Confession: There is no one that I love that doesn’t love books.
I don’t mean that in a snobbish way, because loving books doesn’t necessarily signify erudition. Loving books means cherishing the experience of reading, of getting lost in their pages, mourning the end of good ones, and feeling betrayed by the bad ones. And book lovers tend to love other book lovers because we feel like we know each other and it is physically impossible for us to run out of things to talk about. My friend Jenny put it perfectly once. She was telling me about a blind date that she had been on and was trying to describe why he was wrong for her. “He doesn’t like books,” she said, and I needed no more proof.
For us bibliophiles, the greatest agony is finding yourself bookless in a situation where reading material makes the difference between agony and enjoyment. For instance: the 3 fruitless hours I waited in line at the DC DMV would have been bearable if I had tossed Rick Bragg in my bag, or if I had remembered at least to grab Proust (who would have had many poetically depressing things to say about fruitless waiting). Waiting 20 minutes for the metro in the middle of the afternoon? Still aggravating as it belies the utter inefficiency of the DC metro system, but if I have a book – I can put aside my frustration. No time is lost time when you have a book.
Which is why you ALWAYS have a book. My friend Bethany called the other night to tell me that she walked out of her apartment building only to find that it was on fire so she was going to have to stay out for a while. My question: “What book do you have with you?” and of course she had multiple on hand. When I was living in France, my brother came to visit and we went to Bordeaux and the beach. Upon arriving at the beach, we realized we had packed no food, no water, only a hand towel, but we had four books a piece. Priorities.
Obviously, this means that finishing a good book is the worst feeling ever. A reader of books feels a sense of accomplishment, but a lover of books feels a sense of loss. It’s over. For however long it took to read it, you entered in shared existence and now… it’s over. So then you reread, and dog-ear pages, and tell everyone you know to read it so that you can live it again for the first time.
Not only do book lovers love books, they live in books, and I mean that in the most literal way possible: we surround ourselves. When James and I combined our physical belongings, his were almost entirely books. Now, an entire wall of our home is a hodgepodge of bookshelves, with no semblance of order, as James likes to try to connect two books that have found themselves next to each other. It does Hugo good to sit next to Cather, and T.S. Eliot and Kenneth Grahame have never been better friends. Cormac McCarthy and Shakespeare might be a little more of a stretch, but Dante on the other side will keep them in order.
And sometimes I think to myself about how happy I am that I married a booklover. There will be days, I’m sure, where we will run out of things to say to each other. Days where work was long, and nothing happened, and we have no new opinions, or were too tired to think new thoughts. Days where we annoy each other, or are tired of each other, or are bored with each other. It seems hard to imagine those days now, in this happy bubble of our first months of marriage, but I know they’ll come. But then there are Pip and Odysseus and Atticus Finch and Asher Lev and Daisy Buchanan and Mole and Toad and the Little Prince to keep us company, to give us perpetually fresh thoughts.