There is one place where I have a compulsive shopping disorder. With reckless abandon I rack up the charges, barley pausing while I routinely pile ten to twenty items in the bag I have brought with me to cart my wares. I have earned raised eyebrows and sometimes even eye rolls from other patrons as I forge on, undaunted by the weight I have accumulated at each rack. I quickly scan shelves as my hands move methodically to get more, more, and sometimes even more than that. I know the staff by name and hold my card out without so much as a trace of embarrassment as Kate, or Lowell or Christine gets ready to charge it. I should be ashamed knowing that I will repeat the process in a maximum of two weeks – I can’t keep myself away for any longer than that. It is just the effect the library has on me.
When I was growing up we went to the library once a week. With my children’s card there was a maximum rental of nine items total (which included books on tape – yes, actual cassette tapes and movie rentals on VHS). At the time I felt like this place must be what heaven looked like. You could learn anything you possibly wanted to know – you just had to find the manual. The first time I made it through the movie “The Matrix“without falling asleep (and if you haven’t done this yet, I urge you to because it is actually fantastic) I remember thinking that the downloads could have easily been achieved at the library. (Yes, I know, the whole point was to download programs that would take a lifetime of practice in minutes, but aside from the time constraints – the library can do this for you).
I would tear through volumes of work written by particular authors and then the collections of authors in the same genre. Sometimes, much to the chagrin of my group of siblings, my mom would go as proxy (hmm, I wonder what would possess a woman to skip bringing four children who wandered off in different directions to the library with her, instead going solo and silently untethered). This was regarded as the worst case scenario because we would be left to read what she brought home for us (as avid readers we wouldn’t simply sit out the opportunity to read SOMETHING and you should know we were all but denied access to television, so a book + the ability to read = entertainment). Neither she nor I will ever forget the impression “Dolores Claiborne” by Stephen King left on me. (If you haven’t read this yet, I must ask you only one qualifier – how comfortable are you with the word “shit”?) Though I thought it was punishment at the time, it was one of the best gifts ever bestowed on me.
I spent one summer working through classics and another summer reading only cookbooks. I read biographies, novels, and lots of non-fiction. I read as soon as I woke up, on the bus to and from school, in the hallways, and my perennial favorite – in bed, long after I should have fallen asleep. There was a never ending stream of material I could read and new books were published all the time in the event I read everything available to me – a worthy, through ultimately unattainable goal.
Currently I have a toweringly impressive roster that I am working my way through including “You’ll Grow out of It” by Jessi Klein, “The Art of Memoir” by Mary Karr and “Screenwriting is rewriting: The Art and Craft of Professional Revision” by Jack Epps, Jr. I do not need any recommendations, but I WANT THEM! What are you reading? What do you want to read? What do you keep going back to? I think that if I simply put the books on hold and collect them discreetly from the circulation desk it would be in everyone’s best interest…who’s with me?! I’d offer to drive you over to the library but the car is already pretty full with all of my returns from last week…