This was a difficult week. I started packing, initiating the process of leaving the house I have shared with Sophia for so many years. Sure, it’s only taken me six years to get this point of taking action, but I like to take my time.
Holy crap, I didn’t realize that I had accumulated so many books since college. I ended up with twenty boxes of books. And as for the question that V-grrrl snarkily asked me on Twitter, “Have you actually READ them all?” my answer is, “Have you worn ALL of the shoes in your closet?”
I recently bought a Kindle, and proudly announced to the world the end of the physical book. Who needs the physical book anymore? Let’s save the trees! Words are words, whether on paper or e-ink. But as I went through my books this week, in an attempt to weed out those that I wanted to give away, I reconnected with so many of these books, some which I haven’t looked at since college, as if they were old friends I just rediscovered on Facebook.
For me, the relationship of man and book has less to do with the content of the book, or even whether I bothered to read it. It is the living and breathing book itself. The physical book could light a memory that has nothing to do with the story, but about carrying the book in the subway in 1988, and the nodding agreement of the older gentleman carrying the same tome, and feeling as if I was in a private club.
As I prepared my moving boxes, my aim was to give away half of my old books, but after sorting through them, one by one, chatting to each about “old times,” I reduced my giveaway to only three boxes. There was no reason to hold on to “Tasty Oriental Dishes in Five Minutes? After really, after twelve years of owning SQL for Dummies, shouldn’t I just accept that I will always be a DUMMY with SQL?
As a self-diagnosed co-dependent, it didn’t surprise me to discover that many of the books in my collection, even the most unlikely of the bunch, are connected to different women from the past, imaginary and real girlfriends, unrequited love, lucky nights, and utter disasters.
The Whole PC Family Encyclopedia
Amy showed me how to use Compuserve, and then promptly flirted with me online. I was as slow to warming up to this modern form of sexual relationship as was my dial-up modem to connecting to the Internet. She soon found another guy to message, and we lost touch.
History and Class Consciousness: Studies in Marxist Dialectics
Do I remember anything about this book from college? No. Do I remember this Marxism course or the pretentious professor’s name? No. Do I remember my first experience with getting oral sex during that study session with Hannah after we talked about Marxist Dialectics? Yes. Will I ever read this book again? No. Will I ever give it away? Absolutely not. Never.
Michaela was religious. Because of her, I went bonkers and immediately decided to become a rabbi. I ended up going to film school in Los Angeles instead. Â Mistake.
Harold Pinter’s The Birthday Party
I wrote a play that was performed at a small theater. The play was awful, a ripoff of Harold Pinter’s style. Â No one sleeps with the writer in Hollywood. Except Margaret.
Shari was crazy, but her dirty word suggestions when we played Mad Libs made our short-lived friendship oh-so-worthwhile. I think she is now a Scientologist.
Writing Class. Nothing ever happened with Karen. I just fantasized about her all the time in class and never wrote anything. Â She is now very successful, married to a woman.
This is a very boring book about sexuality in the arts, but when Jamie came to visit for the weekend, I placed this book (along with some cheesy “Book of the Month Club” selection titled “Sensual Massage”) in the center of my bookcase, hoping that she would notice them while checking out my books (something I always do when I go visit someone) and say to me, “Ooh, what interesting books you have, Neil. How would you like to give me a sensual massage and then we fuck like wild beasts?” Sadly, we spent the night sitting on the couch, fully clothed, eating Pop Tarts, and watching a Twilight Zone marathon on TV.
I met Sophia online. Our first conversation online was about our favorite books. She said hers was “The Little Prince.” I said, half-jokingly, that it was “Curious George.” This became a personal running gag for years. We even had a large Curious George doll sitting nearby at our wedding. Oddly, someone stole it during the reception.
Books are not about reading. They are about women.