On books

I am writing this post on my iPad because I don’t have my laptop with me, in a strange turn of events.

I just finished House of Chains, the fourth book in the Malazan Book of the Fallen series, one of my absolute favorites. While I was finishing (this is a reread. When the tenth and final book came out, I decided to reread all of them and take notes, so as to not miss anything), I also mused on what books mean to me in general.

There are two types of book lovers and owners. There are those who treat their books like fragile china, always endeavoring to keep them pristine, as though they were fresh from the shelf of a book store. Many of my friends are this way.

I, on the other hand, like my books with a few more miles on them. A virginal book, while wonderful to buy, seems awkward to me. I like my books to be worn, to have been obviously loved so many times that their spines carry the marks of every time they’ve been opened and enjoyed. I think I get this from my mom. She and I share the ritual of throwing a book newly finished onto the ground.

I know some people will view that as abuse, but it is a signal of triumph. Another world conquered. Another time that we have seen and made it through.

My copy of House of Chains has a chunk missing from the cover, the spine has white marks all over it, rendering the artwork there almost unrecognizable. But anyone walking into my home, looking on my shelf, will know that all of those books have been explored. When I speak of them, when I am moved to tears doing so, it is because I have been truly inside that story. I have fought alongside Karsa, trekked the holy desert Raraku with Fiddler, and I have watched the convergence with Pearl.

I realize that it is possible this same outlook expanded to life outside of books might be dangerous, and in fact my life right now is fairly well living proof of that. More than likely, I am trying to find some deeper meaning in nothing. I love books, and I don’t care for pristine. Seems reasonable. And dreadfully obvious.

A genius visited

I have to be getting ready for work, so I don’t have a ton of time, but two things I’d like to mention:

1. In Greece, when an orator or artist created and subsequently unveiled their masterpieces, it was said that they had been visited by a genius. Think of a genius like a muse – a spirit with the ability to grant the orator/artist with the clarity to share their ultimate vision. It wasn’t until the “enlightenment” that people were described as geniuses. I learned all of this in a Ted Talk, and this fact was posited as why the idea of the tortured artist is so prevalent today. Fascinating stuff.

2. I’m reading Kafka on the Shore right now, among other things, and with all of Murakami’s work, there are lines that seem to jump out of the page and stick themselves in my brain. They are timeless and ethereal, yet concrete truths. But more than that, I’ve noticed a pattern: every line that I’ve paused to contemplate and/or write down has been underlined by a previous reader.

I find myself feeling a strange kinship to this faceless, nameless stranger that is drawn to the same tangents in this book.

And a genius visited me, whispering that this could be the beginning of a great story in its own right.

So now I get to go to work, which is not very creative, and hopefully the genius will allow me to pause, just for a few hours. When I get home, I’ll give it the time and attention it deserves.

How cool is that though? I feel a little less alone in the world right now.