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.
Photo by Jasoon