Sometimes when I’m walking past one of my book cases, or a table that is laden with books, I’ll just do a little rearranging. I’ll move them about, or build asymmetrical stacks, or open one and bury my face in it like it’s a fat baby, and sometimes even be happily surprised by something I had forgotten I owned. I can’t walk past the shelves in the hall without touching a spine.
Sometimes I’ll open a book to a random page and just read that page. A book I remember having beautiful words in exactly the right place will draw me to just dip in. And I might write a note in a margin and leave the book face down, covers splayed, spine cracking, and advice about good book care will pinch me until I realize I have a secret relationship with this book and it understands.
Sometimes I’ll think about the house moves I’ve done – how I had to pick and choose what to slow boat back to Australia – and I’ll grieve the books left behind. All those Shirley Hughes MacGyvered together with lacky bands and yellowing tape; the Toni Morrison, John le Carre, V.S. Naipaul, all left behind because they can be replaced, can’t they? Well they can be replaced, but not those copies, which still have crumbs in them because I like to eat crackers in bed while I read.
I have a Tohby Riddle picture book I read aloud to myself when I’m feeling sad.
Where does this relationship with books come from?
My sister recently suggested I take up meditation to cope with some physical pain. I told her I couldn’t quiet my mind. Then I picked up The Transit of Venus (Shirley Hazzard) for the umpteenth time, and fell quiet. Or distracted. Or involved. Or removed. All those things books do.
Best not to analyze it.
I love books.