Not Really An Entry

We were just getting ready to fall asleep last night, when I said to Mister Litlove, ‘There’s a blogger holding a competition I’d quite like to enter, about the craziest nerdiest bookish thing you’ve ever done. I ought to be able to come up with something, don’t you think?’

Mr Litlove didn’t miss a beat. ‘Sounds like your whole life to me,’ he said.

‘Well, that’s the problem. I can’t single out one thing. I thought maybe I could write about giving up a well-paid job to work in a bookstore while applying for graduate study. I knew right then there was no point getting used to a salary.’

‘I was thinking about that time when you tried to cull your books, and found so many “holes” in your collection that you went on an amazon shopping spree.’

‘It wasn’t a spree. It was more of a…. just a….’ I gave that one up.

‘Did I tell you what happened today?’ my husband asked, growing bored of the conversation. ‘The customer we were visiting wanted to demonstrate the difference between secure and insecure web sites to an employee and did it by amazon one-click shopping. Then he realised he’d bought himself a game for a console he doesn’t even possess.’

And I thought to myself, well isn’t that the problem with the crazy things you do? They are done in order to prove something, or to be something, or to feel something, and there’s always a little desperation in that. That’s what the competition is asking for, something outrageous, some sort of excessive quest or bizarre stunt. Whereas books, for me, have been my wise and sane place. There are lots of choices I’ve made that haven’t always looked sensible from the outside, like writing the first chapter of my PhD with a four-month-old baby (you can’t really understand the madness of this one, unless you’ve had both the baby and an unwritten thesis), or giving up academic writing to try my hand at commercial. Loving books has often made me take leaps of faith, but they have always been about having faith in myself, or holding onto my self rather than packing it away in the interests of conventional life. And if those choices have been unorthodox, then they are all the better for that. Time and again, books have saved me; they’ve been my lifeline, my compensation, my inspiration. No desperation influences the relationship I’ve had to literature, only steady persistence, and the urging of my instincts, which I don’t listen to enough.

‘Nope, I don’t think I can do it,’ I said to Mister Litlove. ‘And certainly not in less than 500 words.’

But by then, Mister Litlove was fast asleep.

13 thoughts on “Not Really An Entry

  1. Same, same, same. When I finally got this job in publishing, it was like a validation of all the ridiculously dorky choices I had ever made in my whole life: taking Latin instead of an alive language, ditching my job to do an unpaid publishing internship, and so forth. Reading constantly and consequently being able to write coherently and have lots of random, silly, useless facts in my brain have always been a lifeline to me too. Books are always the thing I can’t do without.

    (I actually — this is so dumb! — get headaches if I don’t do any pleasure reading for a few days. I get wicked awful headaches until I do pleasure reading again.)

  2. Mr Litlove did suggest a memoir in under 500 words? lol
    I’m not sure I have crazy book stories unless leaving a tiny puppy alone with one of the most valuable books of the collection
    of anthropological books in the department of cultural anthropology. “The psychomental complex of the Tungus”. If I hadn’t left a cheap paperback on that huge tome…. When I returned little Kiki (as in Kiki de Montparnasse) had ripped the paperback and was just sinking her baby teeth into the other one.

  3. I absolutely agree with you when it comes to books being a lifeline. Honestly I’m not sure what I would have done in the past couple of years had not I had my piles of books to keep me sane! They are my escape hatch when life becomes a little bit too much–thankfully there is always a good story out there to see me through the rough patches. I often think what I would do now if I didn’t have my books and I really can’t even imagine such a life!

  4. I know MANY women nursing newborns while meeting some deadline on their dissertation. Unfortunately, the two responsibilities overlap in the biological/professional clock of many women. It was a panic horror back then, but more recently considered more common and understood. It’s the middle of the night here and I’m befuddled. Need to re-read the thing about the contest. Sounds intriguing despite putting your spouse to sleep.

  5. It does seem like book bloggers should have these crazy stories of lit lust somewhere, but maybe the lack of these kind of stories show how balanced we are really, although non-reading obsessive people may give us the side eye.

    Books make up a large part of my regular life, but I fit them in around other things because life is full of things besides books. That doesn’t make them any less important, in fact it makes them more important because during that precious left over bit of free time I always find I want to spend my time with these stories. I think the every day nature of book fandom is what distunguishes it from other kinds of fan activity (sport, music etc) because you can in general fit book stuff in around life, while you have to be at the concert, the game on specific days. Or maybe I’m just not enough of a book fan to notice how books can force you to make specific purchases and attend events as I’m not much for signings and spending my food money on special editions🙂

  6. iwriteinbooks – always reassuring to think this sort of conversation takes place in other households! And yes, just ONE thing? How hard is that?

    Niranjana – it’s why I don’t twitter – I’m not capable of it!😉

    Lilian – I thought you might – it’s very nice that you did.

    Nymeth – thank you, and so pleased to have the solidarity. It’s comforting to think that wise choices can come out of certain passions.

    Jenny – I get all anxious and uptight if I don’t have time to read, so I completely understand the headaches. And I’m so pleased that you’re in a place that validates all your choices. It feels so right, doesn’t it? I look back and see I couldn’t have done other than I did, even if it did look odd at the time.

    Caroline – Kiki, what a great name… and what a great story. I’m so glad the puppy took on the paperback first and you arrived in time to prevent disaster!

    Danielle – I really like your comment, as I can feel just how much books have meant to you and I feel exactly the same way. I don’t know what I would have done without them and a life without reading is just completely unimaginable – and immeasurably poorer.

    Squirrel – it’s true that it’s much more common now than I was. When I took up a job in the department, I was the only woman (out of a staff of around 25) to have a young child in my care. Sure, many of the lecturers had children, but they all had wives who did the domestic thing for them. I remember that for years I never mentioned my son for fear of looking unprofessional. It just wasn’t done back then. In the department today, though, there are several women bringing up children. I’m not sure it’s a great deal easier, but it is at least understood.

    Jodie – what a great point. It’s true, and I do exactly the same thing. Books fit in around everything else. And I’m just like you and no great fan of signings or first editions (great for other people if they like them, but not my priority). I still think that books are a relatively cheap vice, compared to the price of a concert ticket, say, and a relatively healthy one, compared to a pack of cigarettes. So that surely means we book obsessives still have our feet on the ground. Although I just love that phrase about giving us the side eye – you do come up with just the best expressions!

  7. Oh this made me laugh! I don’t have any crazy book stories either, everything I do related to books is completely normal😉 Maybe instead of one single story, there should be a lifetime achievement award.

  8. Lovely post. I really like what you said about books being self-affirming. Not always sensible and useful and goal-oriented but more about non-tangible things such as growing and developing as a person (as cliched as that term personal growth has become).

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