I haven’t started packing yet–that’s for next month. What I’m doing is sorting. I went through my bookshelves and filled five boxes of books. I took them to the used book stores and got rid of perhaps a third. Now they will head for the garage sale I plan to have.
I went through my cds and sorted out a fifth to leave behind. Half the albums will stay as well. So what can I do now with my freed up shelf space, when it actually is freed up? Fill it with books, of course! I’ve already started. Went to the big-store today and got three: a new-for-me PD James, a newish Atkinson, and a Francine Prose that once I read will accompany the Atkinson to the garage sale. I’ll save the PD James for my sister-in-law.
Maxine Hong Kingston once said that she wished, or did–I can’t remember–give away her books as soon as she finished reading them. She had lost her library along with her house in a California fire.You can read about the fire in her Fifth Book of Peace. I remember her speaking on Bill Moyers long ago about how she wished to only use words of peace to write a book, in the manner Sonia Sanchez asked, “where are forks of peace? Where are the knives of peace?”
I lost part of a library to a steam-pipe burst–twice. I gave up half of my books in my last big move. Before I had a library of my own, when things were still in boxes in my parents’ basement, when I didn’t yet have volumes of volumes of books, when I read every vow at least once, I went to visit a friend in her office. She had joined as a tenure-track assistant professor in the same university I had accepted a lecturer position, after I had already been already a visiting assistant professor elsewhere; it would not be the first time I voluntarily moved down the academic ranks–in my mid-forties, to my own amusement, I found myself teaching as a T.A.
What is this post about? Books. When I visited my friend, who would later grow to be one of my dearest friends, in her office, I burst into tears. The emotion was so unexpected, so perplexing. I had come to her office and seen her magnificent wall of books. I saw solidity, security, a sense of home, and I ached for one of my own.
The coda on Elizabeth Bishop (whose centenary is being celebrated on Nova Scotia this weekend)’s “Questions of Travel” read:
Is it lack of imagination that makes us come
to imagined places, not just stay at home?
Or could Pascal have been not entirely right
about just sitting quietly in one’s room?
Continent, city, country, society:
the choice is never wide and never free.
And here, or there . . . No. Should we have stayed at home,
wherever that may be?”
Here is the entire poem in the previous post: