When I was young and working at some dreary office job, three-day weekends seemed like manna from heaven. I would tell my family I was spending the holiday with friends and tell my friends I was going to be with my family. I’d wander through block long bookstores in the heart of the city, happy and blessed with the commodity of time. Hugging books I’d purchased as I walked to my studio apartment, I felt oddly victorious and goofily happy. There was nothing more fun than three days of reading, deli food, and some wine. Years later, married, and still a working stiff, I would spend large chunks of my paychecks on paperbacks and hardcovers. Once, when I came home with a big bunch of books, my husband said, “What’s wrong with you? Why aren’t you buying dresses?”
I like to own my books and keep them nearby. There is something very special about a new tome. And most of all, I love to make annotations of affectionate concurrence or thoughtful dissent. I don’t rage the way dear Blake did in the margins of his books (usually at Joshua Reynolds) but I like to let my view be, if only on a page. You cannot have a dialogue with a library book. And those times I’ve borrowed library books, there have been more than a few instances of some stranger’s ear wax or something more gross embedded on pages. How can one enjoy Dickens or Dickinson in yucky circumstances like that?
My respect for librarians is unbounded. Still, like the smell of popcorn in movie theater, the crisp pages of a new book delight.