Old Friends...

Living once again in the city of my birth has led me to retrace the steps of my younger years. Late at night, I've taken to driving past old homes, the schools I played sports for, and past haunts that were significant to me. Some places haven't changed in the seven-odd years I've been away, and others exist only in the landscape of my memories. Yesterday I discovered that a particular old favorite had gone the way of the walkman. Tucked behind a dry-cleaner and next to a questionable Chinese Wok used to be Broadway Books, the sort of modest shop that exists only in forgotten strip malls. There I found many wonderful treasures, from a full set of hardcover second edition Lord of the Rings ($10! What a steal!) to an Asimov-edited Best of 1954 Sci-Fi anthology.
The notion of the well-worn tome seems to have gained disfavor with the buying public. My new favorite spot for used volumes closed during the summer, and I'm at a bit of a loss to find a new one. Unlike one of my outspoken sisters, I can't stomach paying $16 for a paperback copy of Don Dellilo's White Noise, when I know I could find it for $5 elsewhere. Furthermore, I enjoy the sense that I'm sharing a conversation with another person besides the author as I read. When I thumb through my beat-up copy of Where the Wild Things Are, I'm sharing story-time with Mindy Branson, age 5 (her Hancock scrawled on the front title page giving it a childish credibility). One of my favorite memories of college was reading through my friend Heather's copy of A Room With a View by E. M. Forster. She'd invited me emulate her in underlining and starring the passages that I found particularly meaningful, and it was fascinating to discover where we found companionship and where we differed. After a while, books become friends, their familiar spines on your shelf reminding you of old acquaintances who bequeathed them to you, the places you read them, the debates that they led to in class. I'll leave you with a poem by Rilke which expresses my sentiment regarding these familiar faces.

Memory -

And you wait, awaiting the one
to make your small life grow:
the mighty, the uncommon,
the awakening of stone,
the depths to be opened below.

Now duskily in the bookcase
gleam the volumes in brown and gold;
You remember lands you have wandered through
the pictures and the garments
of women lost of old.

And you suddenly know: it was here!
You pull yourself together, and there
stands an irrevocable year
of anguish and vision and prayer.
Old Friends...SocialTwist Tell-a-Friend

6 responses:

meg said...

a beautiful old memory.

I hope to hear you've found a replacement soon.

Sarah said...

Oh, Broadways Books was where I got my very first antique mini-book - Tolstoy's essays on art! As to that jab, it's an OCD germ thing that I have no control over. But I do try to buy new from independent or 'like new' from used sellers, does that count for something? Also, there are many many fantastic used bookstores out this way (hint, hint).

Valerie said...

I was hoping Broadway books would still be there when I could afford their two-hundred dollar set of the great books (or maybe it was three). Too bad. Good blog, by the way.

Mm said...

Lovely sentiments and poetry. I find myself grinning as I read, remembering the final,enchanting library we built in the final house on Springdale, shelves and shelves of all types of books, the windows, and cathedral ceiling, the fireplace,the conversations... and discovering on those very shelves a book I had inherited from my mother. Believe this if you can, a first American edition or a first edition (Can't remember which) of Till We Have Faces. You know how that book is with me... and as I read it there on the plaid loveseat I found that she had underlined and commented in some of the exact places I had.
I love the connection to others you described, and especially with my remarkable mom.

Mm said...

To all of you: Don't forget Twice Sold Tales... I am sure they would love to see y'all

Lori said...

Speaking of charming, surprising book finds, Jem, I highly recommend the odd library book sale. Garden City's fall event comes up the third weekend - Thurs and Fri included - of October, and the Boise Public's the following weekend. Try to make one - just for the treasure hunting. The grandest book sale fete about these parts comes the first weekend of April, at the big library. As the weather freshens and the buds on the dormant trees start showing, I begin stirring with anticipation for the Book
Sale, a sacred ritual of spring for me. I skip ball games and don't make dinner on that weekend!