I watched a wonderful documentary called “The Booksellers” the other night. It was about the world of the collection and sale of rare books in New York City. It gave the history of some of the biggest collectors and book brokers ever. I came away with a glimpse of a library I had already been to The Morgan Library and Museum where the fabulous collection of JP Morgan resides today. He came to acquiring rare books late in life with a vengeance. It’s a beautiful, ornate library in his mansion on Madison Avenue in Manhattan. I was enthralled when I visited last year. I also came away with a new library to visit in Stamford, Connecticut, if we are ever let out of this pandemical prison of ours: the Walker Library of the History of Human Imagination. This is not a documentary with vast universal interest. You have to have “books in your blood,” as one of the bibliophiles said. I surely have ever since the first Scholastic Book order of Curious George arrived at my second-grade class. I never did become much of a library lender, though. If I read a book, it had to live with me. And believe me, they have been some of the best boarders I ever had, even if I had to pay them to do so.
One of the most heartwarming things imparted by this film was the fact that most twenty-somethings today read actual books. The Kindle crowd, it said, was really more in their 40s. I suppose we 60 plus are a mixed bag. I dislike reading on a Kindle or any facsimile thereof and rarely ever do. The only time I find it useful is when a book discovery happens during a midnight romp on the Internet and this intriguing find just won’t wait until the stores open or Amazon can deliver it. Speaking of Amazon, to this day I cannot believe that this novel little company that I adored from the day they opened their doors, as they were kind of enough to send books to my house, would become this symbolic behemoth of all these wrongs with capitalism. But I digress.
This revelation of real book reading twenty-somethings gives me hope that in fifty to a hundred years there will be another literary Renaissance. I imagine a repudiation of all things digital and that it will be started by a grassroots movement of these “book in hand” lovers. This activist group will be the catalyst that leads to this reading revolution. Hardcovers and paperbacks will be sought after and revered and the timeless classics will be the Holy Grail of a new generation, tired of the pixilated poison they’ve had to endure for decades. I imagine it will begin with the finds of their grand or great grandparents’ libraries stored away for decades. I imagine these rebel reading leaders will sit under their blankets at night devouring their newfound treasures and ruin their eyes as I did in the fourth grade when I was told to shut the lights and go to sleep. I imagine there will be a government by then that controls all the digital information and that it is so watered down and boring and bland that these young rebel minds are thirsty for fresh knowledge and ideas from the past. I imagine another generation of young girls dreaming of their Rhett Butlers and being romantically ruined by the stories of Danielle Steel. I imagine another generation of young boys taking to Jack Kerouac’s road or dreaming of a trip to Dune. I hope it happens in fifty years so my sons will either rue the day they discarded the rest of my books or be glad that they had the good sense to hold on to them. I like to think I’ll be back for that time and maybe even lead the charge disguised as not their mother.
I lightened that load of my books for them and me just recently as a pandemic project. I didn’t think I would ever part with another one of the books that line an entire wall in my home ever again. It was so difficult when I did it about a decade ago. I had sought a new home for eight boxes of them back then, as space was just shrinking under the weight of my book-buying frenzy. I put an ad on Craigslist asking the potential recipient what they would do with these books if they got them for free. The winner was this woman who was going to line the bookshelves in an apartment building lobby in North Hollywood. It was filled with aspiring actors that could not afford books. I liked that idea a lot. This time around, the reduction was partly for me but mostly for my sons. I know that if the time comes that I can move soon, there is no place I can go that will hold all these books of mine. I know that if the time comes and my move is to the everlasting another side instead of a nice condo in Palm Desert, I don’t want my sons to feel the burden of disposing of something their mother loved so much. Or at least not this much of it. So with a pandemic limiting the options for both sales and donations, I decided to gift this lot to the Last Book Store in downtown Los Angeles. What a beautiful place this is! An old, ornate Art Deco building in the Historic district with shelves and shelves of used books. The second floor contains small offices of various artists. It has old, comfy sofas and chairs where you can sit and gaze or read or dream. I love that place. They buy used books usually, but in this “everything is changed” world we now live in, they were only taking donations at this time. The idea is they will go through them, keep what they want to re-sell, and donate the rest to good places where people still want or need to read. A grand final resting place for my books, I thought.
The question now is, what will stay and what will go? I did it a bit by genre and a lot by love. The classics stayed, as well as the eighty-two Danielle Steels. Many biographies left, all the rock and roll ones stayed. True crime, serial killers, and mysteries are no longer that appealing to me, so off they went to new minds to solve the crimes. After that, it was a kaleidoscope of ideas and information, and imagination. I was stunned at how much I had consumed those things over more than fifty years. They kept me company as a child and let me wander the world and wonder. They banished the boredom of sitting in a classroom waiting for the entire class to finish a lesson or a test. They provided the excitement that can only be felt when a favorite author comes out with a new book and you save it for another long work plane ride. They passed the time for me most pleasantly in countless waiting rooms for countless meets of one kind or another. I treated my books as well as they treated me. They were never dog-eared, or written in or mangled in any way. I gave away hardcovers worthy of the day they were first put on the bookstore shelf. Over four hundred friends said “goodbye” the day the Last Book Store’s van pulled up to take them to their new homes. I still have well over four hundred left. I like to think that maybe, just maybe, they will become part of that distant real book revolution someday.
If you like this article, check out: https://www.harnessmagazine.com/finding-our-way-on-unstable-ground/