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A Literary Life Examined: Part 2

harukias I was saying, my gut instinct was telling me it was time to clear out my bookshelves.

Did this mean that I had an impending move? Perhaps making space in my bedroom and writing shrine meant that I was spiritually making room for my new novel or maybe even a new man?

Ok, maybe it’s as simple as my shelves were double banked, and stacked to bursting, while the piles of books on the floor were becoming dangerous to my clumsy self.

Opening the package with my two newest books, An Initiate’s Journey into Haitian Vodou, and The Nature of Personal Reality, I realized that I didn’t have a place put them, and that I also needed to get out more.

I equate e-books with vibrators. Not the real thing, but they’ll do in a pinch. I clearly needed to make more room for more books, and clear a path for a permanent man in my life.

First, I got rid of the majority of novels. Although I had enjoyed them, I knew that the likelihood of me ever re-reading them was slim.

Kitschy little coffee-table books were next. Although some of them were adorable, and had been given to me by sweethearts and friends, I bagged those up as well. My hope was to rid myself of enough books to get rid of one of four bookshelves.

Well over 100 books have been placed in bags ready for….??? Perhaps a trip to the Salvation Army shop, or maybe stuffed in the shed until the community yard sale? I only know that getting rid of them feels like a weight has been lifted off of my shoulders.

As I sat here writing, looking at my still-full shelves, I had a Dr. Phil, “Get Real” moment with myself. After gulping my last mouthful of lukewarm tea, I got up and forced myself to remove more books from the shelves.

The last of the books to leave were old text books that had belonged to my grandparents. I allowed myself to keep two, An Etymological Dictionary of the English Language from 1909, and a text-book of shorter poems (most are over 4 pages long) from 1924. The poetry book is the same one that my maternal grandmother read ‘The Highwayman’ from when I was a little girl.

As a young parent, I read, The Wonder of Boys: What Parents, Mentors and Educators Can do to Shape Boys Into Exceptional Men, and held on to that book for dear life. Time for that to go….

I let go of my Billy’s Best Bottles annual wine guidebooks. Billy Munnelly, please go back to your pre-2009 style and go back to print. Us writer-wino types miss having something to inspire our cheap-but-cheerful creative wine rants.

My NRSV of the good-ole Bible is my most weathered book, and it remains in place next to a copy of the Tao te Ching, Quarn, Heart Sutra and Bhagavad Gita. Leo Buscaglia, the Dali Lama and Thich Nhat Hanh  bookend the same shelf.

My “So You Wanna Be a Sexy Bitch“, is stacked on my half-read Fifty Shades of Grey trilogy. Been there, done it all, got the bruises. My friend the Amazing C will likely inherit these via snail mail care package at some point, along with a return of unopened sex toys and some Godiva chocolate. My Psychology & Religion textbooks stayed along with the Canadian Press Stylebook, my collection of Jimmy Buffett novels and Leonard Cohen’s perfect musings.

Leadership books concerned with corporate greed or capitalism found their way to the bags, but leadership books that spoke to personal leadership and whole-being stayed.  My dreamer’s dictionary and Animal Speak stayed beside my bed. I let go of the textbooks about early Christianity, literary journals, and the self-help books that I read when my marriage was unraveling.

My running and meditation books stayed, and the Haruki Murakami book, What I talk about When I Talk About Running earned a special place on the shelf of the books I refer to on a regular basis.

The obscure books about the Santeria Religion, sociological history books about the Salem Witch Trials, and Black Skin White  Mask – the book I was required to dissect for my acceptance into a graduate studies program also stayed. Books from my post-colonial theatre class were relegated to the bags-to-go.  Some of the Venetian and Moroccan history books were packed away. I kept only a few, enough to encourage me to chase my dreams, even if my feet feel like lead sometimes and my spirit is a bit ragged.

Books that melted my heart stayed;

The Last Friend by Tahar Ben Jalloum

Barney’s Version by Mordecai Richler

A Moveable Feast by Ernest Hemingway

Bones of the Master by George Crane

Gertrude and Alice by Diana Southam

I kept Roughing it in the Bush by Susanna Moodie, and my collection of Margaret Atwood’s the Journals of Susanna Moodie.

Anything by Anais Nin stayed.

The factual book that made me laugh the most and I’ve recommended to not a few friends, A Walk in The Woods also stayed.

I kept Shakespeare, Steinbeck, Thoreau, Orwell, Neruda, Ginsberg, Neruda, Garcia and two copies of the Great Gatsby.

Sentimentality lends itself well to my ability to empathize at work and in my personal life, but it sure as hell binds up my space with knickknacks and other energy sucking objects.

Anyone stepping back to consider what’s left on my bookshelves would be wise to know my secret; these books aren not intellectual fodder. I am attached to them in the same way that I am attached to the old blue serving plate that my grandmother wrapped and secretly tucked into my suitcase just months before she died.

I keep them here because they speak to my heart’s desires.

4 thoughts on “A Literary Life Examined: Part 2

  1. Very strange indeed. A friend who recommended your column to me ages ago is down in Brazil and also reading at this time The Nature of Personality. As two people have now mentioned this to me in one week I shall go and dig my copy out of my stack of books as there is obviously something I am meant to learn from it.

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