9.22.2010

bibliomysticism.

I have mentioned before that Josh loves books. Saying that is sort of like saying that Josh loves chocolate. It doesn't fully convey to you his feelings and how those feelings affect both of our lives. I hope by now that I have convinced to you that he loves chocolate. I've tried very hard, because his passion for chocolate is so foreign and interesting to me in its intensity that I think that you might find it intriguing as well. It's sort of like learning about other cultures. So let's talk about books now.

Josh loves books. Where some men might have a special room in the house that is just for them, perhaps with a giant television, a comfortable chair and maybe even a small fridge just for beer, Josh has a library. The library contains wall to wall bookshelves and a small writer's table which has his computer on it. The computer is not connected to the internet, because it's just for writing. He has a lifetime membership to LibraryThing, where he catalogs his books.

Josh is against e-readers. He thinks that there is something magic in the physical form of a book and that the rising tide of digitalization is the first step to Fahrenheit 451, to the death of books. There is a word for this. It's called bibliomysticism. He is a bibliomystic, which sounds like the kind of thing that requires a hooded robe. I like to picture it that way myself, as if he's a book monk, and I offer the image to you to help you understand how Josh feels about books. In literature, imagery is helpful in conveying ideas to the reader.

For the record, I disagree about e-readers. I think digitalization is a Good Thing. I think it will lead to better preservation and easier accessibility to more and more books. I am a long way off from buying an e-reader, but that's mostly because it's a lot cheaper to buy actual books at yard sales.

Which reminds me: I like to take credit for Josh's thorough conversion to the secondhand lifestyle, but at the same time, we're being overrun with books. I went and showed him that great literature is not just incredibly affordable, it's sometimes almost free. At Goodwill, books run from $.75 to $1.50. At yard sales, you can often fill a good-sized cardboard box for a dollar. He doesn't even like regular bookstores anymore, even used book stores. They bore him or maybe they taunt him with their high prices. You know, the prices that the rest of the world thinks is reasonable for a book. I think that bookstores still have their place in my life. Sometimes, I need or want a specific book now, so I have to pay the convenience fee that the retail world charges. He does not agree. He says there is so much good reading out there, available for pennies, that there is no reason to ever buy new. Just wait until the right yard sale, and you'll find it. Or you won't, but you won't lack for good reading in either case.

He is right in a lot of ways. I buy a lot more books than I used to. Once upon a time, I would only buy a book if I already knew that I would love and cherish it, because only then could I justify spending the money. Now, I buy anything that looks vaguely interesting. I read it, and then I keep it or take it to the used book store for store credit. I have discovered many wonderful and beautiful books this way, ones that I would never have picked up otherwise.

And yet, I foresee a future when the sheer number of his books will become a problem. We can't buy every book. We can't even read them all. Every time Josh leaves a yard sale with an armload of books, I raise my eyebrow at him (which is totally unfair, considering I have a sizeable collection of books and a HUGE collection of random crap). He ignores my raised eyebrow. We do have room, right now at least, and besides, he is on a mission. He is saving the books.

Things that are at yard sales are one step away from being thrown away. What doesn't get bought is sometimes taken to a thrift store, but there too it is only one step away from the garbage. Some people who hold yard sales just throw their leftovers away, and sometimes thrift stores have to clean out their stock. The secondhand market is a little like the pound. If you don't adopt that puppy/book/stationery, who will? This might be its last chance. You might be its last chance.

This is how Josh feels. He is saving the books. He will be the one-man last stand if he has to, in which case, he will definitely need a hooded robe.

It is noble, but frustrating. He has a soft spot for unusual books, particularly old ones. To him, their relative scarcity means they need the most saving. I don't mind him picking up early editions of Mark Twain, but he also buys old reference books. He buys gun manuals and electronics how-to's and early UFO conspiracy tomes. This is where he and I disagree. He says that this is important knowledge that may someday be useful. We need to preserve it. I say that on the odd chance that it will be useful, the internet will probably be working that day. I limit my cookbook purchases for the same reason that he does not buy books at the used book store. There are more recipes than I could ever cook available to me for free on the web, so there is little point in bothering with a book.

That is a difference between us. Josh thinks books are magic. I feel that the books themselves are not magic, but are merely containers of magic. So if I can get the same magic from another source, that is good enough for me. I do keep some books, because their magic is important enough for me to want to make sure that I can always get some of it whenever I need it.

As he runs out of shelf space, he seems to seeing my point. As he is cataloging his books in LibraryThing, he is coming to the conclusion the line between collector and hoarder is getting fine. While I am enjoying the fact that he is realizing that I was Right, I think he probably would have figured it out on his own, without me accumulating a bunch of Naggy Girlfriend demerits. As he catalogs, he culls. He keeps the literature and lets the comprehensive gun manuals go.

However, there is one ridiculous book that I have requested he keep, for the sake of symbolism. I'm not so good at symbols in literature, but I sure do like having them around the house. Someday, I will tell you about the Trust Spoon. For now, we'll talk about Canine Surgery. He got it at a yard sale. He almost did not buy it, because it was the kind of day where I was racking up a lot of Naggy Girlfriend demerits. But his resistance was futile from the beginning, even I could see that. So we brought home a book titled Canine Surgery. The actual book may be symbolic to us, but the title is not. It is about cutting open dogs for the purpose of curing what ails them. It is a veterinary reference book. I can think of no non-post-apocalyptic scenario where the information contained within this book would ever be useful to us. And I tell you, it is a completely typical example of the kind of book that he buys. This is what I mean when I tell you that Josh loves books. I mean that he buys books called Canine Surgery that are about actual canine surgery.

Do you understand now? Did the symbolism help, or maybe the imagery? When I tell you that Josh loves books, do you get how his love for books affects our lives? I hope so. Frankly, I've run out of writing devices, so if you don't get it now, maybe I lack the skill to explain. In which case, I'll just repeat: Josh loves books.

2 comments:

Peggy said...

i was so ready to support josh and tell you to back off because books are so amazing. i have so many-even old college textbooks from the '70's. i like to just see my book collection waiting for me to read them again and again, hold them, and love them. but i think canine surgery might just be crossing the line a little...
so give him another naggy girlfriend demerit and toss that one when he isn't looking.

Sandra said...

Someday you will come over to my house and you will see that there is such a thing as Too Many Books.