Great Books.

Besides reminding me that my affinity for large fountain drinks is actually a genetic one, my visit home has also been good for a few other things . . .

For instance, I spent some time this evening in Dad's study looking at his books with him.

I have always loved his library, but this current version is "library-lite".

My dad's library is wholly responsible for my life-long obsession with all things words

My love affair began in the big house where his library contained floor-to-ceiling shelves, an exotic hidden wet bar, a lighted Geochron on the wall showing a map of the world in its current relation to the sun, a plush wig-hair rug, a leather couch with a very particular "library-like" smell, and nearly every National Geographic magazine that had been published in his lifetime.

 The library was the room with the 3 small arched windows 

I spent hours there -- trespassing --  looking at his books and reading things that were far beyond my young comprehension, ranging from off-color limericks to the world's great literature. I believe I may or may not have wrecked a few very old copies of Dickens and Hawthorne...I noticed they failed to make the cut in this latest incarnation of his collection.  (Sorry, Dad.  I was too young to handle them properly but if it helps, they had a profound effect on me). 

Tonight he began our conversation by confiding that his books make him feel terribly guilty. I could not imagine how that would be the case, but he explained that he feels bad about all the beautiful and worthwhile books he owns that he has not read.  He said that reading has now become something of a chore for him -- his eyes don't like to work so hard and it has become much easier to watch TV.

This made me sad because one of my dad's defining characteristics has always been that he not only read the dictionary and the complete Encyclopedia Britannica as a young boy -- just because that's the kind of nerdy thing he enjoyed doing -- but also managed to retain a whole lot of it.

The conversation made me think about how things change, and how our relationship to them changes as well.  And feel sad, but feel glad I'm here.  And also fortunate to visit a few of these old mutual friends with him -- even the ones with which we are not as well acquainted as we'd like to be.  Just seeing their wise, familiar faces has value. And feel a little guilty about the ones I have not read myself, but pretty glad for the ones I have.

And realize that time is not to be wasted and that words matter, the ones on the page and especially the ones we share with the people we love.

Thanks, Dad . . . lucky me.



Judy said...

I hope our children will still have this affinity for books in spite of the digital revolution. There is nothing like the heft of the printed word, is there?

Lynda Halliger-Otvos said...

I miss the heft too. Reading dictionaries has lost its charm.

luanne said...

How great that you've had access to literature from a young age... it explains your ease & sophistication with words. But I must credit my mother, who promised me a new book for every horrendous dental visit I endured as a child of the pre-fluoridated generation!

Funny how such elements of childhood interconnect. If I were you, those 3 arched windows of your dad's library would forever be with me.

Arnab Majumdar said...

Your post reminds me of my grandmother, strangely. I come from a family that's just as obsessed with books and reading - my grandfather, my grandmother, my father till his eyes let him read, my sister, my cousins - they're all voracious readers. So much so, that for a long time I didn't have to buy even a single book. They have a very reassuring feel around them, because you know words bound around covers won't change no matter how much the world might change, no matter how many people might come and go...

Arnab Majumdar

Allie said...

My grandfather used to read the dictionary! We had more fun trying to puzzle each other with words. I LOVE your dad's library - there's something so comforting about being surrounded by them. Tell your dad not to feel guilty - he is rich beyond measure to have the option to read them when he pleases, the book police won't be coming to make sure he's read them!

Gary C said...

That library (especially that incredible couch) was my favorite place in that house.

Leenie said...

I hope that no matter how the world advances that books will remain a valued part of life. Probably a futile wish but still...

Your parents' house looks wonderful. No wonder you (like Scarlet O'Hara) can gain strength from your family home. The library must be full of treasures and great memories. Best wishes to you and your dad.

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