Confessions of a Book Lover

Bibliophile ~ A collector of books. An avid reader or book lover.

Okay, I admit it. My name is Marissa and I’m a book lover. They hold a special power in my life unlike anything else.

Books actually helped me choose my new home two years ago. The beautiful, ornate, wood floor-to-ceiling bookshelves in the living room made this house a “must have.” My husband understood that immediately when we opened the door and walked into the room for the first time. My “ooh, look at the bookshelves,” sigh caused a laugh and resigned eye-rolling.

We talked about the various other merits of the house for a few days: the huge yard, the wonderful wood deck, the hardwood floors, the large kitchen, and the renovated bedrooms. We discussed it all as if there was a decision to make, but we both knew the decision was a given,that the bookshelves were a “sign” and that this was the perfect house for us.We moved in a month later.

I unpacked boxes of books, loading them onto the shelves, starting in the middle. I suddenly realized that the double bookcases covering an entire wall of the living room were much larger than they looked. I only had enough books to fill four of the ten shelves. I made a mental note of the number of books I would need to fill-up the cases. Wow! Time to start buying more books!  No happier thought than that ever occurs to a bibliophile!

Two years later I am a beloved customer of Quality Paperback Books, Barnes & Noble, Folio Society, and quite a few other book stores and publishers. I’m doing my part to stimulate the economy, keep literature alive, publishers publishing, and writers writing! I’ve made progress on filling the shelves and only four empty ones remain. Those should be filled by the end of the year.

I have more unread books than ones I’ve read on my shelves for the first time in my life, and I am buying books at a faster pace than I can read them. I am a voracious reader and owning so many books I haven’t yet read is an anomaly in my life, but it’s an anomaly I’m beginning to enjoy. The unread books are like fine chocolates waiting to be devoured when appetite demands. I love knowing that those mysterious sweets are there waiting for me. 

Some co-workers were talking the other day, asking each other the imaginary-scenario question: What would you do if you won the lottery for a million dollars? I listened as they all talked about buying houses, yachts, new cars, huge HDTVs, and new computers. When they came to me, the answer was much simpler and more nerdy: I’d go to Barnes & Nobles and buy every book I wanted!

My co-workers looked at me as if I’d turned into a frog, declared this a terrible waste of lottery winnings, and responded with awe-struck gasps of…

“Why?”

“Why would you want all those books?”

“You know they have Nook and Kindle now, you don’t even have to buy real books like that anymore.”

Yes, I do know about Nook and Kindle. I understand that the world of books and publishing is changing dramatically in our lifetime. I hear the news stories, read the blog entries, and listen as the pundits declare an end to hard copy books. I’m listening.

I also realize that very few students need to go to a library, learn how to use an antiquated card catalog system, or pick up a hard copy encyclopedia. They are more likely to do all their research on the web, cite Wikipedia information in term papers, or purchase college essay papers from one of the many companies providing them online for $19.95. My children knew libraries, book stores, and hard copy research for school papers. My grandchildren will have no memory of a time before computers and the Internet.

I remember Windows 3.1, America Online in its great heyday, and the Internet when dial-up was the only access. But, I too am growing and changing with the times, and have made my own personal strides forward into the digital age. You can follow me on Twitter, read one of my several blogs, or view my work as an editor for the online magazine, Whippoorwill. I own three computers, all equipped with wireless access, and the new laptop I purchased came with Nook included. I’m listening to all the chatter about the end of books as we know them, but I don’t agree with the chatter. I am a true bibliophile, and, for a true bibliophile, nothing replaces a “real book.”

I may use online texts, search engines, Wikipedia, and even Nook, but none of these resources gives me the same joy and happiness as a traditionally published book. I will always prefer hard copy, printed and bound books. Books that smell of ink and paper, that sing with crisp pages, offer margins for notes, and can be gifted to others as something very personal and intimate. I love being able to return to the same beloved books again and again, rereading pages that hold important revelation or insight, opening to a favorite section and participating in the dialogue between writer and reader.

We are old friends taking time for a chat. Each book on my shelf is like a precious relationship, a voice and persona I am acquainted with, one that I know. The writer lives in those dry inky pages, is resurrected as I hold the book in my hands, listening to his voice flow from the pages. Old notes, highlighter marks, and red-ink underlines are reminders of our journey, of time we have shared on other lost days.

I willingly embrace the new mediums, resources, and tools available to writers, readers, and the world at large. However, as a book lover, a person in love with and addicted to true “hold-em-in-your-hand” books, I think it’s important to remember that change does not always equal demise.

The world is a big place. Traditional book publishing may go through deep changes during the present decade, but I believe the world contains many closet bibliophiles like me who will continue to love books, want books, need books, spend too much money on books … and keep trying to fill their bookshelves with assorted books, a source of sweet chocolates to be devoured at their leisure.ß

 

Reprinted from Whippoorwill: an Online Literary Journal, Spring 2011.

