over again, tomes I have given myself permission to mark up and mutilate by breaking the spine or bending corners. This serves to remind me that the value of a book is in the words within it, not its physical condition.

The more books that leave my house, the more books I feel comfortable bringing in to replace them, perhaps one really special book for every twenty that goes out. If a book does not inspire me to mark it up as I read, then I know I won't be referring to it again, so out it goes. It's nice to email a friend to offer her a book you enjoyed and which you're certain she'll enjoy (and even better to learn that it was on her reading list).

I used to be a Reader. I don't consider myself to be one any more since I only read in fits and spurts. This week I read three books, and started two others, but I can go for weeks without reading anything other than reference tomes on Wicca or ancient Egypt. The more I declutter my library, however, letting go of books that no longer reflect who I am, the more I want to read again, and voraciously so. No longer encumbered by the weight of books belonging to an old life, I feel free to devour piles of tomes that will open new horizons.

This past year, my focus was very heavily on my religious studies, but I've given myself permission to move on to other topics. A few days ago, I was reading a frothy novel by Sophie Kinsella while today I am deep into a post-apocalyptic novel (more about that one to come). Yesterday, I read the memoir of an American in Afghanistan. I am beginning to rediscover the me who was a true Reader.

I've decided that I will be limiting myself to five boxes (of the printer paper variety) of books on this move. It's a frighteningly small number and I will not consider myself an abject failure at purging if I go over this number. But I will listen to that little voice in my head reminding me that soon I will need to fit my library on a bus. The massive dictionaries I no longer consult thanks to good online reference sources will need to go next. That will lighten the load of the move considerably!

Much as I love the idea of acquiring technology like the Amazon Kindle, there is something to be said for the weight of a book in your hand. I love the different textures of paper, but prefer heavy scratchy pages. There is also that heady smell of ink mixed with dust that never ceases to remind me that I am about to embark on an adventure. Marking a striking passage with a pen and/or highlighter is another thing that cannot be done quite so dramatically with pixels. Those messy little lines and symbols tell me that I have been possessed by the material, that I have truly grasped it. Writing in books used to horrify me, but now I can't imagine not doing it. They are my proof that I read the book and that what the author had to say mattered to me.

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