Shelf Space and on Remembering Sleepless Nights

book-shelfThe last time I moved, I had to relieve myself of a lot of books. Just no room anymore. Now I have only one 6-shelf narrow bookcase and it’s  full. But I’ve taken to the library these past few years anyway, so I don’t need much anymore. Still, I’m not averse to sending off books to people who might be interested. One just came up and it’s a pleasure to be able to send it off. This one bring Elizabeth Hardwick’s Sleepless Nights.

There was a time, back when I was a big book buyer, that I’d write my name in the front, along with the month and year that I’d finished it. As I get ready to send this away, I see this one is from August 1979, not quite 30 years ago. As I open it up, I also see that I liberally yellow highlighted this one. I hope the recipient doesn’t mind too much. I start to leaf through some of these parts that I thought worthy somehow  of remembrance. And why not? This is after all, a novel of memory.

When you travel your first discovery is that you do not exist

I had certainly forgotten this quote, but it’s the reason I have loved to travel over the past 10 years or so, most of it alone for this very reason. You cease to exist. It’s liberating.  You are ‘anybody’ – and no one.

We underline or highlight passages for various reasons. Some we believe profound. Some we believe are profoundly funny. Some strike a personal chord. Some…well, some we just can’t seem to remember why we might have made special note. Hardwick is traveling in Montreal (as I have done many times). Why would I highlight this?:

Canadians, do not vomit on me!

Hardwick has much to say about why we live where we live. What goes into our decisions. I like this thought very much:

Every great city is a Lourdes where you hope to throw off your crutches but meanwhile must stumble along on them, hobbling under the protection of the shrine.

I see one other thing  I would do at that time. I was in my mid-thirties and looking to get the education I felt I might have missed out on in college. Or perhaps I just missed that sense of wonder and discovery from those years and was trying to recapture them. I was hungry. Who should I read? Who do the great thinkers read? Who do the very creative minds read? Hardwick drops a lot of names andt looks like I may have highlighted every one of them. So many plans.

But gosh, I had forgotten what wonderful descriptions and reveries she has here on Billie Holiday (the  “bizarre deity”). Pages and pages of them. Those passages are worth the book in themselves.

Off it goes then, with fond memories.


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