Again and then again I am forced to rediscover why I cannot throw away books, why I can no more throw away a book than I can toss out the infant with the dish water, why throwing away a book feels like surgically excising a memory I have not yet experienced in order to remember, why the throwing out of a single book is like burning the Pont Neuf, why discarding a book is like the tragic loss of a language spoken by one surviving member of the tribe, and then she dies, why … but I belabor it.
I had gone so far as to fill a cardboard box with books and ancient literary magazines to be given to the library, and to put that cardboard box in the back of my car to be removed when next I visited the library. But the library is not accepting book donations this week and so I revisited the contents of the box.
I removed a few and took them into the physical therapist’s office to read while I churned the stationary bike. Not that I have any objection to People magazine, but it takes less and less time to ‘read’ now that I recognize fewer and fewer of the sculpted young persons with their bee-stung lips and pierced bellybuttons, and then what do I do? I will tell you.
This morning it was an Unmuzzled Ox from 1979, a volume entitled The Poets’ Encyclopedia. That alone should be alluring enough, combining as it does two of my favorite things: poetry and encyclopedias (though not always poets). I opened this Unmuzzled Ox, savored the odor of basement damp,chitinous discards and mildew, and read more than was strictly necessary about the seminal proto-castration of a bull producing the world’s first ox, muzzled or otherwise; and then came upon a few dear old friends, back when they were hipsters and I was nursing a one-year old. Now some of them are still hipsters and some of them are dead and I am about to babysit a four year old. There in the physical therapy office I read a short piece about marbles in Malaysia by Paco Underhill(now best known for telling the unsuspecting consumer why he buys what he buys); it started out nicely enough evoking the games of childhood, and ended with a bloody breast found in the road. I opened another page and was face to face with Sari Dienes’ silhouette of John Cage. We have a few Sari ARTifacts here at the house, as CSB is a fan; but none is made from mushrooms. Sari’s name was invoked not so long ago, by the aforementioned Paco, when he quoted Sari’s assessment of herself, and Jeff, circa 1978: “A poet, a painter, a troublemaker."
Imagine if I had done the rational thing and consigned said volume to the recyclers.
And then there is a book found by my daughter, who seems genetically doomed to hang onto to odiferous and tattered books long after any sane person would have consigned them to the dumpster.
Together we found much merriment in perusing Nicole Ronsard’s No-Excuse Exercise Guide, with special attention to the illustrations; their style is classic 70’s, according to Reine, who ought to know, as the book came out before she was born. Nicole Ronsard is identified as the person who “made cellulite a household word”. She has much to answer for. Before she came along, “cellulite” was only spoken in hushed tones in the corridors of monasteries on islands in the eastern Mediterranean.