Bookish Children

I own a lot of clothes.  I own a lot – A LOT – of jewellery.  I own a lot of shoes.  Hats.  Scarves.  Gloves.  If it can be used to adorn my poor self, then I own a lot of it.  Really, there are so many pretty things in the world – I need them all. 

But these collections are not permanent.  Evanescent compilations of uselessness, maybe, but at some point they were so desirable.  Periodically they will prey victim to an onslaught of tidying and clearing out.  This slimming down doesn’t last long, because I eventually do go shopping again (all the pretty things!)…but for a while it looks nice.  The point is that it rarely stings when I part with these items.  Many I haven’t worn in years – some I’ve lost sight of for years.  But whether they haven’t been worn enough, or have been worn out – out they go. 

But I also have a lot of books – and that is different.  I don’t tire of books.  They don’t become less attractive, less charming, less important.  If I forget I have Vita Sackville-West’s “The Edwardians’…how delightful to suddenly come across it once more!  If I noticed that my copy of “The Annotated Alice” is falling apart, do I throw it out?  Certainly not:  books, Velveteen Rabbit-like, show the love they have earned by their shattered and torn appearance.  Some tape and a few rubber-bands and all is serene.

So.  I have a lot of books.  And I intend to keep them all.  Parting with them would be like parting with a child.  All those hopes of storied adventures…where did they go?  Therefore, I try to control my book-buying tendencies.

But last Saturday – against all better judgement – I went to a local bookstore.  I spent 1 1/2 hours there and bought the following:

“Unknown Lands – The Log Books of the Great Explorers” by Francois Bellec (No one should pass any book by with the words ‘unknown lands’ in its title.  The author’s name is pretty dashing, too.)

“The Guns of August” – by Barbara W. Tuchman (She is a sublime historian, approaching her subject with facts and humanity. This book should be delicious.)

“And Even Now” – by (the incomparable) Max Beerbohm (This is a selection of fleeting, delightful essays. The first one was a thesis speculating on the history of a broken fan he found in his portmanteau. A fan! A portmanteau!)

I Shouldn't Have

I could have purchased more:

“A Handful of Dust” – by Evelyn Waugh (the dialogue was snobbish and British and wonderful…but for some reason I held back.   At some point I will buy this one)

“The Parisian Prowler” – by Charles Baudelaire (Originally, “Le Spleen de Paris”.   There were two translations available – both quite different. So I got confused and put both books back. Damn!)

“The Handbook for Conscientious Objectors” (Published in 1968; so this was for the objector to the Vietnam war. But I would have bought this for decoration, not education. Didn’t feel right.)

So that was my rake’s progress through this shop…and my family of books will ever be on the increase.  But whether I’m visiting them for the first time, or stopping by after a long hiatus – all my bookish children are content to wait – as am I.

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15 responses to “Bookish Children

  1. “But I also have a lot of books” – ah, spoken like someone who stays put. I love books; God knows no truer words could be spoken. However, it’s extremely rare that I buy one, first due to finances (unemployment pays not much more than rent) and two, every book purchased is one more I’ll need to let go of when I move. Again. So the library is my friend. You sound so settled with all those printed friends about.

  2. I love my books. I’ve been collecting them since I was a little girl. I still have my Nancy Drew’s and my Trixie Beldon’s and The Folk of the Faraway Tree. I’d have to have a thousand books. I don’t buy many now, I borrow a lot from the library and buy ones I really want. We’re moving next year into a very small house and I don’t know what to do about it. I have no idea what I’m going to do with them. But I’m not giving them away. I’m seriously thinking of saving up for a Kindle. I’m starting to see the advantages of one. Not to mention all the tree’s I’ll be saving.

  3. I love books as much as you do, Aubrey, but I have to periodically send many off to the local library’s book sale – things I acquired somehow or other (mostly secondhand) that just don’t bear keeping (or re-reading).

    Several years ago I had to move long-distance and was shocked by the cost – it had everything to do with my books.

    So now, the public library has to be my home away from home… and I really like that. There’s always something new, and always something that’s been there forever that didn’t catch my eye.

    I completely understand about bookstores, too – such a temptation. (Especially when you work in one, as I did for many years.)

  4. Please call me the next time you’re clearing out jewels and accessories. I luurve them… and often repurpose them.

    I’m not a fan of keeping books. They don’t inspire as they do to you an other.

    Now, hair accessories?? Well, that’s an entirely different matter. I collect & revisit & enjoy hair accessories as you do books!

  5. Oh how I wish you lived next door. We could swap clothes and jewelry – you would love the scarves I buy (and sometimes never wear, much to the delight of tag-salers who get them at 1/16 of their original price)!

