Sunday, September 03, 2006

Saying Goodbye

Kristy and I have made the difficult decision to let some of our babies go. To make matters worse, they're the ones that have been with us the longest. I'm talking about books, of course. Over 12 years of marriage we've amassed quite a library, however, many of the books from our youth, those that were brought into the marriage, are the cheapest and rattiest of mass market paperbacks. I'm not saying there are good books and bad books, but space is becoming an issue. Some years ago I built in bookshelves measuring 8' x 8' and those are full and brimming over, and then there are the smaller, free-standing shelves scattered throughout the house, all packed full.

I don't throw books out. I don't trade books in. I don't borrow books. If there is a book I want, or one I think I may want down the road, I buy it and I buy it to keep. I told myself a long time ago, before there was money for books or much for rent or beer even, that I would never deny myself a book. Reading can only make us better. And before there was a Quartet I knew that I wanted a library for the kids I would have some day. When they come to me bored, I'll pick out a book. When they need references for a school project, I'll help them find what they need from our own stock. And someday, decades from now, when I'm not around anymore, this library will be passed to them or to their children.

But there is still the issue of space and of whether or not it's necessary to keep that copy of The Fountainhead with the cover long gone. And there's the issue of what to let go. Do I throw out the copy of Cat's Cradle? The one I did that great paper on that time I went to college? What about the copy of Farenheit 451 that Kristy read to me out loud while I drove us and our belongings on our move to Florida just after we were married? Certainly not - definitely not - A Moveable Feast, which I must have read a dozen times in my early 20s when all I dreamed of was being a poor, struggling writer. (I lent that copy to my sister when she visited Paris last year. She read it on the plane and then took pictures of the areas described and scattered them throughout the book for me.) There are others that helped me discover the writers you're supposed to discover when you're young - Fitzgerald, Kerouac, Salinger, London, Twain. These are all old friends it's going to be difficult to see go. Sure, we've replaced some of them with hardbacks where we could find them, or even nicer trade paperbacks, but not all of them, not yet. And the bright side is that Kristy is taking these books to her classroom so that, hopefully, the kids she teaches will be turned on to reading the good stuff.

Reading, my passion, was instilled in me by my mother, who would stop at the library on her way home when we were kids, ask the librarian what books were appropriate for our respective ages, and check out stacks of them. When my sisters and I were finished with those, she'd take them back and do it all over again. I got away from reading in high school, of all places, but then returned to it in my late teens through peer pressure. My friends would sit around talking about books they'd read, or they were reading, and I felt left out, embarrassed to say I wasn't familiar with Vonnegut or Cheever or Maugham. So I started reading and I've never stopped and don't plan to. Moreover, I'm trying to pass this bug on to my kids. C has picked it up already. He loves to read and will do so on his own, without being told to and without it being assigned homework. The other three can't read yet, or they say they can't, anyway. But when they can, their library, new and improved, will be waiting for them.