I lost thousands of books.
It seems weird to type that. But I assure you its true. I owned and lost thousands of books.
Almost two hours ago, I got a bee in my bonnet about Colson Whitehead's Apex Hides the Hurt. So I jumped in my car and drove to Borders. They would neither confirm nor deny that it would be released tomorrow and they would not put a hold on a copy for me until it had, in fact, been put on the floor.
I've been to bookstores quite a few times these past six months. But tonight I was actually excited about getting a book. I was thinking I would replace my favorite novel (well, one of them) Ralph Ellison's Invisible Man. But I want to buy them together. If you're familiar with Ellison and Whitehead, you'll know why.
So instead, I bought another paperback copy of Sula. I still hold out hope that Toni Morrison will replace my autographed set. I left her a note the last time I drove through Princeton. Perhaps I should follow up with a letter of appeal. But I definitely wanted to have that book back.
I have carted books from New Jersey to Rhode Island to Tennessee to Louisiana. As I child, I always wondered why my grandparents didn't have any books. They had lost them because of Betsy and now I too have lost mine. I also lost my childhood books...from Little Golden Book titles on that were packed in our attic.
Books have always held a special place in my life. Some I read over and over, some I had never read, some were rare, some were trashy...but all of them connected me to a different time or place, a different aspect of myself, a hope, aspiration or realization.
Many of the books I can never replace. I think specifically of my catalog from the Whitney Museum show called Black Male. Even when I got it, they were in short supply. I hardly handled it, not wanting any harm to come to its glossy pages. So too my copy of a book called The Black Book, edited by Toni Morrison when she was an editor at Random House. Others will just be a pain to track down like my collection of 1890s African American literature, my coffee table books of Kara Walker's art...
But now I have Sula back...