As I face trying to box up my books at my parents’ house, I ask myself “Why did I buy so many books?” Since childhood, I’ve been a fan of books. I say a “fan” rather than just a “reader” because I also came to like the cover art. Some books from my childhood haven’t actually survived intact, as sometime over the years they became infested with tiny white dot-sized paper mites. Those are up in my parents’ attic and because of the mites I can’t ever have them join my collection. Which is too bad as I’m still really keen on the “Tripod Trilogy” by John Cristopher with particular painted covers, which I read as a pre-teen… But anyhow, due to the mites I’ve been spared a few pounds of those early books.
In later years I was drawn to coffee table books (as well as Robert Heinlein paperbacks and hardcovers, and Tom Robbins trade paperbacks).
I have many coffee table books – books like “The Art of Star Trek”, or the “Aeon Flux Companion,” or other really beautiful, lavishly illustrated film tie-in books. Always, whenever I bought such books, I thought to myself that someday I’d have a home of my own, with a coffee table on which I could leave these out to impress and entertain people. I think that intention is a legacy of my having gone on visits with my parents to some of their college friends who lived in New York City (one has since died), and they always had nice coffee table books, such as a book of Marilyn Monroe photographs. And also of course I’ve always been a fan of vision.
I am emotionally invested in the idea that my coffee table books will one day be on display at a home of my own. So what strikes me as sort of unnerving now about my coffee table books is that I am 36 years old and I do not have a home of my own, and indeed my adult self is aware that I don’t even know if we are living in the kind of world where a person ever settles down and lives in a place for a long time as my parents did, and as their parents did before them. Couple that with an awareness of mortality which causes me to recognize that these coffee table books could remain with me until I am old and wrinkled and then dead and cremated, without ever having had a table of their own.
I could just throw them away, but they’re gorgeous books. So I have to sort of half-hope that I may someday have a table for them, even if, at age 36 now and counting, that seems increasingly unlikely.
My plan, which I’ve been working at for a couple weekends now, is to box up everything with the intention that if I ever find a home of my own, it will be easy to simply get a moving service to come to my parents house and pick up my boxes, and send them on to me.
I’ve just come back from another day of doing that, and I think it counts for my exercise of the day, as my upper back is pretty sore. Books are heavy.
This plan to someday move my books to my dream home makes me a little angry in that it means I’ll have to pay to have them moved, which will feel like I’m being forced to buy the books again. Particularly as books are heavy and therefore expensive to ship, even at book rate (which realistically isn’t a safe way to ship so many books anyway, but still, it comes to mind as one way it could be done, if ever I have a home of my own).
I was pleased to make one box that combined all my Robert Heinlein and Tom Robbins books together. And I have to admit, the coffee table books (two boxes of them), make me smile. They are so damn pretty. I’ve got some incredibly rare ones (“Blade Runner The Illustrated Screenplay”), and some that people ignored even when marked down to four bucks (“The Art of Austin Powers”) in the overstock section of the New England Mobile Book Fair — which isn’t mobile and isn’t a fair, by the way, it is a wherehouse type of bookstore from which probably 90% of all the books of my life have come from. Wow, there’s a thought. I guess more recent years, Amazon has supplied several. But generally speaking, since I was a child to now, many of my books came from one place.
But I was saying, some aren’t rare and some are, but for me the value is in how it took years of selecting to come up with this collection. Though it may be possible to find a good many of these books online, used, now that the internet exists and Amazon Zshops collects the used inventories of many dealers, the fact that I accumulated these over years of my own life makes them feel like an adjunct to my own inner biography. They are visual cues to my own history-of-interests.
And my interests have remained pretty consistent — today I only threw out perhaps 20 books (of the non coffee table variety) which I no longer have an interest in.