Wednesday, February 1, 2017


I can remember when I had a total book collection of two shelves in the Magnolia bedroom which I shared with my younger sister. How I loved to fondle and look at my titles until I had to cover all of the books with wrapping paper to disguise a few which my mother disapproved of. My mom had strong feelings about appropriate reading matter. No Nancy Drew or romance. No D. H. Lawrence. No Nabokov, or at least not Lolita. No Peyton Place which was downstairs in my dad's office hidden behind his botanical texts. Once all the books were wrapped, only I knew which titles were which and I could relax and read Chocolates for Breakfast, actually a well-written but sexy novel, or J. D. Salinger whose reputation for smut was known. Now after years of bookselling, I have around seven thousand titles, shelves bulging and books cascading all over the place. Sometimes I just roam the shelves, looking at all of the things I've yet to read, those that I want to reread but never will, and those that, alas, I will never read and should pull. It is an addiction. Books do furnish a room but they can also clutter and drown the hopeful reader. Sometimes in my more fatalistic moods, I divide the number of books by the longevity figures on how many years I have left, then divide by weeks to see how many I would need to read each week to dent the surface. With luck and twenty or twenty-five years, it's only 240 books a year or just two books each week. Who couldn't handle that? Me at 90? Of course, some of them are reference such as dictionaries, encyclopedias, art books or cookbooks and not really a required cover-to-cover exploration. I just have to give up television and socializing and hope for good eyes and health. Toward this end, I have a book club which only meets once a year and which is devoted to each member reading up to six titles that have been on their shelves for twenty years or more, published prior to 1992. This has been most edifying. I've discovered treasures like Sylvia Townsend Warner's Lolly Willowes, Moritz Thomsen's The Saddest Pleasure: a journey on two rivers, and Mabel Dodge Luhan's The Edge of Taos Desert plus the inspiration of Brenda Ueland's If You Want to Write. 

Abibliophobia, the fear of being without books, will not happen here but I must take care when I travel.

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