27 June 2009

Seduced by Books

Temperature at noon:  34c/94f (felt like 39c/102f)

In Christmas of 2008, at the department Christmas party, MCLSJB (who knew me, but not well) said to me, "Hey, Dr. [Me], did you know that there's a twenty-four lingerie shop in town?"  I said, "Really?!?"  And he said, "I knew you'd be interested in that."  I couldn't fully believe that there would  be such a shop, because  (a) WhereIlive is very religious, so a twenty-four lingerie shop seemed a curious addition to town, and (b) Who needs a twenty-four hour lingerie shop?  A few days after the Christmas party, though, I drove past where he said it was, and there it was!  Many weeks later, I finally got around to going in, and it turns out to be much more than a lingerie shop.  There are costumes!  There are DVD's!  There are...items! Quite a broad array, in fact.  Being me, I got into a chat with the woman behind the counter, and she told me that their busiest time is between midnight and 8am.  Who would have guessed?  Well, apparently one person, because my friend BC was utterly unsurprised.  According to his logic, this would be the best time to sneak out for your sex shop needs:  no one you knew would observe you.  Anyway, ever since then I've been tickled whenever I drive by the twenty-four hour lingerie shop, as I love the oddness of its existence.  So today's picture is:   The Twenty-Four Hour Lingerie Shop.

I love the slogan:  "Home of the naughty."  Oh, you minxish shop, you!

All of which is a rather odd opening for a post that will now turn out to be about books. Shortly before I left WhereIwas to come here, I decided one night that I would sell as many of my belongings as I could, including as many of my books as I could.  I'd lived without these things for a year and hadn't missed most of them, my logic went, so selling them would be no big deal.  Today, therefore, I went through my books, preparatory to taking them to the used book store (alas, not twenty-four hour). 

Well, it turns out that shucking off books is an altogether more complicated endeavour than I imagined.  Books, I should not be surprised to learn but was interested to discover, involve a good deal more than simple "need."  They involve memories, and background, and life.  I have a book of Seamus Heaney's poems:  I don't even like Seamus Heaney, but that book was given to me by my parents, and you can't sell a book your parents gave you, and inscribed.  I have a book of Pre-Raphaelite art, and strictly speaking I don't need it, but I love Pre-Raphaelite art, and that love is part of who I am:  even if I never open it again, having it on my shelf announces to people a little bit of what I'm like.  Obviously I wasn't going to sell my rare books, or my sentimental books (Sheep out to Eat, anyone?), but I have many, many more books than those.

I was most surprised by my reaction when I came to the box of contemporary poetry books. I've never thought of myself as a lover of contemporary poetry, except for Simon Armitage, but looking at the Philip Larkin, the Patrick Kavanagh, and even the Ted Hughes, I just couldn't bring myself to put them in the "to go" pile.  They are, in some inarticulable way, essential to me.

Well, I'm a book person.  Still, standing there in the midst of this sea of reading matter that I might never come back to permanently, and that will cost me a small fortune to ship anywhere, I was surprised by how interwoven these objects were with me.  They don't define me, and I don't need them, but in some curious way they are elemental for me.  Hm.

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