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Reverence for books

I promised Mr. Fooh Ling to elaborate on how I feel about books, due to a comment in an earlier entry where I revealed unknown truths about myself.

Books are small creatures looking for a home and someone to care for them. In many cases, they are jewels so precious, they take your breath away.

That probably sums up what I feel. Maybe that is why I have so many on my shelves and overflowing into boxes and stacks on the floor, complicating the rare vacuum cleaner excursions through the house. They all needed a home, and I was willing to give them one.

On my bookshelf, there is a Danish book written in 1922 by Knud Poulsen called Breve fra Danmark. I have not read it all, just one of the chapters. It seems to be just like the title says: letters from Denmark. Probably a series of musings and essays. The chapter I read covers a walk the author takes when the signs of spring are so strong that he rushes out of his house to go and listen to the lark, or see snowdrops nudge their way through the soil, and otherwise savor all the signs of Spring’s arrival. The words are so evocative that your senses immediately appreciate what his senses experience. I have tried several times to give this book away, and I cannot. I don’t want to give up the craftsmanship of the words. Perhaps I could just photocopy that one story and be done with it? No. The little green book with several gilt decorations and the marbled edges of the papers are too sweet to ignore. Who else has held this book and savored its contents? I think they are nodding in agreement with me somewhere, recalling the simple pleasure of reading its lines. The book is a tiny jewel to me.

Books prove the existence of parallel universes and time travel.

Open the pages of Herland and you step into a utopian world created by Charlotte Perkins Gilman where feminist issues are raised at a time when they were quite controversial (and in some ways, still are.) Or try Jane Hamilton’s Book of Ruth for a peek into a world that is so unlike your own (hopefully), and yet is so real and tangible that you can smell the dry Illinois heat in Ruth’s world and you instinctively long for the cooler shade. When I finished reading The Book of Ruth, I flung it onto the sofa with a loud sigh. A friend asked whether it was a bad book that I regretted reading. I explained that I was utterly exhausted from the turbulent emotion and events in the book, and that the sigh was just releasing the tension from finishing a book written with such strength and power. I could have said that it was the return from the parallel universe that caused the exhausted sigh.

Just last week when I was traveling and unable to blog, I was transported to another time. I was watching the Anne Boleyn – Henry VII saga unfold through the eyes of Mary Boleyn, The Other Boleyn Girl, thanks to the pen of Phillipa Gregory. With my love of historical novels and biographies, I can travel to any time or any place. I could mention a few, such as Christine Wiltz’s The Last Madam, or Lisa See’s Snow Flower and the Secret Fan, but this entry is not supposed to mimic the overflowing boxes of books in my home!

I haven’t even touched on what happens inside your head during these travels. You think. You ponder. You wonder. You agree. You disagree. You blossom.

Books are powerful magic.

They must be. They can relax you, amuse you, scare you, teach you, and so many other things. That is an amazing and beautiful thing. That is what awes me about authors. They must be wizards to train the words to weave the stories that enchant and entertain us. Publishers have a say in this magic as well. Some books are a pleasure just to hold. When someone really ponders the construction of the physical book, and considers the best typography, the best layout, the best cover, and so on, the end result is usually a thrill to behold. The older a book is, the more magic the publisher adds. That is when you get the little history lessons such as notes about printing restrictions due to wartime publishing or other tidbits that recall the era in which the book was published.

After this entry, I feel that I have to seek out and read The Gum Thief. Mr. Fooh Ling said my previous post that mentioned my reverence for books made him think of the Gum Thief. I need to find out what he means. . . .