An attempt to make sense of things in a random universe, one Friday at a time.

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Location: Philippines

Leaving my footsteps for you to find and follow, my love.

01 October 2010


Ever since I was a little girl growing around books, I have always dreamed of having my own private library, in a large, dark, room that’s lined floor-to-ceiling with books. My daydreams often consisted of dark, gleaming wood, reading lamps, heavy curtains, and an overstuffed leather chair, and the company of the likes of Dickens, Atwood, Garcia-Marquez, Updike, Austen, and Shakespeare. Daydreams of pink fluffy bedrooms and huge closets full of dresses to wear when I go out with a Prince Charming were definitely not for me. When other girls my age would dream of birthday parties and pink bicycles and cupcakes and dolls, I would dream of leather-bound pages, the smell of wood and paper, and the light from a reading lamp falling on black type as I flipped page after page after page of a novel or a treatise or a monograph, time passing me by in hours, years, eons, while I sit entranced, immortal.

Now I already have my own library, although it is nowhere near my dream library yet. I have about five hundred titles on six medium-sized shelves made of laminated wood fiber (four of them a gift from my mother, and two I eventually purchased as my book collection grew.) These books I have been able to acquire over the years from a myriad of sources. Books do not come cheap, so after the books I have inherited, I continued the collecting by going to book sales and estate give-aways, often finding one-of-a-kind editions, such as the unmarked first edition of The Naked Ape and The Witches of Eastwick. I also “discovered” so many wonderful authors through a book I found in these rummages, such as Tom Robbins and Anita Shreve. When I was starting my library, Google was not up yet, and the internet was in its baby stage, so I had a dearth of sources for information. But whenever an author I admire does mention another author he admires, I’d try to find a book by that author, and that’s partly how my library grew.

When I moved to Manila, started studying in UP Diliman, landed a series of well-paying freelance jobs, got broadband in my apartment, got my own credit card, and discovered Amazon and Paypal (milestones that occurred one after the other with dizzying speed, much to my delight), I started buying books brand-new. I had more reason to: research for my freelance jobs, readings related to my graduate studies, and reading to ease my loneliness whilst living alone in the big city. And my library continued to grow. And now I need even more shelves.

I don’t place books in storage, because i find that I go back to the already-read ones from time to time, sometimes to re-read (as in the case of my copy of One Hundred Years of Solitude and Funny Farm), sometimes to quote (as in the case of my copy of Negotiating with the Dead and How To Read A Novel), sometimes to check certain things against (as in the case of my copy of Generation 13 and The Norton Anthology of Theory and Criticism), sometimes to feel amazed at the wonders of the universe (as in the case of my copy of The Fabric of the Cosmos and The Biography of E=mc2) and sometimes to just skim through to get strength from during difficult times (as in the case of my copy of The Year of Magical Thinking and Emma). Books have become my security blanket and I need to see their spines all lined up in the shelves all the time.

When people see my now-overstuffed bookshelves they often ask me, with awed voices, if I have read them all. I am perplexed by the question. Of course I have read them all (except for the latest batch acquired which I am still in the process of reading). When I say yes, they look even more awed, as if they have just witnessed me accomplish a stupendous, almost inhuman feat, such as reaching the summit of Mt. Everest alive while wearing a flimsy dress. For what purpose would I buy books except to read them? How difficult is it to finish reading books? How extraordinary is it to love books, much like other people might love diamonds or cars or gadgets or handbags or watches or antiques?

But then again I suppose there are diff’rent strokes for diff’rent folks. I do love reading books over every other activity in the world. And even if the books in the bookshelves would overflow onto other newer bookshelves that would eventually ease out other furniture, it’s okay. I’d be happily reading on, so comfortably, even if the books would overflow from all shelves, onto the floor, onto other remaining pieces of furniture, at times even occupying half of my bed, like some profound, verbose fungus gradually growing larger and wider to cover the entire forest floor, then creeping up towards the hills and the mountains, spewing adjectives and verbs and gerunds and metaphors and dialogue and arguments and streams of consciousness as it spreads along, enveloping my world with chapters upon chapters of plot and premise.

And there I nestle underneath the soft darkness, a growing mountain of literature over me. The people who ask me about my books are wrong. I have not reached the peak of the mountain. I lie ensconced underneath the dogmatic layers of the centuries of writing, life, and learning that have come before me.

[Image credits: 1, 2, 3]


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