Something I chose to be

Photo by Jasoon

A long time ago, I saw a French movie about a woman who was a whore. She was not into her calling by circumstance mind you, she was a whore by design. She loved men, of all kinds, all looks, all walks of life. She loved sleeping with them, loved having sex with them, obsessed with discovering what they were all about. That final knowledge apparently catapulted her to whatever heights of orgasmic nirvana she constantly reached for. That is why she went into her chosen profession with her eyes wide open, of her own free-will, because to her this was the quickest way to avail herself of what she wanted to savor and explore, to get a lot of what she needed the most.

Hey, it's a French movie, don't look at me like that because I'm not the one who came up with the plot line.

Anyway, that's me to a modified degree. I'm just like that woman in the movie except that, the focus of my passion, what I want and need, the calling that I choose is that of a book lover. In my real life, I feel the same way about my books as she did in the movie about her men. I've chosen to make them my métier.

I love all books, all sizes, all subjects, all kinds. I care little for their provenance, be it a dustbin or a clean bookshelf as long as I get to keep whatever I want. They can be falling apart or spanking new. With colorful or drab covers; by heard of authors or obscure somebodies known only to their mamas. They can be a flavor of lit I understand and love, or a subject I've never delved into before. Best-sellers or no-sellers, it really matters not if I want them. Hunting for books to bring home while in bookstores, garage sales, antique stores or on-line, is one thing that's guaranteed to stop me in my tracks like as if I've been superglued in place. Time can pass by quickly, too quickly when I'm looking to acquire a book.

Years ago, when I lived in DC there was a flea market down by Georgetown every Sunday and there were many book dealers there. They'd go into people's homes and buy up cheap lots of books from proper libraries or the paperback that, until recently, might have called someone's night stand their home. Depending on the type of bookseller who'd acquired them, those books would sit there, lined up neatly but then again, there were many just thrown about. All of them, just begging for someone to single them out, give them another run, show them a reading good time. In short, they were waiting for someone like me to come along. I love being the new conquest if you will.

Have you ever opened up old books? You know the glory then of handling a well-kept tome or one that's beat up around the edges. They smell of something lived, something stained, perhaps musty, perhaps sweet. And then bingo! A name on the first blank page, right there, an inscription to so and so. Better yet, there might be a bookplate - this book belongs to the library of ____. Every so often, there's even the added boon of an actual date. They are not necessary these markings of previous ownership, these clues to their past lives but, I can't deny that they make the experience of owning them all the better for me. I feel that books gain a sense of attractiveness when they've been well used. There is a whole branding factor there that I find impossible to resist. I'm addicted to that feeling of perpetuation, of my being one more notch in the post of its life.

Likewise, there is a reverse psychology at work for me in the virginity of a newly printed book. A hardback (preferable but not necessary), a paper back, crisp and clean, with nothing bent out of shape. They look neat, pressed and proper, ready to initiate someone into the secrets of their pages, the allure of their words. For every copy, that magic, to whatever degree, can only be wrought for the first time on one person alone. After that, they will never again be untouched.

Often, if money is not a consideration, or my need for a particular title is great, I prefer to go for the hardbacks. They're more pleasurable to handle or manhandle. That treatment depends entirely on how pleased I am by a book. If they inspire love and reverence, then I touch them with utmost care. If they end up disappointing me, then I'm less careful, more apt to relegate them to some obscure corner of my bookshelves, a little the worse for wear.

