He had just received a box of new books from his London bookseller, and had preferred the prospect of a quiet Sunday at home with his spoils. -- Edith Wharton, The Age of Innocence
I've never gotten over the fact of libraries: there are places where you can wave a little card and walk out with dozens of books to read. It amazes me--I really should be a poster child for the library system. I could think up cheesy slogans about library cards and the riches of reading...
It's me at my most nerdy, I know. But I can't seem to help it.
As a kid, I'd come out of the library with a stack, and then sit in our hallway reading one after another. I'd go to our school library and check out an enormous book of plays, quite beyond what I was reading in fourth grade. It didn't matter--I loved reading the cast lists over and over.
You'd think I'd outgrow it a bit, or at least keep the passion under control, but no such luck.
Yesterday I walked to our library to turn in a stack of books I had absolutely no time to read. (Whenever my writing is flourishing, I have no patience for any other stories or narrators other than my own; if I get lost in a book, I want it to be mine.)
It's a three-quarter mile walk to the library--not much, but long enough for my bag of books to cut off the circulation in my arm. Perfect insurance against checking anything else out, which I would have to haul back with me.
But I couldn't help lingering. I can't even argue that our library has a wonderful atmosphere--it doesn't. It's more like a newish YMCA than a proper library. I don't think there's any wood in the whole building. No wood in a library! All metal and plastic. Not a very cozy place at all, really.
It's not the building; it's the books that draw me. Even when they shouldn't.
So I pretended not to look through the YA section, and I pretended not to notice new titles and tug the hardbacks off the shelves. I made a stack of books that I was not, under any circumstances, to check out. And then waltzed out with an even bigger stash than I had turned in.
Then came home, refusing to look at myself in the mirror and wonder what kind of girl does this? Surely there's some kind of mental instability...
Instead, I sat in my doorway and read one opening page after another. Read half of a novel from bed, and hope to polish it off tonight... Justifying it by saying that my plotting work is going really well, my own narrator's voice is very strong in my mind, and so new novels won't hurt, new stories won't suffocate my own... I'm just seeing how other writers do it. Right? Right??