Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Another Reason to Stick To TV

One of the few things I get to have an active role in during this magical time of expectancy is clearing out my playroom--er, home office--so we can turn it into a baby room. Or a nursery. One or the other. I'm not sure which. I don't even know what the difference is. I think a nursery is supposed to have trees. Or tree-themed wallpaper?

Speaking of trees, mainly what I'm doing is getting rid of books. I love books. I love buying them, I love reading them, I love looking at 'em. Some of my fondest childhood memories are spending what felt like entire afternoons scouring the shelves of the Mayfair Branch of the Saskatoon Public Library, or on special occasions the awesome main branch downtown--whose children's section was the stuff of legend, especially Pooh Corner, which I remember as being accessible only by a tunnel too small for adults to fit. Mainly I was interested in the Hardy Boys series, the old blue hardcovers, which had a strange smell about them I would come to associate with books. For my birthday, maybe my 6th or 7th, I got The Hardy Boys Detective Handbook, which was the most mind-bending piece of literature I'd seen since The Empire Strikes Back Book-on-Record.

A few times, my ambition would get the better of my reading level. I once checked out an Albert Einstein biography that was beyond me, but luckily my mom took a break from the Narnia and Madeleine L'Engle books that were the staples of bedtime to read it to me. Whatever I gleaned from having the book read to me is now forever intermingled with dim memories of the Yahoo Serious movie. Einstein's afterlife, however, I'm much more clear on.

Anyway, the baby room. My books. I've got too many. I need to get rid of some. Right. Because supposedly a baby and a mountain of books can't co-exist. So this afternoon I filled my biggest backpack full of books and trudged over to my favourite used book store on Main Street. It's the place I would go to find the books I have to get rid of if I hadn't already read them. It's curious the way the dynamic changes when the clerk realizes you're in there to get rid of books rather than buy them. When I'm buying books there, there's plenty of chat and small talk, what we in the business like to call relationship-building. When I'm trying to lighten my literary load, on the other hand, it's polite but terse. No small talk. At all.

So the clerk is going through my pile of books. He examines the books and divides them into two piles. With every new volume he rifles through, I have to resist a growing urge to snatch the books back and run down the street screaming, "NEVER! You'll never get my books! They're mine! All mine!"

But really, rationally, what do I need with my old copy of Kerouac's Big Sur? Am I going to read it again? Not a chance. I'd sooner reread Desolation Angels or Dr. Sax anyday. Which is why I'm keeping them. Just in case. I have an unreasonable fantasy that I'm going to reread all my favourite books--not when I'm old, but, like, this weekend. Yeah, fat chance. I get it. So let them take my books. Let someone else carry that weight.

The clerk takes a second look at my run of early 00s Best American Crime Writing anthologies, and suddenly I decide that those are the most indispensible books I've ever owned. Now they're going to be gone forever! I can feel a panic attack coming. The clerk shifts them over to the pile closest to me. "These ones," he says, pointing at that pile of books, "thanks, but no thanks." A wave of relief. Although I'm shocked and a little saddened he didn't want my copy of The Last Honest Man.

The clerk makes me a very reasonable offer on store credit for a little over half the books I lugged in, and I take it. I should take cash, but you get less, and who am I kidding, I'm going to buy more books. Maybe not today, and maybe not tomorrow, but Friday. Friday, I'm definitely going to buy more books. I've already eyed-up a copy of the recent Houdini biography on the shelf at the front of the store. Sorry, Nicole.

mp3: "Television" by Robyn Hitchcock
mp3: "Television Man" by Man...Or Astro-man?


Chris said...

Assuming you're not planning on raising an illiterate, soon enough your kid will be thankful that you have a lot of books, especially ones with dirty bits. Although, I dunno, maybe the internet has ruined that particular joy of early literacy.

Dazey said...

I stumbled across your blog sometime ago and have since been lurking. I've really liked a lot of the songs you've put up.

I feel your pain at getting rid of books. I still complain about the Nancy Drews and Ladybird fairy tales my mother made me give away at 13. Books are the only thing that make me feel really aquisitive; just walking into a used book store is enough to raise my pulse.