The Library

I gazed wistfully at my burgeoning library this morning. I searched its long colourful face for a mysterious power that may rein within the rising eclectic collection and this; that may even rival a Jack and the Beanstalk tale. I willed its formidable frame to say to me, a few words of tender, sincere appreciation. As always, it did no such thing, the cluttered white shelves themselves content to masquerade a silent but compassionate treasure-chest.

How often  instead; they prefer to lean forward as close to my breath as they dare, handing over and this with a glazed Christmas heart; open-ended endearments made up of scores of delightful secret tales. Suddenly with starry-eyed genius, I remember a genie once mushrooming with childlike candour from a shiny lamp.

Which magical if sometimes foreboding world should I step into? My shoes like my agreeable fingers were prepared for any adventurous door while gingerly unlocking Page 1. The trouble is, I love my carefully-selected books all too much. Over and over, I study with simple adoration, the quality of printed paper. I observe the fonts with painstaking scrutiny. I even make a show of snobbery. I bask in the jacket covers with maternal pride like an art collector would will the eternal charm of a painting.  Later, in the heart of a hushed evening, I promise to read my stories.

My library sighs and like a disgruntled newsagent,  loses interest.  It appears to lean back once more, against the wall. There it rests, lazy and smug as my fingers run along the books.  Slowly, I probe its skin and hear its heartbeat.  Eager to please, I hurriedly settle for a title. Why anything at all from a translated tale featuring  ancient Egyptian peasantry in The Mountain of Green Tea by Yahya Taher Abdullah to Mrs. Gaskell’s story of an occasional spinster woe,  I plead.  This, whispered  in an apt conspiratorial fashion that suggest an  eager invitation for friendship between the bookshelves and myself.

Naturally, its become a pleasant sight each day.  Together with the aroma of freshly-brewed coffee from a Kenyan roast, I rush to the hall to gaze at my books and wish myself a pleasant day, first thing in the mornings or afternoons depending on when I first went to sleep and then finally woke up.

Already, this year and armed with an exhilarating madness, I have purchased a sizeable number, too many for me to remember and to count. I lugged books from Singapore, Malaysia, Africa, Dubai and London.  I readied myself with a passion that threatened a tantrum if not relished.

This still proved insufficient. My ambitious interests trained themselves for new ventures; pausing for a longer time than necessary over limited hand-signed editions and beautifully tailored hardbacks. I was determined that when I turned the pages, all I wanted to do was to hold a work of art in my hand. But art which feeds the soul’s destiny, may be had in several forms.

So pardon me, that I cherish just as equally, 40 year old books, properly yellow, dog-eared, weather-worn and spotting dangerously ancient obscure titles. I buy safe little piles, mostly from book stalls that set up temporary shop on weekends in the cafe squares adorning the fashionable and eccentric Temple Bar.  Like the rhyme of the cantankerous Old Woman who lived in a Shoe, all the wayward little books stay my beloved children.

Otherwise, many are the latest contemporary titles. I like to be ahead of my game and to know what authors are writing in the present time especially with regards to prose.  I do read quite voraciously most of the books I buy.  My library is after all, a fascinating, lavish fix.

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