A writer friend linked to an article: On the Heartbreaking Difficulty of Getting Rid of Books, sharing the outrage of the author about famous declutterer Marie Kondo’s notion of paring down books like any other household item. Most of us writer types are also avid reader types. Many of us are a little bit introverted. To a devoted introvert, books can almost seem more like friends than the actual flesh and blood ones. How do we sort friends, and give or even throw away these little pieces of our hearts?
To paraphrase another pair of de-cluttering masters, Warren and Betsy Talbot of An Uncluttered Life, the stories are in my heart now. I don’t need a thirty year old, yellowing paperback with brittle pages falling from the spine, to keep the joy of that story alive in my heart. Paperbacks are the great betrayers. The original “pulp” fiction, they’re mass-produced literary bonbons, meant to be read and discarded. We try to save them, but they self-destruct anyway. After a while, they’re not even re-readable.
I understand the pain of parting with old, dear, book friends. I had a book whose cover was gone, held together at the spine with packing tape. I don’t know how many times I had read it, or how many times I had told myself to recycle it. Parting with it felt like a funeral or a divorce, a moment to be mourned. And yet, ten pages of chapter seven had vanished. It was time.
Thank goodness for ebooks, which I can horde without fear of silverfish, dust mites, or brittle pages. So many books in the little library in my hands! No wondering which shelf the book I’m looking for is hiding on (if it is in fact on a shelf and not under the bed or sofa). If only I had an ereader that recharged with solar, my love affair with ereaders would be complete.
When I was young, I loved discovering old books in the library, especially the ones that hadn’t been opened in years. Those were hardbacks printed on heavy cream paper, sometimes with real leather covers imprinted with faded gold lettering. Most of my current to-be-sorted book pile is paperbacks and book club editions, flimsy things not meant to last until next year, never mind the decades or centuries. I’ll always love beautiful books. I can love them in the libraries, in the rare book collections, in lovely artistic photos. It’s not a betrayal of literature to toss that creaky old tiny print budget edition of Oliver Twist. At least it isn’t by my rules. Your book mileage may vary!