    You have such style, Aubrey! I have never heard of these books but they are now on my list to check out, funny coincidence we just went on a book spree a few days ago.

  6. alleycat (waterbaby!): Oh, yes – I’ve been staying put here for many years. And during that time I’ve accumulated many wonderful things – my dear books included. They’re especially dear, since their purchase comes after a long and tiring (but enjoyable!) search.

    Jane: Have you ever heard of Betty Cavanna? She wrote books about 16 year old girls looking for love, seeing it from afar, dispairing, and then finally getting the just-right-boy. The plots were all sort of the same, but very appealing to a 14-15 year-old reader (me).

    leendadll: I occasionally part with my jewelry…but only occasionally! Some pieces I can take apart and add to others; some I can combine…but no matter how dedicated I am to purging my collection, I still have four boxes and one hanger (full of necklaces). And of course I have my eye on more.

    Emmy: Book sprees and clothes/jewelry swapping! Divine! You’re on the East coast, right? Phooey. We sometimes forget that blogging friends can control their communications, but never their logistics.

    • Several times, I’ve sorted my jewelry for friends who repurpose or for the thrift store. But, instead, I just have a lot of boxes of jewelry I’ve forgotten about… because I’m never quite able to part with them.

      My great grandfather used to make little pieces and those are in my safe deposit box: a broach made from an eyeglass & magazine cutout and a set of shell earrings. They mean far too much to me to ever consider wearing them. Maybe I’ll get a nice shadowbox for them some day.

    • I remember those Betty Cavanna books, but I never read any of them…

  7. My life companion calls them (and by them, I must admit on top of “mine” inherited books of few generations ) “wall filling dust collectors”. But I defend them up the last book from childhood.
    Question: how do you digest all this high spirited literature without a grounding cooking or gardening book?

  8. I had to make a very difficult decision when I moved from Australia to the States. I could not afford to ship all my books with me; I selected the 6 or so that meant the most to me. The remainder I donated to a library.

  9. You showed a lot of restraint only bringing home three books. UnKnown Lands looks marvelous and irresistible.

  10. Clothes and jewelry hold no interest for me, but obscure books…oh yes. You must have a lovely and extensive collection.

  11. guilty pleasure or not, books are sacred….and good used bookstores (and browsing *very* leisurely through them) are even more sacred (and perhaps the guiltiest of pleasures).

    One day, I will have all of my books in one place (especially the ones in storage). Maybe I could have someone build a library large enough for bed, bath & hotplate? RT

  12. buzz – Working in a bookstore? What a way to combine temptation and employment! Betty Cavanna certainly knew what a naive teenager wanted to hear/read – her books were from the mid-sixties I think, so I was a few years out of date, but I loved them so!

    antiphonsgarden – I wonder, am I ever grounded? I don’t garden, as bugs scare me; and I do have my box of recipes…but to keep me on the lighter side, I do love the Lord Peter Wimsey mysteries…

    Aussie Emjay – Such heartbreak! You did the right thing in donating your books to the library. (I do recall visiting New Orleans with my girlfriend; she bought so many books she had to fedex them to her home address!)

    Stefanie – I ask myself very carefully: why do I want this book? will I really read this book? and then…will I ever read it AGAIN? I’ve put so many appealing books back that way.

    Redscylla – I’ll admit I’m a little proud of my collection; I have no shelves, so the bulk of them are kept in drawers…but all my Beardsley/Beerbohm/Wilde books are all on display. Ack, and so many others!!

    Music&Meaning – Sacred – yes; Boyfriend will go to that bookstore with me sometimes and take a bit of a wander, but inevitably he will end up waiting for me. And YES, a beautiful library like the ones in the great country houses, with books climbing all the way up to the ceiling!

    • about working in bookstores: the pay is terrible, but the discounts are (usually) good… what a dilemma! I know that I spent far too much on books, given what my take-home pay amounted to.

      Another thing that most people don’t realize is that there is an absolutely overwhelming amount of material (books, magazines, etc.) published annually. It’s almost impossible to keep up with it – meaning, being able to answer questions and such – let alone have time to actually read books that look intriguing.

      Book review sections in newspapers used to be one of the best ways for bookstore personnel to get a glimpse into what they were/are selling, but now those have mostly disappeared, and I’m not sure that anything has really taken their place. (There are tons of book bloggers out there, but well-edited – and fairly comprehensive – book review sites seem to be pretty few and far between.)

      Sadly, lots of brick and mortar stores are going out of business because they’re being undercut by online sales + far less retail spending over the past couple of years. It’s a very hard time to be in business.

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