Tuesday, January 13, 2009

All the pretty books

The Book of Wisdom
I met a seer
He held in his hands
The book of wisdom
"Sir", I adressed him,
"Let me read"
"Child"----- he began.
"Sir", I said.
"Think not that I am a child,
For already I know much
Of that which you hold
Ay much".
He smiled
Then he opened the book
And held it before me
Strange that I should have gone so suddenly blind.
Stephen Crane
The physical presence of books in my life is given.They are everywhere. It is unlikely that I can pass a bookshop, a sale, or shelf without stopping for a glance. I don't know why. The reason can't be that I have always read and that I have to write simply to feel good.
No, I like to be in the presence of books. Like to look at them, feel them.
The books that I have read are like old friends. The ones that I have not read are accumulating patiently on my bedside table, under the bed, on shelves, in hidden corners, on top of cupboards attracting disapproving glances from the ones that do not share this hobby.
Living without books is simply not an option. Space for books is a problem but buying them is apparently not.

But the life-cycle of books is funny.They are reborn many many times.
I am writing a book and millions of other people are also writing a book - and everybody is hoping to publish it one day.
All the non-published writers are hoping to share their story and get recognized. Otherwise we all would not write. A rare minority of people writes for themselves. The hope to be a good writer one day has been around for thousands of years. And millions of people have written books before us. Beautiful books, pretty books.
And all the pretty books like the ones on the pictures here end their life in a dusty corner or in a box with others. For years and years they live in darkness and neglect, forgotten until they are re-discovered. And re-evaluated. Given a new price and a new life. Called antiquarian then. And there are the ones now who are looking and collecting them, often not so much for the content but for their age and the way their were printed and published.

And now they are even more attractive because gilt decorated, pictorially blocked and hand bound hardcovers are simply not made any more. The paper is yellowish in color and has tiny age spots. But the binding is intact and the book smells of old. Everybody is free to interpret old in exactly the way he wants to.

But the pretty ones are the ones that are saved. Millions of other books are not so lucky, they really land on the rubbish dump or are recycled. With them the thoughts of their creators. It gave me a strange feeling the other day when I visited a recycling company shredding thousands and thousands of books. I was free to choose from the mountains of books lying there whatever I wanted. There are so many books around, some making their way though hundreds of hands and other are never opened.
I ask myself the question should I write a book?. There are so many. Is there something new still to be said.

The answer would have to be YES.

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