Monday, November 09, 2009

Obsessed with Books

Went to the library today, and as usual, checked out more books than I can read. I'm already reading: Punished by Rewards by Alfie Kohn (amazing. it's blowing my mind!); Shop Class as Soul Craft by Matthew B. Crawford (just read the first few pages); Olive Kitteridge by Elizabeth Strout; short stories by Dorothy Parker; Gilda Joyce: Psychic Investigator by Jennifer Allison (YA novel); and Our Babies, Ourselves by Meredith Small (wow. so interesting. making me question our Western ways of raising children). Today I checked out 3 cookbooks (Bon Appetit/Japanese cooking/1950's casserole recipes), 2 kids books, Gilda Joyce (found randomly in juv. section, a book on photographing children, and Real Simple Solutions. From the CSC library, I've checked out New Art City by Jed Perl and two books on music composition by Hindemith and Schoenberg. Also: Sleepytime Songs, The Sweater Chop Shop, and Altered Book Collage. 

Why do I do this? Do I have an unhealthy obsession with books? Are books a stand-in for real-life activities? Will I always just be an armchair traveler?

 I keep thinking--there's a book out there that's going to change my life--so I check out 30 at a time to find the perfect one for the moment. But most of the time the books go back, unread. Then I think, what's the point of learning about new concepts and ideas from books if I don't share them with others? What's the point of collecting and buying books if they're just going to outlive me? Do I underline telltale passages for future generations so they know what I was like or what I was into? Do I write essays about my favorite books? I love being surrounded by books--I love knowing that I could look up 1960's interior decorating ideas or set up projects around Girl Scout merit badges or reread this passage from Minor Characters by Joyce Johnson: 

"I saw my first tenement apartment when I was twenty--top floor of a six-story walkup in Yorkville. Four very small rooms leading into each other railroad style, cracked walls and old tin ceilings that sagged a little. My best friend Elise, who had just moved in there, had painted all of it white, even the linoleum on the floor. What I remember is the amazing light in that place, how it flooded in as if there was no real separation between inside and outside, and everything--what little there was--seemed to be set afloat in it. A light that was almost Mediterranean, giving the scarred, patched walls a chalky thickness like the walls of Greek villas, beatifying the mattress on the floor, the Salvation Army table, the chairs carried in from the street. 
"I saw that same extraordinary light in the early apartments of other friends. Why there? The defiant absence of anything over the windows, I guess. Maybe it was just as simple as that."

Do you do that? Just reread your favorite passages over and over again?

Now if I could only apply myself to other areas of life with that much zeal (from reading), I'd be very productive. Reading is a passive activity, but it gives me lots of ideas for active activities. But I forget that other people can't hear the ideas in my head. How do I make them real?