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.