Important Notice

Special captions are available for the humor-impaired.


Thursday, November 07, 2002

Books: The Ultimate Status Symbol

Have you ever looked at magazines that have pictures of the homes of rich people? Have you ever noticed that they never have any books in their homes? They may have a few coffee table books stacked neatly on an end table. Perhaps the high-minded celebrity may have a small shelf of those expensive leather-bound books that are published for people who don’t read, but most of the time rich people don’t have any books. Books define us; they aren’t clutter that needs to be put away the day the photographers arrive.

When I walk into someone’s home, the first thing I look for is books. Nothing tells me more about a person on this initial glance than knowing what they read. I don’t care how many trips you have made to the Pottery Barn to furnish your little castle, you had better have some good books if you are out to impress people in my perfect world. I would be head librarian of this world. I worked for a semester in a rare books library so I feel myself to be highly qualified for the post.

A long time ago a girl I was dating got a job house-sitting for one of her professors. I went over with her one day to feed the cat or something. I walked in the kitchen door and I immediately knew I was somewhere special. The place was lousy with books. I have never seen so many books in one home in my entire life. The collection was so vast and varied that I couldn’t even tell what the husband and wife professorial team taught at the University of Maryland. They were simply polymathic to an alarming degree. I had always been a book lover but this couple became a heavy influence in my interior design preferences.

My book collecting fetish took on a new fervor. I spent at least one full day a month combing the used bookstores and thrift shops of the greater Washington D.C. area buying books on every subject that struck my fancy. My personal library grew, women were impressed. Impressed isn’t quite accurate, women saw my library and flung themselves at me. I was the envy of all men.

I envisioned myself growing old with my thousands of hard bound volumes with library-quality plastic covers. A couple of cross-continent moves changed all of that. My books became a weight that was drowning me, a millstone around my neck. I gave away most of my library. A friend of mine called me from the other side of the country recently and told me she had bought one of my books (all of them stamped with my personal seal) at a yard sale. What goes around comes around.

I didn’t quite start from scratch, as far as my library goes, when I moved here to Seattle, but just about from scratch. My place is quickly filling up again. They day isn’t too far off when I will make another long move. My books will be sent to the Diaspora. I have had to rethink my attitude towards amassing possessions. I have come to realize that my prized possession, my books, were both a source of comfort and a hindrance to my mobility. My response to the commandment “Thou shalt not covet thy neighbor’s goods” is not to have much that my neighbor would covet. If any of my neighbors would care for a book, they only need ask.

No comments:

Post a Comment

If you can't say something nice, say it here.