D and I are getting rid of our books. Not all of our books, but as many as we possibly can. Some are going on Amazon to be sold, others are going to the charity shop. Our house has become a production line – inspect bookshelf for books to go, search on Amazon to see if they’re worth anything, list on Amazon or put in box for charity shop. Sell book. Post.
This isn’t the first time we’ve undertaken a grand unembookening. In 2007, an expulsion of books was precipitated by D and I moving in together. We had doubles of books and so great was our faith that we wouldn’t split up that we decided to sell all duplicates.
This time there are a few reasons for getting rid of all of our books:
- we’re going travelling for a year and want to minimise storage costs
- we’re sick of having to pack up a million books every time we move house (about once ever two years)
- we both have iPads and all our books live on those
The final point is probably the most pertinent – that we both have iPads. D likes to say that when he was young he would have killed for a device that held all of his books. When I was young I wanted a book-lined office that smelled of pages and leather. However, in the realisation of D’s dream, my dream has become impractical. Or maybe it’s been replaced by a dream of being more agile, of being able to go anywhere unencumbered by the history of literature and philosophy.
Today D prepared another box of books to take to the charity shop. We have two full boxes in our hallway which I went through. It made me feel immensely sad, not so much because I will miss any of the individual books, but because I feel like we’re saying goodbye to what they represent. Each book came from somewhere, was picked up and chosen, either by one of us or by a friend who gave it as a gift. Each book is a memory of something, of time spent in a second hand bookshop amongst the smell of musty books, of courses taken at University in philosophy and literature, of a summer spent only reading books written by Russians, of a holiday in California, of time we had to spend apart. I am a persistent annotator (which D hates) so books contain my cringeworthy annotations and doodles from when I was a student.
Many of the books are gifts that we gave to each other; the traditional Christmas book, for example. An Amazon voucher will never be able to replace the Christmas book, which is carefully chosen by one person for the other, not just a gift but an invitation into another world. I’m sad to see them go but I doubt we’ll give them any more, a Christmas book feels like an anachronism, a forced gesture. Why repeat something simply because it had meaning in the past, when all of its meaning has gone?
I did keep the first book that D gave me when we got together – Kazuo Ishiguro’s The Unconsoled.
We aren’t getting rid of 100% of our books. Some have to be kept. 1st editions aren’t going anywhere – D has spent years collecting 1st editions of Samuel Beckett and my Hubert Selby Jnr collection is a permanent fixture in our lives. Also not going is D’s collection of Willard Price books, which he just completed a few months ago (Cannibal Adventure arrived in the post to much joy).
Up for debate are the hundred or so vintage science fiction books that aren’t worth anything but that represent days spent rifling through second hand bookshops. Maybe are hesitant because if we don’t have a purpose for going into a second hand bookshop that we just won’t go in any more.
We can’t get rid of any art books because art books just don’t work on the Kindle app. Digital versions don’t have the quality of their print counterparts. Also, many of the books D needs don’t have digital versions. Since his research is in aesthetics, this means we’re lumbered with hundreds of art books. They’re off, however, to his office, where they can take up space on his shelves instead of taking up space in our house.
So goodbye books. I’m very sad to see you go. Sadder now as you leave than when you are gone. Mostly sad because of the memories that are attached to each of you. Sad because I loved you, spent years of my life searching for you, and now I don’t need you any more. Sad because you are unnecessary but you smell so good. Sad because of all of the millions of books in the world that are going the same way, all of the other households tossing away their books. Sad because when I’m in my most apocalyptic, doom and gloom, frame of mind I can’t help thinking that one day we might need you and you won’t be around any more.