There's one feeling that never changes though, when I walk into bookshops or libraries, I always feel like I've come home. I may approach them armed and prepared. A campaign list in hand, a seduction to accomplish. Other times, I'm there for the potluck sampling. Whatever catches my fancy. Here's yesterday's found haul for example:

1000 Graphic Elements - Details for Distinctive Designs by Wilson Harvey
The Forger's Spell - A True Story of Vermeer, Nazis and the Greatest Hoax of the Twentieth Century by Edward Dolnick
Death Angel by Linda Howard
Ex Libris -Confessions of a Common Reader by Anne Fadiman
Fancy Alphabets - A book of fonts put out by Pepin Press
The Magician - The Secrets of the Immortal Nicholas Flamel by Michael Scott
Agent ZigZag - A True Story of Nazi Espionage, Love and Betrayal by Ben Macintyre

They are sitting right here in front of me now as I write this post. My lovelies. If I were Gollum, I'd call them my preciouses. Soon, I will enjoy them however I can, taking away something from the time I've spent in their company, something hopefully good and, when I'm done, I'll put them aside before I go out to search for more. I never tire of seeking out my books. I know they want to be found. I want to be the one finding them. A few will become deep loves but never so permanent that I will stop and be faithful to them alone. I know what this fickleness says about me... as to you, feel free to draw your own conclusions.


  1. Half-Past Kissin' TimeJuly 27, 2008 at 11:54 PM

    I wish I had the time to read like you do, Milena! My current read is called, "10 Things Every Child with Autism Wishes You Knew." Not exactly bedtime reading, but it is good!

  2. I love books which is something instilled by my father since before I went to kindergarten. One of my still-unrealized chilhood dream was to have a room dedicated as a private library. I wish I had the time (and money!) for books but I just don't. You've described exactly how I feel about "coming-home" feeling when entering a bookstore.

  3. i love reading about others' relationships with books and reading. love 'em too, that's why i'm a librarian.

  4. I'm still feeling guilty about not posting my books. That said, I read, for the most part from waking to falling asleep; but, I've never felt a physical attachment to books. Once I've read it, I'm done (except for a few, a very few) and it's given to a friend or traded for another new experience.

  5. I keep every book I buy, at least for now. Maybe someday I will pass them along, but I'm greedy about collecting them.

    Still, you far outpace me in the number of books you read (and acquire, it seems!).

    Which is why I can't keep up with you on GoodReads!

  6. I, too, love reading & can't imagine a life without books ! I've just returned from South Africa where I managed to pick up a few great books in some 2nd hand bookshops ... the only problem being, they are just soooo heavy to bring back in your luggage ... well, especially when you buy as many as I do ;) Thanks once again for a fantastic blog post !

  7. Love boks and can't iamgine my life without them )))

  8. B: My dad used to say that there's even something worth reading in cereal boxes. Your autism books sounds good. Lately it seems that everywhere I turn there is some sort of literature on autism. I read when I can and that is mostly late at night when the kid is finally conked out and in bed.

    Syarlilady: Whenever I got good marks at school my parent would reward me with trips to the bookstore. I cannot tell you what a thrill that was. Currently, I can buy most anything I please but there have been times when that was not the case. On those occasions, the library has always been a good friend. I hate having to take books back however. I'm territorial as you can see.

    Rebecca: If ever there was an underrated profession, yours is one. Good librarians are worth their weight in gold. As far as I'm concerned, there should be librarian day once a year.

  9. Dave: Tell me all about them. I want to know...
    As to being physically attached to books, let's just say you'll have to surgically pry them off of me. I can loan but I'm careful to whom and once burned (meaning no return of my property or damaged item) that's it! Never again. I'm also into accumulating. I get a little thrill when I see all my books everywhere. BTW, I've already ordered the book you've recommended. Can't wait to read it. Thanks.

    Jennifer: I hear you, I hear you. We are EXACTLY the same. I haven't had much time to post the new stuff I've gotten my hands on at Goodreads, have to update. But it isn't a race of course. Reading is all about pleasure. For me it's like playing hooky. In this house, I steal and hoard my reading time. You'd be surprised at the lengths I go to when I want to secure some alone time with a book.

    Lynda: Next time ditch the clothes and bring more books. I'd ditch the lamp and tinned ham also. That's about three books weight-wise right there if you think about it. ;-)

    Angel: Precisely!