 

 

 

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Passionate Art

  

“One should never write just to avoid being silent…. I feel a writer MUST write what is in his heart, and if there is nothing there of strong content or passion, then he must LIVE and EXPERIENCE before he can truly write….writing is, after all like art, simply sharing our passion with the world.”      ~from a letter to my mother, April 2001 
       
Today, I found an old copy of a letter written to my mother ten years ago. Reading the letter reminded me of the exuberant passion I’ve always felt toward writing as art and my sincere, consistent belief that “one should never write just to avoid being silent.”

 I believe that the best writing comes from deep belief, sincere passion, and a strong connective tissue between the writer and the written. These qualities allow great writing to transcend the particular time of its creation.

A writer suffering deep loss, of a child or spouse, will put that loss into the words of a poem or story. It is an intimate loss to him, but it is also a common experience, a shared sadness among other human beings. He will articulate the loss, others will read and identify with his words, the poem or story will always be his but will also become an independent identity in many ways. It will outlive him, or keep him alive, in coming centuries depending on your view. It has its own permanence.

This permanence, or legacy, is part of arts truth, so to speak. Most people can name a few classic writers and artists without great trouble (Shakespeare, Hemingway, Van Gogh, Rembrandt), but how many could name current artists? Very few could name the current Poet Laureate or a current popular painter. Artists understand, to some degree, that their work may well have more meaning and be worth more value in the future. A writer writes now with an eye focused a decade away. An artist creates now with the understanding that his canvass is more permanent than himself.

The artist is a creator. He excavates his emotional soul and pours deep truths onto the waiting page or canvass; he dissects and maneuvers the universal realities he sees as he lives, recasting and reworking them into a timelessness that becomes art. This art becomes a flexible representation of the universal passion of humanity and endures because of that kinship. He creates a legacy, an oeuvre, for himself that will eventually be all that remains.

Art is steeped in the history of it’s time of creation to some degree, but that is more reference point than anything else. The language, dress, and backgrounds’ may change, but the faces and voices are timeless. Eyes look out hauntingly with fear or joy, action takes place with a certain tone or with laughter. The experience is universally human regardless of the time period.

Great writing, like all great art, will show us a truth we know in a way we didn’t know how to express. The combination of new insight along with recognizable, enduring truth gives us an “ah-ha” moment – a moment in which we become one with the words and the writer, one with the art and the artist.
 
 

 

 
 

 

 

Self-Portrait February 2011

Sell Art Online

 

I am

a poet – grateful, artistic, eclectic, tired.
a writer – driven, but quieter than before.
an editor – always seeking, seldom finding.
a manager – sad, competitive, immersed.
a mom, a grandmother, a wife, just “me.”
a woman refusing shackles, chasing destiny.
a person seeing deeply, dreaming cynically.

I am

hungry to understand.
seeking the “why” of things.
afraid of missing something.
concerned I’ll leave something undone.

I am

one of those people who will bore you
with a poem that is nothing more than
a list of meaningless titles.

Burning

Burning red days
follow pink-petal nights.
Fragrance singing soft
lullabies. In memory

yearning ruptures,
breast bursting open,
tears like ash
slowly spilling
into crimson spoons

used for digging
up history.
Pure-petulant remorse,

regretting too late
the burning black days
to follow.

composed January 27, 2011

petal beds below

I cannot speak
the name of the flowers —
large purple silk bowls
filled to brim with fragrance.

My daughter picks them
from their home on the tree
beside our house —
brings them in to be held

in crystal vases filled with water.
By the second day they
are dropping petals heavily
from stem to table. A slow

emptying of the bowl until
all that remains are
spiky pod-seeds on stems
rising from the petal beds below.

 

Originally published in San Fernando Poetry Journal, 1998.

Whispering

Little girl singing soft
melodies of hatred, fueled
by conversations overheard
at the dinner table through
hiss and venom of mom and dad.

She’ll never know the wounding
burn of burning pain flowing
through her little red heart.
She doesn’t understand she is
damaged.

She is the mimic, the parrot
of parents filled with brokenness.
She is their voice speaking openly
in the next blatant generation
things grated-out in private
in the previous quieter age.

This is how we make monsters grow
in fertile fields of seeds sown
from the normalcy of lives lived
whispering the hatred of others.

October 2010

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Healing Silence

“How poor are they that have not patience! What wound did ever heal but by degrees?” ~William Shakespeare

 
 

It’s difficult to find the creative energy necessary for good writing during illness. Or, at least it is for me. So, during the past two weeks of stressful health issues, my mantra has been “no writing is better than bad writing” and I’ve stayed away from the keyboard for a bit.

I received good news from the surgeon this week that back surgery shouldn’t be necessary just yet. Instead, I’m having epidural nerve blocks done where the disc is torn and possibly minor outpatient surgery to clip another nerve that’s tangled in with the disc and arthritis. The first nerve block is scheduled for the end of this month. Overall, it’s been good news and I’m deeply happy that major surgery isn’t necessary!

I’m pleased with my orthopaedic doctor (he’s much nicer than the surgeon) and appreciate how open he was to working with me to develop a treatment plan I’d be happy with. Now, if I can just get the bronchitis to go away … another problematic area of late due to allergies to my pets (2 dogs, a cat, and a rabbit) and exposure to so many sick people at my job (dealing with 25 people a day and whatever germs they bring in the door)!

Patience, patience, patience. Yes, I know.