Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Wading in Knee Deep

I am surrounded by piles again.

It happens every so often – I look up and there are piles of papers and magazines and books, all waiting to be sorted and/or read.

Over the weekend, one of the shelves of one of our bookcases collapsed rather suddenly, breaking glass in the pictures frames that sat on one of the shelves and bringing several other shelves down with it. Many books thudding to the floor.

At first Mr. Random thought “Earthquake!” when he heard the noise, being from Southern California and all, but then thought better of it. My first concern was for Random Cat – luckily, she was sitting in another room at the time – and then my concern was for the pictures.

The pictures that sat on the bookcase shelf are family photographs, the kind that are collected over the years and can never be replaced. Pictures of Mr. Random and his family, when his father and both sets of grandparents were still alive. Pictures of his grandmother and grandfather on their wedding day. Pictures of family moments sprinkled from a span of about 30 years. Whew! The frames were broken, but the pictures were intact. Hooray! Hooray!

But after the collapse we looked at the bookcase, and then looked at its partner a few feet away and decided to would be best to take all of the books out of them and eventually get new ones . . . and not cheap Ikea ones either! We just bought those a few years ago, when we bought the condo – you would think they would be able to handle lots of, um, books. So we’ve learned our lesson, no more cheap bookcases. And now we have about roughly 200 or so paperbacks and hardcover books sitting in piles in our living room. Lots of history and politics and law and philosophy. Many, many hours of reading and studying and learning sitting on the floor. I try to quickly walk past those piles – if I pick up a book, I will start to read it again and many hours will pass. Too much to do, but they call out “read me!” I have to persevere . . . I hope one day to be able to have the luxury to sit with them again . . .

So lots of piles. Piles that mock me. Piles that make me proud. There’s something about a house full of books . . . It just feels like home. You can pull one down from the shelf and curl up in a chair and be comfortable. Of course, our chairs and couches aren’t that comfortable which is why I don’t do it much any more. But if they were, say, nice comfy couches and chairs – if we win the lottery some day – my joy would be complete.

I have walked into homes that didn’t have any bookcases around and I immediately feel cold. Like, well, what do you all DO? What do you all read? What do you talk about? You can tell a lot about people by the reading material they have around. Yes, I’m judgmental that way. I guess you can call me a snob.

But when I was little, my parents didn’t have much, but they always had books around. Lots of worn paperbacks. My mom loved to read and always had a book in her hand. My dad always read the paper. Reading was a big thing. Reading is what you did at home. It was a safe thing. A comfort thing. Your day could have sucked royally, but you could come home and lose yourself in a book. A blanket and a book.

So piles of books I have. Piles of magazines and newspapers and stuff printed out to read. In fact, right now I have next to me a copy of the new NEA report on reading, To Read or Not to Read, that I am about to dig into. I have to read it myself to get a sense of what it is saying, whether I really am part of a vanishing breed or not. Right away, the coolest thing about it is this quote from Virginia Woolf at the end. It speaks to me for some reason:

I have sometimes dreamt, at least, that when the Day of Judgment dawns and the great conquerors and lawyers and statesmen come to receive their rewards – their crowns, their laurels, their names carved indelibly upon imperishable marble – the Almighty will turn to Peter and will say, not without a certain envy when he sees us coming with our books under our arms, “Look, these need no reward. We have nothing to give them here. They have loved reading.”

Virginia Woolf, “How Should One Read a Book?”


mommanator said...

Whew- books wild! Sorry about the pictures, musta be disheartening!
Now get those books in boxes-the ones read of course and take to library or something like that- O Our church is collecting for the soldiers, one of the things that was on list the list was books-just a thought
Happy cleaning! whew glad its you and not me!

Virginia Gal said...

I love going to homes where they have tons of books, it makes me feel so comfortable. I hope when I get my own home to do the same.