When the twain DO meet

He and I have entirely distinct libraries. He reads books that line up nicely on a shelf. His authors are prolific and tidy: the titles adhere to sensible nomenclature and the design of the jacket or paperback seems to say that the authors lined up a deal long before the first foray: I’ll sell my soul for a contract and you can publish my oevre on boilerplates.

I envy his library. If he likes an author, he can belly up to an all-you-can-eat buffet of material.

My library is a collection of moody oddities: the backbone of reconvened children’s books gives rise the overpriced mass produced college reading lists. Great shafts of obsession grow out in gnarled bunches: the true crime years, the vintage dictionaries, the aberrant medical, psychological and sexual texts which were dusty when I bought them. Pamphlets, stolen library folios, mimeographed first-editions… alphabetizing is out of the question. I’ve got two piles for now: true and possibly true.

I love him for the very thin margin at which we do overlap. Otherwise, we retire to our staterooms and emerge for meals and dancing.

I usually have an organically generated reading list: books just seem to suggest their successors. Most of my favorite authors, though, are genetically extinct or doomed: my favorite authors are dead or depressed or write like no one else. Or they take their damn time. My favorite authors also don’t go down quickly. I don’t race home with a new book and devour it like a chocolate bar–I buy them that way, but I don’t read them until the time is right.

John Crowley’s latest is still waiting for me.

I just read The Last Days of Dogtown. I can’t go to the library, but I now can’t afford new books, so I picked up this Anita Diamante after someone gave it–and his dog–to me as a gift. It was a gift tossed up from seas so sorrowful that all your treasures becomes detritus, neglected unless kind happenstance awakens.

Then he tucked Old Man’s War into my praying hands. A paperback with a bas relief cover usually slips right through my grasp. A paperback with airplanes flying toward a white planet would feel very alone on my half of book shelf. A Publishers Weekly blurb on the cover would seal the books fate, but this one is good.

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