I spent a part of Sunday cataloguing my books, something I’ve been wanting to do for a long time. I only catalogued the books I have out, going one by one through the shelves and to the sundry books strewn around the place – mostly by and under my bed. I catalogued around 150 books, a tip of the iceberg really – there are about a dozen boxes in the garage unopened. It’s a start though, and it was a pretty satisfying experience as each time I scanned a book I was made to remember when I’d bought or read it, and what I thought of it. The books I have out are all important books so there were a lot of memories.
One of the things I recalled as I went through them was the book-reading phases I went through – there were a bunch of Sartre, a bunch of Camus, a bunch of Kundera, a bunch of Updike, Hemingway and Roth. They were read at different times, different stages of my life, but generally they were read as bunches. Camus and Sartre I read in my early twenties. Hemingway when I was still a teen, and later beyond that. Kundera was in my thirties I think, and Roth later again in general, though I first read Portnoy’s Complaint when I was 16 or 17. I don’t remember when I first read Updike, but I’ve been reading his stories regularly.
Then there are the bunches of books put away in boxes – Salinger, Conrad, Mann, Musil, and so on.
For those moments I felt as I did when I first read these books. Often present was a great sense of adventure and discovery. To happen across a good author and a promising set of books felt as if I was about to explore new worlds. These worlds represented an experience, a perspective, another time and place, a world yet mapped for me. I felt an intrepid reader. I wanted to enter into those worlds. I wanted to open all my senses to the experience. I wanted to learn and grow and understand. There was great pleasure in all of this, but also a sense of life education.
In the midst of reading I would often stop to consider what adventures awaited me down the road. These were words, but there was also real life ahead, which these words gave me a glimpse of. I was sure I had great things ahead of me. I remember a sense of almost uninterrupted anticipation.
I remembered all that and wondered when I’d lost all of that. I could understand, given my travails, how it could so easily be mislaid, or even corrupted, but I had the sense that it was on the wane even before that. To be rational, I’ve had many adventures, and lived both deeply and widely. Many of the things I imagined at came to pass. Does that make a difference?
I want to feel that again. I’m older now. There’s probably fewer years ahead of me than there are behind me, but that’s no reason to give it away. I’ve set myself to re-ignite that sense of anticipation and adventure. I don’t think it should be too hard. I may be of phlegmatic temperament, but I still retain some whimsy and am enduringly curious. I want to feel there’s still a lot ahead of me.