Monday, September 6, 2010

Reading Into Things

I started repacking today in preparation for my return to Santa Cruz. In general, getting my stuff together is a lot easier now than it was last year because I've learned to edit my belongings more effectively-- for some reason, I used to think that I wouldn't survive my freshman year of college without my eighth grade diploma tucked somewhere in the bottom desk drawer in my dorm room. But it's still difficult making rational packing decisions when it comes to a huge portion of my belongings: books.

Put crudely, I fucking love reading, and I love reading anything-- magazines, newspapers, blogs, my little brother's school essays-- as long as it's not a textbook, I generally don't mind looking through it. But books (novels, short stories, and especially creative nonfiction) are an obvious favorite, I think because they're long enough to form a memorable emotional and intellectual connection with. And once you form such a connection with something, whether it's a human being or a story, you don't really want to leave it lying around in your garage, do you? Imagine forcing your aunt to sit in between cobwebbed boxes of your old childhood toys, waiting for you to come home over winter break and hang out with her. It's really not the way to go.

Yes, I realize that the physical books aren't nearly as important as the words written in them, so maybe it doesn't matter what I do with them as long as the stories live on in me, or something like that. But I like having the actual books around, because each one of them meant something to me. Just like pictures remind me of good times with friends and family I don't get a chance to see all the time, books remind me of all sorts of things. I see a Christopher Buckley novel and remember going to my favorite used bookstore years ago with my dad. I know I'm not likely to pick up The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pantsanytime soon, and displaying it in my room certainly won't win me any cool points, but it signifies an impassioned argument I had with my high school boyfriend, who scoffed at this supposed "chick lit". I see Joan Didion's Where We Were From and think about how much I like living in California, despite all its problems. If I had to pick any one concept to believe in completely and wholeheartedly, it would be belief in the written word, belief that writing and reading can and often does change people. Yes, I have some books that I prefer to others, but how can I choose to leave behind anything that means that much to me?

In the midst of writing this post, I realize something that I can't believe I didn't see before. This sentimentality isn't just about books. It's about, big surprise, me not wanting to leave behind anything that shaped who I am today, which has been somewhat a theme in my life lately. It's not even that I liked a lot of the things that shaped me, but for some reason I'm not ready to forget about them. All this time I thought I was so smart to be feeling so passionately about books, but maybe they're yet another symbol of the things I can't take with me. I'm not really sure. It's late, and my thoughts are all over the place, and I don't think my writing is as concise as it could be right now. But, you know, I wouldn't even know what good writing was if I didn't read so much.

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