Thursday, October 28, 2010


Played hooky Wednesday. Too beautiful a fall day.

I decided to do something I haven't done in a long time. In this age of Amazon and Alibris, I don't visit used bookshops very often anymore. Sadly, there are not that many left.

Like most people, I suppose, I now order most of my books online. You always know you'll find what you're looking for.

But on this beautiful fall day, I wanted to experience (once again) the pleasure of finding a buried artifact during one of those archaeological delves through the various strata of the used bookshelves.

On this beautiful fall day, the dig yielded a handful of useful relics, including an early 20th century edition of Johnson and Boswell's Tour throughout my Hebridean homeland, as well as an excellent edition of Ulysses. It replaces another copy of the same edition that I owned when I was in high school, and had to hock, along with many other brethren and a hefty chunk of my CD collection at the time, for survival cash during a lean period in Vancouver. I can't imagine ever doing something like that, which I had to do several times. But you can't eat (or drink) books, even though I've often wanted to (and may have tried to a few times when in an altered state).

Although, as an erstwhile biblophagist, I have to confess my unabashed love for books. The shape of books. The texture of the yellowed pages. And the smell of books. I think I've gotten high once or twice on bookbinding glue.

Did I tell you that I love books? Those that I want to own and read, that is. And I really love books that have been gathering dust in old bookshops for decades, if not centuries, and the ones that have accompanied me throughout my peripatetic movements all over North America. Like listening to the music you love, the act of reading books that are interesting or important to oneself is humane, calming and civilizing.

Perhaps most of all, I love my bookshelves. Like much of the inner architecture of my apartment, built from knotted white pine by my father in his workshop just over five years ago, though he no longer remembers doing so. Most everything else in my apartment is ephemeral, and while missed, can be replaced. But not those particular books, each of which has other stories to tell. In the marginalia. On the cover sheets. On pieces of paper lost within the pages. Nor those bookshelves and everything else my father made with his own hands. Still solid. Still stable. Forever priceless.

My beautiful fall day continued to unfold. I stepped into a pub that I once knew well very. After a couple, I stopped looking for any familiar signs. I recognized nothing and nobody. Though the bartender was a friendly sort.

And as I walked home, I remembered that it was three Halloweens ago that I first noticed some unfamiliar and unwelcome signs of my own. My old friend the X-Man and I met for a double bill of The Exorcist and The Shining. Shockingly, he had seen neither. For a few hours, I could be blithely unaware, sharing a couple of my favourite films with a good friend.

But paying no heed to the emergent signs of the Interruptnum would have been a much too vulgar display of the power of denial.

Happy Halloween, friends. May the Power of the Book compel you never to buy a Kindle reader.


  1. Very Boswellian and a little Johnsonian as well.

  2. What great post FE. There are too few spokesmen (and women) for the topic of the importance of reading. If a Kindle helps those who wouldn't otherwise read, then I say by all means. However, you can't replace the "feeling" of a book. A universe in your pocket. I remember going to church one Christmas and I had a copy of James Joyce's The Dubliners in my pocket. When ever the pastor would say something that would sadden, aggravate or confuse me, I would pull out the book and let James Joyce show me the life of the mind...and the body...and the soul.

  3. A book? Isn't that something people read in the 20th century?