We are just humming along. It has been colder than cold here the last few days, but we don’t stop on the 30 Days of Wisdom Express. (That was super cheesy.)
Here’s today’s quote:
In a good bookroom you feel in some mysterious way that you are absorbing the wisdom contained in all the books through your skin, without even opening them.”
― Mark Twain
tags: bookroom, books, libraries, wisdom 7207 likes
Yes. My mom had tons of books; they are still there. Lots of books on art, literature, Shakespeare, Ibsen, Moliére, Hemingway, Chekov, Tolstoy, etc., it goes on and on. She had lots of books in gorgeous wooden book cases. Tiny books, big books, books with leather covers, books with paper covers. She loved books. I remember, as much as Twain’s quote is true, just feeling smarter by being near them. Of course, I would never touch them. That would belie my coolness; and it was practically verboten.
As a child, I remember the books were super important to Mom.
I remember her sitting on the phone for several calls’ worth of inquiries to different small and antique booksellers to find certain books. To Mom, books were more than books; they were statements.
Her private collection of books were much less fancy, but equally important. They were in my parents’ bedroom: they were paperbacks or huge volumes of literature anthologies, even trashy novels. The ones which were in book cases that lined the long hallway of our Buffalo house when I was growing up were in-between books: personal, but public and popular for the most part but they were still impressive; they were meant to be seen. You didn’t just “take a book to look through” from the living room. Adults did that or you would look at the books with her beside you.
Super-thin paper, she would handle them delicately, but anxiously. I didn’t understand it other than to know they were important.
Twain is right though — I did feel smarter just from being around them. I knew my mother’s collection of books was impressive and in some small way, because she was so taken by them, I was proud of them. Or was it envy?
This is heading in a direction that has nothing to do with the quote.
Back to the quote. Yes! A good book room will infuse you with wisdom. But I don’t get that same feeling from a large bookstore, do you? I feel like at a bookstore, it’s all about sales, not wisdom. It’s about getting you in to buy the book so you will walk away with the bag emblazoned with the logo on it. In a public library, I feel much the same way. The point of a library is that you are there to learn what you don’t already know. In a personal library, it feels somehow different. It feels like to me, that you can absorb the gift of the volumes simply by knowing they exist.
Books say a lot about the people who own them.
In my bookcases (yes, we have several) rhyme and reason have been abandoned. My books run the gamut from Nicholas Sparks to Malcolm Gladwell; from Homer to Dickens; from Anita Shreve to Roz Chast; from Twain to Schulz. Mom always gave books as gifts. I admired that for the most part, as I aged. When I was younger I really didn’t want them, but she knew how important they were. She bought me a set of very early editions of Babar the Elephant from a dusty old bookstore in Hamilton, Ontario. She also gave me her copy of Gone With The Wind and a host of others. She inscribed them all. As she grew older, the books she gave me became more playful. Now that I look back on that, I think it’s interesting. Just as I was ready to talk to her about my favorite writers, she started giving me Mary Higgins Clark mysteries, which I enjoyed. I also have books on yoga, spirituality, camp fire songs and card games. My books are for reading, escaping and enjoyment.
As for Twain, the same can be said of a fantastic art collection or a home filled with a truly loving family. When in a gallery, I feel smarter just by being sucked in by the art. When I visited the Ai Wei Wei exhibit last year at the Corcoran, I was immediately enlightened. When I’m in the company of authentic, loving people, I feel authentic and loving.
Any time you get a chance to hang out with books is a good time.
I haven’t spent much time with Mom’s books; it’s hard for me still. They all remind me so much of her. I’m sorry, I’m a little caught up. I’m writing this early — for me it’s Sunday and it was my dad’s birthday. He brought over a cake and I made lasagna. Mom wasn’t here, so it was our first one since she died and I’m feeling a lot of everything. I think that’s why I keep going back to Mom in this post. There’s simply no way for me to talk about books without talking about Mom. Gah. I’m gonna stop here.
Books are awesome. Never stop reading.