I find myself staring at the bookshelf with a sentimental feeling in my throat. It’s because I love buying books. Even if I am not going to read them for a long time and I feel guilty for not reading them. I can’t part with them. I can’t part with the ones I haven’t read but really wanted to read like Lolita or Joyce’s Ulysses. And when I have read them… Well, when I have read them and I didn’t like them so much I don’t have such a big problem giving them away. Like Bernhard Schlink‘s Die Frau auf der Treppe, he’s supposed to be a best selling author but I find his stories really boring after a while. They begin promising but… I didn’t have a problem giving that book to Oxfam. Maybe someone else is going to like finding it there.
The problem is, I move often or expect to move often. I’ve probably changed 5-6 places in the last seven years. So having too many books is… a burden.
But every book is also a memory. Because I’ve read it and it touched me, because I’ve read it and found it boring and can be smug about it, because it connected me to the person who gave it to me or just to some feeling I had. Because of reading it on a plane while being on a trip, or on holiday, or because of time I really enjoyed, or just because of the anticipation of making a new memory, of feeling smart just because I’m about to read a classic.
* * *
I parted with a few books a week or two ago. One of the shelves looks like a glass half empty. And although they are books I’m probably never going to read again and some of which I didn’t particularly like (I’m talking about you, The Hobbit, you’re like the ice cream everybody talks how great it is and it turns out to be… meh) it still felt like parting with a part of myself. Like when I took all my toys away and put them in the basement when I was a kid.
So that’s why I’m writing this now. Because they are not there any more and eventually I’ll forget them and I will forget the memories I had about them. It is so sad. That we forget. Both the good and sometimes the not so good moments we had. Although I’m a person who looks more often forward than back it’s sad how knowledge of stuff that you knew well and were invested in slips away just weeks after you’ve moved on. It was not even two weeks and I’m not sure I can remember all the books which I parted with. And they were just a few.
I learnt about Tracy Emin from fuckyouverymuch.dk. I don’t remember how and when I bought the book, it was a few years ago. I don’t remember much of the narrative. It’s autobiographical. It was… honest. I guess. I remember there was something about a beach at some point. It is definitely a must read for the people interested in Tracy Emin. Her father was Turkish I think. My feeling about this book is… searching. For herself as a person, for love? Who knows. I gave it away to an old guy selling antiques and old books and stuff. I hope someone has bought it by now.
J.R.R. Tolkien, The Hobbit
I read the Hobbit just before the first Hobbit movie came out. I was really conflicted when I watched the move and find out they are making a trilogy out of this pretty short book with a straight away narrative. Actually the book probably will work better as an adventure game (like Monkey Island or something) than as a blockbuster. But who makes this kind of games any more? And the movie had actually little to do with the book. The main narrative, yeah, but all the rest with Gandalf… Really?
I bought this book in a small town in Austria while visiting the Christmas market there with a bunch of Erasmus students while spending a semester in Italy. I somehow missed German books in Italy. I love roaming around in bookshops and my Italian wasn’t really that good. I read most of it on the train back to Germany before Christmas. It was nice reading it. In the crowded train on the way to Munich and also on the Austrian one, half empty, dimmed light, table, the Alps out of the windows and the Austrian soldiers a few meters away. I was even invested in the story. Until some point. I finished the book in Germany I think but that was about the point where it started getting weird and boring at the same time. When he actually finds that woman and she is old and sick and he doesn’t really love her but stays there and takes care of her. Why the women in Schlink’s novels always have to have some weird issues? Maybe he is internally afraid of strong, independent women and has to punish them into being vulnerable in his book. Well, the only other book of his that I’ve read is Der Vorleser (the one that was made into a movie a few years ago, The Reader or something). I also gave that one away but a few years ago. Probably because I was moving again.
I didn’t read The Truth till the end. It was that time when I realised that I’m too old for Terry Pratchett although I started reading the Disc series in my twenties. I had started with Small Gods. It was a present from a guy I really thought I liked. Well, it wasn’t meant to be with him but I’ll still keep a warm memory of our time together. However short and at some moments meaningless it was. Mort and Guards! Guards! I bought myself. I really loved Mort. I think I might buy it and Small Gods once again in the future. When I move in somewhere for longer. When I settle down. Or have kids.
Frank Herbert, Dune Messiah, Children of Dune
Actually I gave these away because they were the German translations. I want to read them again in English though. It’s kind of ironic that I gave them to the same Oxfam shop where I had bought them from second hand a while ago.
Böse Sterne (Evil Stars)
I really don’t remember the name of the author. It was a humoristic German book about Zodiac signs I had both the first time I set foot in Germany, in Stuttgart, while I was still in high school. It had a nice red cover but apart from that it’s not a really memorable book.
I think that’s about it.
I hope I didn’t forget anything.
* * *
There will be more shelf cleaning in the future. I still have to write about Murakami’s 1Q84 which I gave away months, maybe even a few years ago. And there was some German books about a guy and a girl who was crazy about photographing old airplanes (at like junk yards for airplanes). And there are other books which I don’t even remember any more. And one edition of Joyce’s Ulysses I sent to the guy who gave me Small Gods. But this one doesn’t count because I bought the book again.
And there are the books I have on my shelf, I have read and which I don’t want to part with. Not yet at least. Because they’ve touched me in a way I want to keep in my heart. Because of the moments I’ve had with them…
And there is Orson Scott Card’s Speaker for the Dead which I haven’t thrown away yet (yes, I said thrown away, this book is… so not Ender’s Game! They’re just two different worlds! Well I am not going to throw it away literally. It’s still a book. But I really don’t have space for it.) As soon as I find that part with the birth of Jane (the AI), which is… that moment in science fiction when stars align… As soon as I find it and write it down, the book is going away. This is the only part in the book that makes it worth reading. For me. The rest is… meh.