I do not deny it. I have largely avoided libraries during my adult life. I have preferred bookstores instead. I disdain library books because I cannot write in them, nor keep them. And worst, I rarely check a book out of any library that I don’t wind up paying nearly the cost of it in overdue fines. So I have purchased books.
Right now, the hall outside our study is filling up with books. Sometime in a day or two, I’ll box them up and take them to a secondhand bookseller who has promised to give them a good and, he hopes, temporary home. If you wanted to, you could write my biography by looking at that stack. In it are books I’ve had since high school, textbooks from college, theological tomes from seminary days, novels I have loved, manuals on golf from my twenties and thirties, cookbooks from my forties and fifties, books on yoga, meditation, martial arts, music, travel, languages, philosophy—the list reads like the guest list at a Dewey Decimal gala.
I’d be embarrassed to tell you how many of those books I have not read. I’ve skimmed some, dipped into others, read a chapter or two from a good many, and have gotten no further than the table of contents in more than you’d imagine. Some have been with me for forty or fifty years simply because I have nursed the fantasy that some day I’d have the time to read them. Illusion’s over: the jig is up.
Real estate in Washington, DC, is too expensive to use for storing things never to be used. Our small study, like an obstructed bowel, needs unsentimental surgical clearing. Not one but two book lovers, though committed now to purchasing in hard or paperback only what is unavailable digitally, keep books the way some people hoard money. They are symbols of what we value, markers of identity, handles on formative ideas we don’t want to slip away.
I’d like to think—and more honestly put, I’d like for you to think—that my motivation in all this ridding of word-clutter was an impulse to simplify, a final sacrifice of verbiage for holy silence. Or some such notion. I’d like to think that at last I have reached the point of tossing over ridiculous notions of ever being as broadly educated as I once pretended I would someday be.
No. Unfortunately, the motivation is less lofty and more practical. I just have a lot of books to move into this cramped space from an office I’ve had to close.
I need room.
For hard-to-part-with books.
© Frank Gasque Dunn, 2016