A Page from a Box (A horror story)


I have collected books (and music) for decades, and that in itself, is not particularly extraordinary. I have also studied a few times and after a while, a person can open up a library on a vast array of subjects. My shelves range from architectural books — the technical kind and the pretty ones — to psychology tomes, reaching into many fields of self-help and metaphysical subjects. Pass me the Lapis Lazuli, please!

Now that we have a successful recipe for librarianitis on the table, we must garnish the condition with several hundred novels. Toss in a dash of Tolkien for preservation, a sliver of chocolate from Harris, and a thrilling Baldacci or three. Lightly sprinkle in some spice from the land of Le Guin, and gently stir the exotic batter until it Higgins. Before it can settle, place on the shelf alongside the wealth of Grisham. MacLean every now and then, repeat the Ludlum, and make space for more Adler. After a few years, move house. In fact, move state — move cross-country.

“Hi, my name is Jo, and I do like books”

Over the years, I have tried to get rid of some books with each successive move. I am usually not terribly successful, and I land up buying some more in penance. When I packed up a few years ago to move across the sweeping plains of Africa, I decided to get rid of the ‘old wood’. I gave away, recycled, and sold all the tatty bindings that I felt really needed to either pay rent, or be on their way. Naturally, I still kept far too many.
Four or five years ago, I was still reading this foreign, antiquated matter with printed pages that lay between dust covers. I have worked with computers for over two decades, and while I read extensively on the Internet, I was yet to discover the pleasure of a nice little E-Ink book reader. Yes, I am now a convert, but before you hurl that hefty printed trilogy at my head, please understand that I was seduced. I had no defence at the convenience. Put down that trilogy, Ma’am!
During the great trek of 2010, I sorted out all my numerous hard covers that were to be dragged with me into not so neat piles: to be read, and read. Since I no longer own my own house, I have not been able to unpack. This sorting was crucial to my reading habits. The result is that the spare bedroom was filled from floor to ceiling with boxes and odd bits. I also have a musical habit that began in early eighties. Books ‘n Albums are my penchant.
The spare room was a sea of disaster waiting to unravel, and on the day of my last birthday, it did. My proprietress, who is not particularly pleasant, strongly believes that sarcasm and avoidance is the best building maintenance known to man — and women, such as herself. The pipes leaked, the heavens opened and the waterfall of destruction flowed over everything. My worst nightmare was awash with reality.
It was a long week or two, trying to save my books, records, and compact discs. By and large, almost all my books survived the deluge. I originally packed them all in thick bags, set in mothball-laden boxes. I spend the entire day hauling endless broken and soggy boxes out into the yard. When you live at the coast, a day or two is enough to encourage mould and fungus, so it is a race to salvage what is important, and throw out what is spoilt. I shall spare you the rot.
The days following the flood were like saying goodbye to old friends with stories remembered by gazing at the sleeves with fondness. It was a sad parting, coupled with the knowledge that I will never again have the joy of seeing those books on my bookshelf. It did tug at the heartstrings, and with mixed feelings, the paper medium was freshly sorted. This time, very few will make it back into crisp new boxes. It was time to clear, unclutter, and ‘de-book’.
With a heavy hand — and heart — most of my novels went to charity, and some of my expensive reference books were repacked. It is like a visit from an old friend that is over too quickly. One day — when I have written, and sold enough of my own books to afford it — I shall buy a nice large house, and assemble my small library. At that time, I know shall mourn my books ….
Therefore, if you love your books as much as I do, do pack them carefully when you next move. Take a page from one of my book boxes and put them into tough plastic bags, nestled in mothballs on the outside. Oh, and avoid wet spots … and fungal growths.
Now, for the good news … it is time to sort again! All I can say is thank heavens for electronic books. They take up so little space, they never get old or dusty, and if you keep your reading device out of the bath, they never get wet. So, this is my personal endorsement for electronic media.

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