If you’re around me long enough, I’ll probably give you a book. If you’re fortunate, it’ll be something other than the ones I’ve written. When directly asked, I might give up a copy of my first book but surrendering one’s magnum opus is a lot like giving somebody a framed photo of your baby. Even if it’s ugly, they have to pretend it isn’t. Nobody wants to hear “who put the monkey in a stroller?”
More often, I give books that I especially love. John Kennedy Toole’s A Confederacy of Duncesis a title I often share. It is easily my favorite book. It’s everything a book ought to be: funny; smart; poignant. I want people to enjoy it as much as I have.
I will confess though, I also use this book as a litmus test. If you openly hate it, I subconsciously make a little red checkmark next to your name. Of course, if you love it, you get a little gold star.
I come from readers, heavy readers — readers for whom there should likely be a twelve-step program. Of course, being the readers they are, they’d want the steps to be written down so they could read them.
There’s a family story my grandfather used to tell about my grandmother. My grandmother is a voracious reader. I’ve often wondered how many millions of words she must have read in her 92 years. A lot of people talk about going to Mars. I am confident my grandmother’s reading has taken her far beyond that. How many worlds must she have visited? How many ages? How many plots and twists?
I will confess though, I also use this book as a litmus test. If you openly hate it, I subconsciously make a little red checkmark next to your name.
As the yarn goes, my grandmother always kept a book close by when doing what needed done on the farm. My grandfather said he could always tell when the book was getting good because the speed with which my grandmother churned the butter got r-e-a-l-l-y slow.
With that as my pedigree, it’s no surprise that my life and career center on well-chosen words. I like to write them. I like to read them. I’d like to do more of both.
I probably receive more books than I give. I should likely fix that. I should also build those bookshelves I’ve been talking about for the last five years.
Stately Pate Manor has a big study just to the right of the front entrance. Huge pocket doors frame the space. It begs to have ceiling high book cases. They’d be full the second the wood stain was dry. I know just how they would look — oak with simple craftsman ornament. They’d be dark to match the existing trim. These shelves would be at home in one of those rooms with crossed cricket bats hung on the wall, alongside portraits of stodgy forebears wearing monocles – not that I have any cricket bats or bemonocled forebears.
All this probably explains why I have a Pinterest page devoted to what one might call “bookshelf porn.” I guess you can’t have it if you can’t dream it.
I think about these imagined shelves a lot, but I never quite find the time to start. I almost started the other day, but when I went to the local building supply store, they had one checker working on a Saturday afternoon. I didn’t feel motivated to be tenth in line with a flat full of lumber.
It goes without saying that I’ve got a lot more books than shelf. A couple of years ago I converted a big closet into a kind of mini-library. You’d think another eighty feet of shelf space would be sufficient. You’d be wrong. Even so, I can’t wait to get another book for the pile.
As long as I can remember, books have held a nearly magical place in my life. They provided a conveyance to foreign lands and unknown things. I still cling to those adventures; and I still want to share that passion with anyone who’ll listen.