  10. Okay... you got me. Besides the model railroad trains that I write about, books and movies are two of my great loves. My favorite series are Terry Pratchett's Discworld books, Jack Whyte's Camulod Chronicles (or Gathering of Eagles) which is Historical fiction about King Arthur's forefathers, and the late Robert Jordan's Wheel of Time series. But if fantasy and the Arthurian legends aren't your thing, three books I think every book lover should read are: "Theophilus North" by Thornton Wilder, "All the Ships at Sea" by William J. Lederer, and "Surely You're Joking Mr. Feynman" by Richard Feynman.

  11. Randall: You got me my friend. Anybody who loves Robert Jordan has my vote. I started reading The Wheel of Time series when he was up to the third book then I had to wait once a year for every new one. So, between that and the trains and Terry (whom I love too) and our love of strictly ballroom, I'd say you and moi would be a match made in heaven but then, what would I tell the hubby over here? ;-)

    P.S. I'll try those other books you mentioned. Especially that Theophilus North one. Any book with a title like that must be worth its salt.

  12. I love books, too. I can spend half a day in a good book store, or any bookstore, and wish I could own a large part of what's in stock. The books I own would fill a van. I also write my own, because I love stories. The novel I wrote is fantasy genre, titled "Outcasts Of Skagaray". If you want a free preview there are sample chapters on www.threeswans.com.au I would be thrilled if you read it. Whatever happens I wish you well. Books are a joy the world would be empty without.

  13. I hope you live beyond the three-score and ten, too! I can see what you mean. There is a lot to look forward to in life. It's good that life spans are increasing. Thanks for your comment - I hope to hear from you again.

  14. Oh, I'm such a book-lover too.

    Some of my best dates were had in bookstores. (you can really tell a lot about a guy according to what section he lingers at.)

  15. i would love to come book shopping at your house! do you have a huge library to house all your book treasures? I would love a room in my house JUST FOR BOOKS-you know an acutal library.

  16. Wow, this is an incredible tribute to books, and well deserved, I might add. I can relate to everything you've said. In fact, when I'm low on cash, I have to make a conscious effort to avoid bookstores or any place that sells books because I can't go in without spending like $100. It's surely an addiction!

    Melissa Donovan

  17. Andrew: I have to pull myself away or have someone drag me out of bookstores. My husband says that my "just give me a second dear" is more like a day when it comes to me and exiting a place that sells books. I read the excerpt to your book. Very interesting. Thanks for letting me know. You know, I could not imagine a world without books either. P.S. Absolutely you will hear from me again. I hope the same of you.

    Caviar and Codfish: I can tell you truthfully that besides hands and feet, the quality or dearth of books in a prospective date's bookshelf told me everything I needed to know about how far our date might go... if any place at all that is ;-)

    Erin: You can come borrow anytime. I don't have a dedicated room unfortunately, though I dream of it often. My ideal home would have a two floor library with a wrap around balcony for the upper level books. As it is, I've got bookshelves of some kind or other in nearly every room. When it gets to be too much I pack away and store in boxes (something that I try to do as little as possible because it kills me) but every once in a while I have to make sure the husband doesn't divorce me.

    Melissa: My monthly book bill is well... larger than some. And that's ok. All I do is cut corners elsewhere. You think there's a book lovers' anonymous? We need help you and I.

  18. I am a total bookaholic. I am a rare book dealer by trade--I couldn't do anything else.

    One of my favorite books--and one I bet you would like like--is The Art Forgers Handbook. Very interesting.

  19. Deadrooster: I find myself in that rare situation when I feel like saying something very unlike the way I normally speak but totally on the money... something like, "your blog rocks dude." It really does you know. I'm absolutely loving your place. And what a cherry on the ice cream to find out that you are a rare book dealer. Those are three words that are guaranteed to stop me in my tracks. ;-)

    Thank you very much for the recommendation. I will look it up.

  20. I just want to know where you find the time to read all those great books? That's my greatest challenge, so many great book, so little time!

  21. Suzanne: I've got one phrase for you - Bathroom break!


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