Tuesday, October 10, 2006

Books! Books! Everywhere, Books!

Have you ever read the beginning of Italo Calvino's If On a Winter's Night a Traveler? Calvino begins this story with a character who loves books; he loves the feel of them, the smell of them, the words in them, and most importantly the stories and ideas in them. After purchasing a new book, he opens the front to see the title page. He looks at the cover and then turns it over to look at the back. He literally caresses that new book! When I first read this opening passage, I felt an overwhelming sense of familiarity ... that character could be me.

I wrote a poem based on this bit of book love by Calvino. I called it "Book Lust." I know, I know ... Nancy Pearl used this phrase as the title of one of her books. But I wrote the poem long before Book Lust was published. Ms. Pearl was just more motivated than I was, at the time, to put her work out there for the world to see. Sniff.

So how serious is my book lust? Well, for starters I've got 849 titles listed in my LibraryThing.com catalog and this is just the tip of it. I still have "a number" of books in storage that need to be entered into my catalog. To be fair, not all of these tomes are mine. Mr. Distortion is quite a reader too and he is not immune to the siren call of books.

The extent of my book lust was brought home to me last night when I took a trip to Borders Books. With birthday gift certificate in hand, I went skipping into the bookstore. Well, I didn't actually skip, but I wanted to ... and I was skipping in my head. I had a list of desired titles and began my search:

  • The Complete Brothers Grimm Fairy Tales? Nope, but Borders said they could order it for me and have it in 7 days. Hmmph. Want. Book. Now.

  • A Graveyard for Lunatics: Another Tale of Two Cities by Ray Bradbury? Nope, but there were about 25 copies of Fahrenheit 451 waiting for someone to love them.

  • Something Rotten (Thursday Next Novels) by Jasper Fforde? Nope, but they had the other 2 titles in this series that I already own.

  • The Cambridge Companion to T.S. Eliot by A. David Moody (ed.)? Nope, the computer said it was "in store" but appeared to be lost misshelved.

    Anyway, you get the idea. I decided that I might have more success if I just browsed the shelves. Certainly I would serendipitously come across a title that I really-really-wanted and had failed to put on my list. Browsing, I was a bit surprised at the number of books that I'd either read or already own, but I valiantly forged ahead with occasional sighs and "hmmms" to renew my determination. Eventually those sighs must have alerted the sales staff that they had a reader-in-distress in their midst, and a very nice saleslady asked if she could help me find anything. Before I had given careful thought to my answer I heard the following words come out of my mouth: "I think I have everything in the store already." The saleslady just stared. Probably hadn't heard that one before. So I added, "But thanks anyway," just to be social. Geesh! What IS my problem??

    I finally came home with Friends, Lovers, Chocolate by Alexander McCall Smith. Finding this book was no easy task since bookstores are never sure where to shelve it. Does it get shelved in Mysteries or Fiction/Literature? Does it get shelved with the M's for McCall or the S's for Smith? Just for the record, I found Alexander McCall Smith's books in all of the aforementioned areas.

    I must say that this has been a good birthday. Friends and relatives have fed my insatiable book lust with nary a hint of forthcoming intervention. What is that I hear you asking? The rest of the booty?

    I submit Birthday Gifts 2006:

  • I Am a Cat: Three Volumes in One by Soseki Natsume
  • Shakespeare Cats by Susan Herbert
  • Why I Write by George Orwell
  • The Man Who Was Thursday: A Nightmare by G.K. Chesterton
  • The Sunday Philosophy Club by Alexander McCall Smith
  • On the Beach by Nevil Shute
  • The Scar by China Mieville
  • Reading Like a Writer by Francine Prose

    Now to find those hours upon hours to read - ay, there's the rub.

    1. Oooh! Good choice. I liked Friends, Lovers, Chocolate better than the first book in the Sunday Philosopher's Club series. AND - I've got the third book waiting for me as soon as I finish the ten-deep stack I'm working on (I may sneak it in a bit early if I feel like it).

    2. Hmmm... It would be an enormous task but I would find it quite interesting to see the ratio of book ownership between you and Mr. Distortion.

      I'm so glad BubandPie stopped by. After I read this the first time, I was trying to think of the best way to let all those rabid readers out in the blog'verse know about this post. I know it will strike a chord in many a book loving heart!

    3. Bub and Pie - Glad to hear you liked Friends, Lovers, Chocolate. I took a look at the reviews on Amazon.com and was a bit surprised to see that they were only "middling" but was willing to take a chance on it anyway. I've read enough of your posts to know that I'd trust your opinion on books, so can't wait to read this series.

      Mary - good question about the ratio of books! I have no idea. We tend to share a lot anymore. Thanks for the thoughts on getting the post out to other readers. I know how much I love to find out what others are reading. One of the first things I check out when I visit someone is their bookshelf, so I've found LibraryThing catalogs to be the blog equivalent and love it when the link is included.

    4. Happy belated burpday wishes, and I love your selections...added a few to my to read list but first I need to read the couple dozen I have stacked on my bedside locker before, well, an avalanche happens.

    5. Alexandra - thanks for the birthday wishes. I love the avalanche comparison.

    6. Just stopping by from Mary-lue's blog to say I am so excited to get some good book recommendations, and to hear your praise of Calvino's book. That book has been one of my favorites for years!

    7. aliki - thanks for stopping by. I could talk about books forever and have to force myself to find other things to talk about! Glad to find another person who loves this book by Calvino.

    8. Ooh...lots of good new choices. Thanks for the tips. I love "If on a Winter's Night a Traveler" and "The Man Who Was Thursday." What nice family and friends you have. Enjoy.

      ps I'm swinging thru blogs today, following links. I'm here through Life, the Universe and Everything although she is new to me too.