am rereading one of my favourite books of all time, Anne Fadiman's Confessions of a Common Reader, and am constantly reminded what a bibliophilic family i am a member of. when i run into words i don't know they aren't obstacles but new friends, who send me running for either our copy of the OED in one volume, with print so tiny they give you a magnifying lens to read it with, or my personal copy of the Shorter OED, my pride and joy, given to me as a birthday present on my eighteenth birthday. i've been known to read the OED just for fun, because it gives you the etymology of the word, and they boggle the mind.
listen to this: In Memoriam, Alfred Lord Tennyson:
Strong Son of God, immortal Love,
Whom we, that have not seen thy face,
By faith, and faith alone, embrace,
Believing where we cannot prove;
it stirs the soul.
Fadiman's observations just ring in my brain -- i know what she's talking about, i understand what she's talking about -- her opening essay is on 'Marrying Libraries': she had known her husband ten years, she'd lived with him six, been married for five, and had a child with him before they merged their libraries and -gasp- gave away the duplicates. i can't imagine doing that right now -- looking at the library i've assembled piecemeal over the years, and how it reflects the person i was two years ago when i left for college, and how soon it will come to reflect to person i am now, after two years of college [i think my christmastime baggage allowance on board is all going to be books -- my bookshelf in chicago is severely overloaded!] i can't imagine taking that apart and interleaving it with someone else's books, no matter how beloved. but i guess in time that will happen.
i live in a room overrun with books, in a house overrun with books, on all topics and in all shapes and sizes. i think i'll want my kids to live in a household like that. books everywhere, in the bathrooms and in the kitchen and the living room -- i'm tempted to say no TV but i don't think that would go over well with the as of yet imaginary husband, plus i like my rugby and my movies too much to give them up entirely -- and i'm not going to bother about them being kept pristine, like virginal lovers waiting for The Prince to ride up on a white horse. i think i'm a convert to 'carnal love' , as Fadiman puts it -- i scribble and dogear and argue vehemently -sometimes out loud- with my books, fling them across the room in disgust at what the authors have to say, sleep with them, eat with them, everything.
one last observation before i take off for the next couple of days: she writes -- '...of Thomas Jefferson, who chopped up a priceless 1572 first edition of Plutarch's works in Greek in order to interleave its pages with an English translation?' now i may not be as precious about my books as i used to be, but i'm still going to wince at the destruction of a first ed -- my question is -- why didn't Jefferson chop up the english translation instead?