The Soapbox Papers

The Soapbox Papers is my two-cents worth.

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Location: Beloit, Wisconsin, United States

I am a cross between Tinkerbell and Calamity Jane.

Thursday, February 16, 2006

Old Books


I love books. I have books - cookbooks, plant books, biographies and autobiographies, poetry books, fiction, non-fiction, specialty books, music books, coffee table books, art books, text books, how-to books, self-help books, books of cartoons and blank books. If you see me at a thrift store or a garage sale or a flea market I will invariably be checking out the books. Ask anyone who has helped me move -- I love books.

There is a certain satisfaction to be enjoyed by reading a book. It feels good to hold a book - the physical feel of some books is exquisite - leather bound or linen finished board covers, the smoothness of the page, or, conversely, the coarse pulpiness of a favorite paperback. Books are comforting because they are there, they are physical, because they hold knowledge and secrets, ideas and humor and pictures and and they are available at your bidding to share it all with you. They can be a world unto themselves, and you can go there whenever you like. They are part of my home and part of myself. How in the world can I even think of getting rid of them - or even some of them? Yet, thinking of a major move ahead for myself, I know I must thin the bookshelves, at least a little. It will be an interesting and painful project, but the result will be a smaller library that is all the more precious for the thinning.

Several weeks ago I sent a CARE package to my mother. It contained the sugarless chocolate she loves, the purple scarf and red hat I'd had a friend crochet for her, and a few odds and ends. I was about to seal the package when I noticed, on my bookshelf, a biography of Bette Davis. I'd found it at a yard sale and it was among the biographies I've been meaning to read, but had never gotten to. Bette Davis was a contemporary of my mother. They grew up at the same time in history, coming of age during the war years. That was one of the reasons I chose to put it on my shelf to read one day. But I can find another - such books are thrift store regulars. Instinctively, I knew it would be a treat for my mother. It would be a tight squeeze, but I fit it in, sealed the box and sent it. Mother's response was amazement (she had the mistaken idea I'd made the hat and scarf for her - but though I knit some, I don't crochet...) and surprise. "How did you know," she asked me, "that I have always been a Bette Davis fan?" Well, maybe I remembered something about that, possibly subconsciously, when I bought the book - I can't say it was a conscious thing. At the time I put the book in the box to send to Mother, my only thought was that they were contemporaries, and she would enjoy reading about that time again through someone else's eyes. It made me feel good to picture her as she said she was: curled up in her chair with a cup of coffee and her sugarless chocolates, reading Bette Davis' life story.

I love it when that happens - when I can give exactly the right book to exactly the right person. I am looking over my bookcases with a different eye these days, wanting to do more of that. But there are books and there are OLD books, and of those, there are olde books and there are ol' books.

In these days of Internet, most books become outdated quickly. I was reminded of that reading Taran's blog this morning, wherein he wrote about a website, Newsroom101.com where Associated Press lays out its stylesheet and even provides exercises for those who want to write for them or like them. I reached over to my reference shelves and pulled out three style references: one a 1965 booklet, 52 pages in length, called The Associated Press Stylebook , a 1970 publication of the (Modern Language Association) MLA Stylesheet, and a copy of the 1977 The Associated Press Stylebook and Libel Manual. Now - were I a lady of leisure, I'd have gone to the website Taran mentioned and compared my tangible stylesheets with those now presented by The Associated Press. But I am not a lady of leisure, and at that moment I was late for an appointment, so I just left my ol' books near my work chair and went about my business. But as I drove to my destination, I realized that my entire reference library is probably all updated somewhere on the internet. I really don't need any of them anymore...do I?

Returning home, I started writing this. I look at my three books and know I will put them in a pile to get rid of. These are ol' books that have served their purpose on my shelves, and it is time to let them go. I won't throw them out, though. Somewhere there is a lady of leisure (or a gentleman) who will find them irresistible and might even check their contents against the information on Newsroom101.com and thoroughly enjoy herself doing it. I've just lightened my moving load by about 12 ounces...

There are some books on my reference shelf that will join them - ol' books like my 1991 copy of Florida Media Law Second Edition published by USF - Tampa. It is outdated, but I think I will read this one first, just to get the principles of it, before it goes into the OUT box. There are far too many ol' grammar books, and I think I will limit myself to just one. Maybe two. Dos for Dummies was a good ol' book, but as I recently told a lady who told me she had a six year old degree in computer science, that and a buck will get me a cup of coffee. I have a few other books dealing with writers and the internet, all about 8 or 9 years old. Those ol' books are gone! If I can't find what I need to know about writing on the internet myself, these days, I'd best throw my keyboard out my 7th floor window!

After I get finshed sorting the books on the reference shelves, throwing out those outdated ol' books, I will move on to the rattan shelves that divide my apartment and work on the rest of my books, those olde books that might just have to find, as Bette Davis' biography did, new hands to hold them.

The adventure continues...

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