Your recent delving into trimming your library was exactly what I had been trying to do, but with limited success. When I called to say I was going to finally throw out Prince of the Clouds and you said, “never heard of it!” it was carte blanche to toss it. (I bought it because it had a great cover! And all things Italian are good, aren’t they? Except for the Mafia.) I never wanted to part with any of my books because I hoped I would one day have a library – kind of like Henry Higgins’ in “My Fair Lady” with a rolling ladder to reach books near the ceiling, and comfy chairs scattered around. And a maid to dust it. But the reality is that my books are taking up several walls in two spare rooms, and part of the living room, so some must go! A few choices are easy – anything in duplicate (which happens more and more as I get older); two autographed novels by a fiction workshop leader who is best described as odious; He Walked The Americas because I don’t believe he did; a novel by Walter Mosely – too violent – if I want to have horrible images in my head I’ll just lie awake at night catastophizing. So I’m well on my way to getting rid of many (my definition) books, but where to take them or who to give them to – is the reason I now drive around with a box of books in the car. At least they’re not in the house.
A former favorite patient of mine who is now the mother of a seemingly perfect child (I tell her that at every visit) noted I mentioned Ignazio Silone. She had lived in Italy for nine years after college doing translations and speaks fluent graceful Italian. She wrote me an email, surprised that I knew about Silone, and offered to let me read Bread and Wine in the original Italian. She had a copy.
My masseuse found resonance in trying to decide which copy of duplicates to give away. When she fell into a relationship with a man who had the same copy of a book she had (evidence of congruence no doubt) that had to decide which copy would go, his or hers.
Then there was the email from my daughter (actually my charming adult step-daughter I acquired through my second marriage). She is my only daughter (I have two sons) and we have always gotten along smashingly: we “get” each other.
Andrea sends me an email wondering if I really am considering giving A Distant Mirror by Barbara Tuchman. She had always wanted to read it. Her desire gave me pause. Should I send it to her with the expectation that she would send it back? Should I really consider giving it away? I really had not. It made the most recent cut and remained ensconced in its sacrosanct place on my bookshelf.
Yesterday I made my weekly trip to my favorite independent bookstore, The King’s English, and promptly found a paperback copy of A Distant Mirror in the History section. As I took it to the counter I considered whether I really wanted to spend $17.95 on a book I already possessed and could send her. We were going to visit her in a few days and I could carry the book in my luggage; it was not that heavy, just bulky.
“I would like to have this wrapped for Christmas,” I told Dawn. “Here is my credit card.” I felt hoist on my own petard until I checked out the accuracy of the phrase on Wikipedia a few hours later. A petard is an explosive device used in The Middle Ages (how appropriate) to breach walls. A loose interpretation of the phrase is to be injured by a weapon designed to injure others or, more commonly, to be caught in your own trap.
Maybe my unconscious fantasy is that Andrea and I will read it simultaneously and perhaps give new meaning to the word petard.
Louis Borgenicht, our first guest blogger, is a regular customer, a good friend of the store, and an author. Head on over to his website, LouisBorgenicht.com, to learn more about him!