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 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.