Guest post by Carrie Anne Ebner, May 30, 2011
What makes you choose the novels you read? Do you go into a book store, or online, and greedily snatch up one more, just a little past your arbitrarily allotted budget, and then weigh the diplomacy of leaving one of them for another buyer while you suspiciously eyeball the assumed bibliophiles around you? Are there books you loaned, and never got back, that beckon you to repurchase after it’s been years since you’ve read them? Do you have lists of books…on note cards, receipts, final drafts about to be turned in to the professor…which were recommended to you from various respectable sources, littering the inside of your car, wedged between books you’ve already read, filed in one of your drawers you never intend to organize until you can’t close it anymore? Why this constant obsession with literature anyway? And why do you read the books you call…yours?
I woke up at 4:30 this morning with the winter wrens and spring light, and clever thoughts about how I’d give something priceless to my brother for his birthday. It was actually May 19th, and today is the 30th, but he’s coming to town from Ohio, and I can’t wait to see him. Before his birthday he told me explicitly that he already had four books he was reading, so this meant I couldn’t default to the old standby of sending him a book in the mail. Of course, this made me panic a little, since I have plenty of books I’d like to give him, but, there are other gifts, and ideas which come to me at the wee hours which prove my constant ingenuity, and can solve that problem of celebrating his birthday late. Anyway, he lives across the street from a bookstore…he could hit his sand wedge and knock a window in. Why would I presume he needs me to find him his books?
And what is it to receive a book from another, or a recommendation? Someone has just told you that this is the best book I have ever read in my life. And it turns out to be The Celestine Prophesy, and you thank them and tell them you’ve already read it, but you’ll give it another go once you’ve climbed through the stack on your night table. I caution myself now when I make a recommendation, and I’m very choosy when it comes to the gift of book…even if this is all I want to give all of the time, given I had endless funds. Why wouldn’t someone want a world of their own, one where the plot lasts longer than a film, but shorter than a lifetime? The best book I’ve ever read is a particle in motion, acted upon by outside forces, so what spoke to me then, might not speak to me now. And I’m sure there have been several I’ve given away with certainty that they would move another to velocities unmoved…yet remained unread. Or un-re-read.
This world is full of traffic signals, and provider bills, and rubrics, and things we don’t call vacations. Some nights I can’t read a book because of worry or excitement for the following day. Sometimes the book I’m reading is hard work, and really requires I’m there with it and all of the characters, and the author’s reliance on my undivided attention. And some days I toss all cautionary woes to the wind and allow myself the time I need to be with my book…which ever one it is, created specifically for this purpose of my calling it my own.