A Nondescript Bookshelf
A few months of extreme bibliomania have filled my narrow bookshelves to overflowing.
Technically, I don’t even have a bookshelf. When you’re sharing a flat with other people, you tend to forego certain privileges. I make up for the lack of space by crumpling up my clothes anyhow and jamming them into tight wads in the cupboard so that I can devote some space to my books. That the clothes are barely fit to be worn when taken out later and need quite a bit of patient ironing is a different story- rather that than silverfish fattening themselves on the precious pages of my books.
The one real shelf- the one free of the menace of clothes and trinkets- where most of my books are piled up in chaotic fashion, is prone to dust; this is where the not-so-new books go. And on blue nights, this is what I like best- going into that tiny room which is occupied by two large study tables, an ironing table and a stand to dry clothes on, unromantic necessities blotted out by the imposing presence of stacks of books. I shut the door and feast my eyes on the variously coloured and textured spines, swell with the pompous pride of possession. My fingers hover first on one book, and then another- seductively ranged out that they are, where Dracula draws my attention one moment, I’m tempted away by Madame Bovary the next. I have the comfort of knowing that if this shelf doesn’t satisfy my needs, there is another waiting in the wings. Books to dig into and lose myself in, one for every shade of the day- because when did I ever go through twenty-four hours without having a dark cloud loom ominously over my mood and then seeing a bright streak of glorious moonlight break through it? Blue funk, cloud nine, despondency, serenity- there is an antidote to every extremity of behaviour on those bookshelves.
My bookshelves are my vanity, as I unabashedly admit. But because the primary purpose of my books is to be read, I don’t feel half so bad about my spending sprees as I might have if I were shopping for a bottle-green spine to go with the cream walls- or whatever it is that a colour coordinated person might choose. Books are not ornaments. I like having my bookshelf piled high and wide because it delights my soul. Nietzsche and Wodehouse might be unlikely bedfellows, far apart in nationality, genre and epoch, but put beside each other here, they feed and delight my soul.
I do enjoy peeking at other people’s books on the bus or on the street, staring at the volume tucked under somebody’s arm and observing the person so keenly I might be mistaken for a stalker. I like to know what other people are reading and be introduced to writers whose existence I’ve lived in blissful ignorance of. I cannot imagine a world where there isn’t a book waiting to discovered and devoured or a new person wanting to connect with you through pages of print made mysteriously personal.