Bibliophiliac is the space where one passionate, voracious reader reflects on books and the reading life. You will find reviews, analysis, links, and reflections on poetry and prose both in and out of the mainstream.

A book must be the axe for the frozen sea within us. Franz Kafka

Monday, July 12, 2010

Why Bibliophiliac and Other Non-Burning Questions Answered

Books are not just books to me.  Or to you, probably.  Books are objects, they are tactile and filled with evocative scents; sometimes they have the spidery scrawl of a previous owner (or, fluttering to the ground, an old photo).  The word "bibliophiliac" suggests the talismanic power that books have for me, the power of a physical object as well as the worlds, invisible, created by me with the writer in tandem, that are contained in the object.  Other highly-charged and delightful bookish words:  bibliophile, bibliomania, bibliomancy, bibliopole.  We could make up more.

Have you noticed how books always lead to more books?  A book cannot exist, like an island, all alone.  There are the bookish influences, the biblio-genealogy, the future books propagated by the original book.  One book that I love is Richard Wright's Black Boy--if you haven't read it, you should.  Wright, hungry for knowledge, devours books, and his list is a good one:  Gertrude Stein, H.L. Mencken, Zane Grey, Sinclair Lewis, Theodore Dreiser.  Here is an excerpt from Black Boy on the opium-like dream of a reader: 

The plots and stories in the novels did not interest me so much as the point of view revealed.  I gave myself over to each novel without reserve, without trying to criticize it; it was enough for me to see and feel something different.  Reading was like a drug, a dope.  The novels created moods in which I lived for days. 

 That is a reader living in the fever-dream of books, a dream that will change him, change the way he sees the world and the people in it, and turn him into a writer.

Being a voracious, omnivorous reader, I can't imagine boiling it all down to favorites.  The more I read the more I love, although like a lover in the throes of a brand-new affair, I don't like to waste my time--I don't like boring books, pointless books, or badly written books.

Who are my favorites?  Richard Wright and Zora Neale Hurston (I can feel them fighting already; I love them both, why couldn't they get along?). Charlotte Bronte, Elizabeth Gaskell, George Eliot, Charles Dickens, Fyodor Dostoyevsky, Leo Tolstoy, Anton Chekhov.  Toni Morrison, Louise Erdrich, Elizabeth Strout, Alice Munro, Andre Dubus, John Gardner, Anthony Trollope.  Raymond Chandler and Rainer Maria Rilke.  The only place they can all happily coexist is the curious ecosystem of my brain. 

This is my 100th post, so I just thought I'd let myself go in a stream-of-consciousness monologue.  Did I answer any non-burning questions?


Alison Can Read said...

Happy 100! A book is not a physical thing to me. I don't really care about its smell, its size, electronic or paper (although I'm extremely picky about taking good care of my books oddly enough). All a book is to me is the words it contains. Its a penetrable object - a vessel to suck me into another world.

youngbibliophile said...

I think you just put into words something I've been thinking about a lot recently. I'm rather obsessed with books about books because they always lead to more books on my list of books to read. Congrats on 100!

B said...

What a great list of favorite authors. Cheers to George Eliot! Also, I haven't read any Zora Neale Hurston and hear that I should. What would you recommend I start with?

Also, congrats on your 100th post :)

bibliophiliac said...

@Alison & youngbibliophile-thanks for tolerating my obsessions-100 posts, all about books!

bibliophiliac said...

@Brenna-Hurston was a fascinating writer-she was an anthropologist and a writer. Wright disdained her books, partly because she wrote in dialect. My favorite of Hurston's books is Their Eyes were Watching God. She wrote it while doing research (I think in Jamaica) on the voudoo religion. Hurston was just getting out of a romance with a younger man, and the novel was written in a white heat (I think she wrote it in a month). It is a beautiful book. I love the character of Janie, and I can see her walking down the dirt road in her overalls, her ponytail hanging down her back. Have I convinced you?

Julie P said...

Good for you for reaching that milestone! Keep up the good work--I really enjoy your blog!

tea lady said...

I like just sitting and looking at my books and knowing that they are there. Their Eyes Were Watching God is wonderful and I want to read more Hurston.

Congratulations on 100 posts!

Anonymous said...

I loved this post and it sums up what most of us book bloggers probably feel. Happy 100th. You should go to Rozlyn Press and get put on their bloggers list. You would probably like some of the books they want to publish.

Grad said...

Congratulations on your milestone! I think you have summed up the feelings of most book lovers. Just seeing them on the shelves makes me happy. I was going through my collection the other day (trying to organize them in some way so I can find things) and came across "Native Son" by Richard Wright. I must have acquired it back in the 60s, but I don't think I ever read it. It's funny you should mention Richard Wright since I put it on my TBR stack this weekend. I'm trying to read the stuff I've collected for years but never got around to. Great post. I haven't read some of your favorites, but some of your faves are also mine.

Kerry said...

Happy 100th post! That's exciting. I, too, hate boring or poorly written or just generally non-engaging books... with so many books and so little time, I'm getting better at not putting the time in to finish books I'm not loving. Unless it's for work or review, in which case... I try. Sometimes I still can't finish, though.

Great post, great thoughts.

bibliophiliac said...

@Julie-thanks for being a loyal reader;)
@tea lady-so I'm not the only one-I love to look at a shelf of books!
@Page-thanks for the suggestion-I will check it out.
@Grad-when I have a sick day, I find comfort in my shelves of books! I definitely recommend Native Son. I read Black Boy first (a couple of years ago, with a student-we had a very mini-book club of two) then went on to Native Son. Both great books.

bibliophiliac said...

@Kerry-I know, I find a poorly written book extremely irritating. So many books, so little time, you know?