‘Look at this stuff,’ opined the little mermaid, ‘isn’t it neat?’
I must confess that I hoard. When my bookshelf began to overflow and creak mysteriously during the night, I was thrown into disarray. Like a misguided parent realising that pinning all their hopes and dreams on one child was clearly wrong-headed, I decided to get another one. Now the two shelves creak in tuneless harmony, and I must confess. Or I would, if I felt any shame. After years of suppression and gleeful abandon, any dregs of shame I feel are roundly quashed.
Like the vestigial tailbone in our spines or the fading paint on a busy intersection, my library shows signs of a design it has long since outgrown. Once the stacks were ordered, the spines as neatly arranged about the walls as a serial killer’s keepsakes. Now they have bubbled into precarious towers, threatening the ruin of microscopic empires.
Excuse me, they have all addled my brain.
As they gather and stagnate, books rub off on each other. Stacks of unopened books conspire in a forgotten corner, while presently-read books by the bedside table chat and compare their blurbs and their polysyllables. My copy of The Trial has never shaken off the stench of guilt from when it rested atop a Spanish dictionary I never used, which itself still carries the sense of unsettled half-tumescence aroused by being right next to Lolita. And all these books unite in séances to compel me to abandon civilization and repair to a cabin with a crate of books.
But fear not, for I can justify myself, to myself at least. The library begins to take form as a gestalt, becoming more than its parts. Its disorder acquires its own power. It’s only fitting that in a postmodern-hypertext age that books should coagulate messily, now that we have all become hamsters suckling at silicone nipples connected to a bounteous ocean. We have become accustomed to having everything, now. Some similar urge is what I quell with a barrage of books.
It’s easy to fall in love, of course. A single well-placed adjective in the first sentence can make me want a book. There is the ravenous frantic love of a book you read on the walk home from the bookstore, nails worrying away at the stickers on the back. Other books are not so lucky. They are, like my prospective loves, brought into my home and studiously ignored. It is only when a stray thought pings its way down my brain and lodges in do I pick them up, even months after the fact. That is, I think, a wonderful way to love a book.
This grand design – no, this mess, frankly – works because books speak to each other. No new book is truly new, no stage is truly blank; there still in the background is the previous author dismantling her scenery. As I ruminate and flatulate about the house like a cow, I idly look at my shelves and a book and – linger. Books are not mere experiences, they are places to grow into. That moment of lingering is my sustenance.
by Krushna Dande