Thursday, April 7, 2011
A joyful reunion
Glory hallelujah! This week I unpacked the last of numerous boxes filled with books in our new house - which I can now start calling home. Because home, as any book lover knows, is not only where your heart is. It is also where your books are.
All our other boxes and belongings have been unpacked weeks ago, but the books required special attention. If you have a huge amount of books, you need to arrange them according to some system - alphabetically, fiction distinguished from non-fiction, whatever works for you - otherwise you'll never be able to find the book you want when you want it. My books are now not only alphabetically arranged, but also according to languages (French, Afrikaans/Dutch and English), with fiction separated from non-fiction, poetry and plays separated from novels, and non-fiction subdivided into travel, history, philosophy, literature studies, dictionaries and grammar books, etc. The food and cook books are on a special shelf in our new kitchen (where else?), while the 'coffee-table books' are not on a coffee table (because we don't have enough coffee tables for our collection) but all over the house, in the bedrooms, next to the toilet, on the staircase...
For the first time in years I can find any book I need within a minute.
The problem is that I don't live alone in this house, nor am I the only reader, and the other inhabitants (i.e. husband and children) are already messing up my beautiful system. As I don't see any solution, short of forbidding anyone else in the house to touch a book - rather counterproductive for a wife and mother trying to encourage reading,isn't it? - I suspect that by the time I post my next blog, I'll once again be searching all over the house whenever I want any specific book.
But I won't have been wasting my time unpacking and arranging my books so carefully. It wasn't a chore, it was more like a joyful reunion of a long ago school class. I found novels I didn't even know I had, and others I'd been missing for years, and still others I'd loved long ago and want to read again to see if the same passion can be rekindled.
Among the tempting group of old flames are Don DeLillo's marvellous comic novel White Noise and Robertson Davies's The Rebel Angels. Among those that went missing years ago and have now unexpectedly turned up all battered and dusty, are most of John Irving's earlier novels, including the unforgettable The World According to Garp, The Hotel New Hampshire and A Prayer for Owen Meany. But the loveliest surprise of all was the treasure I didn't know I owned, for instance the classic French novel by Madame de La Fayette, La Princesse de Clèves. I actually wanted to buy this very first modern novel, written more than 300 years ago, because it is one of French president Nicolas Sarkozy's pet hates (for a bit background, read 'Nicolas Sarkozy, murderer of princess of Clèves': http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/2011/mar/23/sarkozy-murderer-princess-of-cleves) and has recently been turned into two interesting French movies about contemporary teenagers, La Belle Personne and the documentary Nous, les princesses de Clèves , proving once again that good literature never really dates.
Now I can't wait to start reading all the 'new', refound and rediscovered books in my new home. Happy reading to you too.