Even if you’re a dyed-in-the-wool Luddite (which, as you know, I’m not) there’s a certain time when book-lovers the world over start thinking that e-books really are the answer. When they’re moving house.
This will be the second time in 20 months that the corporeal part of P’o’B has moved. The first time was after the disintegration of a relationship and the forlorn (but should have happened much earlier than it did) return to the parental home; this one is to enter the Sydney property market (and return to doing things like cooking for myself and doing my own laundry before I forget how). But whatever the reason, the book-lover’s moving problem is the same. Books are heavy. And we bookish folk tend to own a lot of them.
I can’t recall exactly how many boxes’ worth of books are sitting in a storage container with my name on it but I do know that most of the boxes sitting in that container, which is not large but pretty much houses the collected possessions of my life, hold some books. ‘Some’ because it’s a rookie mistake to fill a box with books. Any box larger than a bread bin or microwave oven that is. All that paper and ink, the foil, the bindings, the chimney soot, weighs a lot. Fill a large box with books and the kindly people helping you move will rupture some kind of vital organ trying to lift the bugger.
It is here where we could get into a philosophical conversation about possessions and whether we humans invest too much of ourselves in them. Do I need to keep a book to prove I’ve read it? What purpose does this antiquarian habit of putting them on display serve? Couldn’t you use the space in your tiny apartment for something more practical? Dust allergies, hello? But if you’re reading this blog then I assume you’re a bookish soul and we all know that the one answer to those silly questions is: I like books and I like having them in my house. Not that it’s always easy to maintain this mindset. An author I work with said he was admiring his book-lined hallway the other day, thinking how cosy and atmospheric it made the house, that his was a house of words, stories and learning. And his ten-year-old son burst in and said, ‘Why do we have to have these books everywhere? They just make the house look crappy.’ Indeed.
But back to moving. Take my books out of the equation and I’d essentially have two second-hand armchairs, a filing cabinet, a wine rack, a couple of cupboards, some kitchenware and those two boxes of random accumulated junk (old postcards, key chains and a Year Five pottery project) we all drag from bed-sit to bed-sit every time we move. Keep my books in the equation and the boxes are so many they form enough bricks to build Imhotep’s pyramid. And they are in the equation because I am yet to reach the enlightened stage of aforementioned ten-year-old and like to think my books look quite nice in a home.
So come next weekend, those dear friends and family members helping me move will be mostly shifting boxes half-filled with books up one (there’s only one!) flight of stairs and into their new abode. And while I may not yet have many places to store said books, and it’s going to be a challenge due to the small size of said apartment, it will be oh-so-nice to be surrounded by my books again. Now when I want to lend someone a book I can. I can check the name of whatsey in whosamawhatsits’ novel. I can count my Inspector Montalbano books and remember which ones I abandoned in Canada. I can recall which book my mother stole because she thinks it’s hers when in fact it’s MINE. And I can feel like I’m living in a proper house again like a proper adult.
Different folk need different things to help make a house a home. For me I need my books. Even if they yellow and curl, take up space and collect dust. Even if they’re some kind of tie to superficial things when I should be striving for a higher purpose. Even though they weigh a freaking tonne and make moving house all that more traumatic. A book-lover needs her books and it will be oh-so-wonderful to have them in reach again.