The Story of Books – November’s Essay
What’s the thing with the written word? What’s the magic behind these weird signs that allow us to get lost in fantasy worlds, to feel second-hand emotions and to believe, love, hate with such passion and fervour?
Why do we find refuge inside the pages of a book, and carry them heavy and dusty all around town, praying to have a moment or two to read? Why do our piles of books grow with every outing and why our to read lists never grow smaller?
We pay in advance for things not even published yet; we use our hard earned money to buy bits of trees with weird markings on them and we discuss them so intensively one may think they’re real. But then again, aren’t they? As long as they make us laugh, cry, feel, want to kick something, throw them poetically out of a moving train (Anna Karenina book’s almost faith) because of frustration, aren’t they real? Perhaps their worlds are imaginary to us, but were they to the writer? What did she/he feel writing that book? That chain of events? What possessed her/him to write that particular book? Where did that character with such an influence on us came from? Did that thing actually happen? What’s this thing called imagination, and how does one learn the ropes? How does one search the imagination to find exactly what needs to make the story advance and the book sell? I am now asking as a writer, but not only.
“You can make anything by writing.”C.S. Lewis
There are so many books out there, we cannot even fathom to read a small part of them in this lifetime. So what will happen to the books we did not get to read? Do we get a second chance in Heaven? Is Heaven, as Borges imagined, a kind of library? Will we pay for membership? Will we know what book to read and what not to open? Will we want to read them all? Will we want to read at all? Well, that’s a yes.
There’s a magic and an appeal to books that draws us in and never lets us go, as we have learnt from early childhood. We used to keep notebooks filled with quotes, character traits, list of books read, list of books to read, some fan-fiction even, when the book did not end “our way.” Well, I can’t believe I was the only one, right?
Perhaps this led us to writing the book we wanted to read. This was one of the main reasons most of us started scribbling furiously in our notebooks, arguing with characters, plotting and researching weird things, we never thought we will. Perhaps the story just came to us one day, and we could not put it down, it kept us awake and we lost ourselves in that story long before we actually started writing it. And then we have no peace until it is all written down.
Being haunted by an unwritten book is a real thing. We, as humans, we’re all storytellers. From the greatest authors out there to the smallest piece of gossip, we’re all telling stories, true stories, false stories, stories worth telling, or not at all, but stories nonetheless. And from storytelling to writing, there’s only a thin line. One so thin, sometimes we don’t even know we crossed it until it’s too late and there’s no turning back.
So I ask myself again, what is this magic behind the written word? Is there a touch of eternity? Is there, perhaps, a piece of madness? I reckon it is both. Both and many more other as such. We lose ourselves in bookstores, we’d rather go book shopping than food shopping. And even when at food shopping, we still pick a book of two. Who thought to place some bookshelves in between milk and bread at superstores? They knew our hunger for reading, our thirst for knowledge to be as deep as our mortal needs. And then again, isn’t this another of our mortal needs?
I love collecting books. Bought, gifted, found, abandoned, borrowed, adopted, you name it. Perhaps it is not a good idea to have piling up on three to four layers on the bookshelves and always wish for bigger and wider shelves. But then again, I can only imagine the amount of books I could buy with the money spent on the bookshelves. So I reconsider and keep staking them on top of another, on diagonal, on vertical, horizontal and, when needed, next to the bookshelf, creating new, independent piles.
I remember one winter, a while ago, when I did not know better, upon seeing an image on Pinterest (yes, this goes under Pinterest fail hashtag), I worked my way on making a book tree. You know whose beautiful images with stacks of books, layered one on top of the other to create the shape of a tree, right? Well, now… It took me a day to pile them in my room, dust them, arrange them by size and so on. Another day to think what would go at the bottom, what can go higher up and so on. Mathematical precision, y’all! On the third day, as I spent most day re-reading what I found in my piles, I realized it is not going to happen. I gave up. What if, as soon as I finished the “tree” I wanted to read that one book sitting at the bottom? The whole thing would crash down. Well, that what if made me gather the books, stack them on the shelves, and spent a couple more days doing the same thing I did on the first day. Christmas came next day, anyway.
This story has in full 1000 words, as per WordPress count and my promise in January. To keep in line with this month’s essay and writing books, these essays of 2019 will come out as a booklet in January 2020 on Amazon. Details coming soon.
“In the end, we’ll all become stories.”M. Atwood
Until next month, I bid you all farewell.