It’s summer so I must have moved again, right? That great wind from the West is a thousand cardboard boxes getting recycled. This is the fourth time in ten years I’ve packed up a house and unpacked it again. Sometimes I do the packing, sometimes, like this time, I have someone else pack for me. The one thing I always pack, and unpack, myself is my books.
The first time I moved in the 10 year span I did a massive clear-out of books. I had piles upon piles, books from contests I’d judged, books I’d read and loved, books I’d bought and never read, books someone else in the household had read and I’d never actually seen before throwing them into a box.
My only regret about that move is that my husband made me sell the massive LIFE magazine collection I had lucked into when the local library went digital. Because I write (sometimes) about the late-thirties and World War 2 years I had scored most of the 1930s and 1940s issues of the large format, fully illustrated, iconic weekly. I tucked just one away, for a book I still haven’t written: the first issue of LIFE after Pearl Harbor. (I have written a short story about it: SNOW TRAIN.) I also still have the first issue of The New Yorker after 9/11, the black cover issue.
Many, many copies of LIFE magazine have survived (just check on Ebay) so it’s not like I can’t track down a particular issue if I wanted to. But leafing through those issues is just golden. My parents subscribed to LIFE when I was growing up and I devoured it. Some issues are full of silly stuff like swimsuit models and college pranks. This issue contains society photos of a VMI formal of all things. But they illustrate what life was like in those times the same way, say, a week on Facebook does today. (There are also, unfortunately, scads of examples of racism and prejudice.)
So, on this move, I put my lonely copy of LIFE magazine on a shelf with lots of other books that have been schlepped hither and yon over the years. It’s funny the memories that come back when you touch and shelve a book, finding its subject mates or author mates. I will remember buying a book for instance and never getting around to reading it. Or more likely wanting very much to read it again. I made a little pile for myself as I sorted. Not too many books: that just becomes another collection in a different place.
My husband has a large collection of books on Zen Buddhism and meditation. While I have done my share of meditating I have never been able to sustain enough interest to read an entire book about it. So I put one book on the pile. If that one doesn’t take, there are plenty of others.
I also want to re-read this scholarly book about Jane Austen. [Claudia Johnson’s Jane Austen: Women, Politics, and the Novel.] I have been fascinated with Austen since I read Pride and Prejudice in high school. I re-read the books, trying to find clues to why she is so approachable and sly, how she builds characters so effortlessly. And Rich in Love? I have such vivid memories of reading that novel [diminished somewhat by the movie] when I first started seriously writing. I burst into tears as I finished it, knowing I would never write a book so lovely, simple, and moving. A must re-read.
And lastly there is a new book, All The Light I Cannot See, given to me by my friend, Helen, who read it for a book club I used to attend with her. The sorrows of moving, leaving friends and book clubs behind. But I still have the books, my always friends.